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GenCon 2012

Everyone has different scenes, whether it’s a small gathering of friends, hanging at a coffee house with your laptop in tow, leeching free WiFi and enjoying overpriced and over-brewed Starbucks “coffee”. Perhaps you’re a gamer who loves a good LAN party? Perhaps you’re the gamer who parties on Friday and rolls D6s on Saturday? Whatever the case may be, we all have various scenes that we enjoy and scenes we don’t.

I enjoyed the scene at the WBC in Lancaster a few weeks ago. Sorta small, maybe 2,000 people, everyone mostly chilled out, there to play some games, see old friends, drink some beer and have fun. I’d bring a carload of buddies to WBC and we’d have a blast.

GenCon isn’t that. GenCon is the hobby’s version of E3: although not as big, not as glitzy, and with a lot more people dressed in costume and playing Magic: the Gathering. Of course unlike E3 the people in costume are getting PAID to do that. The people at Gencon do it because…OK I have to tell you I don’t have a freaking clue. We had 230 pound Wonder Woman. (Do not ask. My buddy Dan saw this and relayed the info to me.) We had cellulite Xena. (I saw this and truly, genuinely, wish I hadn’t.) We had a dude wearing a dark green velvet cape and a robin hood hat sporting a giant walking stick. There was the guy dressed in what looked like full on plate mail. There was another fellow who had on a fake Gandalf beard. That was it. I think he was wearing a Blue Oyster Cult T-shirt so it was a weird mix of ’70s rocker/stoner…with a fake beard. Didn’t get that look. Maybe he was being sarcastic gaming hipster? Finally, there was a guy dressed in what looked like Conan garb with very little covering his…stuff. Dude for the love of Crom put that shit away.

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Now, don’t get me wrong: if you want to dress up at a con — godspeed; who am I to judge? Now, I personally wouldn’t flaunt my wares with a g-string if I hadn’t seen the opposite end of a sit-up in 20 years but to each their own. If you’re having a good time then that’s all that matters. My eyes will someday recover.

On the plus side, I saw an epic-sized game of Space Hulk being played.(Pictured)

The vendor area is a real mess. After a while every booth sort of blends in to each other and the only thing that really stands out is the ever present shadow of FFG — they are *everywhere* at GenCon. You can’t walk 20 feet on the floor without some sliver of it being devoted to FFG products. This is clearly “their show” and people flocked to its booth as Netrunner sold out in the time it takes to watch the opening credits for Big Bang Theory. The Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game was being sold and Dan pointed out to me that you get a total of one X-Wing and two TIEs for like $45. My interest plummeted and he told me later he bought like two copies of the base game and an expansion. His willpower is legendary. The LINE to buy an FFG game was stunning. And wouldn’t you know it the only game I wanted to buy from FFG, Merchant of Venus, was on demo only. Not for sale. Great.

But unlike WBC, where open gaming is small enough to hear yourself think, a lot of the gaming/demo areas were LOUD, crowded and in no way conducive, for someone like me anyway, to playing games. Teaching Road to Enlightenment would have been next to impossible in the demo room.

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In all, I’m glad I went. I bought a few games, made some contacts, met some very nice people (including Mike’s buddy Frank Branham who was demoing his new game Battle Beyond Space. (Barnes gives this an enthusiastic thumbs up btw.)

So I have been to GenCon. Next year I’ll likely be manning a booth so the experience will be decidedly different.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

10 thoughts to “GenCon 2012”

  1. Yeah. That’s pretty much GenCon.

    I am not person who dresses up in costumes, but I don’t begrudge those that do. In a way, I am sort of jealous of the fact that those folks can so fully embrace their geekdom that they don’t mind walking around downtown Indy all dressed up like that or wear their costumes proudly despite the fact of their body-type. Good on them.

    People also always mention the “gamer funk.” The smell of a high concentration of poorly washed masses. I have no sense of smell, so I can’t comment on that.

    The FFG booth was huge. I kept wandering into it without knowing I was wandering into it. I did notice that Netrunner game. The line for the Fantasy Flight booth was massively long Thursday morning before it sold out. It seemed like “Netrunner” (for the 5 minutes it was available) and the X-Wing game were the hot ticket items.

    The booths and games all do run together. I wander through the entire dealer’s room about 3-4 times each year and can barely remember what I saw or what is what.

    I bought a Pathfinder Equipment Guide and GM screen. We don’t play Pathfinder, but use their stuff as supplements for 3.5 Edition D&D. I almost picked up “Mage Knight” a few times, but never pulled the trigger.

    I know Wizard’s of The Coast is working on “D&D Next” or whatever it’s going to be called, but I was very surprised at how very little D&D Fourth Edition stuff there was. It had essentially zero presence. Even the massive Wizard’s Of the Coast castle/booth thing had only what appeared to be a few supplements, with the bigger selling items being the collectors edition old school (2nd edition) Player’s Handbook, DM’s Guide and Monster Manual.

    Very little in the way of computer game company booths this year. In the past there have been quite a few.

    One of the highlights of being out and about was a conversation I overheard in a Starbucks between a guy dressed up in Robin Hood-like costume with a stuffed dragon (apparently he is not really a dragon, but likes to think he is) named Shamrog (gaelic for “Shamrock”) on his shoulder and some (non-GenCon) guy in shorts and a Notre Dame t-shirt. It was a fantastic exchange. The guy in the Norte Dame t-shirt opened the conversation asking, in all sincerety, whether the Robin Hood looking guy was “a Norte Dame fan”, because he named his stuffed not-a-dragon “Shamrog.” The conversation went on from there, but it was polite and pleasant. The women behing the counter noted that GenCon is Indy’s second largest convention each year (which is saying something, because as I far as I know Indy’s sole purpose is a convention town) and it’s their favorite because everyone is so nice. Warms the cockles of my geek heart.

    Despite the fact, as I mentioned in some other thread, I only spend about 2-3 hours a day, tops, at the convention each day we go and spend the rest of the time playing role-playing games with my friends our hotel suite, I still love going to the Con. I’ve been there 13 out of the last 16 years and can’t wait for the next one.

  2. ‘ don’t begrudge those that do. In a way, I am sort of jealous of the fact that those folks can so fully embrace their geekdom.’

    I told Todd this very thing while at the show.

  3. The WOTC presences wasn’t in the exhibit hall it was elsewhere and there was plenty of it. Unlike previous years all of the good stuff was outside of the exhibitor hall if you knew where to look which I did not when I had run into Bill and Todd.

    At that point I was going on 3 hours of sleep and a 3.5 hour car ride. I actually got to play a lot of good demo games and spent way too much money. I’m trying to find the time to write about it but a real job is in the way.

    The oddest exchange of my Con was this. Saturday night after drinking for about 2 hours I strolled through the Convention center on my way back to my hotel bar.

    There was a huge line and as I was walking past I saw 2 very attractive girls in costume. Not the norm as Bill points out. I asked them what the line was for and they said (and I am sure to spell this wrong) “Hentai Cafe”

    I asked what that was because I had no clue and they said “porn” What? “We basically watch porn and pass around a microphone and make fun of the dialogue, why don’t you come with us?” they said.

    I had to pass on that because I didn’t have an even ticket and because well I have some limits…. but only some.

    1. I noticed that WOTC seemed to have its own area outside of the Exhibitor’s hall in the map in the program, and tried to find it, but didn’t have any luck. I really didn’t try that hard, just walked by some rooms that I thought it might be in based on the map.

      I see an ad for the “Hentai Cafe” in the program. It was the first time I had heard of it, but apprently it’s been going on for a few years now.

      1. Yes well apparently this Cafe the night to go is Friday because there are hired hot anime girls playing strip poker and what not with the..ahem convention people.

        Basically it’s a nerd brothel. Much like in real life they will fantasize over anime chicks and never actually be able to touch them.

        The WOTC room was hard to find because it wasn’t where the map said and there were actually 2 rooms. If not for my WOTC contact (who was smoking hot btw) I would of never found it.

        Having said that their presence was totally low key compared to last year. They basically were just testing D&D Next

  4. Thanks for the comment, and it was a great pleasure meeting you after reading this site for so long.

    That said, I think the OTHER best game from Gencon is Hot Rod Creeps from Cryptozoic. The game is a capricious and psychotically random racing game. The art style is all Weird-Ohs, Wacky Packages, and Rockabilly wrapped in a faux-distressed box that has so far gotten everyone I’ve shown it to convinced it is a couple of decades old.

  5. As someone who puts on a skirt and hits people with foam swords I don’t get the dressing up at a Con thing.

    Sadly I have never been to one and I most live vicariously through these posts, and Will Wheaton holding a copy of NetRunner.

  6. Highlight of my GenCon: playing RtE with Todd and Bill. It was an excellent adventure…*sunglasses on*…yeeeaaaah.

    Lowlight of my GenCon: tie between registration line on Sunday and seeing Railways of the World be broken by tournament play. Damn shame when a great game is broken, but such is life.

    I wrote a mile long blog for the interested over at Healer Trek (google it) if interested. No reason to link here. Also need to get that review up on BGG. All in all, great time and I’ve already gotten one new client from the business seminar and work I did while in Indy. Solid times, and reimbursed by my employer. Win win.

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