Earlier this month I visited GAMEfest – the first computer games’ expo I have ever attended. I went to bed the night before with a belly full of Horlicks and embraced the serene slumber that would leave me with batteries fully charged for the event the next day.
Unfortunately, during that sleep I endured an extreme night terror. Picture this – I was walking through the NEC, kindly PR people handing be bags of free swag, no queues at the Modern Warfare 3 or Bethesda displays and nobody shouting at me for not knowing which game engine powered the Uncharted franchise.
Yes, life was good…but then I saw a lone man sobbing in a corner. I approached him and asked what was wrong. He didn’t give a vocal response, but instead pointed a bony finger towards the Gears of War 3 stand and looked on through red eyes, swollen with fear. I turned, and before me stood an army of slobbering, rabid GoW fanatics, glaring in my direction.
The stench of BO was overpowering, the collective grease on their long gungy hair clogged the air; it was suffocating. They encircled me and slowly began closing in. I tried to run but I was trapped in the corner – the sobbing man had disappeared. The GoW fans were chanting something – ‘BETA! BETA! BETA!’ – it sounded like, but I had no idea what it meant. Soon they were in touching distance. They began howling through their crooked yellow teeth and clawing at me with sharp unkempt nails. I closed my eyes , sunk into the corner and adopted the foetal position. I could feel them looming over me like apparitions, slowly tearing out chunks of my skin as the crackle of asthmatic wheezing soon drowned out the ‘BETA! BETA! BETA!’ chants. I began writhing, desperate to escape their savage frenzy – but it was too late. I squeezed my eyes shut one more time.
I woke up encased in sheets warm with fresh urine, my pillow was caked in stale vomitus and my head was pounding like a funeral drum. This was a dream about fear of the unknown…
Okay, so as you may have guessed, I’m exaggerating – I haven’t wet the bed in hours, actually. But when I did wake on the morning of GAMEfest, I had little to no idea of what to expect. So, that’s why I have decided to write the Newbs guide to surviving games expos.
Those of you who enjoy television’s ‘The X-Factor’ will be aware of the concept of ‘the journey’. This describes a contestant’s development throughout the stages of the show, as they progress from being unknown vacuous gobshites in the auditions to well-known vacuous gobshites in the finale. However, ‘the journey’ can also be used to describe the period of travel between to physical locations (a lot of people really don’t know this) – my house and the N.E.C, for example.
Sometimes the trip can get a little tedious (especially if you’re travelling with Crofterz) so I suggest bringing some form of portable activity. Books are great – magazines are better. I can think of no better way to pass the time than casually leafing through the pages of ‘Horse and Hound’ magazine, researching the latest in stirrup technology. Alternatively, ‘Heat’ and ‘Jackie’ also provide some excellent lifestyle tips that the casual gamer could really benefit from.
You could also bring a pen and paper to diary your thoughts or to write Haiku’s about religion. I personally bring a notepad and biro everywhere I go so I can collate my collection of three-word poems about hatred, death and anger. You might even wish to draw ‘art’ or play an exciting hand of ‘tic-tac-toe’ with one of your fellow passengers. The great thing about a pen and paper is that is guarantees the user carte blanche.
Since this is a guide for gamers, I’ll also mention the excellent range of handheld gaming devices on offer. The Nintendo 3DS is a great bit of technology and the skull-crunching migraines it induces are well worth the minutes of fun that can be had on one of its many games. Mobile phones also offer a great set of games, as well as access to various social networks meaning that fantastic comedy banter is never more than a few clicks away.
To recap – bring something to do. You’ll go far if you can remember that.
So, you step off the train or out of the car, barge past all the people frailer than you, and enter the expo. What do you do? Where do you go first? Is that man supposed to be convulsing on the floor? For Game expo virgins there are often more questions than answers, so let me offer you Newbs some more advice worthy of Denise Robertson; everyone’s favourite agony aunt.
Try and have a plan. Do some basic research about the various representatives at the event and use logic to determine which exhibits will be the busiest. At this year’s event it was obvious that the Bethesda, Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 stalls were all going to be packed, so we made sure we went there first – bright and early to avoid the crowds. If you can get the busiest bits out of the way first then that often means you have a bit more freedom to enjoy the rest of the expo, to play a few games and blag a few free goodies.
Don’t bring a heavy bag. Seriously, only stupid, moronic idiots would bring heavy bags knowing they would be walking around all day and standing in queues (I may have brought a heavy bag with me). You often get given free bags at the event itself, so there is really no need to bring your own. If you’re a budding computer games journalist and you want to take notes – just use your phone. There are loads of good note taking apps out there and they are great for taking little memo’s that can be transformed into proper articles when you get home.
Queues. It’s a strange word, queues. How many other words can you think of with four vowels in a row? Onomatopoeia, that’s one. Well, let me tell you, when you’re standing in a queue at a Games expo you’ll have lots of time to think about what words have four vowels in a row. You’ll even go through the stages of grief: Denial – ‘This queue’s fine – it’ll be over in no time’. Anger – ‘Why are we waiting in this queue? It’s not fair!’. Bargaining – ‘God – if you smite down those five people in front of me I’ll go to church every other Sunday’. Depression – ‘What’s the point in queuing? What’s the point in anything?’ and acceptance – ‘It’s okay – everyone else has to queue. Why struggle?’ Without doubt you’ll spend more time queuing than gaming, but there are a few tips to pass the time:
Shout ‘Dave’ – So you’re standing in a queue with perhaps hundreds of other people. Why not shout ‘Dave’ and see who responds to you. It can be great fun and you never know who you could meet.
Start a religion and try to convert people – Simple and fun. I invented a religion called ‘TW*T’ and at GAMEfest I managed to recruit no new followers.
Start a controlled fire – People love fire; as long as it’s controlled. People might want to ‘huddle’ around your fire; they might even care to ask why you have started a fire in the first place, either way it’s a great way to meet new people.
Alternatively you could speak to people about game’s. Perhaps they’re wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a retro gaming character or they’re playing a portable game console – why not strike up a conversation and watch the time fly by.
I’d also say drink lots of water because if you don’t you’ll get dehydrated and die – fact.
There comes a time in every person’s life when they have to leave somewhere. This could be because of closing times or simple boredom – either way it can potentially be a harrowing experience. Here are some top tips for leaving a game expo:
Leave before the crowds – it’s always best to get there earlier so that you can leave before the big closing time rush. If you drive it means avoiding even more queues and if you’re on public transport is simply means that you have a lesser chance of being crushed to death.
Keep a firm hold of your loot – You’ll probably have worked hard to get so much free gear, so keep an eye on your stuff and make sure no scallies pinch it.
Speak to your companions – I travelled with two other fellow gamers (@Crofterz and @ItsActuallyAdam for any twitterers out there), and I tried to avoid speaking to them as much as possible throughout the day because they both have attitudes you could hang your coat on. Eventually they wore me down and I had no choice but to speak to them – thankfully however, it did mean my journey home was more enjoyable and I suggest if you attend an expo, you talk to the people you’re travelling with.
So, my intrepid casual gamers – that’s the end of my guide. I know there’s some real gems in there that could even save the lives of a few game expo virgins – but there’s really no need to thank me. I hope you all have as much fun at the upcoming game expos as I did at GAMEfest – and if you don’t it’s obviously because you haven’t followed the advice of my guide.