Friday, August 23, 2013

My GenCon Rant

As I keep mentioning in my posts, GenCon, the gaming convention so ultimate it was once housed in the MECCA, was held in Indianapolis this past weekend.  I did have a few friends go out to attend, but despite a few pleasing posts on Facebook, I haven't gotten even a broad overview of their activities.

I've been scouring a few select sites looking for pics of any wargames, and it's a bit sad. Outside some pics from Miniatures Building Authority and Alien Dungeon, the quality of the photos, as well as the quality of the games look like filler at a local con.  And, of course, the problem is I've already seen most of the All's Quiet on the Martian Front terrain, and I've played more hours on the MBA tables than you could have if you played every available session on those tables at GenCon.

Actually I think the problem is me.

I have never been the target demographic for GenCon.

First off, I barely have a desire to be in the company of 20,000+ people at a professional sporting even or concert for a few hours, much less, four days with nearly 50K worth of geeks.  My last "big con" days were Origins before their permanent home in Columbus was established.  Four to six thousand people is more than enough.  I got to do what I wanted, the vendor hall still had some mystery to it, plus I had a few moments respite between "bouts of the unexpected."

While I know dozens of people who were regular attendees at Indy and Milwaukee, I take the opinion of my friend Wooly to heart the most.  He attended one of the GenCons in the mid-90s under the wing of Global Games' Strykeforce Global.  While it was during the great debacles known as Inferno, the X Game, Abyss, and the ill-timed Stars Wars Minis sub-licensing, the Legion of Steel guys just ran their games to capacity tables and had fun.  Wooly's reaction to the rest of the con?  It was just too big (and it was a sub 20K crowd that year).  Although he had time to go do other things, the sheer size brought on a malaise to stay where he was and not venture out.  Sure, his gaming knowlege and experience wasn't as broad as mine has shrunk to currently, but I've read enough post con blogs this week to see a pattern:

Show up, play in one new game demo, play in some established game with people you know, stalk the vendor hall to see if you can snag some quality swag from "Heroes of Xyz The RPG Collectible Mini Boardgame,"  or pick up your Kickstarter.  Buy some new game that in a couple of months you'll wished you had picked up cheap on Amazon.  Meet a quasi-famous person and either be underwhelmed or worship them as the new Messiah.  Attend a seminar then complain about the in house food options, because it's not like there's thousands of mouths and bodies that could interrupt your dining pleasure.

I mean, the one fellow, who was there Friday and Saturday, played in an "amazing" 15 or 25mm Age of Sail game that looked equal to the great Gnome Naval battle at Cold Wars '11, and while impressive, this game had the "felt" look, with unpainted terrain.  Great for a club game, or a local con, but dude, you're at GenCon...  I just didn't feel it.

He and his sun then tried out demos of Leviathan and Freeblades, snagged a few minor goodies because the good stuff runs out by 10am and then they ooohed and aaahed over some WW2 board with half painted buildings.  If your table's figs, terrain, and cloth are such identical shades of white that the Klu Klux Klan wants to sponsor your game, you need to learned shading, and even dry brushing white.

And that's it... He and his son paid, what, sixty bucks apiece to play in a decent naval game that was suited for a regional con, two demos (He did pick up some Freeblades), some minor items he could have waited to pick up at the FLGS and spent the rest of the weekend soaking up geek ambiance and food truck grease. Granted, there are a lot more expensive ways to spend a weekend with your kids, but when you have Star Frontiers games using the Marauder 2100 rules, Live Dungeons, and a disco party, if you're going to go to Rome, grabbing a toga is fine, but don't visit the Colosseum and the other tourist traps, find something really new and different.

And don't even get me started on Cosplayers.  I have a whole separate post on them covered in a "Hostile Nerd  Syndrome" post I'm working on.

Now I'm not all doom and gloom, people do have fun doing the things they love.  Phil over at Adventurous Endeavors had a blast in the Cthulhu Masters Tournament, and his wife at Skewed Shadows got to attend a rockin' writer's seminar. I eagerly anticipate their reports on the con, and not just at the early Labor Day picnic this weekend.

Here's the thing.  I feel I sowed my con wild oats early and often.  Convention L'Outrance, if you will.  I probably will never make it to GenCon or Essen, but if you do, for Christ's sake and the other Cosplayers, do something completely flipping awesome.  You can play in a 32 player Magic tourney or a six player Catan game, or a generic dungeon crawl anywhere.  Go big or stay home.

And nothing beats a drive home from Columbus with Phil in the car...  

None of the people in this picture are wearing pants, but you wouldn't know unless I mentioned it.

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