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THE DAD GAME

THE DAD GAME: Gaming with your family at a convention

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 12:01 am

When you started playing Euro games, it was like a trip into a whole new world. New things to do, new sights (and sites) to see and a whole new language to learn. Pretty exciting, really.

Well, it's time to take another trip. Welcome to the world of game conventions.

Conventions give you an opportunity to play with your family in a whole new environment, filled with a wide range of other game lovers. It's a chance to meet new people, try new games, revel in your favorites, and test your skills against people who don't necessarily play the way you do at home.

They also give you a chance to meet the people behind your favorite games. There's nothing like meeting the designer of your favorite board game and sitting down to play a round or two. What a cool story to share with your friends - plus you might come away with some special strategy tips to give you an edge at home!

(Remind me to tell you about when I played Puerto Rico against designer Andreas Seyfarth -- and got utterly squashed both times. What an awesome time!)

A GAME CONVENTION? REALLY?

Imagine a convention for any kind of hobby, where people passionate about the hobby gather to swap knowledge, listen to experts, show their skills and maybe even buy (or sell) hobby-related stuff.

Well, replace the word “hobby” with “game” and you have a pretty good description of a game convention.

Conventions are typically multi-day affairs, lasting three or four days and nights. You can occasionally find a small single-day convention, if you're lucky, but they're the exception rather than the rule. These events draw anywhere from a few hundred people or less to the massive national conventions like Gen Con in Indianapolis, which attracted over 49,000 attendees last year (and may break 60,000 this year).

Some conventions are sponsored and operated by local game stores or clubs. Larger regional and national conventions stand on their own thanks to their sponsors. Conventions of all sizes typically rely on a cadre of volunteers to make the show run, although they occasionally have some paid staff members.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT

As the name implies, game conventions are about learning, playing, and generally enjoying games of all types. Although a convention may lean toward one particular type of game more than another, most include events for every kind of game out there: Euro games, card games, collectible games, role-playing games, miniatures games and even video games.

Conventions organize game play into rounds or sessions which have specific start and end times. Many conventions offer a “free play” area where attendees can grab a table, sit down with friends (both new and old), and jump into an impromptu playing session.

In addition to playing games, conventions may offer a series of seminars about game-related topics such as design, storytelling, or strategy. Writing seminars are also popular at game conventions since great game experiences can inspire players to save their stories in a book or blog. Sessions about invention games of your own or getting a new game published are also popular topics.

A typical game convention experience includes a few hours of playing, mixed with a seminar or two plus some time set aside for shopping in the vendor hall. There, you'll find a mixture of sales booths by area stores and large demonstration booths from the game publishing companies. Wandering through the vendor hall is a highlight of any convention experience, especially at the bigger events where the publishing companies offer multiple demonstration tables and fun tournaments.

WHERE TO FIND A CONVENTION

If all of this gaming goodness sounds like a great way to spend a weekend with the family, then start your convention search by asking at your local store. They can tell you about conventions in your area and point you to online resources or the local volunteers who can help you learn more.

Living in Fort Wayne puts you close to the granddaddy of all game conventions, Gen Con in Indianapolis. Named for Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where the convention was founded, Gen Con takes place during August each year. (In fact, it's happening this weekend!) You can learn everything you want about the show at www.gencon.com.

And if you're up for a fun Sunday day trip, drive down to Indy for Gen Con's Family Day events. Four people can get into the convention and give it a try for just $30, which is less taking the family out for a movie. Get all of the Family Day details at www.gencon.com/experience/familyfun.

If you decide to go, say hi to me on Twitter at @TheDadGame. I'll be at the convention all day!

Fort Wayne resident John Kaufeld is a best-selling author, speaker and dad. He enjoys playing games with his family and letting others know about them. You can email him at john@johnkaufeld.com and read more of his work at www.johnkaufeld.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.