When I first got into boardgaming last year it was a month before Gen Con. I heard so much anticipation about Gen Con having just gotten connected to a little of the boardgaming community on Twitter, and was constantly seeing posts of people excited for the convention. Then the con happened, and I followed the heck outta some Gen Con tweets. The videos and pics of the herds of people practically trampling each other as they swarmed through the doors into the exhibit halls first thing in the morning are my most vivid recollections. And it made me almost never want to go to Gen Con. It looked CRAZY!!!!! I feel like I'd need a breath and a nice long scan of my surroundings in order to just orient myself in that huge exhibit hall, but that I wouldn't have the time lest I get trampled!
Despite my fear of probable death at Gen Con, I was super envious of the people who were there. They seemed to be acquiring awesome, newly released games; they got to meet up with friends that they only see a few times a year; and they got to basically have Gamer Summer Camp together with their friends for four or five days; and they got to game a lot, through demonstrations during convention hours and through after-hours gaming. Those parts sounded awesome. And now I will be attending my first Gen Con. A friend of mine at home was supposed to be deployed overseas with the Army, but ended up not getting sent off. As soon as he heard he was staying he said, "I'm goin' to Gen Con. Wanna come?" So here I come. And thankfully I have a few other conventions under my belt to hopefully minimize the shock of the spectacle that is to be expected at this con.
For newbie gamers and first-time convention goers, my suggestion is to start by attending smaller conventions before hitting up the insanity that is Gen Con. To follow, I'll outline my personal progression of group gaming and convention experiences.
- Home Game Group (July 2015 - present)
- Started with long game days with the game group I found at home through meetup.com
- Biweekly game nights in peoples' homes
- Biweekly game days at the library, some lasting 6 hours
- Made some good friends who would then come over to game after gaming at the library ended
- I remember gaming one night at my house until 4am--I called it a mini Wade Manor Con
- Unpub Mini (October 2015)
- Local to me, hosted by a game design group in the area
- All-day unpublished games event for designers to get their games playtested
- I playtested games with my friends for hours
- Good crowd of about 40-50 people
- PrezCon (February 2016)
- An hour and a half drive away
- It's a 7 day convention, but I only attended 4 days
- Seven hundred people in attendance competing in tournaments and participating in open gaming--I only participated in open gaming
- I didn't know many people except my fellow co-hosts on The State of Games podcast, but by the end they'd introduced me to so many new people that I'm almost comfortable enough to go back next year without needing my original friends as a comforting safety blanket.
- Unpub 6 (April 2016)
- Large, yearly unpublished games convention in Baltimore, MD
- My podcast co-hosts were busy doing game industry stuff and working, one of them being the president of Unpub, so I was mostly left on my own and became Shy Jessica
- Playtested a lot of games and played a lot of games after-hours
- Ended up making some good friends and now that I know how the event works, I'll feel way more comfortable next year (and will make sure to peruse the list of prototypes to make sure I hit the ones I'm most interested in)
- Origins Game Fair (June 2016)
- Annual convention in Columbus, OH
- Over 52,000 people in attendance, turnstyle
- I mostly participated in open gaming with new friends I made through Twitter and my podcast co-hosts (finally met a fellow contributor on the WDYPTW Podcast Thing, Patrick Hillier)
- Spent way too much money on game purchases
- Had so...much...good...food (I wanna move to Columbus, I think)
- I cannot wait until next year!!!!!!! Loved this convention so much!!!!
And that's my con history until this Thursday when my feet will cross the threshold of the Indiana Convention Center for Gen Con. I think progressing steadily through smaller then larger conventions has conditioned me to be able to survive Gen Con coming up this week....I hope. I don't have my days planned, which may be a mistake, but I know there'll be plenty of things to see, and I'm sure I'll have plenty of experiences to share.