The Best Four Days in Gaming are over, but the memories of Gen Con 2014 are still warm as our dice-calluses gradually heal.
Gen Con began 47 years ago, tracing its history to the living room of legendary game-creator Gary Gygax. Tabletop war-gaming was cutting edge in the 1960s as the world rediscovered Tolkien’s works, and folks decided to meet up in regional conferences for the International Federation of Wargaming. As the conference grew, Gygax and others met up and began to talk about ideas for roleplaying, conversations that grew into the first Dungeons & Dragons.
Two generations later, Gen Con is stronger than ever, attracting people from all over the world for board games, miniatures, and role-playing. More than 56,000 people attended, a new record and a 17% increase from the previous record set last year.
Gen Con is growing to consume all the space it can of downtown Indianapolis. Already special rooms for anime, halls for gaming companies giving demonstrations, and the Live-Action Role-Players have spilled into nearby hotels.
Other rooms in the Indianapolis Convention Center were dedicated to writers and crafters, with four days packed full of classes and panels beyond the gaming table. The Exhibit Hall, expanded to 30 rows, was jammed with 400 booths and tables. Player spaces were constantly packed, and the roar of energy filled every corner as people rolled dice, laid cards, grabbed awesome t-shirts, and packed up boxes of awesome games. Major firms on the floor included Paizo and Wizards of the Coast for the role-players, Mayfair, Fantasy Flight, and Rio Grande for board gamers always on the lookout for a new style of play, and international innovators iello and Asmodee.
While other conventions might let the smaller folks fall through the cracks as the big boys play, “Gen Con remains about friends, family, and fun,” according to show owner and president Adrian Swartout. Special space was reserved for the Family Fun Pavilion, where gamers of all ages could pick up donated copies of games and learn principles of play, both for making logical moves and in how to be a good winner or loser.
An “Entrepreneurs’’ Avenue” held 36 booths for newcomers, with all kinds of innovations in games, as a golden age of game creation is being born thanks to crowd-funding. Gen Con’s Marketing Fellowship program enabled six innovators to kick their presentations into overdrive with booth upgrades and displays. Griggling Games brought its encouraging perspective of future human spaceflight in Destination: Neptune; Incredible Expeditions delivered steampunk adventure in a race for Atlantis; and Devious Weasel, who piloted classic fantasy strategy Shadows of Malice last year in the play-testers’ “Double Exposure” room, returned with an impressive new edition, as well as interpretive dancers.
Eventually, the fervor all had to come to an end as gamers returned to their homes and the halls went quiet. But the spirit of Gen Con lives on, not only in our new mounds of games to play, but in the massive charitable donations made by folks willing to spread the love. Parks & Rec’s “Cones of Dunshire” came to life alongside the annual slaying of the giant “balloon creature” (last year a spider, this year an ogre) and the demolition of Cardhalla by tossed quarters, resulting in $40,000 in cash donations to Gleaners Food Bank. These creative takes on donating go to show what good can be done along with a little fun.