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.

Mission accomplished.

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.

About Alan Edwards

An indie writer who does accounting full-time on the side.

Posted on August 12, 2011, in Kerfluffle and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Photo post! Photo post!

    Sounds like you had a good time. I love that you enjoyed watching your friends dig up potatoes then cook them. I would have been pretty thrilled about that too.

    (welcome “back”)

    • Oh! I forgot to mention that before they dug up the potatoes they sat at the table shelling peas they had picked. It was so friggin’ cool.

      OK, you talked me into it. Photo post coming tomorrow! Or tonight. But probably tomorrow.

  2. Glad you guys had a good time, that sounds awesome!

    I have never been to GenCon.

    The death knell for my hopes of going are simple: Internal Audit visits us the week of GenCon. Period. I think maybe they didn’t last year, and that’s it. So it’s very rare for me to actually make it.

    But Lib said we should hook up and share a booth for the “Pathetic Indie Authors” thing. Hey, we could dress up as Tom & Stephen! ;D

    • That. Would. Totally. Rock. We can recruit our wives as Booth Babes and use them to draw in a crowd of sweaty-palmed gamers eager to part with cash. Can’t lose! Plus, we’d have someone to talk to while fighting of the crowds of no one at all.

      And I personally think that Internal Audit should instead focus on all the inherent control issues that surround any temporary merchandising facility to ensure total compliance.

  3. I’ve never been to GenCon either, but I did the southern con circuit for like 15 years straight back in the day. I started when I was 16. I kinda miss getting shit-faced hammered with sweaty geeks every once in a while.

    I *just* this week discovered Archer after getting TOTALLY hooked on Frisky Dingo (ordered my Killface shirt yesterday – BOOSH!). I don’t think Archer is quite as good as Dingo, but I’m enjoying it so far. And Jessica Walter is my old lady crush. I’ve loved her since Arrested Development.

    Glad you got out and had fun!

    • I love me some Archer. Plus, the costume would have been easy – a black turtleneck, black pants, and glass of something boozy-looking. Although it was hot as balls out there, so maybe I’m glad I didn’t. I need to investigate the Frisky Dingo (which sounds like a park ranger’s final words).

      Hope your own vacation was nice! =)

  4. Sounds like a perfect vacation. Glad you had fun. Really wish you would have costumed up, but, there is next year to look forward to. Between now and then you guys should come up with something really wicked. I saw some photos on a site on August 7 (I think) and it looked like a massive arena with tons of stuff for sale. I didn’t see anyone costumed in any of their review pics. I heard the place was great and in a fantastic area for bars, restaurants etc. You should try and sell your books/e-books at the next one. Why not?

    Can’t wait to see the pics.

    • It’s a good point. Why not? Well, I guess it also depends on how much it costs, which I don’t know and am too lazy to research yet. But I am severely tempted.

      It’s amazing how much was going on there. The convention center itself is gigantic, and they had 3 or 4 hotels and other buildings running events as well. It was a very cool atmosphere.

      Photo blog tomorrow!

      • I can totally understand the cost deal. Might not be worth it then. However, you could have t-shirts made with a book cover/zombie theme that have the book name and/or website. Maybe go in a full zombie get up. It’s walk around advertising. You have a year to think about it. Sounds like the perfect crowd for your books. It is all about Zombie invasions now-a-days. I can throw in my help for nothing if you want zombie themed tie-dyes.

  5. I was in Indie for the Star Wars con’s and loved the location, I would have loved to go out to Gen-con but…. maybe next year.

    And again…. I will so work the “ALAN EDWARDS EXPERIENCE” booth

  6. From an Irish man it’s Claddagh. It’s usually in reference to an Irish ring with a heart held in two hands wearing a crown. 🙂

    Fun was had by all this year. Did anyone ever tell you your taste in music was impeccable? I brought my headset in case I wanted to listen to something else, and found myself not wanting to put it on cause I liked your play list.

  7. And your description of Pokemon is probably the best one ever.

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