It is mere days away from GenCon, and some of us from Technical Difficulties will be attending. This'll be my third convention, second time at GenCon. It's helpful before attending a convention or any sort of event with this many people to go in with a plan. By giving thought to what you do, it'll help you and everyone else at the con have a good and safe time.
The most important thing to remember at a con is that you need to take care of yourself. This might seem like a no brainer, but it's when you're in the heat of the moment it might be hard to realize what you need. It's easy to spend time with your friends and then suddenly it's nine hours later and you haven't eaten. Making sure you take time out to eat and drinking plenty of water are vital to a good experience. At Origins there weren't many food options I could find. I had brought a water bottle and packed some granola bars, so that had helped me get through the day.
There are other aspects of self care to take into consideration. Making sure you have good hygiene and clean clothes seems obvious. That is, until you have to run through all your clothing because it rained or was very hot. Taking extra clothing and ensuring time to bathe and relax at the beginning and end of the day can keep you going.
Veteran con goers (and newer folks with expert friends) are probably aware of the 3-2-1 rule, which are a decent set of minimums to adhere to at a convention. 3 hours of sleep, 2 meals, 1 bath or shower per day minimum. The 3 hours rule works better at 3-day conventions, compared to GenCon’s 5-day marathon, so we recommend 5 or 6 hours of sleep minimum. Trust us, that interesting thing at 3am on day one is not worth being too tired to enjoy those three interesting things on day four.
Your health is also of the utmost importance. You're going to be walking a lot and in potentially very hot weather. Even if you're sitting outside, the summer heat can catch up real quick and give sun burns or heat stroke. Being cognizant of your surroundings and taking breaks will keep your energy up.
There's also a psychological side. If you're not used to being around a lot of people, being surrounded by thousands of people can be overwhelming. Taking time to go to a quiet place or back to the hotel may be needed. And remember that you can always say no. It may be as innocuous as saying no to one more game, or something more serious, but you can always tell someone no. Conventions are about having fun, and no one should impede on your well being.
Connected to this, with huge crowds there are going to be bad people. If it's feasible, avoid them. If you have to interact, keep it brief and walk away. If they cross a line, walk away or deflect. If they break con rules or threaten your personal safety, get away and let con staff or security know. You are not responsible for making a scene: they have already done so by engaging in bad behavior.
In the midst of the moment it's easy to forget things, or to be uncomfortable and not want to rock the boat. But your health and wellbeing are of the utmost importance. I've learned a lot of these lessons outside of gaming, in cons or at sporting events. I've had to find rest walking over a mile to get to FedEx Field in Maryland because of bad infrastructure. I've had to worry about if I had to get a family member to the hospital because of sunstroke at a really hot OSU game. I've skipped meals while waiting to get into games and gone hungry because of overpriced food. Learning lessons from these experiences helped make my GenCon trip last year a lot easier. Keep them in mind, have fun, and be safe.
Hopefully we'll get to meet at GenCon if you're there!