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Gencon! Growing up a gamer in Australia, I’d heard a lot of American conventions but had never had the chance to ever go to one before. So what better con to start with than one that not only focuses on one of my favourite hobbies but was also celebrating it’s 50th anniversary? So in the fantastic company of two of my fellow Dames, we rolled up to the convention centre for a wonderful four days of gaming and poor spending choices.

And walking. Oh my lord, so much walking.

Needless to say, this being my first convention in the United States I was a little taken aback by how large and spread out everything was, and yes, I did get lost twice which is almost like a mini-adventure in the con itself. “Try and figure out where you are and where how to get back to your hotel without an internet connection”. I might have gained a few levels in way-finding while there.

Which leads me to some of the advice and expectations I had going in. With the help of my fellow Dames, I came up with a list of activities I wanted to go to, which was helpful with a few activities – particularly events that are likely to be popular and sold out quickly – but one thing I hadn’t realised or considered was how spread out everything was. More familiar with cons in my home country which are largely in smaller venues, I had a few instances where I couldn’t make it easily from one location to another within the time allocated and had to miss things because of it. Overall pre-planning wasn’t a terrible idea and definitely worth it if there’s anything that you want to see or play and want to be certain you’ll get into it, or if you and a few friends want to be certain you can all play together, but definitely try and leave more time between games than you might otherwise.

Gencon is also a great place to try something new that might be a bit out of your comfort zone or difficult to manage normally. I’d never LARPed before in my life and had absolutely no clue about how it’s played or what to expect when signing up for my first LARP, but it was one of my favourite experiences over the four days. It also shows that it helps to be willing to talk to people! Even if you turn up with a group of friends to a game, there’s a noticeable difference between those who are willing to involve people outside of their group and those that stick to their own and don’t try to involve anyone else. It’s a difference that made and ruined a few different games for me, so it’s definitely something that new and old players need to keep in mind.

Overall I had a great time and can’t wait for my next con adventure, but as some final words, here are tips I’d suggest people keep in mind:

1: Comfortable shoes are a must. As mentioned, the con is quite spread out so you might end up doing more walking than expected to get to everything.

2: Allow plenty of time to get to and from games. Nothing is worse than realising you only have a half hour to get to the next location and it turns out that getting there is like following a quest chain of its own.

3: Definitely allow yourself the better part of a day for the exhibition hall. On Sunday we were still finding things we hadn’t seen the first walk through.

4: Pre-plan for events you really want to go to but don’t try to see everything. There’s a good chance that you won’t be able to get to some of them quickly enough and there are a lot of games and events going on. You’ll want to leave yourself some time for when you inevitably stumble into something else that catches your interest.

5: Even if you’re there with friends, try to branch out and involve other people in games. Nothing’s worse than being a lone newbie in a game largely dominated by a few friends who aren’t willing to share, so con goers new and old should try to keep in mind that we’re all here to have fun in the same hobby and that sometimes just inviting someone else to join in can be what makes the con for them.