What is a gaming convention? Well, it’s an event where people spend time gaming. What is gaming? Well in the case of gaming conventions, gaming has nothing to do with gambling:
Main Entry: gam-ing((
1 : the practice of gambling
2 : the playing of games that simulate actual conditions (as of business or war) especially for training or testing purposes
This entry from Webster’s online dictionary (WWWebster) defines gaming as being one of two things, and in the case of gaming conventions we use the second definition. In recent years, that definition has stretched to include a hobby industry that produces hundreds of games for entertainment purposes, not necessarily training or testing. No wagers are placed in this type of gaming, and no money is won. What types of games are we talking about? Examples include Parker Brothers’ MONOPOLY(r) game, WoTC/Hasbro’s DUNGEONS&DRAGONS(r) game, and literally hundreds of games in between. The gaming convention brings an element of friendly competition to these games, and allows people who share interest in playing them a chance to get together and play. A gaming convention holds tournaments, which are organized play sessions of a certain game, with the winner receiving a non-cash prize.
Games at a gaming convention fall into a number of broad categories. These categories include Board Games, such as Parker Brothers’ MONOPOLY(r) game, Mayfair’s Settlers of Catan game, and advanced historical simulation games such as Avalon Hill’s Age of Renaissance or Civilization games. Many of these games have been computerized in recent years, although many people do not know that these complex computer games often had their roots in a tabletop boardgame.
Another category is Role-Playing Games, in which each player takes on the persona of a character in an interactive story. Although the most popular of these role-playing games worldwide is WOTC/Hasbro’s DUNGEONS&DRAGONS(r) game, many other companies produce games in other settings, or genres. Genre has the same meaning in gaming as it does in fiction writing – the setting and style of the story. DUNGEONS&DRAGONS(r) is set in a fantasy world, where the players, via their characters pretend to battle fantasy monsters such as dragons and trolls, using imaginary swords and crossbows. Other role-playing games, such as R. Talsorian’s CyberPunk(tm) game, cast the players as characters in a dark technological future, where electronic implants, virtual reality, and super-advanced weapons are commonplace. Other games exist for other genres, from the Old West to Holmes’s Victorian England.
In role-playing games, the players work together to slay the monsters, or solve the crimes, or save the village. As such, the players are not competing against each other. At a gaming convention, where these games are played as tournaments, the players continue this cooperative spirit in resolving the story, but winners are determined by the players and storyteller voting on who portrayed their character the best. This is basically a combination of how well the player knows the rules of the game, the setting, and the background of the character, an how well they were able to use that information to contribute to the story being enacted by the players. A good role-player is often a good improvisational actor. Each tournament has a different setting, and different characters, forcing the player to quickly assume different personas and portray them convincingly. Many of the tournament scenarios played at conventions come from the Role-Playing Game Association Network (RPGA Network(tm)), an international organization of role-playing enthusiasts which sponsors role-playing games at conventions, and pays its members to write entertaining scenarios that are sent to conventions around the world and used as tournaments. Players and storytellers are ranked in the RPGA Network based on how many tournaments they have participated in, and how well they did.
Miniatures Games are not only popular but visually impressive. Typically, a miniatures game is a reenactment of a certain type of combat using miniature figurines to represent the troops. Battles fought in time periods from the Crusades and the Civil War to thousands of years in the future are simulated with figurines and terrain. Miniatures gaming is a combination of artistic skill in fashioning the terrain and figurines, and strategy, as the tabletop generals decide how to deploy their troops.
A recent addition to the gaming convention are Collectible Card Games. The most famous of these games is WoTC’s Magic: The Gathering(tm) game. These games have been described as a combination between baseball cards and board games. Out of a collection of thousands of cards, the players choose a few to play with. Their opponent does the same, and then the cards are played according to the rules of the game to resolve which player’s card selections and play strategy was more effective. Typically, the cards simulate characters and items, which are combined, deployed and lost according to the rules of the game. Other Collectible Card Games abound, each allowing players to experience their favorite genre, or in many cases, Television or Movie milieu. Collectible Card Games have been produced based on the characters and world of Babylon 5(r), Star Trek(r), Star Wars(r), and Dune(r).
Some conventions also hold Live-Action Games, which are like role-playing games with fewer rules, and fewer restrictions. Costumes are encouraged in Live Action games, and the game is not physically restricted to a table, but perhaps a room, or an entire hotel. The most well known live-action games are the How to Host a MurderÃ¯Æ’â€ games from Parker Brothers. But as we’ve seen with other types of games, if you have a favorite genre, a game exists that will let you experience it.
Who attends gaming conventions? People from all walks of life, and of every age. Since there is such a huge variety of games out there, people of many different interests are drawn to play. Parents bring their children, teenagers come on their own, and adults from 25-85 come and play their favorite game. Many of the games at a gaming convention are more fun with a large number of people to play. In this age of smaller families, and compartmentalized interests, it can be difficult for a gamer to find people to play these games with on a regular basis. A gaming convention provides the opportunity to learn new games, play games with new people, and get to know people from all over. It’s a social, entertaining event, where people with a common interest in gaming come together to have a good time.
What does a game convention offer? The primary attraction of a gaming convention are its game tournaments, organized play sessions of a particular game with the winner receiving a prize. However, a gaming convention usually also offers a Dealers’ Room, which is like a miniature trade show of the gaming industry, where a gamer can find the newest games and accessories. For the budget-minded gamer, there are Auctions, where people put up their old games for sale. Some gaming conventions also have Special Guests, people from the gaming, writing, or entertainment industry who attend the convention to put on seminars, chat with gamers, and sign autographs. Many gaming convention guests also play games, and the chance to play a game with the person who created it can be a real experience for the convention gamer. Gaming conventions also offer Special Events, from dances to seminars on str
ategy or role-playing effectiveness to trivia contests. There’s also an Award Ceremony at the end, where the winners of the games are presented with their prizes.
How long has this been going on? Gaming conventions have been held since the late 1970s. As the years have passed, and more and more games and types of games are produced, more and more people are attracted to gaming conventions and the larger the conventions become.
How many people are we talking about? A local weekend gaming convention may attract a thousand people from the local area and neighboring states, whereas a large national convention such as GEN CON(tm) or ORIGINS(tm) might attract tens of thousands from around the world.
How do I find out when these conventions are held? Visit your local hobby store. They usually carry the games that are played at gaming conventions, and have information on upcoming conventions.