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Despite living in Indiana for a number of years, I’d never gotten a chance to go to GenCon, which was only a few hours away. The opportunity presented itself this year, and I gladly took it. What better way to meet some of the awesome companies we’ve worked with, like Catalyst Game Labs, Chaosium, and TSR, and to meet up with likeminded fans of gaming? In case you don’t know what GenCon is, it’s an annual convention for fans of hobby, fantasy, science fiction and adventure games, historically held in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year, the convention boasted an attendance of over 56,000 people, up about six thousand from last year.
There’s definitely plenty to do at GenCon. This year, the convention spanned the entire convention center, with over 370 exhibitors and over 14,000 events. The exhibition hall features tables for everything ranging from independent game developers and RPG distributors to clothing stores and even furniture companies. Whether you’re into tabletop gaming, trading cards, comics, or nerd-approved television series like Doctor Who and A Game of Thrones, you’ll find something to do here. Oomba held a Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock challenge. I saw tournaments for Magic: The Gathering, and you could learn to play the game by using a demo of Magic 2015 – Duels of the Planeswalkers, followed by playing the physical card game. (They let you keep the cards!) I also saw tournaments for Dragonball Z, Settlers of Catan, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Game of Thrones, Warhammer, and Call of Cthulhu, though in all honesty there were more than I could count.
I stayed mostly to the exhibition hall, but even without participating in any of the 14,000 events, the hall itself has enough there to pique your interest for several days. I was able to meet Steve Argyle, beloved Magic: The Gathering and Legend of the Five Rings artist, who told me of his official fanclub, the Ascended Minion Project. We unexpectedly ran into RK Post, another wonderful MTG artist, who had some limited edition playmats for sale. Other MTG artists of note were Peter Mohrbacher; Terese Nielsen; and Aaron Miller, who signed my GenCon exclusive Ajani Funko Pop Figure. I was introduced to the world of Chromancer, a Kickstarted trading card game that looks like it’s going to be really interesting. We even spotted someone wearing a shirt designed by our own J. Rose! Stuart Sayger was there, and I was able to pick up some prints of amazing work he’s done of DC ladies, including my favorites Power Girl and Black Cat.
One of the other great experiences of Gen Con were the freebies. Of course, I mentioned earlier that Wizards of the Coast were handing out Magic: The Gathering cards for those who tried out the game. Kaijudo decks were being handed out as well (I’m sure Aaron will love the one I’m sending him). I obtained Ratuki after demoing Usapoly’s Reverse Charades, which was very entertaining. I’d never heard of Future Card Buddyfight, but after playing it, I was pleased to receive a deck and comic from Bushiroad, who, by the way, are also releasing a Persona 4 card game I am incredibly excited about. Green Ronin Publishing asked me to look at Walk the Plank, which I look forward to getting to here shortly. Catalyst Game Labs kindly gifted us Shadowrun: Street Grimoire since Alex is such a big Shadowrun fan.
For those interested in spending money, there’s definitely plenty of opportunity for that as well. Other than the art I picked up and the playmat I had customized from Steve Argyle, I also picked up Ninja Dice from Greenbriar Games and an Eeveelution shirt from TeeTurtle, though pretty much every shirt over there was dangerous for my wallet. The artist and author galleries were teeming with talented artists whose work was worth picking up. Star City Games, CoolStuffInc, Channel Fireball, and Troll and Toad were buying and selling cards and accessories like sleeves and playmats.
Perhaps the best part of the weekend, however, was the ambiance of the convention and the con-goers. We ran into cosplayers in intricate outfits. One of my favorite sillier ones was a girl dressed as Yoshi while holding a Yoshi egg and wearing a Yoshi backpack with more Yoshis on the backpack. I was impressed to see a wonderful Power Girl and an impressive Zelda/Link pair I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of. I saw Umbreons and Glaceons, as well as folks in Vault Jumpsuits and even a Witch-King of Angmar. There were several Danerys cosplayers walking around, but one of the more memorable ones carried her dragon eggs with her. Another favorite was a Liliana of the Veil, who understandably got a lot of praise around the Steve Argyle booth. Even exhibitors could be found in cosplay. It was wonderful.
Because of a mix-up getting our badges, we weren’t able to get a hotel room in time to fully enjoy the experience, and so were traveling an hour each way to the convention each day. A word to the wise: get your hotel rooms early. Not only is it a great place to take a load off between events, but also to stash your goodies so you’re not dragging them around everywhere with you all day. Also: don’t be afraid to leave the convention center. GenCon features several restaurants in the area, like Scotty’s Brewhouse, which has an excellent atmosphere and even hosted some Pathfinder stuff. Our group was only heckled once, and it was by a drunk guy sitting outside at some other restaurant as we were walking back to the center. Everyone around him immediately brushed him off in any case, and it became a non-issue. That’s the power of numbers.
Even though I was incredibly worn out after GenCon, I can’t wait to go back next year, this time with a better idea of what I want to do. I would love to try to get to some of the events, especially some of the tournaments or the LARP events. I’m not sure how GenCon will handle its exponential growth, but I think with exponential growth comes exponential potential, and I for one look forward to what they can throw at us next year.
Did you go to GenCon this year? What was your experience like?