GenCon Recap

The Longest Four Days in Gaming are over. I’ve now been to GenCon and back, and for a first trip I’m pretty satisfied with how it went. While i’d like to give a day-by-day recap, that would easily take more time than I have to devote right now. instead, I’ll give you a rundown of the highlights.

People

The single greatest thing about GenCon was the number of amazing people I got to meet. It started with meeting a fan at the airport on the way to Indianapolis, something which I hadn’t at all expected.

On Wednesday I went to the IGDN Social at Loughmiller’s pub and was introduced to some two dozen other members of the network. I’ve talked to most of these people through e-mail and Google+, but it wasn’t until now that I got to meet any of them in person. It was great to get to see so many friendly faces and it made interacting with them throughout the rest of the Con that much easier.

I stayed at the Embassy Suites hotel with Eloy Lasanta (of Third Eye Games) and his friends Juan, Aimee, and Chris. Until I arrived at the hotel with Eloy after the social I didn’t even know who we were going to be rooming with, but they all turned out to be fantastic folks who were fun to share the weekend with.

On Thursday morning I was on my way to the Downtown Mariott hotel where the IGDN game room was set up. I was travelling alone and was feeling quite lost when I pulled over to the side of the walkway to pull up Google Maps on my phone for directions. A nice young woman by the name of Star asked if I needed some assistance and she walked with me over to the hotel. We bumped into each other two other times during the weekend and she always stopped to say hello. There were other friendly strangers who would lend a hand in my bumbling travels around downtown Indy too, and it was a relief knowing that I could always ask a random passerby for directions if needed.

I met several more IGDN members throughout the weekend and got to spend quite a bit of time with some of them. They’re all fantastic people who I look forward to working with more in the future.

Everyone I met at GenCon was a joy to hang out with and game with, and if I had to pick one thing I liked most about going to the Con was that I got to meet so many great folks.

Places

GenCon is far more massive than I had previously imagined. It’s spread out over the Indy Convention Center and several surrounding hotels. I admit it was overwhelming. For a blind person, trying to navigate the area was a nightmare. There were endless streams of people everywhere and many would stop in the middle of isles or ignore their surroundings to glance at their smartphones.

Frustrating as it was sometimes though, I usually had someone to help show me around. When I didn’t, it was easy to get lost. When I did, it was nice to just hang out and chitchat while I wandered the convention floor or the streets of the city.

Aside from the convention areas, I visited several restaurants in the area as well. I ate at Loughmiller’s, Scotty’s Brewhouse, Mikado’s Japanese restaurant, and Webber Grill. While I thought Mikado’s was far overpriced, the other places I ate were great and are definitely places I wouldn’t mind returning the next time I’m in the area.

Things

Ultimately, GenCon is about games. Boardgames, card games, RPGs, and everything in between.  For me, it was mostly RPGs.

The first game I played of the convention was an impromptu round of The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen, which a few of us played during the IGDN Social on Wednesday. It’s a storytelling game in which each player comes up with grandiose tales of adventure and the others accept or attempt to refute your claims of amazing deeds. I hadn’t played it before and thought it was a great distraction when sitting around at a restaurant and chatting with people you’d never met before.

Thursday morning I ran a game of Psi-punk for a full table of six players. I ran Born of Two Worlds, an adventure I’m working on writing and one I ran a couple of times at Gamestorm 17. I later learned that it was uncommon for every pre-registered player to show up for their Thursday-morning games, so I was particularly grateful to have been able to playtest the adventure for a full table. I ran the same adventure Saturday night to a table of merely 3 players, but we had a great time despite the low head count.

Thursday night I got to play AMP: Year One for the first time, which was a great deal of fun. If you haven’t checked out Third Eye Games’ Supers RPG you really should. We played an adventure called The Evolution of Apex. AYO’s unofficial tagline is “No heroes. No villains. Just hard choices.” There was definitely a tough decision to make at the end of this adventure and the group was split on how to approach the conclusion.

On Friday morning I ran a game of Infestation, an RPG of Bugs and Heroes. The adventure was Toothpick Joust, which I wrote for the book, and we had a lot of fun. The players instantly hit it off and were starting to talk about solutions to the adventure’s quest before I even told them what it was (to gather a toothpick and mount for the evening’s Tootpick Joust event). In the end everyone walked away with smiles, so I think it was a pretty successful game.

Immediately following Infestation i got to play in a game of Part-Time Gods of Fate, which is the new Fate core conversion of Third Eye Games’ popular Part-Time Gods setting. The game was being run by Phil Vecchione, one of the game’s designers and a previous guest of the Accessible Games blog (read the post he wrote for us). This was the first game of Fate Core I had ever played and Phil was a fantastic GM. I feel like he really gets what Fate is all about, and he and his team did a great job of converting PTG to the system.

On Saturday I ran a game of Monster Kart Mayhem for two other players. Unfortunately I ran a bit late getting to the game and we didn’t quite get to finish it within the two-hour time slot we had, but the leading racer was only one round away from the Finnish Line so we felt comfortable enough calling it there. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun despite being pressed for time.

Finally, on Saturday night I ran another session of Psi-punk: Born of Two Worlds. This time I only had three players, but we all had a great time and I gathered some more great playtesting feedback.

Conclusion

Although I admit to having some anxiety about the convention, GenCon was a fantastic experience and one I hope to repeat. I’m incredibly grateful for the IGDN who made my experience far more enjoyable than it would have been had I just travelled there by myself with nobody to hang with.

Special thanks go to Eloy Lasanta, Chris Fuchs, Brian Cooksey, Fraser Ronald, Mark Richardson, Ryan Schoon, Jesse Butler, Jason Pitre, Marissa kelley, and Andreas Walters for allowing me to spend an inordinate amount of time tagging along with them so I didn’t get myself too lost whenever I went somewhere. Seriously, I don’t think I could have coped with the enormity of GenCon on my own, and you folks were all rockstars when it came to being a sighted guide. Another huge thanks (and my apologies) to anyone else whose name I missed, because I know there were more of you.

If there was one key lesson I could take away from my first GenCon it’s that friends may be spread over vast distances but they can be as close as those who live near you. There was no awkwardness when meeting these people for the first time–it’s as if we’d known each other our entire lives and were just getting together for an extended gaming (and work) session. If you’ve never been to GenCon before then it’s worth the expense if only to get to connect with people you may already know but haven’t had the chance to meet in person yet.

Although I’m exhausted from lack of sleep and weary from travel, I look forward to planning the trip to Indianapolis next year.

About Jacob Wood

Jacob founded Accessible Games because he wants to spread the joy of gaming to everyone, including people with disabilities. He is visually impaired and knows what it's like to need to adapt, and he brings two decades of gaming experience to the table.
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