Okay, first off for anyone wondering why there’s only Act I of what is surely a standard three-act structure story available. That’s because, despite burning the midnight oil (and the 1 a.m. oil…) last Wednesday, i was not able to complete Act II before i simply had to get some sleep.
Why, you ask, when i did not have to arise early for either school or work the following day? Well that’s an easy answer.
It really was.
Attending Gen Con was a childhood dream come true, and it was totally worth the wait (although i wish i hadn’t waited so long in life to go!). Not knowing quite what to expect, the road trip began at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and we pulled into the hotel parking lot around noon. The drive from Cleveland wasn’t too bad at all, and it was a beautiful day to boot. Admittedly, i was a little disheartened when told check-in wasn’t until 3 o’clock because of the event weekend. That would have been nice to know ahead of time. But oh well. Stuff happens.
Undaunted, it was decided to just plunge right into the convention and check in to our hotel whenever we wound up back there. So back into the car we went and headed for downtown Indianapolis.
Indiana Convention Center
What a great city! Indianapolis is super nice, at least around the convention center where we were. Very clean, lots of restaurants and storefronts along the street, and people out enjoying the city everywhere. Maybe that’s not so unusual for downtown metropolitan areas, but compared to my hometown of Cleveland it sure is.
Eventually, a parking garage with space is found – at least until midnight as warned by the attendant. What happens then, i wonder? Whatevs, it was time to do what i came to do.
View from the parking garage rooftop. Deceptive – it was a beautiful sunny day!
Have you ever seen tens of thousands of gamers gathered in one area? i have, and it is awesome. In fact, literally not 30 seconds ago i got an email that announced this year’s record-breaking attendance number: 49,058 unique attendees with a weekend turnstile attendance of 159,364! Everywhere you look, geekdom abounds.
People lugging carts full of their wargame minis, deck boxes, and dice.
Ambient chatter of spell effects, rare cards, and LARPs.
And the costumes!
By the time my friend and i reached the convention center doors, we had already decided that not only would we attend next year, but also that a costume was a must. It may sound pretty dorky to your average person, but we actually felt more out-of-place is plain old civilian clothes. Neither of us even had a game-related t-shirt to speak of – something we knew would have to be remedied.
First things first – got to pick up the all-important badge!
As you can see, thanks to this-a-here Long Shot i was able to get myself a press badge. Got to pick it up in the press-only Press Room and everything. Getting authorized for one of those was very exciting. But, i’ll admit that it did me no good. Or rather, i was too overwhelmed and wrapped up in the spectacle of the convention to really give much thought to journalistic pursuits. Prior to arriving i had every intention of focusing on good reporting. But once i immersed myself in the goings-on, if i’m honest i didn’t really give a damn.
Coming to the conclusion that the best thing to do was get a lay of the land, i snagged a program booklet (more like a tome) and a coupon packet and we hit the floor for some recon. All of the main hallways were jam-packed. If people weren’t milling around same as we were, they were sitting on the floor playing games together, or dashing through the crowd to make it to an event or tournament on time, or taking pictures, or getting their picture taken. It did not go unnoticed that, outside of this event, these costumed folks probably rarely get an opportunity to don these duds in public. And if they did, chances are more than a couple snickers would be aimed their way. Not so here.
Even the simplest costumes, like Finn from Adventure Time (of which there were more than a few), got asked to stop for a pic by admirers. i mean, where else can you dress up like a Pirate Deadpool, a satyr, a wizard, Master Chief, or clockwork Ghostbusters and hear everyone who walks by tell you you’re awesome?
Since it was the first day, the place was extra busy and nowhere was this more evident than the exhibition hall – where they sell stuff. WOW! i would say that anything you can think of, gaming-related, could be found therein. However, i was disappointed to have scoured the place several times and found but a single vendor hawking VS cards. And then only a couple of booster boxes from the less-than-stellar sets like Man of Steel. Not one place selling singles or anything. i dreamt of finding boxes and boxes of singles to search through and come home with at least an extended art Dr. Doom card for my VS gaming sweetie back home. But it was not to be.
Sorry, Melissa – regular size art will have to do for now. Unless you decided to change your deck up (please!!)
There was so much other great stuff though! Cards, dice, board games, RPG rulebooks, demos, weapons (foam and real), costumes, assorted merchandise…the list goes on and on. It was tough to take it all in, because the crowds were so thick that i got carried along like a twig in the arms of a mighty river. One of the more impressive booths sold clockwork/steampunk items that the guy had handmade himself. Lots of goggles – gotta love the goggles – and bracers/gauntlets, and stuff like that. One of the pairs of goggles had a clock face on one of the lenses that really worked, with the exposed gears going up and over to the back of the harness that kept it in place on your noggin. He also had a leather bracer with some dials and switches that would make a lit orb change colors. i don’t know why but it kind of reminded me of that show Voyagers!
Other things from the Exhibition Hall:
It was a friendly Dalek – Ingratiate!
Underdark set-up for D&D gaming. This is a thing that is awesome.
Finally, after making a circuit of the place once or twice, it was time to do some gaming. For the first Gen Con gaming experience, we chose Upper Deck’s Legendary game. It’s essentially a board game that uses CCG-style cards. Basically, each player builds a deck as you’re playing, using the cards that become available each turn. It’s a co-op game, with 2-5 players trying to overcome a villainous mastermind’s schemes. Defeating minions and henchmen of the mastermind earns a player victory points, so there is an overall winner amongst the players as well, once the mastermind is defeated or their win conditions are met.
The guy who demo’d the game was okay, but he admittedly had only played the game twice before. This begs the question why he would be selected to demo the thing, but oh well. He was sketchy on the rules and unable to answer several questions i had, but nevertheless i picked up on it enough. It’s a pretty cool game actually. As a CCG player myself, i definitely like the deck-building part of it. And as someone who is hesitant to get into another CCG due to an obsessive desire to not only collect but build specific decks, i definitely like that all the cards are included with the game and no additional ones are needed (or available to buy at all for that matter). Granted, there’s expansion sets and so forth, but if you’re a card-flopper you’d recognize the difference right away. i snagged a Gen Con exclusive promo card too:
En Sabah Nur, or Apocalypse as he’s more commonly known. Or Copalypse, if you’re my friend’s three-year-old son.
After the demo, the dude asked if we wanted to get a game started to win the boxed set. So that’s what we did. Three other guys joined us at the table and we got down to business. It was a timed game – 45 minutes. The three joiners were all familiar with Legendary and had played it quite a bit even before the convention (it’s not new – but there’s a new expansion released). So that made me a little wary. i’m all about having fun…but i’m competitive too and i certainly would love to win a $60 game!
As the time drew near, a quick survey of my opponents showed me that it looked like victory was mine. That is, until one guy had a really awesome turn and took the lead using a really powerful version of Rogue that let him copy one of each of the other players’ cards…which led to another use of that same Rogue. It was nuts. At that point, there was only 1-2 minutes left. The guy next to me – my friend that came to Gen Con with me – was contemplating his move and i subtlely tried to nudge him to hurry it up. i realized i could beat a Sentinel with bystanders and take back the lead. But he didn’t pick up on my signals and the game was over. No boxed set for me. *tear*
i thought about purchasing the game anyway, because it is really fun. But unfortunately i don’t actually have many people back home who are into gaming as much – or at least that have compatible enough schedules to allow get-togethers – so i ultimately decided against it. That being said, if anyone reading this is someone i really know and would like to get a game night going then i’m down for that. Email me maybe?
From there, we wandered the halls some more. i was really just plain overwhelmed by the whole thing (in a good way). By this time we thought we’d get some fresh air and some dinner, so we headed outside to where about two dozen food trucks had lined up along the street. In addition to my love of games, i’m also quite interested in cuisine, so this was really terrific to see. There were things you’d expect like pizza and burgers, but i was more interested in the unusual things like banh mi, crawfish po’boys, and so on.
While waiting in line, we overheard a guy telling some people about how his daughter had won an art contest from Wizards of the Coast. i didn’t catch the details. A bit later, we’re standing around and see that guy and his wife bringing ice cream to a couple of female drow. Turns out one of them was his daughter. i still don’t have the details, but i did manage a snapshot of the drow.
Really terrific costumes! Flawless make-up job, cool leather armor, and got the hand crossbow in there too. Nice.
There was an entire street cordoned off around the food trucks for us gamers to enjoy the sunshine, and a local brewery had a set-up there as well. Sun King Brewery was a welcome sight, as the idea of a cold beer at that point was simply capital. Six hours in the car and straight to the convention without a fresh-up at the hotel made tossing back a cold one sound phenomenal. They even had a special brew just for Gen Con called Flagon Slayer! As much as i would have liked to have one of those, the high ABV made me wary. i went with the Wee Mac Scottish ale – a nice malty brew that went perfectly with the spicy crawfish po’boy.
A couple of guys sitting nearby approached and struck up a conversation while we ate. I’d already noticed how friendly people were to each at the convention and this was one of the best things about the whole experience. All of these people, of all ages and walks of life, and we all had gaming in common. It’s really very cool how personable people were. More than a few times, someone would just stop and ask where you are from, or what games you’ve been playing, and tell you about their Gen Con experience either this time or in the past. There’s a real sense of camaraderie amongst all the attendees. In fact, once i was back home a friend asked if i’d witnessed any nerd rage while there, and honestly i had not. No rants or raves, or bad sports, or angry tournaments players were seen.
Anyway, these two guys of course asked where i was from and what i thought of this year’s Gen Con. They lived not too far, and said they come every year. i told them how impressed i was with the city, and they explained how Indianapolis was spruced up a lot when the Super Bowl was held there. Now, anyone who knows me know sports is like the last thing i have any knowledge of, but if an athletic franchise can have that kind of impact on a city, then…Go Browns! And Indians! And Cavs!
Now we reached a crucial point – do we head back and check-in at our hotel or forge ahead? We forge ahead, of course! Turning to the program – all but forgotten up to this point – we flipped through the first few pages and realized that what we’d seen and been utterly amazed by so far was not even the entirety of the event. While most of the action took place in the main convention center, there were a total of NINE HOTELS full of gaming goodness taking place.
One of the coolest things about the convention grounds was that all the buildings are connected by skyways. So you can walk between the buildings over the streets below without having to deal with the scary outside world. My friend, being a huge anime geek, was practically salivating when we saw that one of the hotels was dedicated to anime and manga and we started our further adventures there.
The first hall we walked through had a bunch of tables set up for artists who were promoting themselves and selling prints. We stopped and talked with them a bit about what they do, and it sounds like a pretty nice life. They’re not uber-successful professionals – yet! – but nevertheless they doing their thing, honing their craft and traveling around to sell stuff and get their name out there. Hustling, basically, as well they should. i picked up a couple of zodiac character prints for people at home by artist Mandy Bouso. Up until that point i hadn’t really purchased anything, and i was impressed by these artists work ethic so i thought what the heck, why not.
My friend was really impressed with this one guy, Seth Hengstler. We talked with him for a while about how he developed his style, how he creates, and some projects he has in the works. My friend is basically an anime expert and knows his stuff. So if he says this guy is good, then keep an eye out – you’ll probably see more of him in the future. Actually, i just looked him up and it seems he has a showing at Lakeland Community College on October 5. That’s right down the street from where i live so…that’s kind of weird. i’ll make sure to stop by and say hello. If you’re into great anime artwork, i suggest you do the same. He also does custom work, and you can give him a pic or yourself or anyone and he’ll draw it anime-style for a small fee. Pretty cool!
Let’s see, what else did we do Day One? Oh yeah – there was a table set up with about a dozen or so different game pairings. You could sign up for whichever of the two you wanted, and whichever got more sign-ups would be the one the GM would run. The area was called Games on Demand. We were handed an “Elf Boarding Pass” and instructed that when we heard them give a call for Elves, that was our signal to gather (or muster, as the convention term goes). i didn’t recognize any of the games except for InSpectres. It’s a game about the burgeoning supernatural investigation and elimination market. i’d read about it a few years ago after Inception came out – a film i was very much stoked about seeing. Love that frickin’ film! Anyway, i liked Inception so much that i looked for an RPG with a similar theme to it and came across Lacuna Part I from Memento Mori. Never got a chance to play that (see above reference to lack of gaming group). Maybe someday…
Playing InSpectres never materialized though. We were supposed to come back in 45 minutes or so when the game would start, and got caught up at the Might and Magic room. Ubisoft had a pretty cool set-up because they have three M&M games: an MMO, a computer CCG, and a 3D dungeon crawl. If you played all three you got a card punched and entered for an iPad drawing. i don’t know if it was tiredness setting in, or the Wee Mac, or what, but those M&M games were freakin’ boring. i mean, i was literally falling asleep in the chair. It certainly didn’t help that the room was dark and there was a video clip on what i think was about a seven-second loop playing over and over and over and over and over on the big screen.
On the flip side, i got my card punched twice at once so i was able to skip the third game and go staight for the drawing. Also, i got to spin the prize wheel and won a M&M t-shirt. Can’t go wrong with free swag.
When they held the raffle drawing, we were disappointed that neither of our names were called, because there really wasn’t even that many people there. However, the guy whose name was called was one of the people not there, so they drew again – a second chance!
“And the winner is…Brett…”
“Yeah!” Shouted my buddy, accompanied by a fist pump.
At this point, our shoulders were raw from carrying totes of swag as well as bags of stuff we thought we’d need to bring in with us, so we headed back to the car to drop the stuff off, stretch our legs and get some fresh air. We were absolutely whooped at this point, but there was one more event we’d bought tickets for that started at 10 p.m.
Before i get to that though, i’m reminded of what i deem as the Best Thing i Overheard At Gen Con. It was while waiting in line to get event tickets for the event. So i’m standing up at the booth filling out the card to get tickets and i overhear the volunteer helping the guy next to me. He’s handed over the card where he filled out what he wants tickets for and she’s reading it back to him for accuracy.
“I’ve got you down for Forging a Foam Weapon at 11, Forging a GIANT Foam Weapon at 12…”
i could not contain my laughter. Not in a making-fun-of-the-guy way though. It just sounded so bizarre to me, and something you’d only hear at Gen Con. i thought to myself “is there a significant difference between the two?” i suppose so, i mean – you’d need more foam at the very least. Just the way the volunteer said it struck me as funny. In all fairness, we would later attempt to forge our own foam weapons only to discover the booth had closed up and left. Sad times. With real sword prices in the hundreds and some cases thousands, i thought it would be nice to return home with some kind of sword, even if one made of foam.
That’s not a giant foam weapon. THIS is a giant foam weapon.
So, yeah, the event at 10 p.m. When pre-registration began, i came across this and thought it sounded interesting: The Glitter Guild presents nerdlesque burlesque. Why not, right?
Let me tell you – it was boring as hell. Seriously, there isn’t much to speak of. Bad dancing is the first thing that comes to mind. Also, the static camera they had for the screens along the side of the audience seating was terrible. It was basically to scale, so pretty much all you could see was the background and top half of the stage unless you were sitting right next to it.
Granted, again here i was just exhausted as well as under the gun because we had to be out of the parking garage by midnight or…i don’t know what…but it was just pretty stupid really. The hostess was funny though. The only thing that saved the show was the comedian/magician Tomas Medina. Now he was entertaining. If i’m honest, i was expecting an awkward, campy magician with some corny jokes and so forth. Turns out he is a super funny comedian and also does magic. Unfortunately, i couldn’t really find anything official online to link for you readers, but i did write to him through facebook to ask about it. In the meantime, if you’re interested i believe his stage name is The Amazing Tomas, and there’s some videos out there.
When his set was done, it was about 11:20 p.m. so we excused ourselves from the ballroom and headed for the car, arriving just in the nick of time – 11:55 p.m.
Back at the hotel, we finally checked in, dropped our bags, and geeked out about all the great things we’d seen and done that day…for about 5 minutes – then we passed out.