PAX Aus 2015 is only a few days away and I am super excited!! Sometimes conventions can be a bit overwhelming, though.
Cons are busy, noisy places with lots of people and lots going on all day long and into the night.
So here’s a simple guide to making the most out of your next convention while keeping your physical and mental health in tact.
It’s Dangerous to Go Alone
The buddy system! If you’re traveling with someone, agree to check out parts of the con together, and if you do split up make sure you have their contact details and a meeting place and time arranged.
You’ll have more fun knowing you have a friend to touch base with if things get too much.
Sometimes all you need is someone to have a brief chat to, or even just to stand next to, to keep you grounded and feeling safe and comfortable.
Take This is a non-profit seeking to educate and spread awareness of mental health issues, as well as letting people know someone is there for them.
Take This has a fantastic initiative at the PAX conventions, called AFK Rooms. These are “a safe space for people who need it, staffed with volunteers and clinicians who can answer questions and offer support for people who are stressed out”.
I think conventions of all types should have these, and it’s great to hear Take This is coming to PAX Aus this year. If you’re having a crisis, need some questions answered or just need to pause and take a breather, the AFK Room is the place to go.
Similar to the AFK Rooms, the Diversity Lounge is a very welcoming place at PAX focusing on a broad spectrum of diversity-related charities and initiatives. I went there last year and learnt about a charity called Special Effect which makes controllers for disabled gamers, got involved in a trivia contest and played a homebrew RPG with a great group of people. It was a friendly space where I felt I could recharge. I think it even had a whole bunch of diversity-focused panels throughout the day. Well worth checking out if you need a quiet space with friendly people where the show still rolls on.
Don’t Try to Do Everything
I was run off my feet last year with so many panels to see! I barely got a chance to do some other stuff I wanted to. Don’t try to do everything. You’ll stress yourself out and miss what you really care about.
Before the con, check the map and schedule and mark down your must see and must do events. Set goals, in other words.
Shape your weekend around these few events. Give yourself one to three things you’re going to do each day and make sure you get to them. Everything else is a bonus!
Because you’ve organised your must sees and must dos, you’ve probably got a bit of time left over some days. Because you’re not rushing from event to event you have time to wander and explore. Give yourself permission to take your time. Move through the show floor and discover a new booth or game. Find an interesting panel you might not normally go to and check it out. Do something special for yourself you hadn’t planned.
Fresh air, sun, or even looking up at the night sky. Mere seconds or minutes of these can revitalise you after a long time inside with lots of people. Go for a walk along the waterfront. Grab lunch and eat it in the sun. Just lie on the grass for a bit. Watch cosplayers and other people coming to and from the con. Stretch and breathe. It doesn’t have to take long but it can make you feel like refreshed. (Bonus Tip: If your accommodation is close, a power nap can do wonders, too).
Eat a Bit Healthy
When you’re busy and away from home at a con it’s common to find yourself eating junk food for the convenience. Like sun and fresh air, a healthier meal and cold water can give your mood a massive boost.
Healthy doesn’t mean boring, either. Treat yourself to a nice steak or grilled fish. Still have the chips on the side, but have a salad too. You don’t need every meal to be healthy, but when you feel a bit blergh, eat a muesli bar instead of a Mars bar.
Start a Friendly Conversation
If you’re comfortable and it seems right, strike up a conversation with a fellow con-goer. Maybe someone in the AFK Room or Diversity Lounge if that helps. Doesn’t need to be complicated. A simple “Having a good time?” or “Been to any good booths or panels?” can start a nice conversation where the other person will gush about their weekend and you might find out something useful.
Ask questions and you’ll be okay. I find starting a conversation much easier at cons: you’ve already got something in common with literally everyone there! Who knows, that next conversation might be the start of a beautiful friendship! If not, that’s okay! Just be your friendly self and have a good time.
Know Your Limits
You might know that 10:00pm is your limit. After that you may as well be a pumpkin. Or that you need to be up early the next day for a panel you’re keen on seeing.
Same with drinking; no fun to be hung over for 2 of the 3 days just because your mates are bigger drinkers than you.
Know your limits and enforce them when anyone (including yourself) tries to get you to go beyond them.
Whatever fun is for you, do it. That’s what the con is all about, right? If you’re not into parties, say “No thanks”. Don’t feel pressured. Go play a card game with some close friends instead, if that works for you. Rather binge panels than go to a console tournament? Great! It’s all up to you. Make the con your version of fun. Everyone’s there for something different. Do what makes you happy. Find your fun.
I could go on, but I think these tips are a useful overview. If you have more tips, please feel free to comment below. If you’re going to PAX Aus, I hope you have a great time. If you see me there, feel free to say hi :)
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