This year I attended Gen Con as a member of the press (I feel a little bit dirty saying that!). Due to the fact that we now have a blog, we thought it would be worth a try at applying for the press credentials. After all, all they could do is say no, right? So we applied, and all three of us were granted badges. This was a huge surprise to us and it was a very neat experience as well as we were able to wear those cool badges that said Press on them, and it was interesting to see the response that we got from those we visited with! It was an exciting step for our young blog’s progression and we thank Gen Con for their graciousness!
The Con started with, what else, a line! We had to wait in the press line to get our credentials. We promptly arrived at 6:45am only to be about 500th in line but the line moved quickly and we had our badges by about 8:00am. I chuckled at the great signs they had hanging on the walls around the area. I don’t know if I’m anything like an Elf and am definitely more like a Dwarf but without being drunken!
With that out of the way, I wanted to give you my thoughts on the 49th Annual Gen Con in Indianapolis!
What is Right about Gen Con
I have attended Gen Con 6 times over the past 7 years or so, only missing last year. It is definitely my highlight of the year and I have always enjoyed attending. I especially enjoy that the event is held in my area as I live in Brownsburg, a small suburb of about 26,000 people located on the west side of Indianapolis within a short 25 minute car ride. Here are the reasons I believe it is a well run convention and worthy of its title as the Best Four Days in Gaming!
1. Indianapolis is the Perfect Spot! – I might be biased here but I love that Gen Con is held in Indy. The city is safe, clean and the area around the Convention Center is just fantastic. It is well lit, with nice walkable sidewalks, plenty of access to great food including restaurants like Weber Grill, Shula’s Steakhouse, Café Patachou, St. Elmo Steakhouse, Capital Grill, Steak ‘n Shake, and not to mention all of the great food trucks and the fantastic food court in the Circle Center Mall where we ate at the Cuban Grill at least twice and had good Bourbon Chicken and rice! The airport is also top notch and has won many awards since opening it’s new terminal in 2008. Gen Con, please do us all a favor and sign a long term deal with Indianapolis and keep the convention where it should be! I attended once in 2004 when it was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and from that limited experience I can say that Indianapolis is the right spot for the Best Four Days in Gaming!
2. The Indiana Convention Center is a Fantastic Venue – The Indiana Convention Center is fantastic. It is located right downtown, has direct access to the hotels via the skywalks, is clean and very, very roomy! Gen Con is huge and the center holds it all. I never used a dirty bathroom, had trouble finding my way around, always felt comfortable temperature wise and had plenty of options inside for refreshments. My only complaint is $4.95 for a blueberry muffin?! Seems a little steep (but it was huge and very delicious)!
3. Fantastic Exhibitors Hall – The best part of the con is the Exhibitors Hall. In fact, that is where we spent about 75% of our time. There are events there, demos, lots of shopping options, it is pretty roomy, clean and well lit. This year they broke a record for the number of exhibitors with 518 which was a 26% increase over 2015. I do always ask myself why there are so many of the odd vendors there, such as the place that sells chainmail bikinis, “real” swords, steampunk clothing, etc. Gen Con is not about this but I guess if you can make a buck, vendors will come.
4. Good Move to Relocate Roleplaying Games to Lucas Oil Stadium – I think relocating the roleplaying games to Lucas Oil Stadium was a good move. With the record number of exhibitors, this was a great year to do that as it freed up needed space for more game companies and gaming areas.
5. Great Gaming – I love the gaming. I am a tabletop gamer, a roleplayer, a war gamer and a little bit of a miniatures game enthusiast (not nearly as much as Alexander and Tim though). Gen Con has all of this, from the large companies that act as Co-Sponsors such as Mayfair Games, Paizo and Rio Grande Games to Contributing Sponsors such as Upper Deck and CoolStuffInc.com and Event Partners like Czech Games Editions, Cool Mini or Not, Asmodee, Fantasy Flight Games and others. The gaming for me is the main attraction. I come to see what is new, what is good, and then try to make wise decisions on my purchases and assist others in their purchase decisions with reviews and recaps of the demos that we participated in. Before I came, I put together a List of the Top 10 Games I’m Interested in Trying Out at Gen Con 2016 and I was successful in playing/buying 6 of those 10 games.
This year, I was able to play/demo or buy the following games (Highlighted games are linked to their review/summary on our blog):
Robotech RPG Tactics by Palladium Books, Richard III: Wars of the Roses by Columbia Games, Seafall by Plaid Hat Games, The Duke by Catalyst Games, Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala Expansion by Days of Wonder, Colony by Bezier Games, Secret Hitler by Goat, Wolf & Cabbage LLC, Vikings on Board by Blue Orange Games, Merchants and Marauders: Broadsides by Z-Man Games, 13 Days by Ultra Pro International, Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game by Fantasy Flight Games, Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games, Giza the Great Pyramid by Mayfair Games, Kraftwagen by Stronghold Games, The Refuge: A Race for Survival by B&B Games Studio, Mortals by Partial Arc, Exploding Kittens by Matthew Inman and Elan Lee, Dragoon by Lay Waste Games, Islebound by Red Raven Games, Cry Havoc by Portal Games, Aquasphere by Tasty Minstrel Games, Evolution: Climate by North Star Games, Fallen Land by Fallen Dominion Studios, Imhotep by KOSMOS, Fantahzee by AEG, plus a few others that I don’t even remember! That is a lot of games in a 3 day period (we didn’t go on Sunday).
5. The Playtest Hall – Double Exposure, Inc. puts on a Playtest Hall that we discovered for the first time this year. You have to have a ticketed event pass to be guaranteed to get in but you can also just show up and wait in line and if they have enough tickets, you can get in. We went on Friday night without a ticket and were lucky enough to get admitted and be able to play Mortals by Partial Arc. We had a great experience and enjoyed ourselves immensely. As my picture above shows, we got a ribbon to put on our badges that made us feel special. Great time and we will definitely look to do it again in the future!
What Needs Changed about Gen Con
1. More Open Gaming Space for Game Companies – I know that this is probably above my pay grade, but my major disappointment has always been the lack of open space for demos. Some companies have the large areas, but I am sure they have to pay a considerable fee for that area’s use. I understand this is about making money, both for the vendors and for Gen Con. But, when I am standing up at a table trying to play a game and getting thronged by hundreds of passersby, it makes for a very uncomfortable and not enjoyable experience. I am simply asking that their be consideration given to having several more affordable open areas that can be split between several companies. Maybe I am all wet but that is my concern.
2. Less Focus on Cosplay – This concern might come off that I’m simply an old grumpy and out of touch curmudgeon, but after seeing the 3rd overweight Slave Leia, who’s outfit was screaming as it struggled to contain the flesh with nothing more than a piece of dental floss, I am so over Cosplay. I also always get asked by friends, family and anyone that I tell I go to Gen Con “What did you dress up as?” I always tell them rather gruffly, as a middle aged, dorky gamer! I don’t dress up, I put clothes on with comfortable shoes that don’t restrict my vision, breathing or range of motion! I am there to enjoy the cardboard and could care less about the dress up. Most of the characters and outfits I don’t recognize at all and to me all they do is take up valuable gaming space that could be put to better use! Rant over. Agree or disagree, I would love to see this changed.
3. The Saturday Parade – This is my least favorite and always most inconvenient part of the convention. I always end up walking out of the Event or Exhibit Hall around 3:00pm and run into this sea of people lined up to take pictures of zombies, cartoon characters and scantily clad women like the aforementioned Slave Leia. This year, we were desperately trying to get to an event in one of the hotels and it was nearly impossible to navigate the ocean of crazed Cosplayer groupies to get to the escalator to get to the skywalks to the hotels. This needs to change. Here is an idea, how about not doing it? This is a gaming convention. Or at least, consider a more reasonable location for the parade.
4. Free Deodorant Application Classes and Grooming Tips – I am a germophobe and admittedly have one of the most sensitive noses in the world. I smell smells that others simply do not, kind of like a dog hears ultra high sounds. So, when I enter an environment where I am sharing breathing space with 20,000 gamers, I struggle with the lack of the proper use (and reapplication if necessary) of deodorant. Excuse me if I don’t enjoy smelling your masculine musk as much as you apparently do! I also am always amazed by those that believe washing your hands after handling your “junk” in the bathroom is optional. We need to be better people! These are things that I learned when I was five. Please relearn them.
Here is a link to the Official post-show press release from Gen Con 2016. The release has lots of interesting statistics about the growth of the show, quotes from local Indianapolis officials about how Gen Con is seen and dates for Gen Con 2017 which is the 50th! The show will be held from August 17th-20th in the only place that it should ever be, Indianapolis, Indiana. I am truly excited about next year and hope to see many of the new friends we made this year again next year. I will leave you with a quote from Paizo that sums up Gen Con for me!
“Gen Con keeps getting better and better. From the unparalleled number of multi-day attendees to the hospitality of the people of Indianapolis, Gen Con is the essential annual gaming event, an unmissable opportunity to debut new products as well as connect with lifelong friends.” Erik Mona, Paizo Publisher and Chief Creative Officer