© 2012; 2005 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Diane Redfern. Information
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
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Gaming Holidays

By Karen Jacobs

live action role playing games

Looking for something out the ordinary to do over the weekend? How about saving the world or figuring out a murder mystery, playing with toy soldiers, running around a hotel's pool area in a cape pretending that you are invisible? At gaming conventions you can do these things and more in just one weekend without breaking your budget. No game can last too long, no one is too old to join in, and the only bad thing that happens is that the convention ends too soon.

Gaming conventions come equipped with everything from classic card games, board games, tabletop adventures, electronic gaming, and miniature figurine gaming to live action role playing. Or, you can bring your own games to play with other enthusiasts. Gaming conventions, often referred to as "cons," are held around the world throughout the year.

Strategicon sponsors three of southern California's largest game conventions. Gamex, the con I went to, is held each Memorial Day weekend; others are held on President's Day and Labor Day weekends.

Going to Gamex fulfilled my need for a brief escape from motherhood. To play the whole weekend, the fee was only US$30. A one-day pass could also be purchased for US$19. The Westin Hotel by the Los Angeles International Airport hosted Gamex. Convention goers got a special rate of US$89 a night. After paying for my food and gasoline, I spent three days and four nights away from home for less than US$400.

Before going to Gamex, I had only experienced board games, computer games, and a little of Dungeons and Dragons when I was a kid. I worried that I was too old, too frumpy, and too female to be welcomed into the fun. I was wrong on all counts. Females were almost as prevalent as males, and I was certainly not the one and only "grown up" there. Con attendees ranged in age from 14 to 80.

Newbies and Oldies Welcome

Gamers were enthusiastic about their games. They were anxious to share their passion with others and happy to help a new player fit in.

While standing in the hotel registration line, I freely admitted to another gamer that what with so many games I had never played before listed on the program, I didn't know where to start. Everyone near me in the line turned and began offering information and advice on how to have the most fun at which games. By the time I had my room key, my schedule was planned.

During the weekend I made friends with other gamers, chatted with a well known fantasy book-cover artist, and managed to experience a small portion of the convention activities.

Board Games to Role Playing

The games I played at the convention included family board games as well as Dungeons and Dragons. Even playing Monopoly with strangers was an exhilarating experience.

I also learned to play LARP games and tabletop RPG games. I watched miniature figurine games, and I learned a little about "card" gaming. The adventure card gaming tournaments where held in private, but judging by the sounds coming from the tournament rooms, the players were having a very good time.

In the vendors' room I came very close to going over budget. After a few hours browsing the displays of books, movies, gaming accessories, and art for sale, I left with a signed print sold to me personally by a famous artist.

Miniature Figurine Games

Picture a huge room full of tables, each one set with thousands of miniature figurines enacting battles. Napoleon would have loved it.


Tabletop Role Playing Games have come a long way since the only adventure game to play was Dungeons and Dragons. I played ghost hunting, movie star, and murder mystery TTRPGs.

Live Action Role Playing

My favorite gaming experience was LARP, live action role playing. It was very easy to do. Remember "pretending" as children?

LARP is structured pretending for adults. These games have simple rules, a plot, and guide-persons to direct the game. Each game lasts at least a couple of hours, and the driving force is usually a big crisis that the gamers have to work together to resolve.

Small conflicts between players' characters are decided not by rolling dice but by playing "paper, scissors, rock." This keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace. Guide-persons have characters ready for anyone who doesn't have one of their own. Experienced gamers tend to dress for their parts, which makes the Vampire LARP especially exciting.

An affordable, fun filled, gaming weekend is within anyone's budget and most people's driving distance. You probably won't come home with sand in your suitcase, but you may save the world from alien invaders and triumph over marauding Vikings – all before lunch your first day.

>> KJ


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