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You, human being! By reading this, I’m going to make a bold claim that you have decided to go to the wonderful EGX event, and while of course there’s plenty of broad information on the official website about the exhibitors and events taking place in Birmingham between the 24th- 27th of September, maybe you’re wondering what it’s like to attend such an event, and what you should prepare for, or if there’s anything you should worry about before your trip to the event. Maybe it’s your first convention ever, maybe it’s your first EGX or maybe you just haven’t attended in a few years.
As someone who’s about to attend his fourth EGX (my previous visits include during the event’s original incarnation in 2008 at the Old Truman Brewery, then again after the move to Earl’s Court in 2012 and 2014) I’m hoping that this little guide might give you some advice and allay some fears you might have based on my own personal experiences. Some of it may be obviously, maybe some not so much. Of course, if there’s anything I’ve missed or haven’t answered, feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll do my best top answer for you. So without any further ado, here are my tips for surviving EGX.
1) Make a plan…
Whether you’re attending for just the one day, or all four days, I cannot overstate this point enough: plan your time at EGX! The event is super popular, and has only grown more so over the years. While that’s been great for the show as a whole, it does of course mean it’s become increasingly more important you take full advantage of all the opportunities given to you to make your visit go as smooth as possible. Download the app, make yourself a copy of the Developer Sessions schedule, get hold of the map, make sure you check the website and Twitter for updates as often as you can.
Depending on what you intend to see – and how much time in which you have to see it – you might not get to see everything on offer at EGX – you almost certainly won’t get to play literally everything in one day, so prioritise your time. If there’s a game, stand or YouTube celebrity you absolutely cannot leave without seeing, make sure you put them near the top of your list. And if that thing is likely to be popular, make sure you allow time for queues – more on that later – and get there as early as possible. You don’t necessarily have to stick to your plan like an Army Major, but try to have a general idea of how much you want to see certain things, and decide which things you won’t be too disappointed about missing out on or sacrificing should you end up taking longer at a booth or stand than you intended for the time you have left.
And if you’re there all four days, you can of course leave the less urgent things to later days in your visit – though bear in mind in general the Saturday and Sunday being the weekend proper naturally makes those two days more busy – especially considering families etc – than the Thursday and Friday, so be ready to take that into account, especially if you’re intending to see some of the more family-orientated games on the floor.
2) …but be Flexible
A harsh reality of the popularity of EGX over the years has meant queue times have increased dramatically over the last few years, It’s an unfortunate side effect, but one that can’t be helped (although every year the event does it’s darnedest to alleviate this issue as much as possible. So make sure when making your itinerary, that you are aware you may have to queue for a while, especially on the more popular AAA titles. It may help to bring something to do while you’re waiting such as a DS or Vita, or make sure you’ve got some extra power for your smartphone. From experience, shooters and fighters are incredibly popular at EGX, so if you intend to get your hands on the latest Call of Duty, clash lightsabers on Star Wars Battlefront or challenge your friend to a bout of fisticuffs on Street Fighter V, my advice would be to get yourself to those stands early.
If you’re intending to attend any one of the Developer Sessions – and I advise you do, because they’re often wonderful and often give you the opportunity to glimpse things you won’t see on the show floor – this advice is doubly important. Usually, the halls in which the sessions take place have a finite number of seats, so make sure that whatever time the talk is due to begin, you get there around fifteen minutes before the scheduled time to give yourself chance to queue up and get good seats. This goes doubly so for the most popular sessions – I personally suspect this year that honour will go to the Valve VR talk on Thursday and the talk with Sony CEO Shuhei Yoshida on the Saturday – so maybe think about joining the queue for those even earlier.
Of course, don’t be too disheartened if you miss the admission time for any of the developer sessions. In recent years, EGX have taken to broadcasting the talks live in a separate area of the show (usually the chillout zone), so keep an eye out for that. It’s not quite the same as being in the room, but it’s a great alternative. Of course, if worst comes to worst, most if not all the talks will be broadcast and archived on EGX’s official channels, for you to watch at your leisure after the show.
Again, it’s one of those harsh reality things, but EGX events over the years have had visitor numbers in the many tens of thousands. And if you’ve ever had problems trying to connect to the wi-fi when the family are all using it at once at home, imagine what it’s like for an event with that many people. So yes, while Wi-Fi might be free and provided at the venue, do not expect it to be the most reliable all the time.
3) Maps: Love Them Like They Love You
If you’re going as part of a party, make sure you’re all familiar with the layout. Maps are available on the app, or will be available in the show program. Make yourself familiar with the safety stuff, of course, but get yourself a meeting point – that way if you all split up to cover more ground and see what different members of your party want to see, you can find each other again. You might get a phone signal in the building, but bear in mind it can get quite loud and it might be quite hard to hear your phone in a pinch on the day, so don’t forget to use the old fashioned methods. And if you’re ever completely lost – look out for the folks wearing EGX Staff shirts (they’re usually blue) – they’re literally there to help you out, so if you’re ever unsure where to go or need any kind of support whatsoever, don’t hesitate to seek one out and let them know.
It’s also useful to note where the food and drink is – believe me, the arena can get pretty warm with all the bodies everywhere, especially if you’re in costume. Knowing where you can get a drink or something to eat when you need it is so useful, and you’ll thank yourself for it later. Bear in mind that though food and drink might be permitted in general on the show floor, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to have it on the machines while playing or too close to the displays – after all, no-one wants to hold a sticky controller.
And on that hygienic note remember you’re going to be in a hall with a lot of people, with very heavy lights under the glow of many, many screens and goodness knows what else. It’s a fact – it’s going to get sweaty. So – and it seems obvious – but just practice good hygiene. Try and make sure you get a shower at your hotel every day (especially if you’re attending over multiple days) and maybe consider taking some anti-perspirant with you to freshen up in the toilets if you’re particularly prone to whiffy-ness (Hey, it’s fine and natural!). There’s not much worse than having to queue behind someone stinking of BO for two hours (and it can happen) – so don’t be that guy/girl and be considerate to your fellow attendees. And it’s probably obvious, but good hygiene practice will also help stave off the dreaded “convention flu”.
4) The Fun Doesn’t Stop When the Show Does
One of the best things about EGX is how it brings together all sorts of diverse communities from around the world for a four day extravaganza. So even though the doors to the show might close at 6pm, keep an eye out for parties, gatherings or other events both during and after the show. Whether it’s cosplay, Streetpassers, E-Sports fanatics or just fans of your favourite game/genre you’re sure to meet them. And if you’re already a member of a community, look on Facebook, websites or forums, shout out on Twitter and see if they’re doing anything at the event – or of course feel free to organise one yourself.
Even if you think you’re going alone you’re sure to find like minded people and potentially new friends at one of the many community events. A good place to start is the EGX Facebook page, and of course if you’re over 18 don’t forget to get tickets to the community party on the Friday and Saturday evenings, they’re always great for meeting new people and this year even promises some none-dance related fun with Rocket League tournaments and interactive gaming live show WiFi Wars – make sure you bring a fully charged smartphone for the latter. (Seriously, you’ve not played Pong unless you’ve done it with 20+ people controlling one paddle and another 20+ people controlling the other.)
5) Most Important: Have fun!
The main takeaway I get from EGX every year is how fun it is. Even with differences from year to year in the times I’ve attended, I’ve always left with fond memories and I enjoy attending – whether as a guest, as press or attending. Quite obviously there’s loads to see, do and experience and for me a great opportunity to catch up with people and friends as well as see so many different people enjoy the show in a multitude of different ways, whether it’s families playing Minecraft, young kids getting the chance to meet their favourite YouTube stars or the folk just excited about finding their next gaming fix of the next twelve months.
So, enjoy yourself and have fun. And don’t be afraid to take a chance and give something a go that you weren’t originally intending to try out – you might find your new favourite game in the Rezzed area or Leftfield Collection. You might get some advice on getting into the industry from the GamesIndustry.biz Careers Fair, or see some amazing creativity from the folks in the Cosplay competitions. Or of course, you could just challenge your friends to some classic Mario Kart 64 action in the Retro Arcade.
It’s obvious and cliched advice, sure – but it holds true. And again, if you ever have questions or need some help while you’re there, be sure to track down an EGX Staff Member/Volunteer who’ll be more than happy to help you out. See you at the show.