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Why I’ll never go to another video game convention again

Way back in the early days of working for Massively, I was almost embarrassingly eager to travel to trade shows and conventions on the company’s behalf. I had always been a smidge jealous of reading about E3 and the like in magazines and leaped at the chance to not just be able to go for free, but to go as a member of the media.

And it was, to tell the truth, pretty fun and exciting in parts. I did feel a little “special” getting that media badge, having access to a journalism room, and getting to sit down with developers who were making MMOs and grilling them about anything that came to mind. I loved seeing advance demos of games and satiating some of my personal curiosity that way. And the swag and connections that I made with others was a nice perk as well.

But after my second or third PAX, I started to realize that I really didn’t like these shows. In fact, I actually dreaded them. For every good thing that I could name about them, there was at least two “cons” that dragged the experience down.

The big ones? For starters, I do not function well in crowds. They make me feel claustrophobic, especially as a shorter guy who ends up staring at the shoulder blades of others. And trade shows and conventions are nothing BUT crowds, lines, and sweaty masses of humanity all trying to get to the same places you are.

I always felt stressed from the second I’d leave for these trips until I was on the way back home. Everything felt stressful: Going through air travel, finding the place for the media badge, finding my way around, rushing from appointment to appointment, and of course, the FOMO — fear of missing out — of not getting good swag or seeing whatever I truly wanted to see. Very often I would suffer physically with sicknesses or my chronic illness that tends to flare up in stressful situations.

I also didn’t enjoy myself. It really WAS work, and that’s something I’ve tried to convey to others interested in doing this sort of media junket. I’d estimate that about 85% of the day was spent rushing to a place, interviewing people, and rushing back to write up pieces on that. I didn’t get to call my own shots and determine my own destiny. I wasn’t there as most people were, to fulfill their own desires; I was there on behalf of a company and a readership. I did my utmost to do my best.

I had a more and more difficult time justifying the effort of going on these trips as the years went on and I had a family that would miss me — and I’d miss them. I felt so incredibly lonely on these trips, not going with anyone, just doing a job and then coming home. I hated telling my kids over the phone that I wasn’t there because dad was looking at video games. In that light, it felt kind of trivial.

One more thing, and I’ll stop my litany of complaints here. The real straw that broke my back on all of this was when we got to a point where MMO studios would start thrusting out press releases and information online at the same time I was doing interviews and demos about those things. I can’t tell you how disheartening it was to spend two, three hours working on a piece only to see that the studio’s PR team jumped the gun and posted all of the relevant info in a press release or dev blog that same day. If we weren’t getting any lead on the timing of the article, then the only reason to do it was perhaps getting to ask questions from an angle that no other outlet had done. And I can do that over email or the phone without the stress of travel.

So I stopped volunteering to do shows. I vastly more enjoy watching them from afar these days and still tune in with excitement to see what news comes out of them, but conventions — either as a regular dude or as a press dude — aren’t my thing any longer. It was interesting to do them, I’m happy with the work that I produced, and I don’t mean this to be any sort of critique against Bree or MOP. I’m just done with that part of my life and I wanted to explain why.

3 thoughts on “Why I’ll never go to another video game convention again

  1. Totally get that. I’m slated to attend a WordCamp convention in November and I’m dreading it. I have to create solitude “me” time to re-charge the draining of the social crowds…

  2. I simply cannot fathom why anyone would ever go to one of these nightmares *unless* they were being paid to do it. I have no fears of crowds – I like the buzz of them in fact – I don’t suffer from any anxieties or illnesses associated with events like this and I have plenty of patience for queuing and I stil think Video Game Conventions look like hel on Earth.

    In the 80s and 90s I went to as many comics cons as I could get to – several a year if I could find them – and mostly had a great time. They were nothing like video game cons seem to be. They were laid back, casually paced, unhurried and fun. About the longest I ever had to queue for anything was maybe ten or fifteen minutes and most panels didn’t even fill the halls they were in so no queues at all.

    There was no sense whatsoever of them being “trade fairs”. The pros were there because they were getting a paid trip to another country or because they lived nearby and it was easy. Many of them liked to hang out in the convention bar of theb bar of the con hotel and chat. Most of them generally seemed happy that people were interested to hear their anecdotes about the industry in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

    Compared with spending two hours standing in a corridor for the chance to spend 20 minutes playing a video game… well, there doesn’t seem to be any comparison. Even the panels seem to be nothing more than corporate PR excercises, at least from the videos I’ve seen.

    Best avoided, I think.

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