I’ve had at least a full 24 hours to think about my time at GenCon, and I still don’t know if I am able to sort through everything properly. Given the scope of the show, that’s not terribly surprising. GenCon is the biggest gathering of gamer and gamer-related awesomeness that I have ever seen. I guess, for me, the best place to start with with my closest fram of reference for GenCon: Origins.
Origins vs GenCon
First of all, I want to say that I do not in any way, shape or form condone or support the supposed rivalry that some people think has developed between the two conventions. They are very different types of conventions, and they each serve a different purpose… or at least they did for me.
Origins was awesome for me because I got to spend a lot of time playing new games that I had maybe only heard of before. I had a chance to play in a bunch of sweet games that really expanded my horizons of what gaming could be. At GenCon, I spent most of the time, well, working. I played in some demo sessions, and I ran in both the DM’s Gauntlet and my own Deadlands sessions, but that was really the extent of my gaming. Even though that was the case, I found GenCon to be supremely engaging, filled with a ton of great, shiny gaming stuff, but not quite as accessible as Origins.
Origins is a smaller con, to be sure. The difference in size between the two is exactly what allowed me to play in so many games. Origins takes up just the space in the Columbus Convention Center, and due to that, I was able to easily find new games to play in. GenCon takes up the whole of the Indiana Convention Center, as well as most of the conference rooms of 5-6 nearby hotels. That kind of sprawl allows a metric ton of things to occur, but it doesn’t always make them easy to find.
At Origins, I spent a lot of time bouncing from game to game, stopping in to the Exhibitor’s Hall when I had the time to do so. At GenCon, I basically orbited the Exhibition Hall, spending a lot of time talking to developers and designers, finding out about a bunch of new games and generally talking about Troll in the Corner and Aruneus a lot.
So, two different conventions, but equally satisfying for me, for different reasons.
The Big Boy Itself
But you probably came here to read specifically about GenCon. I’ll do my best to indulge you.
If you’ve never been, you’ve probably heard people say that it’s big. It is, and how. As I mentioned, it spans not only the Convention Center itself, but also the nearby hotels. It is also very heavily attended, so that means the number of games happening in random hotel room is exponentially increased from what you might expect to find at a smaller convention.
The Exhibitor’s Hall is also a different kind of beast. There are companies of all sizes and shapes offering all kinds of games and services to gamers of all shapes and sizes. If you can’t find something that interests you, then you’re really not working hard enough. Yes, it can be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for, but if you base your entire time at something as big as GenCon on finding just one thing, then you’re likely going to set yourself up for disappointment.
How to Handle it All
When you go to a convention, you’re in for a certain set of things, no matter which one you attend. You’re going to meet people, both cool and not cool, you’re going to have to worry about walking a lot, talking a lot and trying to stay both hydrated and fed. You’re going to have a bunch of options to choose from, and if you spend your time wisely, you should be able to do what you want. You might think that going from one to another would just be a matter of adapting to the size and scale of each convention. I’d say you might be wrong.
There are two things to consider: First is that every convention has a different culture associated with it. It behooves you to know as much as you can about that culture before you go. The second thing to consider is that every convention, no matter the size, is what you make it. If you do your homework and find out what you can about the convention before you go for the first time, then you will be much better prepared to handle whatever it is that the convention throws at you. Knowing that, unless you have something really bad happen to you, getting sick, having stuff stolen, running into a real jackass, then you are responsible for your own convention happiness.
No matter the size of the convention, it is easy, very easy, to get caught up in the convention and decide to just let the fun come to you. That can work, sure, but if the convention takes you in a direction that you find dissatisfying, you have no one to blame but yourself. You’re the one who chose to abandon responsibility and let the chips fall as they may. That approach worked well for me at Origins. It was not working for the first few days at GenCon. I was feeling all out of sorts after the DM’s Gauntlet, and I had to stop, take a few steps back and take my own advice. I had to take responsibility for my own enjoyment, and once I did that, I had a really good time doing what I was doing.
The Final Word
I feel like this has ended up being a primer on how to not get run over by a convention, rather than a retrospective of GenCon. I guess that is a more true reflection of my feelings about the convention than anything else I could have written. GenCon is big, huge, and if you’re not ready for that, then you’re probably going to be run over. However, if you plan well, take time to relax and take stock of things, and take responsibility for your own happiness, then you’ll have a good time. I fully intend to go back next year, and I hope to see you there.
If this recap didn’t do it for you, then fret not; I have a lot more GenCon coverage to come, complete with audio in some cases. Stay tuned to TC for more GenCon goodness.
[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, card games, board games, GenCon, conventions[/tags]