Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Gen Con Is Special

Every year before Gen Con, I try to write a single post an idea of what Gen Con is all about. It's probably the toughest assignment I give myself all year, in a lot of ways. You're basically trying to sum up a mid-size city, a unique community, in just a few lines. It's not an easy task.

It's one of the reasons my dearest wish for you, friend gamer, is that you make it to Gen Con at least once in this lifetime. It's hard to explain the electric thrill I get when I realize that for another year, I've made it to Gen Con. How I feel that for another year, I've made it to a place that feels more like home than any event that lasts only a few days should.

Now, that probably sounds overwrought and sentimental, but I can't help it. It is remarkable each year to watch the transportation of my midwestern city into what I refer to as "Gamer Mecca". Gen Con is still the preeminent event in the hobby; the place where you can still meet legends, demo new games, find events going 24 hours of the day, and generally revel in your element to your heart's content.

Every year, at night, I like to walk through the convention halls, hotel lobbies, and interconnecting skytubes that make up the layout of Gen Con. There are little RPG sessions going on in the lobbies, by gamers who are unwilling to crash for the night without getting in one last game. There are gamers who, bereft of energy or excess funds, have found a quiet corner wherein to grab a few hours of sleep before doing it all again the next day. Gen Con quiets a little during the early morning hours, but it never really sleeps.

And the dealer hall! Whatever sort of transitions or struggles our hobby might endure, the dealer hall is amazing. So many dice vendors, small and large press publishing companies side by side, and people trying to push The Next Big Thing. All the katana and anime booths in the world can't change that.

There's an energy to Gen Con, one I start to feel at least a few weeks from the convention. It grows every day the convention gets closer, and crescendos when I walk through the door, not abating until I say farewell for another year on the last day. So for another year, bring on the LARPers, bring on the people telling me, unsolicited, about their Tiefling Nightspawn Hellsbane Paladin, bring on those whose showering habits are what could charitably described as "irregular". Because all that stuff is part of Gen Con, too, but Gen Con is more than the sum of its parts. We accept these things because throws the great parts of the con in even greater contrast, and appreciate more every special moment we have.

Gen Con is still a unique entity in our hobby, a sprawling, wonderful, hectic, pervading, sustained celebration of a hobby that for a few precious days, refuse to be "fringe". We take over. Any morning might find you in line for coffee behind your favorite game designer, every day the potential for finding your favorite dice set of all time, and every evening gamers roaming about, discussing the day's conquests and discoveries.

For around 360 days a year, we are singular outposts of gaming in our own little slice of the world, separated by distance and circumstance. We are office monkeys, academics, students, blue collar workers, or perhaps even someone who's been working on this crazy dream of a gaming company. But for 4 days, we have come into our own. This is our community, one made of dozens of micro-societies, groups, fads, fan followings, and interests. But it's home for all of us.


WalkerP said...

I understand exactly where you are coming from. My equivalent (though on a much smaller scale) is the Fantasia film festival, that just wrapped up here in Montreal. It's cool to be a local and be totally into it, because you see how it changes your town, how the fans who come from out of town perceive it but you are also of it.

I'd love to take that late night walk with you some time!

Tim Brannan said...

Absolutely all true.

GenCon is Mecca to gamers.
Hope to see you there!

PatrickWR said...

QFT. I am filled with the same sentiments each and every year. Strangely, I'm the only person in my game group who goes to GenCon regularly. In fact, I'm probably the only person from that group who's ever gone more than twice.

DeadGod said...

I agree with everything you said save one: It is not a singular event. Origins is also an excellent convention that attracts a huge number of participants.

Zachary The First said...

@deadgod: No offense to Origins meant! It's a fine event, but has a different vibe than GC, nor is as large. Still a great convention!

DNAphil said...

Great article!

I have been lucky enough to been able to attend Gen Con since it moved to Indy (and once before that) and to capture in words what it is like to walk into the convention center on Thursday morning, is so difficult.

I know that with the group I am with, no one wants to go to sleep on Wednesday night, all excited with what the morning holds, and on Thursday morning, everyone wakes up and has all that excitement.

For me, coming off the parking ramp, and across the skybridge and seeing the sign that says Welcome To the Indianapolis Convention Center, always brings a smile to my face.

There is something special about being there, and its ability to recharge your gaming batteries is incredible. I leave GenCon each year with a stack of books and even more ideas for "the next campaign".

Posts like this make it harder for me to focus on work for the next couple of days.