Wednesday, August 12, 2015

There and Back Again: Gen Con 2015

Well, 'tis the season I guess - the season for people posting various "here's what I did at Gen Con" reports on their sundry blogs, podcasts, vlogs, scraps of napkin, etc. Never being one to resist a bandwagon, I'll hop on this one as well.

I've actually already shared some thoughts over at Unabashed Gaming in that podcast's post-con wrap-up episode. As I'm pretty sure I mentioned during that episode, this was my first Gen Con. Hell, this was my first gaming convention, full-stop. As a result, I knew I was going into it hopelessly naive, and that horrible mistakes would be inevitable.

I came in prepared to take things in stride.

That's a bit of a pun, you see, because the biggest mistake I made was not pacing myself in terms of walking. I have terrifically flat feet. We're talking Donald Duck levels here. So I had my orthotics and my expensive ankle braces and all the rest, and thought I'd be kind of okay. Brother, I wasn't okay.

There's an app on my iPhone that tracks how many steps I take in a day. I walked about 10 miles on the first day. The second day, when I thought I was "taking it easy," I still walked five miles. By 6:00 Friday evening, my feet were in open revolt. I barely made it back to my hotel room. As a result, my Saturday was extremely curtailed, and I didn't bother with Sunday. Took about a week for the blisters to heal and for me to be able to walk normally.

"But apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

I was prepared as I could've been for the sheer scope and scale of the con, and it certainly didn't disappoint in that regard. My primary purpose for attending, it must be said, was networking. The tabletop gaming industry is still very much a "face-to-face" business, where meeting someone and chatting with them really counts for something. And I got to meet a lot of folks whose work I've long admired, and picked up some excellent leads for work in the process. So, mission accomplished there.

I also really wanted to experience the wonder of the dealer's hall, and I certainly did that. The place was larger than mere words can adequately describe. It was like a really big mall, but with every store selling something gaming related. Heaven.

I flew in, so I was mindful of picking up too much stuff. I think maybe next year I'll venture the two-day drive, just so that I'll have the trunk space for the return trip.

It just kept going...
Somewhat surprisingly, I focused my purchases almost exclusively on miniatures-related stuff. I snagged a copy of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Edition, got some stuff for Malifaux, a couple Ganesha Games titles... The only RPG I acquired was the Lone Wolf RPG from Cubicle Seven, and even that was simply picking up my Kickstarter due. (And getting the box signed by Joe Dever, even though he refused to sign the Random Number Table on the box interior. Boo.) This non-RPG focus is probably due to the fact that I'm quite happy with my current collection and system focus, and also partly due to the fact that I would've hit up the RPG booths on Saturday if only my wretched feet hadn't betrayed me.

Perhaps the biggest surprise came from the fact that, once I was at the con, I realized I have about zero interest in con gaming. I'd signed up for a couple RPG sessions and a miniatures game, but ditched them all. This was partly because of circumstances (the "Future of Chaosium" panel ended up conflicting with one of my scheduled games, and no way in hell was I going to miss that panel!), and partly due to my feet blowing up (the other RPG was Saturday night, and the minis game was Sunday morning), but I realized that I really wasn't broken up at all about missing those sessions. Once I got to the con and saw the reality of convention gaming, it...just left me cold. Sitting in a room filled with a bunch of active gaming tables, or even just sitting down to game with total strangers (I've traditionally only gamed with people I'd consider friends first), none of it appealed to me. And, like I said, I'm pretty happy with my current game collection and I'm not really looking to demo other systems at this time, so that motivation wasn't there either.

Eh. No thanks.
(I swiped that photo from this post, which presents a wholly opposite perspective to my stodgy stick-in-the-mud take on convention gaming. Honestly, I know there are folks out there who love con gaming, indeed some for whom it's their exclusive outlet for gaming, and I say more power to you if you enjoy that sort of thing.)

Having said that, I think next time I'll definitely make an effort to join a miniatures game or two; gaming with strangers in a noisy hall is not as onerous when it comes to wargaming. Also, I haven't ruled out running an RPG session. I might try and attend a smaller, more local con between now and next year and run something there, see how it shakes out.

At any rate, despite the physical limitations, I had a real blast and picked up a lot of valuable tips in regards to housing, food, parking, scope and scale, etc. I'll definitely be back again next year, when it's likely the total attendance will surpass that of the entire population of the town I'm living in. Yikes. I'll probably attend fewer panels (one of the reasons I did so much walking, all that trekking back and forth between panel venues) and definitely attend the ENnies ceremony (although I doubt next year will top this year for "surprise upset wins"), and, most importantly, pace myself.

Stray Observations

  • A friend, in a sarcastic text, asked if the ratio of men to women was around 10:1. I was happy to disabuse him of this notion. It perhaps wasn't at total parity, but I'd say the ratio was much closer to, say, 3:2. The stereotype that tabletop gaming is a largely male hobby really needs to die.
  • The Fantasy Flight Games line! I haven't seen a line like that since the last time I was at Disneyland. That's a game company that's doing very well, indeed.
  • On a related note, to file also under "more power to you, I guess," is the idea of going to a con and then spending hours standing on line for...what? A convention exclusive? Color me mystified.
  • I don't think anything will top the excitement of rounding a corner and seeing Ken Hite, then turning around and seeing Sandy Petersen and Greg Stafford a few feet in the other direction. That's the great thing about Gen Con - there's no barrier between you and pretty much anyone in the industry you'd like to talk to, even if it's just to shake their hand and thank them for their work.
  • Probably my biggest disappointment was being back at my hotel room, immobilized with foot pain, and seeing the notice come through on my phone that +Sean Patrick Fannon was running a Savage Rifts pick-up demo game. Now that's a con game I would've gladly participated in! Cursed flat feet!

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