Gaming conventions are the peculiar state these days. They have a long, honorable, interesting history. Yet, in a time of computer games, they may seem a bit outdated to some outside of the fandom (at least to those outside the fandom). I also have seen, at least in my area, a revival of interest in non-electronic gaming, making me wonder what trends this portends.
Now, as I've been recently addressing ideas on how various kinds of conventions can “go farther” (thanks to Convention Career Connection), gaming–oriented conventions are really interesting to speculate on. They are, in many ways, traditional and focused. Yet, in other ways gaming has such a long history of innovation and change, such a long history of interesting people developing unique entertainment, there's also a lot to talk about career-wise.
(I should note, in order to talk about gaming, I am focusing on cons that deal with war-gaming, pen-and-paper RPG, etc. Video Game events will fall under another essay.)
So, after some speculation, here are ways I think you can “put more pro into the con” when it comes to gaming conventions.
Focus on history: Gaming has a long, recorded, shared history. This is an excellent resource to draw on for various panels and events. Consider discussing the history of games, game concepts, game adaptions, even mechanics. Talk about the history of various companies–they can teach many valuable lessons both specifically and in general (such as what to do or what not to do).
Focus on change: Gaming is changing - fine. It's much more technical/virtual than it was – fine. Make that your subject. Focus on how companies and individuals are adapting to these changes.
Head right into the career questions: Thirty years ago someone that may have wanted to work in gaming may have focused on board games, war games, etc. Now it's all electronics. Focus directly on the questions of careers and be honest bout the issues (see above).
Leverage the connections: gaming's long history, famous participants, and interesting cast of individuals means that many of your guests may be well-connected. Leverage those connections for new and interesting speakers.
Gaming conventions are a bit of an odd duck in the world of cons – because they're very specific ducks (OK, that metaphor got away from me a bit, but it works). There's a lot of potential there if you look at it, a lot of potential to add so much more to the convention – by building on what's unique.