Just like the title says, being level one sucks. Sure, it’s kinda fun to meet new experiences head-on, learn something, and come out feeling like you conquered whatever it is you set out to do, but when you jump in head first and it overwhelms you…well it’s a whole mess of crazy amazing that can leave you standing there trying to catch your breath. That was Gen Con for us this year, our first year there. We are not new to conventions at all, we’ve been going to Wizard World/Comic Con, and C2E2 for years now, but this was a whole new level. Usually we go up to Chicago, a routine trip for us that we can make blindfolded by shear memory, walk in, get in line for tickets, go in and have a blast. It’s all in one room, everything is easy to find, the layout is nearly always the same. Gen Con, however, was above and beyond a new experience right from the start. The moment we pulled into downtown Indy and saw the crowds, the traffic, and trying to find a place to park, I knew we were in for quite the ride. This thing takes place in the Indiana Convention Center, along with a multitude of other hotel and theater venues around downtown!
The first thing we walked into was this massive wall of posters (I want one!) for what I would consider the two heavy-hitters at the con. As you can see, Paizo has two posters there…fitting for sure. What you can barely see the top of, is a card house competition that was set up below. People were trying to be a world record for building a card house and some of them were amazing. It is an annual event called Cardhalla, a free event open to anyone, to help build a city of cards from those donated. They were built out of Magic the Gathering cards mostly, but there were hundreds of other collectible cards in the mix. On Saturday night they destroy the entire thing in a charity event. I was already in awe and I was just in the lobby. We walked around this place, trying to find where to get our tickets, and that’s where we started to grasp the scale of the place. Not only did they have a massive hall with the main ‘show’ so to speak, but dozens of smaller rooms, lecture rooms, and even booths set up in the halls outside everything. We didn’t even know where to start, literally.
Apparently we had walked in the wrong entrance, and will-call, where we were to pick up one of our two tickets, was on the other side of the building. After walking around, and finally asking at an information desk we found it. Got my ticket, then headed for the press room to get the press pass which was in my wife’s name. There was an interview in the press room in progress, so she went in by herself while I waited. No need for an extra body in there, especially if they were busy with an interview. I waited a bit and when she came out there was a surprised look on her face. Turns out the press pass was a 4 day pass! We had no idea. Looks like next year we might be going for more than one day. Now it was time for us to split up, she had signed up for a couple of spouse events, so while she did that I was going to go hit the convention floor for a quick once-over. See, I am tall and walk fast to start with, meaning my long legs make it even worse. I figured I could get through the convention floor, scope out the important stuff, see if there is anything that has to be done at a certain time, and then when we walk through together we can take more time to see everything. Well, we know what happened while I was on the convention floor, so let’s talk about spouse events.
This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen at a Con. How many people would love their spouse, significant other, girlfriend etc. to go to one of these things with us, but face the fact that it’s more about us than them and they would probably just be bored? Gen Con is the first I’ve heard about that has accounted for just that. You can take your spouse, or whoever, that might not be into gaming as much as you, and still find something to do. They had craft events such as themed scrapbooking, jewelry making, and needlework. There was an open craft room for anyone to go in, use supplies and tools, and just get creative. Several active events were available including pole dancing fitness classes, belly dancing, country and 70’s/80’s dancing. They provided some non-traditional events like massage classes, recipes for gamers, and chakra balancing. Finally if they just wanted to get out there were tours of local museums, breweries, haunted sites, and even a tour of the catacombs under Indy. This is a great way to share your passion for gaming with a spouse that isn’t quite into it so they do have something else to do while you geek out at the convention.
Once I had picked up my wife from her classes we headed for the convention floor. Mind you, I’m a fast walker, and at my pace I only made it halfway through in the two and a half hours she was doing her thing. This place was huge. On the way back we got several great cosplay shots, the one here being one of the best I saw. There were a lot of people mixing genres/themes, I saw a storm trooper in a kilt, several steampunk variations of non-steampunk characters, but this one took the cake for me. It was probably the way the mask was done, it looked exactly like the ones from the original movie, and the person behind it had the mannerisms down. Between the way the mouth worked, just like the movie, and the oddly submissive head tilt the chimpanzee characters had in the movie this guy/gal was perfect. Even the stance was right out of the movie, as if a chimp had gotten off the Planet, and found his way into the imperial army in a galaxy far far away. By far one of the best, but a convention wouldn’t be a convention without a Slave Leia.
Posing here with, what I presume is, Bloodrayne, this was one of the few Slave Leia’s attending the con. As you can see, this is a no-joke costume that requires some serious commitment and self confidence. This is definitely not a costume for the shy introvert, or the gal that’s too worried about how she looks and cares what others think. If you are going to wear the brass bikini and chain, wear it proud like this lady does. By this time we are in the convention hall and the madness is just overwhelming. Once we got through artists alley, our first stop after Tracy Hickman’s booth, it was time to hit the main area in earnest. First though, a word, again, about how family friendly this con is.
On our way to the beginning we passed the Training Grounds, an area for kids with games, puzzles, toys, books, and even foam weapons. The perfect place to get young kids interested in games, crafts, miniatures, and for them to have fun when the rest of the convention is boring. They even provide child care in a room down the hall from the convention floor, with the help of a group called Sitters to the Rescue. Between all of that and the Family Fun Pavilion that is dedicated to family friendly games for all ages, this con does live up to the standards that all gamers expect. Many of us gamers are older, with families, spouses, kids and such, and while we all hope they will share our love for gaming, that’s not always so. At least this con offers ways for families to share time together, or apart while still enjoying a weekend event geared for everyone. For the older kids, they also had quite a few video game opportunities available.
Finally, I just have to say, this con is really for everyone that loves games. You don’t have to be into RPGs or miniatures, LARP or fantasy to enjoy this event. I would say fully half the booths were dedicated to card and board games. I heard a few years ago, someone say that gaming was dying, that roleplaying was going to be a thing of the past. I have to say I just don’t see it. I see gaming evolving, becoming something different, but I certainly don’t see it dying. The traditional RPG company booths were just as busy as the zombie card game booths, or the miniature wargaming spots. If Gen Con is any indication, Gaming as an industry is still growing with no signs of stopping. I am excited to see what comes out of this change!
Stay tuned for more about the Con, along with, hopefully, a training guide for GW2 coming soon!