GenCon 2016: An Overview

Gen ConGenCon 2016 is in the books.

I have returned home and taken a breather. Returned to the regular work-a-day world.

GenCon is always an intense experience for me. It is filled with gaming, friends, food, fun, and physical exertion. I talk about the ways that you can experience GenCon without pushing yourself to the limit and still end up doing it myself. I just dance along the edge of my own rules, not violating the letter but definitely the spirit.

I want to talk about GenCon 2016 both from a high level of my overall feeling of my trip this year as well as the finer details that captured my attention outside of things that I decided to accomplish.

I was searching for an analogy for how this year at GenCon felt for me and for once a sports analogy seems apropo. I am around enough people that love football to be familiar with the term rebuilding year. This means that there have been many changes in the team make up that the current season will not compare to prior years. This means that you modulate your expectations and enjoy the ride regardless.

GenCon 2016 was my rebuilding year.

I loved GenCon 2016 and had a great time but it was different this year. I had built up relationships with people over time through GenCon and then talking online via Facebook or Google Hangouts. Only a few of those people made it to GenCon this year. As an introvert, the people I know become touchstones that allow me to stretch myself and go out and try new things. Lacking a large support system and experiencing the vagaries of scheduling games through GenCon, I had very few things scheduled for me to do. I had more time to both explore. I was able to ponder what I wanted from and thought about GenCon. I also had time to just observe GenCon with a more discerning eye.

First off, GenCon is an amazing feat of logistics. Organize over sixty thousand people into the area surrounding downtown Indianapolis is no mean feat. Wednesday just highlighted the point for me as I had to get my packet from Will-Call. The line for this began short but quickly grew to stretch to outside of the convention center. I ended up having to leave the line several times to either help friends move things to the vendor hall or to meet friends for dinner or conversation. I was able to see the flow of the line at both its slowest and it’s fastest. Despite the long line, I was impressed with the attitude of the people both in the line and those helping the line. The frustration, though apparent, never bubbled over into anything negative. I ended up chatting one time with someone new to GenCon providing things that I thought might be fun to check out as well as finding out what games they liked. Another iteration in the line for me led to discussions about the various pokemon and pokestops that were accessible just from standing in line. My longest time in line before leaving to join friends was 45 minutes. I was approaching the divide where volunteers worked tirelessly to make sure that the hallway was kept clear for people moving about. It took only 30  minutes when I finally got in line around 11:15 that evening to make it through the line and get my stuff.

I had two more lines to wait in before I would be done with lines at GenCon 2016. I was very lucky to given a press badge by the convention. This means I have to pick up my press badge from the Press room on the first day of GenCon which opens at 7:30. I don’t have to wait in line for this but the first 90 people that pick up their press badge are allowed early entry into the vendor hall on that first day. Being able to be in the vendor hall and have a conversation with someone from a game company without the press of humanity all about you is well worth the wait in line for both early entry and the press badge. The line for the press badge is always entertaining as there are always people there discussing the youtube channels or podcast and it is neat to hear these stories. Everyone is nice an orderly and I have had no issues with the wait. This year I even finished a post while waiting. The people staffing the press room were friendly, quick, and efficient as always and had me on my way to the line to wait for the vendor hall.

This line was different story.

The GenCon staffer that was present was very helpful and directed me to where to wait and there appeared to be a line so I went and sat down. Unlike last year, I had found a spot where people appeared to be a bit more introverted than I. So, I sat and caught pokemon. After a while, a second line formed and most of the people around me got frustrated and angry. I did my best to help diffuse these emotions but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I was just thankful to be getting into the Vendor Hall early and the wait in one line or the other was not something that bothered me. I was very impressed with how the GenCon staffer handled it and was able to get everyone moved so that the two lines stopped impeding foot traffic through the halls.

The GenCon staffers and volunteers did an excellent job in all of these situations keeping the peace, allowing traffic to flow, and maintained a great attitude despite the pressure of the situation. something that is always excellent to see in action and appreciated by me.

I am always impressed with the people that attend GenCon. With such a large number of people in close contact, things could easily go south. Having more time to be leisurely in my approach to GenCon this year allowed me to be more observant of those around me. I noticed how the majority of people tried to be conscious of those around them. They attempted to modulate their tone and mannerisms to not impinge on the fun of others. There were people that were frustrated and children that had meltdowns but people worked to reign in their negative emotions and and also offered to help those that appeared to be struggling. My view is limited and this is anecdotal but it still made me feel good about these people that share my hobby.

I was also impressed with some of the customer service I received within the vendor hall. I stopped to speak with Black Book Editions about Polaris. I believe the gentleman’s name was Tom. It was towards the end of the day and I could tell that he was tired but he answered all my questions even the ones that were difficult about diversity in his books. He took the time to read my badge and use my name throughout the interaction and kindled an interest in the game through his good cheer and attention to detail.

This same treatment was given to me by the kind folks also stationed in the Paizo booth, Ulisess Spiele and their game, The Dark Eye. I was impressed enough by their treatment of me that I bought the deluxe edition of the core rule book. It is gorgeous by the way.

The pertinent picture.

The pertinent picture.

Finally, I was wandering the vendor hall with my new friend ,Sam, and had to take him over to the 7th Sea booth. I was showing him the book when the gentleman in the booth noticed our gaymer tags. He took the time to come over and show us a particular illustration from the book. The page in questions is that of what appears to be two musketeers kissing. He then took the time to talk to us about how they as a company had been working on making 7th Sea a more diverse game and showing us the points where they were doing it. Having already backed the Kickstarter and bought another copy of the book earlier in the day to have it signed, I was already on board with the game. It just melted my heart that someone took the time to both notice the tag and to reach out to say that we were represented in the game and welcomed with open arms. Both Pathfinder and the new edition of D&D are known for being inclusive and diverse, but this was the first time I had someone at a booth literally reach out to show me how they were making the game inclusive for me and mine. It was both overwhelming and nice all at once.

GenCon 2016 was a wonderful experience. I met new friends and had a great time. There are many more posts to come where I talk about specific things as well as the interviews I conducted with Rob Justice from John Wick Presents and Wes Schneider from Paizo.

So, watch this space for more to come!



One comment

  1. John Wick says:

    I’m glad we were a part of your great Gen Con experience. 🙂

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