If you love board games, the odds are that you are well aware what it means when someone tells you they are going to Gen Con. If you are just a casual board gamer, or not one at all, you may have heard of it simply for its abundance of cosplay. What Gen Con means to those have an obsession with board games though, is that it is their one chance every year to spend four days participating in epic rounds of RPG and other types of games with people from all over the world, learning about new releases from their favorite developer, and discovering new and upcoming favorites from independent gaming companies. Gen Con’s 50th anniversary saw the event attract its biggest crowd ever while gaming history was celebrated.
This was my first time attending Gen Con, and right away I was in awe of the sheer size of the floor space it takes up. In the main convention area, there is of course an exhibitor’s hall, but there is also a huge hall with seemingly endless rows of folding tables and chairs that are designated for scheduled matches with some of the most popular board games. The play areas range from a simple plain table with a sign denoting what game will be played to huge intricately detailed dioramas to play out a war upon. These areas are probably not even half of the convention though. The convention’s events spread throughout nearly each and every room in the Indiana Convention Center and it even extends into several nearby hotels including the Westin, JW Marriott, Hyatt Regency, Embassy Suites, and the Omni Hotel. As if that’s not large enough, the events even spill into nearby Union Station and the playing field area of Lucas Oil Stadium.
If your main reason for coming to the convention is to see what the latest releases in gaming are, then Gen Con’s exhibit hall will not disappoint you. With around 500 exhibitors, there is definitely something for everyone. The family section had some great games like The Chameleon and Cobra Paw if you happened to bring the little ones with you. For the more hard-core gamer, my favorite was by far was the preview of Star Wars: Legion that I witnessed from Fantasy Flight games. I would have definitely splurged on it if the game were released yet. The makers of Exploding Kittens and Bears vs. Babies had one of the most popular displays though. It was a human-operated vending machine where, for $1, you could opt for a mystery gift which included things like full pineapples, an eggplant trophy, and a mohawk wearing watermelon among many others.
In total, Gen Con boasts over 18,000 individual events. The events range from playing Japanese video games to podcasting tutorials to euchre tournaments to LARPing. There is even a self-defense class taught by a kung-fu instructor on the schedule. In addition to these, there is the annual cosplay contest in which each contest gets two minutes on stage to woo the judges. You better be rested up if you plan on attending too many events though, because unlike most conventions, the events at this convention go throughout the night on into the next day.
As you roam the halls or the food truck area just outside the convention center, you hear all kinds of conversations. You hear people bragging about an epic battle against orcs that they just partook in or fighting a huge swelling blob or using their wizard skills to dispatch of their foes. The great thing is that there is no negativity any where throughout the convention. Everyone who attends Gen Con is there to indulge in their obsession and to quite possibly be drawn into new ones. As I heard the former Indianapolis Colts punter, Pat McAfee, say in the press room, “It’s just a sea of love out there.”
Did you attend Gen Con 50? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments below!