Thursday, August 21, 2008

7 Game Conventions to Attend Before You Die

Video game conventions are great. Where else can you play the latest games, get tons of free stuff thrown at you, and see videos of upcoming games on 50 foot HD screens? This list includes the best gaming conventions in the world and why you need to go.

Tokyo Game Show

Tokyo Game Show TGSThe Tokyo Game Show (also known as TGS) is the world's largest video game convention with more than 193,000 attendees last year. Every major Japanese game developer (except Nintendo) and most major western publishers have booths and show off their new Japanese focused games. The first two days are industry insiders only but the last two days anyone can pay 1,000 Yen (less than $10) and play games at more than 170 booths.

Location: Makuhari Messe - Tokyo Japan
Next Show: October 9th-12th, 2008

What Makes TGS Great?

Japanese Booth Babes - The Tokyo Game Show has tons of cute Japanese booth babes around every corner.

Anime & JRPG's - This is THE show for announcing and demoing new Anime and Japanese style RPG games. If you like these genre's TGS will be like heaven to you.

Tokyo - The show is in Tokyo. It's a great place to visit even if there wasn't a huge video game convention.

Tokyo Game Show Pictures

Cute Japanese Girls at TGS
I don't know what game this is, but I want it

Strange Tokyo Game Show Cosplay
Japanese cosplay is very strange

E3 (Pre-2007 Format)

E3 Game ConventionThe last two E3's do not make this list, they were bad. But before 2007 E3 was the greatest spectacle of gaming in the world. Hundreds of booths, thousands of booth babes, and even more games to play. Many of them only announced to the public days before.

The show is only open to industry members (though the definition seems to be fairly flexible judging by the people you see inside) but if E3 goes back to the Pre-2007 format try everything you can to go.

Location: LA Convention Center - Los Angeles, CA
Next Show: Summer 2009 (Exact date TBA)

What Makes E3 Pre-2007 Great?

Game Announcements - Many publishers announce games for the first time at E3. Remember realistic Zelda when it was first shown by Nintendo? Some gamers in attendance cried tears of joy.

Game Demos - Every major publisher demos their major releases for the coming year and you get to be one of the first to try it out.

Swag - There is so much free stuff being given out you can almost pay for your trip by Ebaying it all when you get home.

E3 Pictures

E3 Crowds
Masses of people trying to get into E3

E3 Swag
Restock your wardrobe with free gaming T-shirts

PAX - Penny Arcade Expo

PAX Game FestivalPAX is a gaming "festival" started by people at the online gaming comic Penny Arcade. It's three days of gaming, concerts, tournaments, and gaming panels. All of it included for $45. The show is relatively new, but attracts a whos-who of publishers and developers. The 2008 show is this weekend so you can quickly cross one of these conventions off your list if you don't have any plans this Labor Day weekend.

Location: Seattle Convention Center - Seattle, WA
Next Show: August 29th-31st, 2008

What Makes PAX Great?

OmegaThona - 20 lucky attendees compete in 6 elimination rounds of gaming. 2008 includes Peggle, Boom Blox, Pictionary, Rock Band, and Jenga. Last years winner won an all expense paid trip to Tokyo for TGS.

PAX 10 - 10 Indie games chosen by a panel and then voted on by attendees. Great exposure for independent game developers.

Tournaments - Tournaments for Halo 3, Smash Brawl, Starcraft, Team Fortress 2, and more games. There's even a tournament for the Settlers of Catan board game.

Penny Arcade Expo Pictures

Zelda Cosplay PAX
Zelda cosplay at PAX

Crowds at PAX
Lots of people enjoying PAX

California Extreme

California Extreme Game Convention"Coolest f****** arcade ever!" This quote pretty much sums up California Extreme. It's a gaming convention dedicated solely to coin-operated pinball, video games, and table top games. People from all over the country bring their arcade cabinets for you to play. Many of them are prototypes you've never seen before. The best part, every game is set to free play too so you can relive all your adolescent gaming dreams without filling your pockets with quarters.

Location: Parkside Hall - San Jose, CA
Next Show: July 2009 (exact dates TBA)

What Makes California Extreme Great?

Pinball - A huge selection of pinball games, both new and old, and speakers about customizing and building your own pinball cabinents.

World Records - Twin Galaxies is usually on hand to watch people attempt gaming world records. You might be lucky enough to watch history being made.

No Quarters Needed - Every pinball and arcade game is free so you don't have to carry a huge bag of quarters.

CAX Pictures

California Extreme Arcade
Table top arcade games without the pizza grease

CAX Pinball
Row after row of pinball machine

Games Convention

Leipzig Game ShowThe Games Convention in Leipzig Germany is Europe's biggest gaming convention and only second in the world to TGS. More than 185,000 visitors pack four halls and an outdoor grounds so they can play the newest games. Unfortunately the 2008 show just finished, but that gives you almost a whole year to lock in your vacation time and look for the best airfare.

Location: Leipzig Convention Center - Leipzig Germany
Next Show: August 19th-23rd 2009

What Makes The Leipzig Games Convention Great?

Europe - The cheapest way for Europeans to get in on the gaming fun since its the only major game convention in Europe.

European Vacation - After you go to the Games Convention spend a few weeks touring Europe. A EuroRail Pass will get you almost anywhere in less than half a day.

Part Convention - Part Fair - Video games are the focus, but the show has a huge outdoor fairgrounds area with beach volleyball, ATV's, and other festival booths.

Games Convention Pictures

Games Convention Ferris Wheel
A huge Xbox ferris wheel outside the convention

MTV TRL at Games Convention
MTV's TRL filming at Games Convention


BlizzCon Video Game ConventionBlizzCon is put on by Blizzard Entertainment and is dedicated to Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo games. It is a PC gamers dream with thousands of new PC's setup on huge LAN's. The show is hard to get into though because the tickets sell out so quickly. With new games like Diablo III and Starcraft 2 on display at this years show, BlizzCon sold out in less than 30 minutes.

Location: Anaheim Convention Center - Anaheim, CA
Next Show: October 10th-11th 2008

What Makes BlizzCon Great?

PC Gaming - BlizzCon is focused on PC gaming. There are endless rows of PC's with the latest games to try out and on the best hardware.

Meet Your WoW Clan - The best place to meet people from your World of Warcraft clan in person. That cute elf is played by a guy? It's best you found out now.

Costume Contest - These aren't your cheesy Haloween costumes. These are die-hard gamers who spend countless hours designing costumes so they look like their favorite Blizzard game characters

BlizzCon Pictures

BlizzCon Costume Contest
Great costume for BlizzCon Costume Contest

BlizzCon PC LAN Setup
Hundreds of PC's setup for gaming & LAN parties


MagFest Video Game FestivalGaming conventions don't have to be huge masses of people all flocking to play the newest games. Smaller fan focused game conventions like MAGFest are great ways to actually meet some fellow gamers, play some new games AND some classics, and still have a bit of personal space. MAGFest has enough going on to keep you entertained and is a great change of pace from the other massive shows on this list.

Location: Hilton Mark Center - Alexandria, VA
Next Show: January 1st-4th 2009

What Makes MagFest Great?

Fan Show - The show is run by fans and is a much better place to meet fellow gamers.

Intimate - Small enough that you can take part in impromptu gaming tournaments in people's hotel rooms

Classic Gaming - Lots of classic games to go along with the next gen stuff. You don't always have to play the newest games at a gaming convention.

MagFest Pictures

MAGFest Concert
Concert at MAGFest

Urinal at the Convention. MAGFest has a sense of humor.


Anonymous said...

MAGfest is AWESOME!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Agreed. MAGfest rules and I'm happy to see that it made this list.

Anonymous said...

W00t Magfest joins the ranks of 180,000+ Leipzig. I agree with the classiciation.

Don't forget about the impromptu videogame music jam room at Magfest:

Anonymous said...

Yes! Magufesuto ROCKS!

JJ Hendricks said...

I had no idea MagFest fans were so passionate. Quite the response from the smallest convention on the list.

Noel Cower - Quakecon is a great convention too from what I hear. It would be another good one for PC fans

Anonymous said...

I've been involved with MAGFest since day 1 and I would have to say it is the most fun I've ever had in a weekend. It surpasses even E3.

Unknown said...

Quite simply MAGfest is the best event on the East coast you can go to. Bar none, I have nothing but praise to give this event, if you are in the area I HIGHLY reccomend on going and having a good time.

Anonymous said...

MAGFest is one of the best events I've ever been to. For the price of $35, I got an invaluable amount of video game and social love in return. Infact, it's definitely safe to say that there's no way to compare the experience of MAGFest to money: you pay $35 for an unworldly experience.

If you can, please go to MAGFest! It will change your life FOREVER!

Anonymous said...

I've never seen a convention with such a dedication to video game music. A dedication so strong they have 2 nights of concerts just to prove it :-P

-nick the newbie

Unknown said...

Great, so I'll just hop into my time machine and go attend a pre-2007 E3 before I die.

Was there something wrong with leaving the list at 6 or could you just not think of another?

Anonymous said...

One of the best conventions ever. Ive been going since magfest 2. It surpasses all of the other bigger gaming events. This is the one gamers have yurned for. Some of the best music played by some of the best bands. The social experience one gets from this is amazing. Ive met so many awesome people. You go to this convention for the experience, and the experience is second to none.

Anonymous said...

Uh- Gen Con? ( Then again, they just added video games over the past 2 years... They have all games now. It was fun...

streetpassnyc said...

No Games Developer Conference? Nobody thinks its cool to know how your favorite games where made? FOR SHAME!

Anonymous said...

First off, why isn't GenCon on the list?
Second why is there a convention you can't attend without a time machine on the list?

Anonymous said...

i'm not sure i can consider this a legitimate list of conventions to attend. it doesn't recognize quakecon...

Anonymous said...

look at all the magfest comments! i have to agree though. magfest is pure energy because, as you can see here, it's the friendliest and most passionate gathering of fans you'll ever see. I know what I'm talking about, I've been to about 50 different types of cons in my life including the big ones. It's more like a giant 500 person 80+ hours straight college party with games than a "con". It's wild, crazy, fun, laid back. I'm surprised the latest hotel kept them for a 2nd year, usually the party is so wild they have to change hotels every year. And this year they've got, what, 3 or 4 concert nights instead of the usual 2 all-nighters? dang.

glad y'all didn't put in that dumb "e 4 all". I went to that and it totally blew. I highly do not recommend that one at all. The only thing that saved it was the video games live concert, which wasn't even officially part of the con.

GamesOgre said...

I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but the "Retro Game Championship in Denver" on July 18th 2009 should be on this list. :) Vintage video gaming & collecting rules!

Gamer Girl said...

MAGFest is an awesome experience. 4 days of game loving and rocking out! 3 nights of concerts PLUS a jamspace. HUGE gameroom and hanging out with people who love games as much as you do. Also, the parties rock, and most of the time you can sit down and drink with the guests--which I know you don't get to do at the bigger cons unless you have some secret strings you can pull. A smaller con completely devoted to serving the fans of video games, which in many ways is more fun than industry shows. MAGFEST ROCKS! I will go every year.

Anonymous said...

MAGfest is everything a Video Game Convention should be. Made for the fans by the fans. Need I say more.....

Who cares!!!! I'm still saying more. I'm been to every single MAGfest. I've seen how it's evolved into the "culmination of all things Video Game" that it is today. VG tournaments, VG vendors, VG discussions, both good and bad VG movies, and live VG music!!!

MAGfest has changed hotels every year or two since the beginning. Either because we outgrew their capacity, or we ROCKED SO HARD THE CEILING CRUMBLED. (I have a piece of the ceiling from the concert hall to prove it)

It's awesome that it's on the east coast so I don't have to get on a plane to get there. Of the other conventions on the list, three are on the other side of the continent, and two are across the ocean. GO MAGfest.

I can't wait to spend New Years with the coolest nerds on the planet. Hope to see you there.


Anonymous said...

I am a hard-core Zelda Gamer, so I finnally want to go to a convention that has Zelda. I saw Penny Arcade had a picture of Zelda cosplay, and I happenn to live in Washington, so that is great, but im still not sure... what I am asking is that which convention has ZELDA IN IT?

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