With Gen Con on the horizon next week, there are tons of gaming enthusiasts frothing at the mouths to hit the con floor and drown themselves in their favorite hobbies. For some attendees, this is a yearly pilgrimage, but for others, this will be their first time experiencing the incredible rush of one of the most classic gaming events in the continental US. No matter what, everyone needs a plan so that they can stay healthy and make the most of their time in Indianapolis. We have put together some gaming convention survival tips from some Gen Con and Gaming Convention Veterans to get you started. Leave your advice in the comments!
Jayme B. - APN's Marketing Analyst
- Avoiding Con Crud: I take a Zinc supplement every day for a week before and also during the convention to give my immune system an extra defense against germs. In addition, I carry my own personal hand sanitizer to use after touching any demo games, and implement the fist bump as an alternative to hand-shakes when greeting people (which is a trick my friend Gil from Formal Ferret Games taught me). Since my voice tends to peace out around the second or third day of most cons, I’ve also started carrying Vitamin C drops that double as throat lozenges to use throughout the show.
- Meal Prep: Taking an hour or more to get lunch at Gen Con isn’t always an option with so many exciting things to see and play, and the food choices in the immediate area don’t always fit my dietary restrictions to begin with (vegetables and non-fried options can be hard to come by). That being said, skipping meals is a NOVICE mistake, and can be avoided easily by taking some extra time to prepare in advance.
Every year, when I arrive in Indianapolis, I take an hour or two to walk or uber to a nearby market and purchase some food to keep in my hotel room, and some to carry with me in my bag at the show. By ensuring that I have fruit/vegetable juice every morning before hitting the hall, I know I won’t be toast by noon, and I usually take about 30 minutes to run to my hotel to make a sandwich in the afternoon instead of waiting in long lines at one of the busy lunch spots near the convention center. I also pack protein bars, nuts, and clementines in my purse in case I start to feel peckish throughout the day. It might seem excessive, but it helps keep me functioning at a high level for days on end.
- Water: Hydration is just as important as nutrition, and if you’re doing it on a budget, bringing your own reusable water bottle is a smart way to ensure you stay hydrated. There are bubblers installed throughout the convention center, and I find that simply carrying my thermos with me and filling it up whenever I pass one prevents nasty headaches that I get when I don’t drink enough throughout the day. Plus, more bathroom breaks = more hand-washing, which never hurts.
- Sleep: I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but most people don’t realize that less than 7 hours of sleep a night is technically sleep deprivation. While it can be super tempting to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to party, game, or both in the company of friends you don’t see very often, your brain will absolutely turn to pudding if you don’t get enough recovery time in between all the fun. I FORCE myself to budget 6-8 hours a night, depending on my wake-up schedule, and in order to help me create a restful environment at the noisy hotel, I carry a portable sound machine with me when I travel (less than $20 online), and meditate before bed to help me unwind from the day’s activities.
Justin - APN's Marketing Support Specialist
- Herding the Cats – FACT: If you are going to the convention with friends, you’re going to spend 700% of your time trying to decide what to do next. Or waiting on someone because you’ve turned your hotel room into a clown car and the last person finally got out of the shower at 4pm (on that note, please shower). My math might be a little off on this, but the sentiment holds. For sanity’s sake, come up with a designate time and place to meet your group if you get separated, because nobody is going to have cell service at the con. And you can just get so much more done if everyone ventures off to do their own thing without having to worry about if they’ll ever see each other again.
- BGG Hot Games Room – The exhibit hall is craaaaaazy busy on Friday and Saturday. The booths are just absolutely packed. The awesome vendors are answering questions about their new and old games and trying their hardest to whip as many people through demos of games as they can. So I head through the hall on Thursday checking out everything I can, make note of the games I’m interested in, and play them at my leisure in the BGGHGR Friday or Saturday afternoon. It’s only $2 for two hours there and it has demo copies of just about every new game being released at GenCon.
- Energy Drinks are Not a Food – Believe me, I know how tempting it is to power through the weekend without eating or sleeping. It’s the Best Four Days of Gaming! Why would I miss this?! Next thing you know, you’re the person everyone is talking about because they drank a case of Monster to stay awake, started screaming about seeing Cthulhu fighting the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, then flipped a table in the tournament hall because their face hit it so hard when they finally collapsed. Moral of the story: Get sleep and actual food. You’ll enjoy your weekend that much more.
Ryan - APN's Marketing Content Producer
- Water/Tea/Lozenges/Vocal Care
- Semi-related to common suggestions to stay hydrated (which is still of course incredibly important, especially at these summer shows), I always make a point to keep something, if not multiple things, on hand to care for one’s voice. As anyone who has attended big conventions before will attest to, the exhibit halls/gaming halls/common areas/restaurants/sidewalks/you name it generate some incredibly high decibel noise, and as a result, you’ll often find your voice getting hoarse before you’ve even realized that you’ve had to spend the last four hours shouting in order to carry on even normal conversations.
- Food Recommendations
- There’s SO MANY GOOD OPTIONS within walking distance of the ICC. Everyone has their preferences; here’s a few of mine:
- The Ram: There’s actually a couple Rams locally to me in Boise, so while not the most unique place ever, they always partner up with Privateer Press to do a totally unique Warmachine/Hordes-thematic menu (same food, just fun names) and decorations. Very cool.
- Georgia St Food Trucks: Everything here is great if you’re willing to brave the lines in the heat!
- Rock Bottom Brewery: I’ve never had anything bad here, and always try to make it for at least one meal.
- Steak & Shake: Let’s be honest, you’re not going here for a great meal. But when you’ve lost yourself in gaming all night and suddenly realize it’s 3am and you need to eat something, this is a close, inexpensive option.
Jayme C. - APN's Marketing Manager
- Good walking shoes – You are going to be on your feet a lot. You’ll be raking up the miles hoofing it from one end of the convention to the other. Having footwear that won’t leave blisters and offers support is what I consider a must have. Even with good shoes, there will still be aches and pains, so I enjoy soaking my feet at the end of the day and then propping them up to relax. Stretching is another thing to keep in mind to help with the general con-aches.
- Snacks – This almost goes hand in hand with water, but conventions are expensive and if I have a granola bar, trail mix, or crackers of some kind, I can snack on those in the down time while still at the convention. It doesn’t replace real meals, but if I find myself getting a bit short tempered or annoyed, I’ll check to see when was the last time I ate anything because let’s face it, being hangry is a real thing. Snacks can also help with that extra energy boost you need to make it to your next meal.
- Emergency supplies – I pack a ton of stuff with me, and for this bullet point I would specifically include the following: floss, gum, mints, lozenges, safety pins, eyeglass cleaning wipes (no one wants a smudge on their glasses!), hand sanitizer, Kleenex, napkins, band aids, chap stick, hand lotion, pen/pencil, small note pad, Tylenol/aspirin, and nail clippers. Who knows if you or your friends will find themselves in a pinch after lunch and need that floss or mints? Better to be prepared and not need it, than suffer all day after a delicious pulled pork sandwich!
- Mobile Power Bank – So much of what we do these days includes our phones. Yeah, the Wi-Fi may not be the best, but between messaging friends to arrange a meetup or searching for that one restaurant everyone recommended, there is a good chance your phone’s batter will start to decline. Not having to be tethered to a wall waiting on your phone to charge can be a great thing, so I have a power bank that will get me and a few friends through the day if they need a recharge.
- Germ manners – No one wants con crud. Personally I am very pro hand washing every time before eating and every restroom stop. I try to be actively aware to not touch my face/eyes unless I just washed my hands. Also sneezing and coughing into the crook of my elbow or tissue if I have it on hand. While I’m not usually a germaphobe with sharing food or drink with friends, at conventions I’ll be a bit more of a miser unless I can cut off or break my food off or there are multiple straws. And did I mention hand washing?
- HAVE FUN – It’s a lot to take in, lots of people, excitement, and events, and everyone wants to do the most they can. Having an open attitude of knowing somethings will not go as planned and trying to keep a positive outlook will go far for the overall convention adventure. There can be stress and logistic issues, so making sure to give yourself enough time in your schedule will also help. But at the end of the day, everyone is there to share in their love and passion of gaming, and that is truly an astounding experience!