The convention season is winding down with a lot of the bigger shows on the board gaming calendar (Origins, Gen Con, PAX, and Essen) behind us. However, this week we’re at one of the most popular and fun events of the year: Board Game Geek (BGG) Con in Dallas, Texas. BGG Con is popular for a lot of different reasons, but one of the best elements is its size. Every year, only about 3,000 tickets are sold, helping the show maintain an intimate feel. Over the course of the week, you see a lot of the same faces and get a chance to actually sit down and connect with some people. Due to its timing right after Essen Spiel in Germany, it also means there’s been enough time for a lot of the hot, new titles to make their way over to North America. The BGG Hotness takes on a physical form in the Hot Games section of the main gaming hall. Whatever table you end up at in that section, you can be sure you’ll be playing a titles with a lot of buzz.
Across North America, we are spoiled with the amount of gaming events that occur on a regular basis. There are the big events we’ve already mentioned, but there are also a vast number of local gaming events spread across the continent that give people a chance to play with new groups and get new titles to the table. We even hold our own CMON Expo every Spring, and its small size gives us a chance to connect with all of the attendees.
Connection is really what conventions are all about. Whether it's fans getting a chance to meet their favorite artist or designer, publishers introducing their new titles to gamers, or just friends, old and new, getting a chance to come together around a table and roll some dice, conventions allow that opportunity to connect and share the hobby with people face to face.
Pete Shirey has been working the convention scene for years and he's no stranger to... well, pretty much anyone. Pete can usually be seen acting as the Team Leader for The Legion, CMON's demo team, but if you've been to a convention with him, you might recognize him better as the guy with the shark on his head.
“Conventions are a chance to engage with our fans and fellow gamers directly and also allow us to give them hands on experience with our products,” said Pete. “You can’t put a value on these interactions, and it can really make a difference to a customer to get that first hand experience with us and the product.”
Pete is not just a representative of the company, he hand-picks the members of The Legion for all major events. He is looking for a special sort of person to join the squad. Teaching great games at a convention sounds like an awesome gig (and it is), but it's also a lot of hard work. The demo team is the face of the company and they are the ones who will get people excited about the games.
“A good game teacher has the ability to clearly explain and demonstrate game rules and mechanics while maintaining a high energy level and making the customer have a fun and positive experience. You would think this is easy, but it is a lot more difficult than it sounds. To be able to do this for 8 hours a day, over a 4 or 5-day convention, is not an easy task and can push even the most experienced demo staff to their limits.”
Each time a Legion member sits down with a gamer, it's a chance for them to make an impression. It can't be overstated how important every interaction is.
“If the customer walks away with information to make a better decision on a gaming purchase, and felt they were treated with respect and curtesy, then it is a good interaction, even if they do not buy or want to play one of our games. We are here to give the customers a quality experience. Even if it means talking them out of a sale to make sure they do not have a bad experience with a game that may not be for them, it is good for us.”
If you're new to the convention scene, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and try to do too much too soon. Learning to pace yourself and make a plan for the day is important. Accept that you probably won't get to see everything, so prioritize the events you really want to participate in. Shirley knows a few tricks about getting through the grind of multi-day cons.
“Eat and drink regularly. It is easy to forget a meal and to forget to stay hydrated when inside an air conditioned exhibit hall. Also, sleeping a minimum of 6 to 8 hours a day is crucial.” It seems like common sense, but often big board game events are like going to Disney World for the first time as a kid. Your common sense and restraint tends to go out the window.
Big gatherings of people can also take a toll on your health. If you want to be standing by the last day, some simple precautions can go a long way.
“I also recommend vitamins and hand sanitizer. As with any gathering where thousands of people are in a close proximity to each other, colds can spread rather quick, especially when low on sleep and food. Also, wear comfortable shoes. It is easy to forget how much walking goes on at these shows! It is important to not forget the most basic things to keep your energy level and health in good shape during a long con!”
With more and more opportunities for people to gather and game together in a convention setting, the likelihood is that you've had the opportunity to check one of them out. Keep Shirley's advice in mind next time you're on your way to Gen Con, Origins, or even your next local event. Conventions are a heck of a lot of fun, as long as you pace yourself and you're prepared for whatever comes your way.
If you'd like to learn more about The Legion and volunteer, go here!