Thursday, August 19, 2010

My First Gen Con Experience

I suppose that I should really talk about going to Gen Con this year (2010) and what lead me there to frame why I'm eager to get back next year.  This will go long, but you'll know where I stand if you wade though it.

I started gaming in 1980.  I was relocating to Singapore from New York because my dad's job had transferred him.  We made a stop in San Francisco where I picked up the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons coloring book.  I was 10, and beyond coloring books, but I liked the art and the little story that went with it grabbed my attention while I thumbed through it at the store.  In the middle of this was a little board game that took you through a dungeon where you met such things as a beholder, skeletons, etc.  I played that silly little game over and over.  Our next stop was Hawaii (yeah, it was a very nice vacation) where I met a boy my age.  We hung out, and had a lot of fun.  I told him how cool I thought this book was, and he said something like "If you like that, you'd love the real game."  Real game?  There was more?

The next day I forced my parents to stop at a game store at the little mall we were shopping at (for my mom), and I bought the blue box basic set (Seventh Ed. with chits, not dice).  Yes, there was a game store on the island of Kauai.  This was meant to be.  My friend DM'd me through B2 - Keep on the Borderlands, where I almost died on the first encounter until I started to realize that I could attempt anything that I could imagine.  I'm now 40 years old...I still remember all this clearly.  That's the kind of impression it left.  Couldn't tell you much more about that vacation.  Inside the box was also a little TSR glossy mentioned this thing called Gen Con.

The following year, I saved my allowance for the entire year so I could buy D&D stuff when we went back to the U.S. over the summer.  My parents were astounded.

For the next <insert fairly large number> years I played D&D, and a host of other RPGs and boardgames.  I have no artistic talent, but I taught myself to paint miniatures (and got good at it).  I played, DM'd, was in game clubs, etc.  It was my dream to go to a con one year, and GenCon was the pinnacle of that.

Time passed, I grew older, I played fewer games (switching mostly to video games), and I forgot....

When Gen Con relocated to Indianapolis, I'd been living there a while.  Oh yeah..Gen Con.  I remembered that.  Not important to me any more though.

In 2009, I thought I'd go see what Gen Con was about because some of the people I played MMO's with were going.  I figured "what the heck."  I preregistered and paid, then I had to switch jobs and could not go after all.

In late July 2010 my coworker mentioned that he was going to be on vacation the week of Gen Con, and a little quick browsing led me to the discovery that Felicia Day, other Guild cast members, and Wil Wheaton were going to be the media guests at the con.  I love The Guild, and didn't want to miss this opportunity.  I figured I could take a few hours off on Friday and I would be sure to be able to hit the signing area and meet some of them.  On Monday I took a walk down to the convention center and saw all the signs welcoming gamers to town.  How big was this thing that Indianapolis would roll out the red carpet for a group of geeks (like me)?.  This is a jock/sports city.  That night, I registered (still had my RUBI account from 2009), and bought a day badge for Friday.

Wednesday, I headed to the Convention Center to pick up my badge.  WOW!  I felt like I was strangely home.  There was an odd sort of kinship with the multitude of gamers walking around the convention center.  I chatted with the people in front of and behind me while waiting to get my badge from Will Call.  It was like I'd never left the gaming culture.  I couldn't place my finger on it, but I was happy and I felt like I'd come home.  I spent that lunch hour in line, then touring the convention center.  I couldn't believe what the Con guide book and my eyes were telling me...this thing had taken over the nearest hotels completely, as well as the Convention Center.  I was eager to return as soon as possible.

Thursday I spent my lunch hour exploring Gen Con without being able to get into anything.  I decided I'd spend most of my precious Friday time on the exhibitor's hall floor since the signing area was there, and I could browse the incredible number of game vendors.

I pulled some overtime and after hours work that was available that week, and had 3 hours saved up for Friday.  Plan was to skip lunch and leave at 1 pm.  That gave me 4 hours until I had to leave...plenty of time.  I should mention here that my roommate is not a geek like me.  She has strong feelings about gaming that come from her religious views, and I was sneaking around to do this without having problems at home.  Thursday night, she announced that since I had hours, she would like to go look at all the cosplay costumes (she does enjoy those) since I would be getting off early.  This meant no time for me, since I could not be seen with a badge without getting into a big money and morals argument.  I thought my day was sunk.  In the end, I pulled out an hour of time to walk the hall floor before I had to head back home to pick her up.

Walking into the exhibitor's hall I was flooded with happiness.  Wil Wheaton was signing, but I knew I no longer had time to get through the line if I wanted to see anything.  I didn't know why I was so happy until it hit me half way into the area:  This was the realization of a childhood dream I'd completely forgotten I had.  We are very lucky if we get one real dream that comes true in our lifetime, and here it was...unexpected but very real.  Looking at all the vendors, demos, and games I realized that had I been here when I was in high school I probably would have passed out due to joy overload :).  I wandered the floor for an hour, then headed home and picked up my roommate.  We journeyed back, and hung out downtown for a few hours walking around and taking in the cosplayers.  We were there for the zombie walk.  She really enjoyed it, but I knew from comments that I was still not free to participate in the gaming.

So, that's where I am now.  I plan to go back, and at some point I will have to have a big confrontation about going to Gen Con in 2011 to game.  I'm hoping I can set the correct circumstances and pick the right time so that it will be a productive discussion and not a fight.  

I do plan to be there though....


  1. I'm sorry to hear that you have some resistance to gaming coming from your roomie. I'm not sure what religion/religous objections the roomie has, but I saw several booths at Gen Con that were set up for Christian gamers. I also saw a lot of families there with young kids playing games that seemed ok with what was going on.

    My husband and I and several of my gaming friends are Christians. We play pretty much anything, but I know everyone has different comfort levels. I don't see anything wrong with games, in fact I think they add a lot to life.

    Probably the best defense of all table-top gaming that I've heard from a Christian stand point is that Jesus was a storyteller and asked his disciples and followers to put themselves into the story to understand life better. Gaming allows those of us who play to understand life better. I'm not saying gaming replaces spiritual belief, but that it has rewards of self-improvement for those involved.

    Heck, even the stress relief from killing undead I get has to be at least a little bit meaningful. :) I hope things work out for you and you get to really enjoy the full Con experience. You have every right to.

  2. Thanks for the support. Without going into my roommate's religious views any further, it's sufficient to say that we see harm in different things. I'm a Christian too. There are things I avoid in games, but they're the same kinds of things I might avoid in life. I pretty much agree with everything you've said.

    In the long run, I guess I'll see how it goes. I'm going to plan for the best outcome in the interim.

    ..and thanks for being my first (and so far, only) reader. :)