3 Lessons from my First Gen Con

3 Lessons from Gen Con header

As mentioned earlier, I was able to procure a 4-Day badge to this year’s Gen Con.* Even though several people had given me some pretty good advice and people did their best to tell me what to expect, there was no way I could have been prepared for the giant mass of “wow” that is Gen Con. Like most things in life, you have to experience it in order to understand it.  Now that I have my first Gen Con experience under my belt, I think I really only encountered just a small tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Due to an unexpected transportation issue, I was not able to attend Gen Con on Friday as I had originally planned. And I was already planning on skipping Saturday, although it sounds like that’s the best day to go if you want to experience Gen Con in all of its glory. I already had commitments to go to Aiden’s football game in the morning and to have dinner with Christy to celebrate our anniversary. But I was able to experience quite a bit on Thursday and Sunday.

A confession: I’m not really a Gamer

I would not classify myself as a Gamer. I think I would have become one in high school if the opportunity had presented itself. I played a Star Wars role playing game with some friends once. I was a Wookiee who had once been enslaved by the Empire and was prone to going berserk whenever I encountered an Imperial agent. Very unpredictable. He was a very fun character. I remember having a good time playing that game. I wanted to play again. It just never happened. And then we all graduated and went our separate ways, scattered across the globe.

What about Dungeons and Dragons? I know I had friends who played it through high school, but the closest I ever came to the game was the Saturday morning cartoon show.

Something tells me this isn’t quite the same thing.

Killer Bunnies at Gen Con 2013Our family does love two games that aren’t on many people’s radars (but they should be):

Ninja Burger and Killer Bunnies.

We’re pretty big fans of these games. In fact, you might almost call us Ninja Burger and Killer Bunnies evangelists. We have introduced these games to countless friends. So I was pretty excited to see a Killer Bunnies display tucked away in the back of the Exhibit Hall.

It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t bring very much money with me. Because I would have bought all the Killer Bunnies. All.of.them.

I’ll play the occasional game of Risk. I’ve also played Axis & Allies once or twice.  So you can see that I’m not much of a Gamer, really. I don’t think I’d even heard of Settlers of Catan until a year or two ago. I don’t think I really fall into the Gen Con target audience. So I was a little bit intimidated at the thought of hanging out with people who clearly know exponentially more about the gaming world than I’ll ever know.

While there were times that I did feel a little bit out of my element, I had an enjoyable time. I also got to see Pavel Chekov from a distance of about 15 feet or so. That was pretty cool. Couldn’t take a picture. That wasn’t cool. I also brought home some dice. How can you go to Gen Con and not bring home dice? I think it’s a law or something.

I had an eye-opening experience during my two days at Gen Con. I learned a lot about the world of board games and will probably try to dabble in a few games here and there over the course of the next year. I also learned three pretty important lessons while I journeyed into realms unknown.

1. People watching is fun

Christy asked me if I was going to go in costume while I was there. The closest thing I have to a costume is my Chewbacca shirt. And while that shirt is all kinds of awesome, I felt like it would almost be an insult to the people who truly put time, thought, energy, and finances into their costumes. And boy, were there some amazing costumes. I think my favorite was the guy walking around in a Sandtrooper costume. Pretty standard, right? But this guy was carrying around the head of a Tusken Raider like it was a trophy. A bit of a gruesome thought, but not too far-fetched. There was also this guy:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

That’s right. That’s a costume of Raphael, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And it’s made out of balloons. The adults thought it was amazingly cool and everyone wanted a picture. The little kids? Not so much. Maybe the thought of balloons having a life of their own was a little overwhelming to them.

I was impressed with the variety of the costumes and the creativity they displayed. No Tony in a Leia bikini, though. That’s disappointing because I know he was raising money for a good cause. Fortunately, there’s always next year. And he will hit his goal next year. Oh yes. He will…

It was worth going to Gen Con just to people watch and see the costumes. And if you think wearing a sci-fi or game-related costume is weird, then you have clearly never watched an NFL game or watched a college football game, or a basketball game . Two sides of the same coin, my friends.

2. “Two are better than one”

This ties in closely with Lesson #1. I probably could’ve called this 1A, but if I learned anything in my high school English classes, it’s that if there’s a 1A, there has to be a 1B. And…well…I don’t have a 1B. And I would’ve only had two lessons from Gen Con. Three makes me sound much more smarterer. So we’re sticking with three.

There were many times during the course of Gen Con where I wished I could turn to someone and say, “Ooh! Look at that! His head is made out of Lego bricks!” or “Wow! That dude’s dressed like a Jedi and he has Yoda strapped to his back,” or “Oh look! Jawas! How’d they make their eyes glow?”or “Did you see that unicorn wearing a jetpack? Aly would think that’s pretty cool.”
Gen Con 2013
But I couldn’t. Because I didn’t go with anyone.

Attendance over the four days was 159,000. Yes. One hundred fifty nine THOUSAND people. And I didn’t see anyone I knew. Strange, huh? I know of colleagues/associates/people I don’t really know in real life who were there. We just never ran into each other. I’ll do better about that in future years. Because I’m pretty sure that Gen Con should be a shared experience.

3. It’s time to start writing again

I think this lesson is the biggest deal of all. I saw a lot of stuff at Gen Con. Most of it was cool. Some of it was pretty far-fetched. And some of it was out and out goofy. And that’s OK.

I’ve had a story brewing in my head since Christmas of last year. While I was at Gen Con, I realized that this story in my mind wasn’t nearly as ridiculous as I thought. I realized that this story must be told. So I’m going to tell it. Right there in the middle of the Exhibit Hall, I resolved to dedicate time every Friday to getting this masterpiece out of my head and onto paper. And then I’m going to finish the Horse story that I started a few years ago. And then? Well….I have a few ideas. But let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. Gotta get the first two stories written first.

Thank you, Gen Con, for inspiring me. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to return the favor.

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Gen Con 2013, a set on Flickr.

Did I get the full Gen Con experience? Probably not. Did I have a good time? Absolutely. Will I do it again? Yup. And I’ll be better prepared now that Gen Con 2013 has come and gone.

*Thanks again, Doing Indy!

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Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

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Glad you had a good time. I was a huge gamer through my 20s, and always had a tinge of regret for never getting around to going to GenCon when it came to Indy (and now I’m 2000 miles away, so going is not entirely likely. lol)

And good luck with the writing. I’m trying to hammer out some stories myself. You can do it! 🙂