By Christopher Helton
I call these posts about the actual Gen Con experience themselves “Bleeding Gen Con” mostly as a joke, but this year was a hectic and busy experience. The exhibition hall grew again in size from last year and attendance was up again.
The people at Gen Con said that the con had a unique attendance of 61,423, more than 400 exhibiting companies in the exhibition hall and a sold out the retailer, librarian and educator-focused Trade Day on the Wednesday before the show started. That meant that a lot of people were milling around downtown Indianapolis from Wednesday to Sunday. There were the usual parking problems, when you have a convention bringing a lot of extra people into an area where people are already are having their work week that puts a strain on the infrastructure. Friday night, Lucas Oil Stadium also hosted a One Direction concert. Lucas Oil is about a block away from the Indiana Convention Center. I’ll let you do the math.
One thing that I neglected in my previous post was to talk about something special that happened on the first day of Gen Con, and that was Contessa. Contessa is “gaming for everyone, by women.” Starting as an online convention run through YouTube feeds and Google Hangouts, the idea behind Contessa was to have a gaming convention where women would run all of the games, as well as pitch and moderate all of the panels. This year, Gen Con asked the organizers of Contessa to put together a day-long series of events and games to be run at the convention. They said yes.
The Contessa events started with a keynote about women in gaming from Margaret Weis, co-author of the popular Dragonlance novels and game setting, Shanna Germain, co-owner of Monte Cook Games , author and poet, and editor of Numenera and The Strange from Monte Cook Games, and Stacy Dellorfano, the creator of Contessa. They also ran seminars on hacking fandoms into roleplaying games, and creating your own systems from scratch.
My pictures above don’t do a good job of portraying how busy the events were because I showed up during a lull in things. The Contessa women ran 22 RPG sessions between 6pm and 10pm, in addition to a Live Action RPG that was created specifically for this event. It was an unqualified success that they have already been asked to redo again next year.
In addition to all of this, on Friday night, Contessa also won a Gold Medal from the ENnie Awards for Best Blog. Just like with a number of the geeky fandoms, gaming struggles with issues of diversity and representation, but it is successes like these that show that change can happen.
The new Car Wars card game from Steve Jackson Games was a lot of fun as well. If you have ever wished that you had a flame thrower or missile launcher in the front of your car during rush hour traffic, Car Wars is the game for you. We managed to play a four player game in about 15 minutes. It is good, because it supports basic one-on-one gladiatorial style of play, or ongoing tournaments where your drivers compete again and again. It is a good stopgap until Steve Jackson Games launches the Kickstarter for the next edition of the “regular” Car Wars game.
I also was able to meet Max Temkin of Cards Against Humanity fame and see a demo of his new card game Slap .45. It is a cool looking Western-themed card game with a table slapping mechanic to simulate old West gun fighting. We also talked a little about about Cards Against Humanity getting into the hands of retailers. He said that they were slowly working through the process, and already 100 retailers were selling Cards Against Humanity through them, and he expected there to be a lot more retailers selling it by the end of the year. We also talked a little about his next game, which would be coming to Kickstarter. That was an interesting sounding game in the mode of games like Werewolf (the social game, not the roleplaying one). More on that will come as they get ready for the Kickstarter.
Talking with publishers and people running booths, the sales were really up this year from previous years. Sales were brisk for everyone I spoke with. Green Ronin sold out their stock of Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave for a second time on Saturday. Cubicle 7 sold through their stock of the Lone Wolf boxed sets on Saturday. Asmodee Games sold through their con stock of Mysterium, Barony, Discoveries, Takenoko Chibis, Five Tribes Naqala.Looney Labs sold out of their Batman Fluxx stock on Saturday, and Plaid Hat Games were out of Ashes. There were likely others that I didn’t see or have the sales reported back to me. Remember, there were 400 companies selling things at the show this year, and I saw a lot of people carrying a lot of things around the exhibition hall floor.
There was a lot of excitement this year at the convention. Gamers were excited about all of the great games that were coming out. Publishers were excited about the sales of new things. Gaming is slowly but surely entering into the 21st century in terms of representation. Yes, there are problems with the attitudes of those in the old guard, but sooner or later those will get better. Problems with gender issues on some panels are met by a day of gaming, panels and seminars organized by and for women. The steps may seem small, but they are being made, and that is a great thing. However the excitement to make things bigger and better was there, and will only grow during the year until the next Gen Con.
The last of the swag from Gen Con focused on some card and board games. Unfortunately, I hit my wall with what I could take back. Last year at Gen Con things were crazy, and I ended up paying the airline nearly as much as I did to the publishers, so I tried to show a bit more restraint this time around.
And, with this…Gen Con is officially over for another year.
Christopher Helton is a blogger, podcaster and tabletop RPG publisher who talks about games and other forms of geekery at the long-running Dorkland! blog. He is also the co-publisher at the ENnie Award winning Battlefield Press, Inc. You can find him on Twitter at @dorkland and on G+ at https://plus.google.com/+ChristopherHelton/ where he will talk your ear off about gaming and comics.