I made it to GenCon for the first time. I had planned to go to the whole thing this year, but I had a major presentation that I had to do near St. Louis. However, I decided to go anyway.
I did not get there until after 6:00 PM on Friday as I visited some friends near St. Louis that I had not seen in a long time.
I missed out on the Exhibition Hall, as it closed at 6:00 PM. (This was a hazard of deciding to just do it and registering when I got there.)
The benefit of this is that I was able to figure out where everything was. WARNING: The Indianapolis Convention Center is HUGE! If you have never been take advice I read last year from a first time attendee, I forget who it was. Have a bottle of water and a snack,just in case. I suggest also comfortable well-fitting shoes. I got a blister on one toe. I also suggest having a room at one of the downtown hotels and planning to stay until the morning after your last day, so you can get cleaned up as you go. The mid-west is usually very hot a humid in August, but it was very mild this year. However, thousands of bodies in a huge convention center pressed together make it very warm. I sweat through my shirt, socks, and underwear, making things very uncomfortable today.
I did not sleep more than a couple hours last night. I just laid there not sleeping, so I got up and wandered around.
The Exhibition Hall opened at 10:00 AM and I wandered all over until about 12:30 PM. I bought a d30 and battle mat from Chessex and a second set of Game Science dice, and a poster from Inkwell Ideas, and art from Jeff Easley and Larry Elmore. I saw a lot more I wish I could buy. I’ll post pictures of my goodies later.
Overall, I thought it was just too big. I think that is mostly because I had never been and a lot of volunteers did not have answers to my questions, and I showed up late Friday.
The thing I most disliked is for either $50 for a single day, or $80 for four days, MOST of the events other than the Exhibition Hall, auction, and a few others, required paying MORE MONEY to attend. This INCLUDED the organized game play. I can agree with paying to be in a fancy tournament if it has decent prizes, but pay to play just rubbed me wrong. Because I got their late Friday, it was too late to get in on most events I was interested in, so I wondered and observed. I liked that I could at least wander around and observe all the game play.
If there was a sanctioned or organized way to arrange pick up games or anything, I never found it. My impression is that a pick up game would most likely occur if your friends from your regular group, or your GenCon buddies decided to get together.
I have been to other game conventions, and there was no additional fees to join in organized play or even tournaments. I don’t know if the fees at GenCon are only secondarily about the money with a primary emphasis on trying to organize 20 or 30,000 players.
As I mentioned earlier, I wandered the Exhibition Hall until 12:30 and got all the things I limited myself too. I could never afford all that I wanted…. By this time I was starving. They have food inside the convention center, like pizza, subs, etc. I was tired of this, so I went out to the pedestrian mall outside the convention center, where they had a dozen or so food trucks. I found an excellent BBQ truck, I forget their name, but it is local to Indianapolis. If I can find the name, I will add it.
Getting food helped. I recommend not getting to the point of tired, sweaty, and hungry. I should have taken a break rather than do a marathon session of seeing all the exhibitors. I ended up very frustrated that I could not find Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary. I conflated the last convention he attended with GenCon and thought he had a booth. He was actually joining Tracy Hickman of XDM games, I see now that I am home. He also did a signing that I learned of about a half hour AFTER it ended. Part of that was my confusion and I did not pick up on the book signing reading the guidebook/schedule. It is probably in there correctly, I think I just had information overload.
I was cranky. I felt a lot better after I ate, but I was still sweaty and had a blister working on one toe. Solving hunger did not help. I decided I was past the point of having fun, so I headed home. On my way out, I passed Frank Mentzer who was going in the opposite direction. I had wanted to talk to him, but by that time, I did not care.
I drove about an hour and had to pull over at a rest stop and snoozed for a couple hours. After that I felt like a new man. Thus my recommendation to keep a room in a hotel nearby until the day AFTER you are done with the convention. Have plenty of clothes so you can go to your room and shower and get a nap.
I left thinking I never wanted to attempt to go back. A lot of that was brought on by being tired. After my snooze I wished I wasn’t an hour away from the convention and started thinking I might actually try to go again next year.
I now know that I will need to save up for a fancier hotel downtown for at least a couple nights, or more if I do all four days. I will need money to attend all the things I want. I will have to review the activities BEFORE it starts so I can plan what to do. As long as GenCon is in the same place, one can plan for the next year. I am also thinking that I really should go to GaryCon, since I always wanted to go to GenCon when it was still in Lake Geneva. Being a smaller Con, I am sure it will have a lot less of the chaos and frustration that a megacon has.
I’m not 100% set on GenCon next year. I will be a grandfather in January, and I expect to be spending a lot of time with my new grandchild. Five years or so until Disney World, maybe ten until a major Con, time will tell.