A convention or con is a gathering of individuals who meet at an arranged place and time in order to discuss or engage in some common interest. Gaming conventions are conventions for which the common interest is games, which can include role-playing games, collectible card games, wargames, board games, and video games. Conventions are typically two or three days long (often held over a weekend), and held in a public venue such as a convention center hotel or a university.
While gaming conventions may include role-playing games, a relatively small number focus on role-playing games specifically. The largest of these is Gen Con, which features events for RPGs, CCGs, miniatures and boardgames. Gen Con had 60,000+ unique attendees over four days in 2017.
The largest gaming convention, Spiel, is a trade fair in Essen, Germany that focuses on German-style board games and RPGs. A similarly large event is Festival Ludique International de Parthenay (FLIP), a games festival held over twelve days in France. The largest gaming convention in the US is the Penny Arcade Expo, which has had over 70,000 attendees at both its East (Boston) and Prime (Seattle) events. Origins focuses on miniatures wargames and boardgames with 12,902 unique attendees in 2014, but also has a large component of RPG and CCG players. DragonCon is an example of a large convention with a focus on popular culture and comics that includes a large gaming contingent and 35,000-40,000 attendees, but isn't dedicated solely as a gaming convention.
Events[edit | edit source]
Gaming conventions typically have games scheduled for various time slots. Most gaming cons use some system of pre-registration to ensure that games are neither over-full nor under-full.
Competitive games, such as Magic: The Gathering, typically have tournaments set out where players meet in matches. Prizes can be quite large for the winners. There are also competitive role-playing games, where the best roleplayers, most successful parties, etc. get rewarded. Most scheduled RPGs, however, are not competitive.
Open gaming goes on throughout any such convention, and it is common that all seating in common areas will be taken by people playing pick-up games. Pick-up gaming is not generally discouraged by the convention management; in fact, pick-up games are a large part of the appeal of gaming conventions.
There is almost always a dealers' room where various game manufacturers and related companies sell their products. Many game companies choose game cons to reveal new products. Creating consumer excitement is greatly facilitated at gaming cons, but word can spread fast, and games may equally well become instant failures at conventions.
Often there are other activities at a gaming convention as well. Costume balls, art auctions, and screenings of movies may all take place. Lectures, workshops, or panel discussions on gaming might be part of the programming, or for some cons, even the focus.