BGG.con vs. QuakeCon - For The Love of Gaming

by Chris Palmarozzi, December 5 2010

And now, time for something different: an article not directly related to MMORPGs.


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Sometime around 2007 began a fascination with an activity I had long since forgotten in my childhood. I have several fond memories of playing board games like Risk and Monopoly. As I got older the lack of any real decision making in those games, and PC releases such as Civilization II, pushed me in the direction of video games to get my strategy fix. Then a friend introduced me to Settlers of Catan and from there began a reinvigoration of my childhood play activity.

In 2010 I attended my first BoardGameGeek.Con (BGG.con). You can find articles about the nooks and crannies of the convention over the internet so I want to share a different perspective. Over the past decade, I have many times attended the giant PC gaming LAN party called QuakeCon. It struck me that there seemed to be a surprisingly low crossover rate between the conventions. After all, both are in Dallas and both boast one of the largest gaming events in the world - QuakeCon drawing about 3,000 and BGG.con drawing 1,000. Both are fun getaways with great people that really enhance the gaming experience past simply playing at home. Yet attending one doesn't really do anything to prepare you for the other. They are as unique as the people who participate.

People

The video games of QuakeCon tend to attract a much younger crowd with people falling in the late high school to the grad school student age groups. I would say that by the time I turn 40 I would feel out of place at QuakeCon, but that might not be the case. Video games are a relatively recent hobby that didn't exist while older generations were growing up. I think as my generation turns into the older generation the age range of video gamers will be as diverse as board gamers.

The typical range of ages at BGG.con extended from 18 to 60 with an average age somewhere around the mid to late 30s. Less children attend BGG.con and unsurprisingly the ones who did came along with a parent. Females were in slightly greater numbers at BGG.con than at QuakeCon and more than I expected. About half of my games included at least one person without a Y chromosome.

My interaction with people at QuakeCon was sporadic as people were excited to get to the gaming, swag, and tournaments. Sure, people like to chat but it almost feels like a means to an end. For example, you might decide you really want to get in some good games of Dawn of War II so you go looking for like minded individuals. A few conversations later may lead to an impromptu tournament or a series of epic 4v4 matches. You have a great time playing and exchanging friendly taunts but chances are you don't even remember your opponents names, if you learned them to begin with.

BGGers were more about the holistic experience. Many were happy to spend time chatting in the drool-worthy games library. If people weren't gaming you would often even find them teaching games to other players in the gaming halls. When someone is ready for a game all it takes is holding a game box in the air or looking for someone doing the same. You might be jumping into a game you've never heard of but at least the company will be friendly, albeit sometimes incredibly slow to make moves. A curse of the hobby and a risk worth taking.

Sleep

Every night at BGG.con I ended up going to bed around 2-3 am and waking up at 9:30 so I could eat a free continental breakfast. I lost sleep every night but I did so at a regular pace. Board games really eat into your brainís capacity so itís tough to get anything done in the wee hours of the morning. Alternatively, at Quakecon I would sleep anywhere from a few hours to a full nightís sleep depending on caffeine and how mesmerizing the glow of my computer screen was. A lot of the Quakecon sleeping amongst roommates was done in shifts. I remember falling asleep sometime in the afternoon and waking up in the evening to a couple friends walking in, ready to lay down. I also love seeing people crawl under their computers to sleep. These were some dedicated (albeit poor) gamers and it created much more of a party atmosphere than BGG.con did.


QuakeCon, the convention that never sleeps. (credit)

Swag

So how about the free stuff? Quakecon is always kind of exciting when it comes to swag. One minute you're playing video games and the next minute youíre part of a competition to win a free t-shirt, mouse, or whatever. The vendors also host competitions throughout the convention which result in some pretty sweet outcomes. One year I played in a Doom 3 competition and I won a $300 AMD processor by outfragging 2 other people and winning a raffle amongst 3 other ďwinnersĒ. You never know when something is going to be given away at Quakecon and itís another part of what keeps your rush constantly going.

The rush at BGG.con, on the other hand, hits you in stages. The first is when you walk into the main lobby with all the dexterity games. Register, take your badge, and immediately score 2-3 shrink wrapped games. I arrived on day 2 so the selection was reduced but I still made out with 2 pretty good games. Throughout every day there were scheduled drawings. Some were multiple game packages offered by the BGG staff and some were vendor related such as Thoughthammerís game drawings. None of the 10 or so people I personally knew won anything, which was disappointing. On the other hand Iíll be making the trek up to Dallas many more times and when I win I hope it becomes as memorable as my $300 processor.

Thereís a lot more money in video games and hardware than board games, and vendors love to show off at Quakecon. In 2009 there were couches set up for people to play games on DLP TV complete with full 3D technology thanks to NVIDIA. You will always find a good mix of both console and computer games out in the vendor area. Computers on steroids are set up to display gorgeous graphics and just watching modern technology in action is impressive. But the most noticeable eye candy are the models hired for the event. I imagine some of them get tired with the flirting and geeky ogles but most are good spirited. Games, girls, and gifts - these marketing pros know what their audience wants.

Vendor Booths

The BGG.con booths were smaller and partially manned by somebody high up on the publisher ladder such as Zev Shlasinger, owner of Z-Man Games, proudly displaying his company's recent and awesome additions to the board game market. There was no flash but you might be able to find a teacher for that game you've been eyeing for the past year. Fumbling over rules is one of the most difficult parts of the board gaming hobby. Having somebody sit down and explain how to play really sells the game to this market as much as anything does for video gamers.

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