Friday, July 22, 2011

A Field Guide to Gen Con Attendees

As promised, following up on my last article, here’s my list of types of attendees you just might run into at Gen Con. To be fair, a good number of Gen Con attendees are pretty run-of-the-mill con-goers. Yet some types stick out like a sore thumb….

The Shill
If you are within a 20’ radius of this individual’s booth, there is no escape. Want to demo his RPG? Oh, you don’t have time? Well, perhaps you’ll have time when he informs you he’s taken your grandmother hostage. You will play his demo. You will sit through the 30-minute infomercial on Why His RPG Does Things No Other RPG Does. He will shove the book in your face until, blackened and bloody, you relent and purchase his game. He will be there next year, to sell you the accessory book he wrote for it. Better buy it. For Grandma’s sake.

The Booth Babe
Yes, she is dressed like a slave-girl. No, she doesn’t like comics or RPGs. Yes, you can take her picture; that’s what she’s there for. No, you cannot touch her personal assets. She’s making $100/day for this “modeling opportunity”. That is not enough for her to be your girlfriend, even in your fantasies.

The Bacteria Colony
A lot of gamers start to get the funk about them late on Day 2; this fellow rolled into town with a legion of flies circling his mass already. He coughs loudly and forcefully, not caring to cover his mouth, producing phlegm that may be capable of basic sentience. If he were alive in the Middle Ages, he would be sent over siege walls in a catapult to bring his special manner of plague to a city’s defenders.

The Cosplay Kid
This specimen is either a 12 year-old girl, or a 17 year-old guy with a 12 year-old girlfriend. They are dressed in the manner of some anime series you have never heard of, nor would care to. They may have suppanted LARPers as the most irrirating Gen Con attendees. Roving groups of these kids plague the convention center, stopping every 15 feet to take photos of another group while flashing the “peace” sign and assuming what I imagine is supposed to be an iconic pose. As long you told them it was Japanese, they would think the Bataan Death March is cool. Which it might have been, were the victims cosplayers instead of the American military.

The 40 Year-Old Pokémon Ace
This man loves Yu-Gi-Oh, or Pokémon, or whatever other anime franchise card game is currently on the market. All well and good. Yet you will observe him being uber-competitive, potentially trash-talking and shouting down his 9 year-old opponent. He is literally a man among children, and he loves every moment of it. The younger his opponent, the more arrogant and cocksure he becomes of victory. Yeah, you’re a badass, alright. Do you also play Pee Wee Football and gloat after scoring a touchdown?

The Creep In The Costume
Our gaming circle has never fully recovered from an encounter with a guy dressed somewhat like Max Rebo from the Mos Eisley Cantina. We were attempting to get to the Tower of Gygax, when he lumbered forth to ask us if we wanted to play a game. We declined. He insisted. We fled, thinking we were safe. As we came to the top of the escalator—and I swear this is true—there he was again! How he got in front of us I don’t know, but he asked us again to play in a game. We’re still trying to figure out how he did it. Yes, one of his ilk will try to solicit you for a game (or something else) or attempt to hand you something. Get your running shoes on.

The True Believer
This is what happens when a Shill does not have a booth. He loves his chosen RPG to a fault. Whether it is Pathfinder, or D&D 4e, or some indie game you’ve never heard of, being a fan is not enough for this guy. He wants you to be a fan. He will offer, unsolicited, lengthy analysis of how awesome his game is. If need be, he has examples of where your game sucks in this regard. You suspect that if you asked, he would in fact have a Power Point presentation on his laptop covering these same items. The best advice I can give you is to tell him a serial killer or notorious sexual offender was known to enjoy his game of choice and run as he chokes on his outrage.

The Blocker
This is a relatively benign entity; however, he or she does have a distressing knack for holding up your progress. They block crowded hallways, stopping in the middle of everyone to readjust everything in their overloaded backpack. If there is a flow of traffic, they will be in front of you, stopping to muse upon subjects forever unknown. If you visit a vendor booth, they will be directly in front of the thing you want to look at. You cannot hope to influence this individual to move; you must simply be patient, and wait for the Human Traffic Cone to decide it is time once more to ponderously take their leave.

The Guy With A Sword
Granted, at Gen Con this includes about 20% of the on-floor populace at any given time, but this guy really, seriously, has a sword (probably a katana or a replica of a sword from Highlander) out, seemingly in defiance of the entire “secure your dangerous crap” rules Gen Con has. He may even take several practice cuts in the air, narrowly missing the ear of a nearby gentleman in a Linux t-shirt. You know that if you ask this fellow, he will be happy to explain how his studies and rigorous training in his parents’ basement have brought him to the pinnacle of mastery with this fine blade. For it is an extension of him, and….oh, hi, Mr. Security Guard. No, sir, but I am fully trained in the mighty arts of the mystic….I see. Very well. But only because I do not wish to wield in anger this day. Now, about the swords used in the filming of Excalibur

The Copy Whore
This individual writes a column, runs a blog, or has contributed to a podcast in some form in the past 5 years. They feel this entitles them to review copies from each and every booth out there. They are not shy about this fact, and are understandably peeved when they are told no. Don’t you understand that their tens of readers would more than make up for the $59.95 price of that book? So what if you only brought 12 advance copies? Mark me well, vendor, my readers shall hear of this outrage!

(Seeing a well-known RPG writer and sometime-columnist do this a few years ago was a nasty surprise. It’s ok to ask once; don’t ask like it’s a slap in the face when they say no. You aren’t any more entitled than anyone else).

The Rules Lawyer
That’s right, they aren’t just at your table. The Rules Lawyers love Gen Con. When they aren’t trying to argue how damage bonuses should work for 3 out of 4 allotted hours of a RPG session that you paid good money for, they are likely engaging booth personnel, telling them how their system is flawed and how he arrived at a most powerful build. They will also apparate at your game, critiquing your character as wildly un-optimized or “illegal”.

The Biographer
As I mentioned yesterday, people will want to Tell You About Their Character, but none do it so well or for so long a time as this fellow. Hearken, fellow con-goer, as I tell for you the tale of Raven Stormshadow, half-drow bard of Waterdeep. Strong and wise was he, as he totally had a Belt of Giant’s Strength, and a Diadem of The Sage. I shall tell you of the time when he lost his favored weapon, Wyvernsbane, a +4 Halberd, and of the great quest he went on to get it back….

Behind every Biographer is a gamer who just “knows” that a novel about their favorite character’s adventures would be a raging success.

If you’re nice, they might even let you read the first chapter. (BLANK) killed their (BLANK) when they were younger, would be my guess.


Michael Curtis said...

This has done more to alleviate my woe of not attending yet again than any other effort I've yet been subject to.

In fact, I'm almost relieved I'll be missing Gen Con again this year.

Aaron E. Steele said...

Great post!

John Kahane said...

While I haven't been to GenCon in several years, these gamer types are, sadly, encountered at many other conventions of a smaller size.

I just hope that I don't meet any of these gamer types (I will, unfortunately) and that no one thinks of me as one of them.

Tim Shorts said...

Love these posts about Gen Con. You need to publish a book called The Survival Guide To Gen Con and put all this great stuff in there. It's a lot of fun to read.

Zachary Houghton said...

Thanks for the comments, guys!

@Tim: Thanks, Tim! What a compliment! I'll be doing a bit more in the next week and a half.

I'm not liveblogging this year, favoring instead 1-2 bulk updates per day. It'll be less insane that way.

Joseph said...

Both of these are just awesome. I was quite literally laughing out loud at some of your observations.

Matt Helms said...

Last year, those anime kids were largely replaced with steampunk kids. I can only hope the costume timeline advences enough this year for a pulp explorer to punch them right in their complicated eyewear.

Anonymous said...

I was a "Booth Babe" at Gen Con Indy for a couple years. One of the main reasons I stopped doing it was because of assholes that assumed I didn't know shit about gaming. There is nothing more frustrating than some jerk discrediting my gaming skills (and questioning if they even exist), even after I've told them that I do game.