How far will you travel to play a game? The answer has varied for me over the years. I have, on occasion, found myself on the road alone or carpooling for two hours for a roleplaying session. That was back in the days of an exceptionally engaging Stargate: SG-4 campaign that wandered from St. Johnsbury to Johnson to Montpelier as needed. It was a phenomenally fun game, but ultimately the travel involved put me off staying enaged. Add an hour or two of travel to an evening game that may break up late, and then go to your early morning job a couple times and it’ll take the shine off any recreational activity.
That has since become my rule of thumb for gamers in general. People will travel an hour or two infrequently, but even the energetic ones willing to sign on the long haul often find themselves wanting or having to bow out. It may have something to do with the geography of Vermont and northern New England. Vermont’s a fairly small state, but it can take a bloody long time to get anywhere because we’ve only got two interstates, both running north-south, and a plethora of state and local roads in a wide range of states of decrepitude. Add to that the rough and winding ways so many people live on and it’s no surprise everybody’s so eager to host the weekly game.
Conventions, on the other hand, tend to act like gravity wells. The bigger they are, the greater the draw. TotalCon, based in central-eastish Massachusetts, can draw people all the way down from Burlington; I knew one fellow who, with his regular gaming group, used TotalCon as their annual road trip. The reverse, however, doesn’t hold. I would be greatly surprised to see a high volume from southern New England come as far north as Burlington, even if the Burlington convention scene somehow contrived to rival the scale of a TotalCon or Unity Games. Regardless of scale or quality of offerings, Burlington’s just out the way, tucked in the northwesternmost corner of New England, with a big old lake to the west preventing easy access from that direction and a single high speed corridor connecting the valley to the more populous regions of the southeast.
Similarly, I’ve heard tales on podcasts like Role Playing Public Radio and All Games Considered of eight and ten hour road trips from across the midwest to attend Gen Con in Indianapolis. One of the perks of being the mother of all conventions is all the Mohammeds very cheerfully come to you. Eight hours from Burlington would put one somewhere in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, which works for the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster. But then you find yourself up against that New Englander tendency to avoid travel again.