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Obviously you love gaming, but have you ever attended an event surrounded by thousands of others who share that same passion?
Gaming conventions, which can range from tiny local get-togethers to massive national events like E3 or GenCon, are a unique opportunity for gamers. Whether your speciality is board games, role-playing games, or video games, you can find a convention tailored to your preferences.
We’ve mentioned a few of the big name geeky conventions you should attend at least once in your life, but what about finding smaller local events or conventions that cater more to your specific gaming niche? Read on to learn how you can stay in the know about all your gaming convention options.
Why A Gaming Convention?
If you’ve already attended a gaming convention and don’t need anymore convincing, feel free to skip to the next section — but for those of you new to the scene, you might be wondering what it’s all about. If you’re going to be traveling long distances to make it to these events, they better be worth it. And trust us, they are.
You can even read up a bit on what it’s like to attend a classic gaming convention, or see for yourself what MAGFest 12 was like this year.
Make Some New Friends
Often, this can be the scariest part for new attendees. Gamers are sure to have experienced the perils of real life first hand, but gaming conventions are another atmosphere entirely. Here, people share your hobbies and passions, and understand how awkward it can be to make small talk with strangers.
You’re in good company, and striking up a conversation with someone about a game or character you both like is a great way to meet people and make new friends.
Play The Newest Games
This only goes for the larger events where gaming giants like Nintendo are showcasing their newest games, but it can be an awesome opportunity to play something very few other people have. If you get a chance to hit up a large gaming convention, be sure to play the latest and greatest.
Depending on which convention you end up attending, there is likely going to be a bunch of panels being held by experts discussing something in their field. Whether it be game design, women in video games, or just the history of a particular franchise, you’re sure to get something out of attending a few panels.
Be sure to check the specifics of your convention, though, because some require a per-registration for panels while others operate on a first-come first-serve basis.
Buy Rare Retro Games
Gaming conventions aren’t going to be your cheapest option for this — that would likely be local garage sales — but they are your best bet at finding that one copy of that one old game you can never seem to be able to get your hands on. If you’re a retro game collector and have the money to spend on rarer items, there will likely be some vendors at your chosen convention with a huge selection.
Get Free Stuff
These places are often a smorgasbord of free stuff as vendors try to entice you with small trinkets. I won’t say you’ll walk away with a brand new PS4, but you could definitely have a bag full of pens, action figures, and keychains by the time you leave. Heck, you might even get a 3D-printed statue of yourself.
Where Can I Find Them?
This should be your first stop — it’s the website with the most up-to-date listings and the largest number of them. Plus, it’s really easy to sort by region and find conventions close to you. Anybody can submit a convention to be listed here, so you get a lot of smaller conventions along with the larger ones.
Here you can find a very simple list of a select group of awesome conventions. They’re listed pretty far out in advance, but it’s never too early to start planning your 2015 stops. They also list other kinds of conventions like anime, sci-fi, and horror — if you’re interested.
You’ll find fewer conventions here, but quite a lot of conferences. If you’re involved in the development or business aspects of gaming, you’ll want to check those out — but everyone else can stick to the conventions. It’s a meager but high quality list.
For some more variety — and if you still haven’t found something that tickles your fancy — try Convention Scene. This website lists not only conventions, but also lots of signings from famous game and comic designers.
Surprise, surprise, Wikipedia is once again your most reliable source of information. There’s actually a very extensive list here sorted by region, as well as a Wikipedia page for each convention to help you quickly learn everything you need to know.
While the sites listed above are great for the more popular conventions, up-and-coming smaller conventions need attendees to get off the ground. Do a quick Google search for gaming conventions in your city (or the nearest large city to you) and see what comes up. You just might find a group of local gamers just like you trying to build up something great.
Once you’ve fallen in love with gaming conventions, you may want to be more involved. Many conventions look for employees or volunteers to help organize and set up the whole event, and if you have a particular talent or expertise, you may want to try and host a panel yourself. Into a unique game or just want something more local? You could even think about starting your own convention once you’ve made enough connections in the industry.
The opportunities for involvement really shouldn’t be overlooked here. When attending events like these, you meet dozens if not hundreds of people, each who has experience and knowledge that you don’t. You never know exactly who you might meet and what doors they might be able to open for you. Take a chance and get as involved as you can in these conventions, and you’ll be surprised how it might pay off for you later.
What Is Your Favorite Gaming Convention?
Any other websites you would recommend for finding gaming conventions? Any wacky stories from a show you’ve gone to? Let us know in the comments!