That’s right, Day 0. The day before the first.
Gen Con doesn’t start until Thursday, but a lot of attendees arrive on Wednesday to get settled in and experience a pre-Con bash or two. The city of Indianapolis was quite welcoming, and thousands of geeks & nerds were finding themselves rubbing elbows with other geeks & nerds.
Which is why you’ll find the words below strangely absent of games. For me, at least, Day 0 of Gen Con turned out to be all about the meetup.
10:00 am, Chicago:
I kissed my wife goodbye, and set off on my pilgrimage to Gen Con Indy. Three hours, countless construction zones, and one terrifying pothole later, I arrived in downtown Indianapolis. Giddiness was tempered by the fact that I was driving in an unfamiliar city; once parking was secured, the giddiness was allowed to run unfettered. I lost track of it quickly; if anyone sees it, please provide it a good home.
I spent my first few minutes orienting myself to the convention center. After discovering where Human Resources was, I made sure never to go back that way again. Soon I ended up where I needed to be to pick up my badge and event tickets, and I was then free to wander anew.
It took very little time to remind myself why I loved going to Gen Con all those years ago — meeting people. The Exhibit Hall doesn’t open until tomorrow, but a lot of folks head in a day early. Within an hour, I ran into one of the guys behind Geek Bar Chicago a couple times. I met up with Twitter’s preeminent Lovecraftian librarian, the Cthulhu Chick, as she had offered up her ticket to a game event on Thursday.
And then there was the unexpected & random meeting. It hearkened back to earlier this year, when I had a Saturday free many months ago, and decided to attend the biweekly board game meetup in my neighborhood. While there, I played Stone Age a few other people, including a couple of government employees who were in Chicago for OSHA training. They tagged along while I took the train up to Chicagoland Games, we hung out, had a grand ol’ time.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this story. While wandering the Con today, someone stopped me to say ‘hello’ — it was one of the Stone Age players from that random Saturday back in Chicago. It was about this point that I started to realize that my facial hair has become a signifier for my self.
(To whit: group of Gen Con volunteers bantered with me about my facial hair as I was preparing to head to my hotel. They decided my nickname was ‘The Mustache’. No idea what prompted that.)
After checking into the hotel and grabbing some food, it was back to the convention center. Or, more accurately, back to the block party the Con had set up just outside the building. I waited in line to get into the official tapping of the official limited exclusive beer of Gen Con 2013: Flagon Slayer, from Sun King Brewing. While he line snaked past a stage, where nerd rock band Five Year Mission was performing in their Star Trek uniforms. I also chatted with a couple gents in line in front of me, who were from Warrington, England, They were in the States on a 40th birthday trek which included Gen Con.
We got into the beer garden, and the Flagon Slayer turned out to be damned tasty brew. Rich red color, sweet & citrus-y flavor, almost down the line to being a sour. While in the garden, I was stopped a few times for pictures. Not because I knew folks, but because, well, mustache.
(Seriously, it has become a symbol that’s a shorthand to recognizing me; I may be unrecognizable without my current facial hair. Which is good news if I ever need to go into Witness Protection.)
While sipping my delicious beer, I ended up in conversation with an impressively-bearded Gen Con staffer. Epic beard. It was a beard that would make a dwarf lord proud, and inspire just as much fear as an axe might.
We were joined by a local geek in a Green Lantern shirt, and proceeded to get another round of ale while we talked of nerdery, theatre, and the culture. After winding past the food trucks (so many food trucks), we ended up at a nearby pub, Tavern on South. On the menu I did spy a cocktail (the North Shore Flower) made with a local syrup and a Chicago gin.
I ended up missing my shuttle back to the hotel, but that was okay: the fellow in the Green Lantern shirt gave me a ride on the back of his scooter. Which was awesome, because of seeing the Indy sights while the winds whips through your hair. Which was terrifying, because of never riding a scooter before and not having a helmet.
That ends up being a convenient callback to the Gen Con experience: 40,000 people I don’t know, games I’ve never played, and familiarity is now a rarified thing. Potentially terrifying, or at least uncomfortable. And yet, it is filled with so much potential for new & unforeseen awesomeness.
And games. Stop back tomorrow for a post that should at least mention a game. At least one.