Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games! This month will be the first discussion on attending a convention with a young child. I intend to follow each of our convention experiences with a recap. This time around I’ll be talking about our trip to Dexcon 2015.
Conventions are events that vary widely in size and scope. I have to be honest and say that my experience in convention going is extremely limited. I have attended four different conventions, and two of them are run by the same company, in the same hotel, and for me are functionally the same. One was when I was in high school with my boyfriend’s family and only as a day trip. The other, while attended many times, was well before I had a child. Or a husband. So I am by no means an expert in this area. However, I know many of you have traveled to many other conventions, so I am looking forward to hearing about your experiences. And if you have questions or need suggestions, ask away. While I may not have experienced your situation, I may be able to look at it from a different perspective and give suggestions that might work for you. Or at least give you a good laugh!
Dexcon 2015 was held in Morristown, New Jersey. This is a small to mid-sized gaming convention held in a hotel. It features a board gaming room, RPG room, LARP track, video game room, miniature gaming room, video room, dealer’s room, artist’s alley, and a Con Suite where you can relax and grab snacks. Each gaming track has a space assigned to it, so it’s possible to spend the entire convention in one area of the hotel. I jump around from board games to LARPS to RPGs to hanging out with friends, so I see a good portion of the convention. Having attended the same convention in the same hotel for multiple years (though this is the second hotel since we’ve been in attendance) has the advantage of familiarity. Now that we have learned the ins and outs of the hotel and the area surrounding the hotel, things have become easier. The passage of time and the wanderings I do around the convention have given me the opportunity to make observations about the convention.
One thing that is sticking out to me now that I am a mom is the number of children at the convention. There are infants all the way to young teens traveling the hotel with their parents. More mature children are attending games on their own. However there is no area dedicated to meeting each other. This year I ran three sessions of an event I called “Family Game Table” to try to remedy this. I had a lot of goals for this event. I wanted to give parents the opportunity to get an extra board game in during the convention. I wanted to give younger gamers who might not be ready for the board game room a chance to play more advanced games. I wanted to give the youngest gamers a chance to meet each other in a space where they could interact freely (and not play a structured game if that’s what they felt like doing at the moment). Basically I wanted to share my weekly game table with the convention. Though attendance wasn’t high, it was varied. Along with Yog, there was a five-year old and a fourteen year old who attended at various times with their families. I had a great time talking about the different games we play at home and the attention spans of our young children. I learned that there are other families out there with awesome gamer friends doing what we’re doing. Though attendance was light and we focused on kids games as opposed to my envisioned adult games, I still feel the event was a success and hope to be able to run it again.
Outside of the Family Game Table we still had to figure out who would watch Yog while my husband and I tried to get to all the events we wanted to attend. Here’s where our awesome gamer friends come to the rescue! We have a group of friends who attend the convention with us and we all take turns staying with Yog. Everyone takes a gaming slot or two over the course of the weekend (this convention is block scheduled – including lunch and dinner breaks) so that my hubby and I can go to a few more events. We have this so fine tuned that pretty much everyone gets to go to the events that mean the most to her or him. What makes this work is pre-planning. We all love seeing what games will be on the schedule prior to the convention and pre-registering for each event ensures you will get to play. So doing the planning ahead of time is a win-win for my group. We create a spread sheet and a color coding system and over the course of a few days and a few emails everyone knows what games they will be playing and when they get play time with Yog. Or, if you’re lucky, nap time! (Yeah, at four we still get naps. Go ahead. Spend a few minutes being jealous, because I know some of you lost nap time at age two).
To help out with the babysitting we always make sure to get connected rooms. This allows whoever is with Yog during nap time or after bedtime to be in the other room doing whatever they please without disturbing her sleep. Sometimes there are multiple people hanging out in the room, and usually we wind up playing a game. On the occasions when we’ve only had one room, getting her to sleep has been trickier. We try to put her cot in a corner of the room and turn off the lights on that side of the room. Usually we wind up not playing games and reading quietly. Again – we’re lucky that our gamer friends are reading friends too!
Post convention I was on the forums for the convention and saw that there was a five-year old dominating parts of the board game room. While I was sad to not have had the chance to meet this amazing child during my event, it gives me hope for the future of including Yog in the mainstream games sooner than later.
So I lay it out to you – how do you tackle conventions? What challenges do you face? What can we learn together and from each other? Share your thoughts in the comments and hopefully I’ll see you on the convention floor soon!