Some Observations from GenCon 2011
Last week into the beginning of this one, I was in Indiana for my first ever GenCon. For the uninitiated, GenCon is a gaming convention that mostly caters to tabletop roleplaying, LARPing (L Live. A Action. R Role. P Playing. Live Action Role-Playing), collectible card games (like those weird Japanese things where you basically raise cute little fake animals to be stone-cold murderous gladiators), miniature wargaming, and stuff along those lines. Essentially, it’s Gamer Nerd Heaven.
My wife and I knew a bunch of people who were going, which was the main draw. See, we’re what I call half-jokingly Retired Gamers. We used to tabletop regularly, but stopped about 3 years ago. We used to play two or more LARPs a year, but stopped about 3 years ago as well. We used to play Magic: The Gathering but stopped 6 or so years ago. So we don’t really game much. In fact, we planned on playing absolutely nothing when we went out there, which is pretty much the opposite of what everyone else does when they go to a GenCon. Our plan was to hang out with friends and drink.
We played nothing. Not a single game. No Tic-Tac-Toe, nothing. We did, however, hang out a lot. It was really, really nice. Instead of trying to do some kind of organized, rational descriptive travel journal, I’ll just post some random observations about the week and the things that stuck out.
- By far, the coolest thing about the week was getting ready for dinner at my friends’ farm and watching them dig potatoes out of the ground to cook for the meal. Sure, they laughed at us, but Lady Aravan and I were both riveted. We’s city folk. It was still freaking cool.
- We had been warned about the smell of Gamer Funk after a few days of non-stop gaming by attendees. I have to report, however, that we ran into only a handful of instances of nastiness, even from my wife and her Superpowered Scent System. I’m sure the people who shared the elevator with us after we finished working out in the hotel gym were a little non-plussed, however.
- There is a huge-ass room where all these vendors have displays and whatnot, selling everything from miniatures to leather clothing to games to books to paintings – it has to be seen to be believed. The saddest spectacles were the booths that drew ZERO interest. We were all careful not to make eye contact with them, since I didn’t want to roped into a sales pitch, but seeing some guy with some computer program that he wrote that looks like it would’ve been awesome in 1978 surrounded by posters that looked like he drew them in the parking lot the night before with a set of magic markers that had half-dried out while he sat on a stool hunched over like a lonely rejected vulture made me a little sad. Still didn’t make eye contact, though.
- Just up from those sad sacks were the Unknown Authors trying to sell books. No one looked at them either, for the most part. Hell, I’m an indie author and I didn’t look at them. Much. Imagine sitting there for 6 to 8 hours, a stack of books in front of you, hoping desperately that someone looks at your display and decides to take a chance on speaking to you and then maybe, just maybe, selling them a book that you can then try to awkwardly sign while pretending like you do it all the time, for FOUR STRAIGHT DAYS. Jesus Christ. The waft of desperation from them was more palpable than that of a middle school dance. I cringed inside.
- Yes, I’m contemplating doing the whole book booth bit next year. Go figure.
- I wasn’t sure what to expect from the city that planned on hosting thousands upon thousands of gamers, but I came away impressed as shit by the city of Indianapolis. The bars and restaurants get into the spirit, with special menus (some professionally printed with artwork and shit) and food items and showing Nerd Movies instead of sports on the TVs. The people were friendly, the staff at every place as nice as can be expected when slammed the entire time they’re open.
- Of all the special GenCon bar specials, the Dragon’s Milk from Cladaugh’s (I hope I spell it right, but you know how I feel about research by now) was the shit. A beer with 10% alcohol content that comes in an absurdly huge bottle and takes good. I drink often enough to have a pretty good tolerance, but let me tell you: 2 of those things over dinner, and I was absolutely hammered. Good stuff.
- Lots of costumes abounded, of course (and no, I didn’t wear one, but am totally going to next year). My favorites were the dude in the Sandpeople outfit (especially since he looked like he’d just wolfed down 8 Jawas), Pink Girl (mostly just because she is every single photo album from GenCon I’ve seen), The Goblin King (she pulled off David Bowie pretty well), and Wolverine (dude had the sideburns and everything). I won’t talk about the worst ones. I don’t want to think about them, and you don’t want to see them. Actually, maybe I should do a photo post after all. It’d be like watching a slow-motion trainwreck.
- I am fairly certain that we somehow did not get charged for valet parking our car for 4 days at the hotel at 27 bucks a day.
- I will go back next year, as I mentioned. I think I’ll even play something. I will definitely dress up as something absurd. I have a year to come up with a good costume idea. I still wish I’d done Archer this year. Didn’t see one of those.
- I am amazed that our 2000 Camry could go 6 straight hours without needing a fill-up, even with the air on and driving through hilly country. The trip was about 10 to 11 hours each way, and only needing to stop once for fuel on the way rocked.
- I put on 5 pounds in one week. AND I worked out while I was there AND didn’t eat as much or as often as I wanted to. I can only imagine the carnage otherwise.
- Downtown Indianapolis has one serious Convention Center. Thing is ginormous.
- I actually spoke to random strangers. Usually only after I was spoken to, but I actually engaged in conversations with people I didn’t know. Weird for me.
- The only thing I didn’t get a chance to do that I really wanted to do was stagger down to White Castle while I was drunk. My body is probably really happy about that fact.
- My friends own our dream house. Killer house, huge wooded property, edible food growing out of the ground, and a huge dog that flings slobber like hand grenades when he shakes his head. So jealous.