What is a gaming convention?

What is a gaming convention? Well, it’s an event where people spend time gaming. What is gaming? Well in the case of gaming conventions, gaming has nothing to do with gambling:

Main Entry: gam·ing 

Pronunciation: 'gA-ming 

Function: noun 

Date: 1501 

1 : the practice of gambling 

2 : the playing of games that simulate actual conditions (as of business or war) especially for training or testing purposes

This entry from Webster’s online dictionary (WWWebster) defines gaming as being one of two things, and in the case of gaming conventions we use the second definition. In recent years, that definition has stretched to include a hobby industry that produces hundreds of games for entertainment purposes, not necessarily training or testing. No wagers are placed in this type of gaming, and no money is won.

What types of games fall into the “gaming” category? Examples include Parker Brothers’ Monopoly™ game, WoTC/TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons™ game, and literally hundreds of games in between. The gaming convention brings an element of friendly competition to these games, and allows people who share interest in playing them a chance to get together and play. A gaming convention hosts tournaments, which are organized play sessions of a certain game, with the winner receiving a non-cash prize.

BOARD GAMES – Games at a gaming convention fall into a number of broad categories, including board games, such as Parker Brothers’ MONOPOLY™ game, Mayfair’s Settlers of Catan game, and advanced historical simulation games such as Avalon Hill’s Age of Renaissance or Civilization games. Many of these games have been computerized in recent years, although many people do not know that these complex computer games often had their roots in a tabletop board game.

ROLE-PLAYING GAMES – Another category is role-playing games, in which each player takes on the persona of a character in an interactive story. Although the most popular of these role-playing games worldwide is WoTC/TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons™ game, many other companies produce games in other settings, or genres. Genre has the same meaning in gaming as it does in fiction writing – the setting and style of the story. Dungeons & Dragons is set in a fantasy world, where the players, via their characters pretend to battle fantasy monsters such as dragons and trolls, using imaginary swords and crossbows. Other role-playing games cast the players as characters in a variety of settings, from space to the Old West to the middle of your favorite horror movie.

In role-playing games, the players work together to slay the monsters, or solve the crimes, or save the village. As such, the players are not competing against each other. At a gaming convention, where these games are played as tournaments, the players continue this cooperative spirit in resolving the story, but winners are determined by the players and storyteller voting on who portrayed their character the best. This is basically a combination of how well the player knows the rules of the game, the setting, and the background of the character, an how well they were able to use that information to contribute to the story being enacted by the players. A good role player is often a good improvisational actor.

Each tournament has a different setting, and different characters, forcing the player to quickly assume different personas and portray them convincingly. Many of the tournament scenarios played at conventions come from the Role Playing Game Association Network (RPGA Network™ ), an international organization of role-playing enthusiasts which sponsors role-playing games at conventions, and pays its members to write entertaining scenarios that are sent to conventions around the world and used as tournaments. Players and storytellers are ranked in the RPGA Network based on how many tournaments in which they have participated, and how well they did.

MINIATURES GAMES – Miniatures games are not only popular but visually impressive. Typically, a miniatures game is a reenactment of a certain type of combat using miniature figurines to represent the troops. Battles fought in time periods from the Crusades and the Civil War to thousands of years in the future are simulated with figurines and terrain. Miniatures gaming is a combination of artistic skill in fashioning the terrain and figurines, and strategy, as the tabletop generals decide how to deploy their troops.

TRADING CARD GAMES – A recent addition to the gaming convention are Collectible Card Games, aka Trading Card Games or TCGs. One of the most popular of these games is WoTC’s Magic: The Gathering™ game. These games have been described as a combination between baseball cards and board games. Out of a collection of thousands of cards, the players choose a few to play with. Their opponent does the same, and then the cards are played according to the rules of the game to resolve which player’s card selections and play strategy was more effective. Typically, the cards simulate characters and items, which are combined, deployed and lost according to the rules of the game. Other collectible card games abound, each allowing players to experience their favorite genre, or in many cases, television or movie milieu. Collectible card games are as diverse in setting and genre as role-playing games and have been produced based on a variety of worlds, including Babylon 5™, Star Trek™, Star Wars™, Dune™ and Pokemon™.

LIVE-ACTION ROLE-PLAYING GAMES – Some conventions also host live-action role-playing games, which are like role-playing games with fewer rules, and fewer restrictions. Costumes are encouraged in live-action games, and the game is not physically restricted to a table, but perhaps a room, or an entire hotel. The most well-known live-action games are the How to Host a Murder™ games from Parker Brothers. But, as we’ve seen with other types of games, if you have a favorite genre, a game probably exists that will let you experience it.