GenCon is held each summer in Indianapolis, Indiana. It touts itself as “The Best Four Days in Gaming” and I agree. The focus isn’t on video games like you might expect, but on board games, card games, role-playing games, and miniature wargames. It is a massive affair and you cannot possibly see and do it all. Having just come back from my fifth GenCon, these are five things that should definitely be on your list if you make the trek.
Best 4 Days in Gaming
1) Wander the Vendor Hall
It’s pretty much mobbed from open to close, but you must spend at least some time wandering the aisles. There are big names like Fantasy Flight Games alongside small independent companies that are the ones you should really check out. The big guys will be in your local games store, but the small guys might not, so this is your chance to demo great games you’ve never heard of and take them home on the spot.
Grab a demo or two while you wander. That’s why everyone is there and games are set up so that you can get a feel for things within a short time. You’ll play with people you don’t know and that’s just fine. It’s part of the fun of being in a place where everyone is a game enthusiast.
2) Watch the Cosplay Parade
Some shiny Firefly cosplay. Photo credit: Nicole Wakelin / Nerdy TravelingMom
The cosplay parade at GenCon happens on Saturday afternoon and it’s not to be missed. Any cosplayer can participate in this march through the convention center to an area outside the vendor hall where they all gather. It’s a great chance to take pictures without clogging up the aisles of the vendor hall.
There’s a competition that the really hardcore cosplayers can sign up for, but not everyone wants to dress up to that level. The parade lets everyone, no matter their skill level, show off the costume they’ve created for the convention.
3) Eat at Scotty’s Brewhouse
You have to take a break from gaming sometime and that means squeezing in a few hours of sleep and grabbing something to eat to keep you going through your next game demo. There are food options aplenty, but my can’t-miss meal is at Scotty’s Brewhouse which is a favorite with Indianapolis locals. They rename the foods to things like Goblin Fried Pickles and Ectoplasmic Dip, play geeky movies all day, and have the 501st on hand in the evenings for photos. Also, you get a limited edition die that’s a different color each day of the convention. One can never have too many dice. Good food. Good beer. Free dice. Enough said.
You know that tower you built on your kitchen table with a handful of playing cards? Imagine that, but with hundreds of cards from all different kinds of games stacked into towers that start on the floor and rise up above your head. This charity event is open to anyone with some very creative types building clocktowers and even dragons.
Saturday night at 10:30, it all comes to an end. Everyone throws coins at Cardhalla to knock it down with frantic bidding taking place to see who gets to toss the first coin. It takes people three days of careful balancing and folding to bring it all together, but it takes roughly two seconds to send it all crashing down to the ground in a pile. All the coins are collected and donated to local Indianapolis charities.
5) Play All the Games!
This is The Best Four Days in Gaming, so play some games. There is open gaming everywhere, even in the hotel ballrooms, and if you don’t have friends at GenCon, then you’ll easily make some. People want to play with all the games they just bought and will be looking for players ready to join up. Don’t be afraid to jump in and try a new game with a whole new group of gamers. You will never have a better chance to play games with people who love them as much as you do.
Just remember, food, sleep, and a daily shower are important parts of the convention experience, too. You can’t see it all, so don’t stress. Instead, enjoy what you do see and make the most of every minute. It’ll all be over before you know it!