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.

Like to game a lot? Come to GameAlot!

glbannerYeah, okay, time to let one of the other multiple personalities write blog titles for a while. But in all fairness the title says it all: if you like games and you live with reasonable distance of St. Albert, you need to be at GameAlot this weekend.

GameAlot is the annual in-store gaming convention run by Mission: Fun and Games in St. Albert. Held over the weekend after Labour Day, the mini-con is a three day celebration of gaming in all their incarnations. It has been an annual tradition at the store for as far back as I can remember, and one I look forward to every year even if I don’t always make it out to play.

For me, GameAlot epitomizes what a gaming convention is about. Playing games? Natch. Getting together with old friends around the gaming table? Check. Meeting new people and trying new games? Double check. And if you like the game you just played…well, you are in a game store. The only issue might be getting a copy before they run out.

I can’t recommend GameAlot enough, so come by and roll some dice. This year it runs September 6-8, starting Friday at 10am and running during store hours (though games go to midnight on both Friday and Saturday). Admission is cash or food donation to the Food Bank, and there is a list of needed items on the store page, along with recommended amounts per day. But if you’re going all weekend, just $20 in food or cash gets you all the games you can play, and entry into the many prize draws that happen.

I’ll be there all day Sunday running tables of the new Cheapass Games, so feel free to stop by and join me. We’ll game the day away, as one should!

Time May Change Me, But I Can’t Trace Time

Bowie lyric in the title aside, there are some changes afoot at Renaissance Dork World Headquarters.  I’ve had a long, hard think over the past few months and I’ve come to a conclusion.

I’m not that much of a renaissance geek any more.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love all the things I loved before.  It’s not like I woke up in a cold sweat, screaming, “Star Trek!? What was I thinking!?” or anything like that.  But I’ve noticed a trend in myself lately, to begrudge anything that takes time away from my first love.


(That’s the last time I’ll do a one line/word paragraph.)


Anyhoo, it may have taken me a while to realize it (or if I’m honest, realize it again), but gaming is the nerdiness I love above all others.  I enjoy talking Trek, or discussing the latest sci-fi show (Orphan Black must be watched by all the people!).  But games, playing them, talking about them, writing for them…that is the thing that lights up my brain, in a way that other aspects of nerddom just don’t.

So you are going to see some changes around Renaissance Dork.  The biggest will be a switch in focus towards topics related to gaming: RPGs, boardgames, card games and so on.  I’ll post about stuff I’m already playing all the time, games I’m just discovering, tips and tricks for players and GMs, whatever aspect of the gaming hobby I find interesting enough to share.  Which will be a lot, because there is very little about the hobby I don’t find fascinating.

To my tens of subscribers, I hope this doesn’t scare you away but I’ll understand if you need to go.  You may have come for the more general nerdiness, and maybe gaming isn’t your jam.  That is cool, and while I’ll be sad to see you go there seems little point in dragging you along as I follow my geas.  While general nerdy content isn’t going away entirely, it is definitely going to become a minority report; I’m thinking a 90/10 split weighted toward gaming content.  So bon chance, and maybe I’ll see you around the gaming table sometime!

To them what stay, you are going to see a variety of things change.  More posts about gaming, natch.  But I also have three episodes of a podcast in the can and many more episodes planned.  Plus I’ll be posting little bits and bobs I create for my RPGs, because I like to share things like that when I can.  All of that will ramp up over the coming months, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you have any comments, or questions related to gaming, drop me a line in the comments below or fire off a tweet to me or something.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!  It’s gonna be a blast!

Humpday Links for March 27

Greetings, internet citizens!  Thanks for coming by and exercising your eCivic Right to amusing internet links.  You are what makes this interweb the best interweb in the world.  Without you, we’d all just be a bunch of lonely people trying to find fulfillment in the consumption of internet memes and cats.  Er…

Anyway, your eCivicly-mandated links are below:

– For my fellow gamers: you are not going to find a better deal on a whole swack of dice than this. Yes, I mean a metric Swack.

– Courtesy of Squidoo, free printable board game templates of some moldy classics.  Now is your chance to make your own, actually enjoyable version of an -opoly.

– Got a friend interested in board games, but doesn’t know where to start? Show them this board game primer courtesy of Tested.

– Ever wonder what Adam Savage keeps in his home office?

– Here are SEO tips made simple. And belligerent.

– If you need a desk for travel, or just because you have a really small place, you can’t do much better than a Ninja.

– Ever wonder how your fav webcomic artists made the leap from a regular job to working full-time on their strip?  Wonder no more!

– Geek’s Dream Girl weighs in on why we attack what people love.

– As if I needed another reason to move there, Scotland may allow Jedi to perform weddings.

Because sometimes the answer is a nerdy fez.

– Dwarven Forge, makers of really great gaming terrain, have a Kickstarter for their new line of affordable terrain.  It’s already funded, and if you have the cash it’s a no-brainer.

– Speaking of Lord of the Rings fan films (master of the hard segue, that’s me), Born of Hope is a neat, good looking film about Aragorn’s father.

DIY is a great site if you are a parent, an aunt, an uncle, a babysitter, whatever, and you want to teach your kids how to make things.  Heck, use it for yourself even if you are a beginning “maker” looking to hone skills.

– If you are a writer, here are some suggestions on using Pinterest to aid your work.

– We end with a snowman that pretty much sums up how we all feel about winter hanging on, and on, and on…

That’s it, that’s all!  We’ll see you all next post, gentles.

Humpday Links for January 23

Yikes, I’ve been away a while.  Been busy with stuff and things, you know how it goes.  Had my first exposure to the local Nerdfighters, and I had such a good time I’m going to see what prolonged exposure does.  And my Hair Massacure fundraising for the Stollery proceeds apace; almost halway to my goal with about three weeks left.  Which is three weeks left for you to donate to an amazing cause, just click on the Hair Massacure icon to the right to donate.

But without further ado, some links to get you through the humpday.  Enjoy!

– I may have linked this before, but it is worthy of a second look: the perfect chair for thinking dark thoughts.  Or for cephalopodiphiles.

– Since I just finished reading the three books that make up this story, this seemed appropriate: John Scalzi talks about the original offer on Old Man’s War.

– So Samuel L. Jackson and Anne Hathaway got together over the holidays, with pretty predictable results.

– Thanks to Aaron Williams, I will not rest until I have a “Doom Chicken 2023” shirt.

– Looking to jazz up your classic boardgames?  These might inspire you.  My personal favourite is a tie between Chocolate Scrabble and Lego Settlers of Catan.

– I came across these folks while looking for more fodder for my ereader: public domain ebooks.

– I don’t console game a lot, but I would probably do more if this was my gaming desk.  Houston, we have awesome!

Your Subway foot-long in not actually a foot long.  But unless you’re a complete idiot you already knew that.

Okay, on with your day.  Thursday and the slide into the weekend will be here soon enough!