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.

Humpday Links for February 22

There is some happenings and doings around the ‘net this week, so let us get to it.  But first and most important, please help Spider Robinson if you canUpdate:  Jan Schroeder has begun the Graceful Woman Warrior auction on eBay in support of this cause.  There are some wonderful items up for auction with more coming, so please take a moment to check them out and spread the word.

– I know Valentine’s Day was last week, but these cards from the Dungeon Bastard are worth another look.

– Lloyd Brown has an updated look at starting a game company for $1000.  Hmmm…

– Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter.  No, it’s true! #history

– Beautiful in its own right, I would of course use this for gaming

– Thank god! Now I’ll know how bad I should feel for the creators when I’m watching The Avengers this summer. (Answer: Sort of.)

– It came as a complete shock to me that large companies could be dicks.  A shock I tells ya.

– If you are going to set the Zorro story in the future, why not just write a whole new story?  Oh, right, it’s FOX…

– If you are taking part in Free RPG Day this year (and why wouldn’t you), this is what Pathfinder is offering up.

– On a more serious note, apparently there are women girls who don’t want Chris Brown chemically castrated (and by that I mean drowned in a vat of chemicals.)  This article is for them.

– It seems the world of Sherlock Holmes remakes is getting more incestuous.  Who knew?

– In other news that will shock you, gamers on the internet are hyperbolically angry about something stupid.  I know, I know, I didn’t want to believe it either…

– Look out Doctor Who, here comes Inspector Spacetime!  I smell crossover event!

– Because nothing says fun like Soviet space propaganda posters!

John Cleese responds to online comments.  Um, not much else to say really.

– And finally: I’ve been playing a lot of World of Tanks recently, so I find tank graveyards pretty cool.

That’s it for this week, I hope this links have taken up enough of your Humpday that you can start the slide into the weekend.  If not, fill some time by providing links of your own in the comments.  It’s fun and it wastes time!

Three Ways to Start Getting Gamer Fit!

It is no secret that many table-top gamers are, let us say, big boned.  Husky.  Jabba-esque.

Fat. There, I said it.

I’m not judging, I’m about 100lbs north of my ideal weight my ownself.  It isn’t hard to see how it happens.  Sitting around, shovelling in junk food, and gaming til all hours does not lend itself to a high level of fitness.  And ff you are a 40+ gamer like me you also have a metabolism that is starting to wind down, so your ability to sock away the cola-and-cheezies with impunity is dwindling.

What can you do?  There are two main areas you can change to counter the “RPG spread”: activity and eating.  I’ll look at both in more detail in later posts, because they really are huge topics.  But everyone needs to begins somewhere, gamers, so here are three easy things you can do to get started:

  1. Take your game books for a walk – Throw your gamebooks in a knapsack (or if you switched to .pdfs, use bricks) and take them for a 20 minute walk every day. Ten minutes out and ten minutes back to the house will go a long way to getting your metabolism back on track. Just skip “rewarding” yourself with a cola after; try water.  And when 20 minutes gets easy, add 10 minutes to the walk.
  2. Stand during combat – Whether you are playing or game mastering this is a good one. Not only does it add some activity to a normally sedentary hobby, but I find it helps my focus; I am less likely to derail the combat with tangents while I’m standing, if only because I want to sit down sooner.  And with the latest studies questioning the health risks of sitting, there may be other reasons why staying on your feet is a good idea.
  3. Balance your television watching – Spend a few hours a night in front of the flat screen?  Buy a Swiss ball (yoga ball, exercise ball), and sit on it while you watch your favourite show(s).  This will engage the muscles in your core (abdominals and back muscles) because they will have to work to balance you.  Start with a half-hour sit-com, and work your way up to the Dune mini-series.  Make sure to sit up straight with both feet on the ground; slouching defeats the purpose.  If you don’t want to invest in a Swiss Ball quite yet, start with a stool or sitting on the edge of a straight-back chair.

Let me know if those work for you.  Have some ideas of your own? Share them in the comments section below…