|Running Valley of the Ape|
Conventions come in all different shapes and sizes, each one offering a different experience. The massive crowds at GenCon might seem daunting, but the event brings together gamers from across the nation, showcases vendors and publishers in the dealers hall, and provides a vast array of games, panels, and other activities where gamers can network and indulge in their geeky interests. Smaller, regional cons offer a similar experience on a more manageable scale closer to home. Although not normally considered “conventions,” local game days sponsored by clubs, libraries, and friendly local game stores (FLGS) can offer similar experiences gaming and meeting others. Many conventions focus exclusively on gaming; yet many media conventions – those emphasizing author and artist guests, with panels about various media properties and the obligatory costume contest – offer gaming tracks that vary in their importance with fan-attendees. I used to attend several in the mid-Atlantic region; these days I don’t in part because the prominence of gaming has dwindled in its competition with other fan-oriented activities over the years to an almost token presence. Granted, this is only my personal observation and opinion, and I’m sure other media conventions across the country vary in this depending on attendance numbers and the involvement of volunteers or even publishers who help organize gaming tracks.
|Running a Star Wars Roleplaying|
Game session (with Mos Eisley diorama)
So how essential is the convention experience to the average gamer? Everyone’s mileage will vary, depending on one’s degree of involvement in the hobby, proximity to convention opportunities, and scheduling and financial concerns. For many I’d guess it’s in the category of “nice if you can get it, but not entirely necessary.” Most adventure gaming activities still occur at the smallest level, among groups of players meeting in homes and, perhaps, at a FLGS with ample open play space and a hospitable management. A good FLGS can provide many elements one can find at a good friendly local game store: an opportunity to try new games, make new friends, and buy new gaming resources. Local club and library events can also satisfy some of these requirements (albeit not always the “shopping” aspect). Although they’re not full-on conventions, they play a role in expanding gamers’ experiences and, perhaps more importantly, exposing newcomers to the hobby. While conventions undoubtedly remain part of the adventure gaming hobby – past, present, and future – their importance to individual gamers continues to vary based on their individual circumstances: access, scheduling, financing, and, ultimately enjoyment.
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