WORST. GEN CON. EVER. [part the first]

That is what I would say if I were totally lying about Gen Con 2013. I’ve actually never been to Gen Con before, so I don’t have a real frame of reference for what constitutes the worst ever. But I went this year. How’s about you read all about it, after the cut?

So Gen Con is basically one of North America’s biggest annual gaming convention, taking its name from a pun on “Geneva Convention.” It began in the late ’60s, started by the late Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax. From a humble beginning – the first Gen Con was apparently attended by about 50 people – it has since grown to an event that hosted over 40,000 people in 2012. Enough history. Here is what happened when I went to My First Gen Con:

[a brief flashback first , pre-Gen Con]

When I was planning with my friends to attend Gen Con, I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. I’ve been to cons before, but on a much smaller scale, and just going to Gen Con’s website was enough to send me into a panic. The events listing runs somewhere between six to eight million different things to do (approx.), so just trying to decide what to do while there was challenging. But I got a lot of good advice, mostly from my twitter pal Scott Madin‘s partner Robin, who has been there in the past. She gave me a lot of helpful, practical tips, ranging from what to try event-wise, to what to pack on your person each day (portable snax and a refillable water bottle ftw, thx Robin). My super gamer friends Matt, Renee, and Tank also helped me decide which panels and events to attend. They put up with me for a whole weekend, which is a feat unto itself. To all of them, I am immensely grateful. And now…

Day One – Thursday

The first thing I wanted to try at Gen Con was Con Bingo, which was basically a photo scavenger hunt. I found it harder than anything else the weekend offered, because it involved asking complete strangers if I could get their photo (I hope everyone else who participated took this same tack, and didn’t just snap people’s photos without permission). Some of the spaces on the bingo card included things like “steampunk superhero,” “Where’s Waldo?,” and “cosplay mashup.” This guy had the last one on lock:


ladles, jellyspoons, and forks – presenting Dreadpool the Pirate!

The Con Bingo was ultimately pretty fun. I missed my chance to get a lot more pictures than I did, due to feeling like I was pestering people for their photos (even though folks in costume generally are aware that people will ask for their photos at cons). But I did well enough on one photo at least to get a prize in the game, which consisted of a pretty sweet-looking card game about spies based on Hearts, and a handful of gaming dice. So I got that going for me, which is nice.


your best friend with Bob and Angus, the Mayfair Sheep, in an award-winning photograph.

I also spent a lot of time on Thursday checking out the vendor hall, which is a good place to spend all the money you have in less than an hour. FYI, the vendor hall is roughly eight square miles of people buying, selling, and trading games, artwork, t-shirts, and books, etc. If you are a fan of…pretty much anything…you can probably find something related to it here.

Later in the day, I participated in craft time, which ranged from making foam weapons to basic leather crafting. I ended up making a badge holder, which turned out kind of cool, I think. I didn’t intend to put a bird on it, and yet, here we are.

badge holder

it’s a…i don’t know. a face with a bird. i guess.

After craft time, I attended a discussion called “Queer as a Three-Sided Die,” of which Renee was on the panel. The panel covered queer characters within the role-playing game universe, and also queer game-makers and their presence in the games community. I did a small live-tweet of it, which you can read here. This was a very informative and engaging panel, and I was thrilled to see how well-attended it was.

That more or less ended my first day at Gen Con. It was thrilling and a little overwhelming, so retreating to the hotel at the end of the day was a welcome respite.

Day Two – Friday

The main reason for us attending Gen Con was to support a short film Renee had created (well, okay…we all helped with it, too) as an introduction to a game she devised called “Ivanna and the Wolf.” The short film, titled the same, was done with marionettes, a style none of us had really ever worked with before. It ended up being an immensely gorgeous production, and we were all thrilled when it was added to the short animation block in Gen Con’s film festival. We had all signed up to attend the filmmaker meet and greet session, but since it started at 10am, and we are getting older, we all decided to skip it and get more sleep (it didn’t help that we stayed up until past midnight most nights).

Later in the morning, I went to a panel that I felt went well hand-in-hand with the queer gaming panel, this one on Gen Con’s updated harassment policy. As it turns out, that panel was perhaps not as well advertised, because aside from the panelists, there were only two people in attendance, one of which was me. We ended up making it a discussion instead, which was great, but overall the panel fell slightly flat. I’d hoped to see more people there, because I think it’s important for people to know what steps Gen Con has in place to handle harassment. Ah well.

Immediately after that panel was over, another one, on running an evil RPG campaign, started, and it was the first time in the weekend I got to see Tank, who is a Cool Dude, obvs.


pictured [l-r]: Tank; a Spaceball.

I also got to meet his cousin, who is not the Spaceball pictured above, fyi. After the early afternoon panel sessions, Tank and I hit up the vendor hall and he blew a bunch of coin like right out of the gate. Since I am an enabler, I didn’t try to stop him, and for these non-efforts, I was rewarded with one of those con swag bags that are simply enormous. Thank you, Tank, for enabling my obsession with bags. Ha ha ha.

Friday night concluded with the animated film block, which we all attended for reasons mentioned above. The short films presented were across the board, from claymation to traditional hand-drawn to computer generated. Some of the entries were amazingly well-made, some were less so, and one featured a really great opening, but then had a running slur against trans* people that soured the entire thing. The overall quality of the short films was impressive, and it was fun to see Renee’s work in a crowd of strangers (“Ivanna and the Wolf” was very well-received and got a goodly amount of applause at the end).

Immediately after that, Matt and I headed to the Drunken Zombie Double Feature of House on Haunted Hill (the original, of course) and Plan 9 From Outer Space. I’m a huge Vincent Price fan, so watching this with a bunch of other sleep-deprived people was a hoot, but it’s tricky to put on an MST3K-style event and not have people be annoying buttholes, which happens often. Since Matt and I were both pretty much shot from another long day, we cut out before Plan 9 started and concluded day two of Gen Con.


tune in next time for the continuing adventures of anna at Gen Con 2013!


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