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Heading to EGX 2016? Here’s our tips for survival and how to get the most from it!

EGX is two weeks away and I’m preparing for my yearly pilgrimage to the event, a trip which I have made every year since 2011 and has since become a bit of a further trip away thanks to the expo’s move from London’s Earl’s Court to the Birmingham NEC in 2015. The event has grown rapidly since the first one was held back in 2008 at the Old Truman Brewery, London where the attendance was circa 4,000 video game fanatics, up to the recent 2015 expo where 75,000 people were in attendance over the four days.

While I’m not claiming to be an expert in attending these events, I have learnt quite a few things over the years which have helped me to get through the long days and get more from the event….I just wish I knew these things from the beginning! So, if you’re travelling to Birmingham to attend EGX this year, whether it just be for one day, the whole event or somewhere in between, here’s my tips for how to survive the event, and get the most from it!

Surviving EGX

Some of these will seem glaringly obvious but can be easily forgotten!

Water: Seriously, bring a big bottle of water with you, anywhere between a 1-2 litre bottle. It’s a deceivingly long day….11am - 6pm may only be seven hours (hell, that’s less than a normal working day for me) but you spend the whole day walking and standing around which can drain you more so keeping hydrated is a must. There are water fountains and taps available around the NEC to refill your bottle and don’t just drink when you feel thirsty, keep yourself topped-up periodically throughout the day as dehydration will drain your energy very, very quickly. Also, drinks are expensive at this event…..nobody really want to pay the NEC’s prices for a bottle of water!

Food/Snacks: Snacks are under-appreciated! As I mentioned above, your are constantly on the go during the day, walking around and such, so snacks can keep you going. Protein bars and nuts are highly recommended as they are quick, easy to carry round and provide the best nutrition. I like to go down the route of having a big breakfast before I arrive, which means that I can survive for the rest of the morning (while having a snack or two) until later in the day, before taking on a late lunch around 2pm(ish). That way I also miss most of the rush around the normal lunch hours of 12-2pm.

Speaking of the lunch rush, the food on offer is nearly all junk-food….don’t get me mistaken, I love some junk food but it’s just not the best source of energy to keep you going throughout the day. If junk food isn't your thing, then bring your own lunch as you could be walking for quite a while to find something else.

Also, you will probably get offered free bottles/cans of some branded energy drink all day, every day….they’re useful but don't rely on them to keep you going throughout the day as you will crash after the sugar/caffeine wears off.

Footwear: Go with your worn-in/comfortable trainers (lads, leave your high-heels at home!). You spend a lot of time on your feet (especially queueing!) and underneath that lovely temporary carpet that they would have laid for the event is just pure concrete; it’s unforgiving. I don’t suggest bringing new trainers with you as your feet will hate you by the end of the day! I like to go one better and get some insoles for my trainers…..trust me, you’ll thank me afterwards!

Backpack: Nothing too big but definitely something that has got comfortable straps that aren’t going to get annoying by the end of the day, and also has enough room to fit your water bottle, snacks and other essentials. Remember to pack light though and only bring what you will really, really need as you don't want to lug stuff about for no reason.

Electricals: Queues can be long, boring and incredibly tedious, so the tendency is to pull your phone out in order to kill the time….keep doing that and your phone’s battery will go down quicker than my bank balance after payday. Keeping yourself charged throughout the day is key here. I’ll stash a portable charger in my backpack that I can plug my phone/tablet/etc into as and when required….I don’t want to waste any of my time throughout the days trying to find a spare plug somewhere outside the halls or around the perimeter of the room just to charge my phone, that’s a waste of gaming time!

Stay healthy: I know, sounds weird, right? Think about it though….75,000 people attended EGX 2015 over the four days, now think about that Xbox controller you’re picking up to try out the new FIFA or Gears of War….catch my drift? Now, I am not a clean-freak or anything like that, but a little bottle of hand sanitiser can go a long way to stop you getting Con Crud from touching controllers, shaking hands with people, etc, plus, it can be thrown in your backpack with your other survival items! Con Crud is very real as shown by PAX in 2009 where nearly 100 cases of swine flu were reported as a result of attending that event….seriously, Google it.

Alcohol: This one is obviously for the over-18s only. If, like I have in the past, you're attending EGX with a buddy or two and you’re staying locally, the idea of enjoying the Birmingham nightlife after a day at the expo can seem like an attractive prospect. By all means, enjoy the event and time as a whole, but I can assure you that a full day at EGX with a hangover is like hell on earth (from personal experience, I have made this mistake on numerous occasions). Some of the best times I’ve had when attending EGX over the years have been chilled evenings in one of the local pubs, having chats with other EGX attendees and playing games such as Cards Against Humanity with a bunch of random, like-minded people. Although, I’m 26 now so a hangover can last a day or two hence why I avoid big nights while I'm at EGX….you 18- year-old whippersnappers can probably get away with drinking copious amounts the night before and still surviving the next day…..I’m not jealous, honest!

Getting the most from EGX

Plan ahead, but be flexible: We all have certain key-games that we desperately will want to play, but don’t plan your whole day/s. Some of the best times I’ve had at EGX is just aimlessly wandering around the show floor trying out games that I either didn’t know existed or had heard of but didn’t think of trying out.

Try out non-AAA games: This is probably only for a select group of attendees but It’d be very easy to spend a large amount of your day/s (maybe even the whole day) queueing and playing nothing but the big-name AAA games. If you can, I highly, highly recommend checking out some of the smaller indie titles as well as the Rezzed and Leftfield Collection areas. Some of my favourite games from the past few EGX’s have been in these areas; last year it was YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, Bears Can’t Drift?! and Masquerada: Songs and Shadows that I was really impressed with, even though I hadn’t heard of them before, and others in previous years have been titles such as Prison Architect, LA Cops and The Escapists.

Learn to love queueing: I mean, if it was an Olympic sport, we’d probably still finish behind the USA. In all seriousness though, you just have to learn to love (or just accept) queueing; It happens and you will probably be in them for a long time. The Division was my longest queue time last year of around two and a half hours and Star Wars Battlefront was roughly two hours.
Know what you’re queueing for: Sounds silly, right? Some games can have two queues for two different game modes, for example, at EGX 2015 Star Wars Battlefront had one queue for multiplayer and another for the co-op survival mode, just make sure you know which one you want and which one you’re in, any problems just ask one of the many representatives from the games company that will be mulling about. Another point is know what you’re queueing for, whether it be a playable game or just a video demo. I had this issue back in 2011 at GAMEfest where I had queued for nearly three hours for Skyrim, only to get to the front of the queue and then be told that it is just a watchable video (the same one that had been shown at E3 a few months before and was available to watch on YouTube), needless to say after many of us complained, the staff then started walking down the whole queue informing everyone of what exactly it was…..funnily enough the queue was a lot shorter after they started doing that!
Use Twitter, but be present in the moment: Twitter is fantastic to keep up to date with bits and bobs around the expo, or find out where your favourite YouTube star is. I’ll often peruse Twitter while I am walking around or waiting in a queue, checking the specific EGX hashtags to see what's going on. Don't spend all your time on it though and just enjoy EGX for what it is; a love affair for gaming! When you finally get your chance to play the game that you have been queueing for, put your phone/tablet away and immerse yourself in that game for that period of time that you have with it.

Be friendly: Everyone that is attending EGX is there for the same reason - they have an interest or a love for gaming. That means that you’re surrounded by like-minded people that you’re probably going to have things in common with, therefore don't be shy and chat to random people, especially if you’re going to spend the next two hours standing in a queue next to them! At last year’s EGX, while queuing for The Division, I got chatting to the guy next to me and we ended up mulling around for the next hour or so, queueing to play other games such as Homefront and Just Cause 3 and swapped Xbox gamertags.

Cash: Even in 2016, not all shops/stalls at EGX will be able to take card. Most of them will but just to be on the safe side bring some cash with you, or be prepared to use one of the cash machines that they have dotted around the NEC, although those machines will charge you!

Gear: Bringing other items in your backpack can help to round off your time at EGX. These items can be a pen (or a sharpie) and notepad as you don't know who you’re going to run into as well as a perfect opportunity to write down the names of games that you liked, as well as other small necessities, such as a mini-deodorant. The latter can be vital as at times it can get rather warm in the NEC’s halls….I mean they are air conditioned, but that many people in one room can certainly raise the temperature a bit!
Get there early: If you’ve got a standard entry ticket, or if like me you’ve got a early entry tickets (luckily, I know a Virgin Media customer!), then I suggest getting there earlier than your allocated entry time. It can take a while to queue and zig-zag through the many walkway barriers they set up to collect your wristband, which is all before you even can enter the hall. However, they do start handing out your entry wristbands before your entry time, but then they just make you wait in a sort of holding area, which is beneficial as it means that provided you’re in this holding area before your entry time, then as soon as the doors open you can walk through on time!

That’s just about it. I hope one (or many) of these tips might help you survive/enjoy EGX this year, whether it be your first ever expo or if you’ve attended before.

Hit me up on Twitter (@Redskins2336) if you’re going to be there this year. I'm attending the Thursday and Friday only as one of my friends thought it would be a good idea to get married on the Saturday!

Enjoy EGX 2016!

Words by James Grantham.

Edited On 19 Sep, 2016

( 6 )
Peace Boy's avatar
Peace Boy 2 months ago
Fantastic, thanks for the tips. I'm going for the first time this year with 2 friends on just the Saturday. :D The games I plan on playing are: Sonic Mania, Horizon Zero Dawn, Yooka Laylee, PS VR, Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XV, Dragon Quest Builders, Little Nightmares, World of Final Fantasy and maybe Kingdom Hearts 2.8 (I never played KH, will this give me spoilers?) Those are from the games that have been revealed for EGX so far. I'm getting kinda impatient for Nintendo to reveal their EGX plans, I'm hoping they reveal the NX soon and that they have it at EGX for people to play on. :/ Will it be possible to play all those games in just one day? If not, then I guess I'll have to sort them by priority. :/
Joe Anderson (Editor)'s avatar
Joe Anderson (Editor) 2 months ago
It's possible. Generally the big AAA games have queues first, so if you leave those till last and concentrate on the less popular titles you'll get loads more in.
sackdemajick's avatar
sackdemajick 2 months ago
Joe what day are you going? I'm heading there for the Friday, if I bump tomo you I will give you a game on something?
sackdemajick's avatar
sackdemajick 2 months ago
if I bump into that day I mean... whoops
Joe Anderson (Editor)'s avatar
Joe Anderson (Editor) 1 month ago
I'm not going unfortunately. I have Friday and Monday off work as I have other plans. :)
Anonymous user's avatar
Jason 1 month ago
Deodrant seems to be a big one people at this forget. ......

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