I have been to many conventions ranging in purpose and in size. GenCon is different from anything I’ve ever experienced. It boasts being the original, longest-running gaming convention in the world, and it lives up to the hype. The convention runs from early Thursday morning to late Sunday evening during the first weekend in August. There are events and gaming experiences happening 24 hours a day. GenCon takes place at Indianapolis’ Indiana Convention Center, but spills over into the Lucas Oil Stadium. It covers the entire football field with various events and activities.
One of the activities found on field of the Lucas Oil Stadium included an area in which to play Artemis, a Star Trek bridge inspired co-op game. There was also an area for children stocked with a plethora of enticing toys and games for kids of all ages. But my favorite was a game library stocked with hundreds of donated games which can be checked out and played. Don’t know how to play? Don’t have enough people to play with? They have that covered with a simple color-coded flag system. Grab a yellow flag and sit it by you to show you need more players, grab a red flag to show you want someone to teach you how to play. Other events spread out into other areas around the Convention Center and Indianapolis as well.
Being the longest-running gaming convention in the world, GenCon has developed a unique way to manage event crowds: they require tickets for entry to most things.
Many events require tickets for a nominal fee around $2, but some are free, and some are pricier. While this ticket system may have some balking at the idea of shelling out more money after buying the pricey convention badge, it’s a clever way to decrease waiting in line and being turned away from crowded events. Anyone who has been to a certain convention in Atlanta around Labor Day can truly appreciate the convenience of this ticketed system.
There’s a lot to do at GenCon. You can find a place at the table for about any game you can imagine any time of day. The convention also offers several non-gaming-related events. They had quite a few craft-a-long events, a self-defense course, and even an intro to Bollywood dancing class. No matter your interest, you’re bound to have a great time.
No convention is complete without an exhibit hall, and GenCon isn’t an exception. There is a lot to see, purchase, and experience. Many talented artists display a wide variety of goods ranging from handmade cosplay pieces to accessories for a wide variety of games. Larger brands were there in force, as well. One of my favorite parts of the whole convention was walking around and seeing all the demos going on in the exhibit hall. I love the hands-on approach, getting a feel for how a game plays out. Another really cool aspect of GenCon and its exhibit hall is the ability to talk to and directly interact with the editors and creators of the games displayed. That’s not an opportunity you get every day, and it’s really neat to talk with the people involved in bringing to life a beloved game.
This convention is massive, and it encompasses so many different aspects of gaming. My only regret is not preparing more so I could experience more of what GenCon had to offer. They had areas dedicated to LARP, they had True Dungeon set up in a part of Lucas Oil Stadium, movies, tournaments, and so much more that I didn’t even get to. This convention is a must for any gamer. I highly recommend the experience.