Con Review: GenCon – August 2016

Game demos

By: Transmute Jun

I just returned from my second trip to GenCon, which was held from August 4-7, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. GenCon is a large con, hosting about 61,000 people (in 2015, 2016 data not yet available) and is the largest gaming-centric convention in the world. All kinds of games are represented at GenCon, including role playing games (RPGs) such as Dungeons & Dragons, tabletop games (board and card games, such as Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity), card collecting games (CCGs) such as Magic and Pokemon),  live action role playing games (LARPs) where participants act out the roles of the characters they play), and video games. If you play any kind of game, you will find something you will enjoy at this event. There are also a lot of peripheral game activities, such as miniature painting seminars (many role playing and tabletop games use miniature figures as part of the game), craft seminars (armor and costume-making among them), game design seminars, anime and cosplay panels, and comedy shows relating to gaming. GenCon also boasts a large number of Writers’ Symposium Events, where people who are serious about writing fiction for a living can get advice directly from authors, editors, agents and publishers.

Pokemon booth

The largest and most well-known event at GenCon is True Dungeon, where groups of ten players move through a constructed dungeon, fighting monsters as a party of adventurers and attempting to make it out alive. The degree of immersion of this event makes it extremely popular, and it sells out well in advance, despite running continuously in multiple sessions over the entire four days.

One of my favorite events is the Gamers: Live performance, where the stars of the Zombie Orpheus Gamers films perform live improv, much to the delight of the audience. This event was increased to two entirely different performances this year.

Waiting for the Exhibit Floor to open on Thursday morning.

Like most cons, one of the most popular destinations at GenCon is the exhibit floor. GenCon’s exhibit floor is large, with many big, commercial booths, all of which relate to gaming in some way. The major tabletop game, CCG and RPG companies (like Mayfair and Upper Deck) are present, as well as major gaming retailers (such as Paizo and Chessex) These booths are loaded with promos and exclusives and demos, which lure in almost every con attendee at some point during the event.

As in prior years, this year GenCon grew in attendance, yet continued to run smoothly, with events running inside the convention center as well as in many of the surrounding hotels. For the first time this year, GenCon expanded to Lucas Oil Stadium (next door to the convention center) which significantly increased the space available to attendees. Although there can be issues with securing a downtown hotel, compared to other cons its size, GenCon is easy to attend, although a first time attendee might be slightly confused by the event registration system (GenCon attendees register for events in advance, which means that lines are almost non-existent at this con).

Exhibit Floor

This year I attended a variety of events, from role playing games (even participating in a tournament) to painting seminars, to writing sessions, to comedy shows. While True Dungeon and Gamers: Live were notable, I especially enjoyed learning more painting skills and engaging in role playing events. My family appreciated the zombie LARP and playing different Cthulhu and Doctor Who games. We were playing at all hours of the day, from early in the morning to late at night. We could have played through the night, had we wished, but we needed at least a little sleep!

If you think you might be interested in attending GenCon, be sure to check out my 2015 GenCon review (which contains more information on logistics, including a comparison to San Diego Comic Con) as well as our GenCon discussion on the FoCC forum.

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.