Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, another season has passed. Gen Con 50—The Mother Of All Gaming Cons—is now behind us. Sixty THOUSAND gamers bought badges to the event, and Gen Con registered over 200,000 entries into the convention center over the course of the event (a new record). And I was lucky enough to go.
If you have ever been to a convention before, you have an idea of what Gen Con 50 was like. But, I suspect, you have NO IDEA what Gen Con 50 was like. My first con was some time around the age of 16, in about 1992, when I attended the New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. It was great. It was amazing. I had experiences that haven’t left me to this day. And, frankly, it was nothing compared to this spectacle.
The games! The panels! The workshops! The food trucks! Everything about Gen Con 50 was over the top. Attendees were as friendly as they were excited, whether it was their first Gen Con (like me) or their umpteenth. I met new friends there, as well as running into gamers from my local Pathfinder Society (looking at you here, Asheville). To a person, everyone there seemed both excited to be there and eager to play. It was the geek version of a Chuck E Cheese ball pit.
When I arrived, I saw that it was spread out on about a 6×6 city block grid, with the convention center in the middle. It was spread out between nine different buildings! I had never been to a con that was so expansive, so visionary in scale! And, despite what people who know me might say, I am not being hyperbolic here. It was enormous! Tens of thousands of people were there to game, shop, learn, and make new friends. And Gen Con did it right.
Even though it was spread across so many venues, everything was a short walk away. You could walk from one corner to the other in about ten minutes, and every event host that I met understood if someone was walking in a few minutes late. The expansiveness of the convention was mitigated by how close everything was, and the organizers did a great job of plotting everything out.
As for me—I had some phenomenal experiences. I got to attend four workshops on writing led by the amazingly talented Bradley P. Beaulieu (who was kind enough to autograph a book of mine). I also attended a kick-ass symposium on writing magic that doesn’t break your world, in which Monica Valentinelli gave me good advice on how to tie magic systems to fantasy cultures in a believable and accessable way. On the writing note, I also attended panel presentations on how to write submissions for Paizo and Onyx Path, so that you can get your game content published. All in all, an amazing experience.
And the games! What a blast! My first night there, I played in a Changeling LARP, rekindling my excitement about live action for the first time in over two decades. I also played a GURPS horror game that was based on the old horror B-movies of the 50’s, as well as a game that let us traverse from the heroes modifications for Chainmail through the earliest version of Dungeons and Dragons, finally culminating in the Grayhawk campaign rules set that set the stage for the iconic AD&D. Overall, the games were amazing—I only wish I had more time to play!
In addition to the panels and games, I had a lot of fun with the shows. I got to watch the silly crew from The Gamers act out a game on stage, and even got invited to the after party by one of the cast members! Tracy and Laura Hickman’s Killer Breakfast was a riot, as Tracy further cemented his reputation for TPK on the big stage. And Patrick Rothfuss read a couple of story books and answered questions that no mortal being should have to answer, addressing surprisingly poignant issues.
But in fantasy novels, the world is a character unto itself. And so it was with Gen Con 50! What seemed like thousands of booths graced numerous venues, offering everything from specialty dice to a lending library of RPG. Game tables filled Lucas Oil Stadium with the most fun its ever seen (with apologies to the Colts), and groups of strangers seemed to be striking up sponaneous games whever they could find a convenient spot to sit. The venue itself truly was a magnificent sight.
All in all, Gen Con 50 was a magical experience. Seminars to tickle the brain, events to entertain, and games galore to scratch that ever present itch, it truly had everything a wide eyed child could want. The events were non-stop, the attendees were super nice, and there was always something magical right around the corner. If you have never been to a convention before, Gen Con is an event that will blow your expectations away. And if you, like me, are a veteran of conventions, but have never made it to Gen Con—nothing you have seen before can prepare you.
So, if you have had any doubts in the past—do it. If you’re wondering if it’s worth it—it is. This is the ultimate gaming experience, the Mecca of geekdom. Take the pilgrimage. It is greater than you can possibly imagine.
And I’ll see you at Gen Con 51.