Every time I walk through the doors at Gen Con, I feel overwhelmed. As many readers may know, Gen Con is the largest gaming convention in North America. Since 2009, the convention has more than doubled in attendance, and the 2014 convention continued that trend with more than a 10% increase with a turnstile attendance of greater than 184,000. This is my fourth consecutive year for Gen Con and you can certainly feel the excitement in the crowd as you enter the Indiana Convention Center. As I wander the vast expanse of tournament tables, the room almost spins. The familiarity of other conventions is quickly lost and as much as I have tried, I just can't shake it. So this year, I was determined to "figure it out". What makes things so different here?
I have played a variety of games since I was a kid. Initially, I cut my teeth on the traditional games, Risk, Stratego, and Battleship. Luckily, my oldest brother, a true enthusiast, brought home Axis and Allies, Conquest of the Empire, and Fortress America. Many a cold or rainy Sunday was spent huddled around the table as dice were rolled, territories captured and empires toppled. These afternoons allowed for the development of strategy and the appreciation for a good alliance. More importantly, it taught a lot about gaming etiquette, board maintenance and patience. Over the years, I have dabbled in Dungeons and Dragons, MMO's, and even some CCG's. I really considered myself a true gamer but have learned that I have just barely scratched the surface. Gen Con has opened my eyes to all that the gaming world has to offer and how much farther I have to go.
Luckily, I get to go to a wide variety of conventions and generally consider myself quite savvy regarding comic and pop culture. Most pop culture conventions have quite an offering of gaming venues and experiences including vendor booths, demos and even some tournaments, particularly for large platforms such as Magic: The Gathering and Pathfinder. I generally feel at home on the convention floor and can easily navigate through the vendors, exhibits and events. However, Gen Con is not your typical convention and this year really clarified that.
First, the exhibition/vendor area looks similar to any convention but under the surface there is a lot of work going on, and not just from the exhibitors but also the attendees. Around every corner and down every aisle, there are clusters of folks learning new rules and experiencing new games. There are folks sorting through bins and boxes for that perfect CCG card that will complete their deck. The floor is still crowded with browsers but the percentage of true enthusiasts is very high. The level of conversation between the game developers and the attendees at a different level than what one finds at a general convention. To the casual observer, it would often seem that they are speaking a secret language of deck building, initiatives, probabilities and objectives.
The tournament rooms have the same vocabulary. The conversations are riddled with terms that would make an outsider's head spin. But this time, I wasn't rushed to be anywhere else, so I just paused and listened. Although they were using very specific terms, the demonstrator was being very thorough. But more importantly, he was being patient
. "Now what's a VP again?" "How many victory points do I need to win?" Each question was answered thoughtfully with no assumption of prior understanding. I always worried that questions would be frustrating to the demonstrator and slow down the process for everyone involved. Here, the other attendees seemed to appreciate the questions and even offered helpful suggestions for game play themselves. This was exemplified over and over again as I wandered the floor. Everyone was not a seasoned gamer, and no one expected them to be! I now realized that the best part of Gen Con is that one of it's main goals is to expose attendees to new gaming experiences and get them excited about them! As I moved from demonstration to tournament to exhibit floor, my apprehension melted away and I was able to learn about some new and thrilling games out there that are just waiting for me to play!
So Gen Con 2014 is in the books. However, more important for me is that 2014 marked a turning point for my personal Gen Con experience and I honestly cannot wait until next year. I came away with a whole collection of new games that I can't wait to play: AEG's Smash up with 3 expansion sets, and Forbidden Desert are two that I can't wait to play with my entire family. Also, I have a huge list of new games that I can't wait to buy over the next several months including Golem Arcana which I got to demo at the convention and is featured in a separate blog post. And finally, with the new rule book release, I might venture back into Dungeons and Dragons. Gen Con is certainly a celebration for all those hardcore gamers, but it is a fantastic experience for those who are still learning the ropes!
Level 1 Warlock, looking for a party...Anyone?
What games are you playing from Gen Con 2014? Leave a comment below and let us know?