It’s the Best Four Days in Gaming, and it all starts Thursday.
Naturally, the Addison Recorder couldn’t let such a cornerstone of North American pop culture go by without providing daily updates from the festivities in Indianapolis. And by “the Recorder,” of course, I mean me. To memorialize my return to the Con that hooked me on gaming years ago, I’ll be providing daily updates for the Recorder. On Wednesday, I’ll be heading down I-65 to check into a possibly-sketchy and definitely over-priced hotel near the IUPUI campus. (That’s one of the coolest-sounding college acronyms, when you say it aloud.)
If all goes well, that night I’ll be enjoying a glass of Flagon Slayer, the official beer of Gen Con, and writing about the pre-con atmosphere.
Since I’m going solo — and going for the first time in years — it may also go horribly awry. But at least you’ll be able to laugh at my tribulations. We can’t lose! Well, you can’t. I’ll be playing games for 4+ days, so the odds are that I’ll “lose” at something at some point. Maybe a lot of somethings.
GEN CON: A PRIMER
It’s possible that some of the Recorder’s fair audience does not yet know the glory of Gen Con. That’s perfectly okay; pull up a chair and I’ll tell you a tale of cardboard, paper, and dice — oh, so many dice.
Gen Con is a convention that celebrates tabletop gaming as its core purpose. As happens with geeky cons, it also encompasses tangential forms of geek culture over the course of four days in downtown Indianapolis.
It all started in the late ’60s, when a fellow named Gary Gygax hosted a few of his wargaming friends in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The first, informal gathering turned into a small convention attended by a couple hundred people each year.
In the mid-’70s, this Gygax fellow — along with another con-goer named Dave Arneson — published the grandaddy of roleplaying games, Dungeons & Dragons. Within a few years of D&D’s publication, Gen Con attendance started to go from a few hundred to a few thousand.
Over the next decade, Gen Con moved venues a few times, in order to accommodate the growing attendance. It was always somewhere in southeastern Wisconsin, finally landing in Milwaukee.
From there we jump another decade to the mid-’90s, where Gen Con was measuring attendance in the tens of thousands.Why do we jump to this time period? Because this was when I started attending my first Gen Cons. As a kid who grew up an hour north of Milwaukee, I started hearing about this convention — a veritable Mecca for tabletop gaming in North America.
(Literally: the convention center that hosted Gen Con was known as the MECCA.)
The amount of words it would take to convey how influential Gen Con was on my formative years would make for a whole ‘nother story, so I’ll leave it at that. But these weren’t formative years just for me — Gen Con went through a dizzying number of ownership changes.
First, the company that published D&D (and owned Gen Con) was bought by Wizards of the Coast (the company that published Magic: the Gathering), which was then bought by toy giant Hasbro (publishers of Candy Land). Hasbro would later sell Gen Con back to Peter Adkison, the former head of Wizards of the Coast.
Oh, and it moved from Milwaukee to Indianapolis.
The event emerged from this tumult with the name “Gen Con Indy,” so as to differentiate itself from the other regional (and international) Gen Cons which had popped up and disappeared over the years. All of this brief history leads us to…
GEN CON INDY 2013
What will this week hold for me? I honestly don’t know.
Gen Con has changed considerably in the decade since I was a regular attendee. I’ve been to Gen Con Indy once, a few years back, but not for the full four-day convention.
There are over 10,000 events taking place over the Con, so I won’t be without options. There’s also a massive exhibit hall full of games and gaming companies. There are concerts, an exclusive beer, a cocktail reception & awards show, and over 40,000 people to meet and game with.
It’ll be an adventure, at least. Another good story or four for me to tell on the Recorder. Stop back over this week to see what chicanery I get into in downtown Indy!