Gen Con 2016 Impressions

This year was my first attending Gen Con in Indianapolis. My expectations were pretty mild. I am not a big fan of crowds, and to be honest, I tend to prefer my smaller groups of close friends for gaming experiences, especially for tabletop RPGs. That being said, I was very excited to go, and expected to have a good time. My hope was to check an item off of the bucket list with a nice “Been there, done that.”

So how was it? It exceeded my expectations in every way, and I would make it an annual pilgrimage if I could. Plans to make that a reality are afoot!

Why was it so rad? Let’s do six sides of awesome!

  1. I went with a great group of friends. A big hats off to Scott, Kayne, Matt, and Bill. Four of us drove out and had an epic road trip. We played some Dear Leader during the drive and had a stop in Ohio for Skyline Chili and Graeter’s ice cream.  Is chili the best food for a road trip? Mebbe not, but if the shoe fits…
  2. We had a great hotel, though not one right by the convention center. We were close the airport, and the drive in was ten minutes and pretty much a straight shot with pretty much no traffic. We had a two bedroom suite with a third pullout bed, two bathrooms, and full kitchen. And free hot breakfast! And free internet! It was awesome! Oh, and our fifth person flew in and out, so that really helped with convenience for him.
  3. The food trucks! A whole slew of food trucks every lunch and dinner (they rotated in the afternoon) was an awesome way to get a quick bite to eat that was reasonably priced and typically great quality. There was also a really great coffee shop right next to where the food trucks were as well, Bee Coffee Roasters. There coffee was great (and essential to my functioning) and they were super cool.

    Just a bit of the decoration at the Ram brewery.
    Just a bit of the decoration at the Ram brewery.
  4. Which brings me to another point. Indianapolis really opened their doors to Gen Con. I’d read comments like this, but I really saw it in action. I really felt welcomed and wanted and valued every where I went. Great experiences from one restaurant to the next, to Uber drivers, hotel staff, convention center staff, everyone.
  5. The people were wonderful. Tens of thousands of gamers descended on Gen Con, and pretty much everyone I chatted with was awesome. I tend toward introversion, but I made a conscious effort to talk to people around me nearly all the time I was at Gen Con. It was a great decision because I met a ton of cool people doing rad things at an epic convention. I also spent a fair amount of time in lines, so what else are you going to do? Wednesday night, we stood in the will call line for a while. (I’ll write some more on this in my upcoming “things not to do” post) I ended up chatting the whole time with two fellows, and it was great. In hindsight, I wish I did a better job of writing down names or snapping pics of badges. One was from Tennessee and the other from Iowa and both had been to Gen Con multiple times before. They gave me great tips and we just had fun comparing stories, what gaming do we do, what we were looking forward to, and more. And this type of interaction repeated itself again, and again, and again. All show long, I reflected on a comment from my linemate from Iowa. He mentioned the opening remarks and how the host will say something like “welcome home” and how this reflected the camaraderie of the show. It struck me as quaint but unlikely to my virgin ears, but he was right. It felt like I was with friends the whole time I was there.

    A tiny sliver of the crowd waiting for the exhibit to open Thursday morning.
    A tiny sliver of the crowd waiting for the exhibit to open Thursday morning.
  6. It was huge! I was blown away. I go to trade shows pretty regularly for my job, and some big ones. Or so I thought. It was enormous. The whole convention center! And spilling over skyways to four or maybe five hotels connected! And to the stadium next door! I was walking about 9 miles a day while I was there and doing something from 8 AM until 1 or 2 in the morning pretty much every day.

I’ll do a couple more posts on Gen Con. Next I’ll cover a few things I would do differently going to future Gen Con events. After that, I’ll write up the really special stuff I saw or played while I was there.

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