After spending most of my life fantasizing about the Tokyo Game Show, I was finally able to attend for the first time this year. To say that this was a dream come true would be selling it lightly. In truth, attending the show ranked at number 6 on my bucket list. However, and with that being said, the experience was kind of a mixed bag. Hence, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about the lessons I learned from my experiences in hopes that those thinking of going in the future might take them into consideration. Below are my Top 10 TGS Survival Tips!
1. Remember To Wear Comfy Shoes
You will likely spend the vast majority of the day on your feet either walking around or standing and waiting in lines. Without comfortable well padded shoes, your feet will ache terribly. There are a few designated areas where you are allowed to sit on the floor and a small number of tables and chairs you can sit down. The tables were consistently full and crowded so if you need to give your feet a break you’ll most likely need to find a stairway or one of the designated floor areas to rest.
2. Be Prepared To Wait Patiently
If you plan on playing any games, buying any merchandise, or doing anything except looking at the pretty pictures on the big screens, prepare to wait in line. Some of the lines I waited in were pretty tolerable ranging from 30 minutes to 1 hour. However, this year the Sony booth had this incredibly obtuse queuing system which resulted in waits upwards of 3 hours. The queuing system was as follows; wait in line roughly thirty minutes to get a ticket for the particular game you want to play, unless your game was listed as unavailable, in which case try again later. Once you have your ticket go stand in a straight line marked by your ticket number and tape on the floor. After waiting for about 90 minutes in this line, follow a Sony representative to yet another line after which you finally get to play the game you were waiting for. So yes patience is a necessity at TGS. Which brings me to the next point.
3. Make Sure To Bring A Friend
With all the waiting and moving about, my trip to TGS would have been absolute garbage if I had not brought a friend. Having someone to talk and chat with on the long waits is essential. It also helps to have someone whose energy you can feed off of. The fact that my friend was so excited about seeing the cosplay and certain games made me all the more excited to see those things as well.
4. B.Y.O Drinks
Amidst the sea of people and all the electronics, it gets quite warm in the convention halls. Add to this the fact that you are consistently on your feet and moving about regularly having to shove your way through crowds of people, it is certain you will get thirsty. For those foreigners who are unaware, in Japan there is no such thing as a free refill, and to complicate matters the drink sizes are much smaller than what us Westerners are used to. You can buy drinks from the vending machines, but these are horrendously overpriced. For a 6oz cup of Pepsi, it cost me 150yen or about $1.50. So, bring a refreshing delicious beverage with you. Whatever sort of refreshment you prefer is fine. Otherwise, you will likely end up paying a small fortune for drinks.
5. Make a List And Then Check It Twice
The game show halls are massive, and the sheer quantity of stuff to see is absolutely mind blowing. You will be easily overwhelmed unless you make some sort of plan or list of what you definitely want to see ahead of time. They hand out itineraries and maps at the entrance. Stop and find the things on your list and add anything you deem necessary. Then go forth and enjoy. Without a plan of attack so to speak, it is remarkably easy to get side tracked or miss out on things you otherwise would have liked to see or do. If you are going to attend both public days, take the time on the first day to explore each of the halls and mark down anything you want to come back to.
6. Ensure You Read The Provided Materials
As previously mentioned, when you enter you will be given a brochure of sorts with a map and itinerary. Take the time to read up on the events. For foreigners, everything is printed in both Japanese and English so it should be easy to understand. Had I not paid attention to the itinerary I would have missed seeing Hideo Kojima at the Sony booth on Saturday and would also have missed participating in a competition where I won some sweet swag. There is a lot going on, so it’s easy to miss out unless you pay attention and plan around what you want to see.
7. Bring Cash, You’re Going To Need It!
It is impossible to go to TGS and not see something you want to buy. The sheer volume and variety of merchandising available is absurd. Plus, everyone wants a souvenir. So, my advice to you is bring as much money as you are comfortable carrying. Japan is a primarily cash based country and by just bringing a credit card or debit card you may miss out. The last thing you would want is to find out after waiting for 40 minutes in line to buy that Attack On Titan hoody is that you can’t buy it because they only accept cash. Personally I recommend bringing and wearing a satchel or backpack of some kind. Regardless, Japan is a relatively safe country, so thievery and tomfoolery are rather rare, and as such, there is little need to worry about carrying cash.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Socialise
This may seem like a foregone conclusion for us Westerners, but many other cultures are hesitant to chat up strangers. Some of the best experiences I had at the show were from just talking to the other people who happened to be waiting in line with me. Since TGS tends to appeal to a certain group of people, it is likely you will share many common interests, and they may be able to share something new with you to see or try at the show. Without talking to others, I would never have tried out some of the indie games that were recommended to me, and they ended up being some of my favorite games of the show. I spoke to people from France, Belgium, Germany, Saipan, Vietnam, Guam, Australia and good ol` United States. TGS is definitely an international affair, and it’s always great to make new friends especially when they are from all around the world. I even met a successful investment banker. It never hurts to have connections folks.
9. Make Sure To Sift Your Swag
It is pretty much impossible to avoid getting swag. People will practically throw bags of stuff at you while you walk around the center. After my first day at the show, I had a giant bag full of stuff. Most of it was paper pamphlets and the like. Rather than carry a massive bag of stuff around with you all day, when the bag starts to get heavy, take a moment and sort through all your stuff. Much of it will undoubtedly be trash worthy. It also has the added benefit of freeing up space for all those awesome goodies you want to buy.
10. Don’t Get Caught By Scantily Dressed Cosplayers
Bring a camera. There are certain areas where pictures or video are not allowed, but the vast majority of things can be photographed. There will be plenty of things you want to pose with or just take a picture of. I posed with a giant Gundam head and took pictures of Hideo Kojima. However, do not fall victim to the plethora of scantily clad cosplayers. You will notice that the girls wearing the least amount of clothing have massive groups of men taking pictures around them. As tempting as it may be to flock to those large groups look around you, and you will see lots of really impressive cosplay that doesn’t make you feel dirty. Take pictures of them as well. Their costumes are often better anyways. It is also important to note that the cosplay area is a strictly look but not touch area.
Some Closing Thoughts…
Those are just a few of the things I learned from my first trip to TGS. I hope they will be of some help to those of you wondering what the show is like or planning to go yourselves. For those of you on the fence, definitely go once. It is unlike anything else out there.
It is a place that is both foreign and somehow at the same time welcoming. It is a place where you will meet people like you from all over the world who love what you love and celebrate what you celebrate. Finally, and most importantly, it is a place that has a giant Gundam and there can never be enough of those.