On Being a Better Con Gamer

Here in the snowy wilds of Canada, winter is loosening its grip on the land. Which means all the introverted nerds like me can come out of our winter hibernation and start taking in that most glorious of gaming activities: the gaming convention. Locally, GOBFest was just this past weekend, a mighty collection of board gamers gathered together to share the hobby we love dearly. With the gaming con season starting back up (not that it ever really ends, but spring is as good an arbitrary starting point as any), I thought I’d share some tips on being a good con gamer.

Keep it Clean – Every convention is a busy place filled with nerds. And where there are nerds, trash is sure to follow as we consume our snacks and drinks, scribble on scraps of paper or character sheets, and generally just live in the convention space for a few days. While no one is expecting you to clean up someone else’s trash, you should always pick up your own. I can promise that no convention has enough volunteers that they can dedicate them to constant trash policing. Looking after your own mess makes the con space a much friendlier place to be.

And especially at a board game convention, cleaning up after yourself means helping to pick up the game you just played. Don’t be that jerk that figures out his/her final score and then walks away from the table. You played it, you clean it up. If you’re old enough to be going to game conventions, you’re too old to need to be reminded to help put your toys away.

Don’t Be a Downer – You’re at a gaming convention, and of course you want to talk about games. But there is a right way and a wrong way to start that conversation. One wrong way: walking up to a table with a game just being set up or already in progress, and saying any variation of, “This game sucks!”

It is a fact of life that not everyone is going to like the things you do, and vice versa. No where is this more true than in the gaming hobby. Tastes, preferences, and play styles can vary greatly from gamer to gamer. Just because you don’t like a game does not make it a bad game. Let me break that out on its own, because it’s important:

Just because you don’t like a game does not make it a bad game.

So making a table of gamers feel bad for liking a particular game when you don’t is just a dick move. Don’t do it. If you can’t manage to say something positive about it, follow Thumper’s Law and say nothing. And if you do find yourself talking to gamers who are playing a game you don’t like, maybe try asking positive questions. “What do you enjoy about this game?”, or “This game isn’t my bag, but could you recommend anything similar?” are questions which will lead to actual useful conversation. Which is a good thing, unless…

Don’t Be an Interrupting Cow – I’m sure you’re familiar with the old joke:

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrupting co– Moo!

There is a right time to ask gamers questions about a game, and a wrong time. The wrong time is right in the middle of a game, when it is quite obvious all the players are focused on playing; the right time is just about any other time. While I’m sorry you are waiting for your game to start, or haven’t found a game yet, I’m busy doing the thing I came to the con to do. Don’t spoil that by engaging me in an interrogation mid-game. If you have questions, wait until the players are taking a break or have finished and are cleaning up, we’re happy to talk then.

The exception to that rule is when I am officially demonstrating a game in my capacity as an organized play volunteer or con volunteer. Then I’m happy to give you a brief bit of information about the game. Emphasis on brief, though, as my attention belongs to the people for whom I’m demoing.

Thank the Volunteers – I’ve said it numerous times before and I’ll keep saying it: without volunteers, cons can’t happen. No convention can afford to pay wages to every person needed to make a con run, and if they tried they’d have to jack the ticket price so high no one could attend.

The volunteers at your con have given of their free time to help put on an event for your enjoyment. They do it without the benefit of pay and with no thought of getting thanked. So thank them. When you see a volunteer picking up garbage somebody left on a table, thank them (and help pick it up, you jerk). When a volunteer gives you your badge, a program book, directions, opens a door for you, thank them. If you see a volunteer, period, thank them. Thank your volunteer game master, thank the room monitor. Just thank every volunteer too slow to get out of your reach, and then shout thank-you to the fast movers. Trust me, they can never hear it enough.

Volunteer – Just like volunteers never get enough thanks, conventions never have so many volunteers they won’t take one more. Most cons have perks for volunteering, which at minimum is usually a reduced price or free badge, depending on how many hours you volunteer. Beyond that, volunteering for your local events is a great way to meet new people, grow your hobby locally, and give back to the community of gamers to which you belong. Plus it can be metric buttloads of fun.

Have any tips of your own for being a better con gamer? Share them in the comments below. And if you liked this article, please share the link on your social media de jour.

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