Game Conventions on a Budget
Attending a game convention is a fantastic opportunity to play the newest games, get cool exclusives and meet others with the same gaming passions. Many have successfully used networking opportunities to break into the industry.
The sad reality is that attending game conventions are expensive and time-consuming. A single day’s badge might be $50 or more–not to mention the transportation and housing costs if you are not a local. Indeed, even getting one’s hand on an attendance badge is sometimes fraught with difficulty. For these reasons many people (including myself) who might otherwise jump at the opportunity of attending a convention can find themselves left out.
Despite founding a convention of my own, I’ve only recently started attending conventions regularly. With this article I hope to show how you too can attend gaming conventions and pay almost nothing at all!
Join a crew
Gaming conventions, with all their hundreds of attendees, need a large staff of workers to make it happen. Most exhibitors also need help running their booths. Most of these groups will offer not just a free badge, but also hourly pay or cover your room costs. My tip is to reach out to these groups at least 5-6 months ahead of the event. Tell them a bit about yourself and your experience, and inquire if there would be an opportunity to help on their team. Feel free to send these emails en mass.
To help find the publishers and developers at these events I’d recommend looking over the exhibitor list for the event. Usually, conventions will publish these ahead of time and a quick Google search should find it. If it’s not available yet, check-up for the previous year. Normally exhibitors will attend the same event multiple times, so exhibitors do not change all that often.
So, you have found secured a job at a convention, now you should plan how you are going to get there. If you are lucky to live close enough to drive then you can skip this step. For many of us however, booking a flight is essential.
The longer you wait the more expensive it will be. I’ve found Google Flights to be the most effective way to compare flights, but Expedia and Travelocity are good alternatives. One thing to watch out for is baggage fees. Most airlines charge them, and some are more than others. Try to fit all your clothing and essentials in your carry-on luggage, but be sure to bring an extra empty bag just in case.
Reserve your room
For this I recommend Airbnb. Much like booking a flight, scheduling a room is easier the further ahead you book it. It is quite possible that the room you want has a few days already booked by someone else. If you want to stay on a budget be sure to check out hostels. These rentals put several people in a room and charge a minimal price for a bunk bed. Another tip is to ask the owner if you can get a discount if you stay for multiple days.
Also, be sure to pick a room that is close to your convention!
Do not forget that you will need to eat and transport yourself to the convention.
Consider stopping by the grocery store when you arrive. Stock up on some cheaper groceries and save a buck instead of eating out. It can make a surprising difference how much you will save if you bring or prepare your own food.
In the same vein, transportation is another neglected cost. Rather than Ubering or Lyfting to the convention center, look at the public transit system. Few conventions take place in cities that lack these amenities. Taking the bus or train is a great way to save money. Use Google Maps to find the easiest route ahead of time.
Do not forget to have fun! Be sure to ask your employer about breaks. Most will give you an hour or two every day to explore. Also, consider leaving a day or two off your work schedule. Most conventions will have a “dead day” where attendance is down (typically the last day). Many employers do not need help on this day and would be happy to give it to you.
What to do with your time? That’s up to you! Play some games in the convention library, check out the other booths, or attend a presentation. If you want to attend a presentation that overlaps your work time be sure to raise that with your employer. If you’re lucky they’ll work with you to find a good time to work.
If you are in an interesting city also consider looking over other tourist attractions outside of the convention. Make some time to visit the museums, entertainment, and historical sites.
I hope these tips were helpful and I will see you at the next convention!