Annual Gen Con Survival Guide


Gen Con is coming next month.  For those of you who are unaware of what this convention is all about, it basically is 36,000 science fiction/fantasy/military history fans descending on Indianapolis for four days of playing role playing, electronic, board and miniature games.  It is a geek-fest second only to San Diego ComicCon in terms of fun.

I go because I love it.  I enjoy meeting with publishers, playing games, meeting fans, almost all of it.  For several days I embrace my less-than-inner nerd.  If you love gaming and you’re not going – well, you’re missing something.

Attending Gen Con requires a strategy all on its own.  So, tongue firmly planted in my cheek, here’s my annual rendition of my Gen Con Survival Guide!

Tip Number One:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy.

Tip Number Two:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  (PS.  Beef Jerky is not a good public snack – no one looks good tearing off a piece of stinky meat.)  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light.  Sidebar:  Remember your Gen Con food groups – Diet Mountain Dew, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Pointless Carbs.

Tip Number Three:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a torrent of people rushing to get in.  Don’t fight it, ride it in.  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out.  Nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.

Tip Number Four:  Don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.

Tip Number Five:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.  Trust me, she’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention.

Tip Number Six:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower.

Tip Number Seven:  Taco Bell Burritos are not breakfast.  Frankly, I’m not sure that they even have meat in them.  You are what you eat – and in this case, that makes you “questionable.”  The smell of burritos in the morning is not the smell of victory, it’s the smell of desperation and despair.

Tip Number Eight:  Eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.  While we’re on it…

Tip Number Nine:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish.  Not cool dude. We’d like to be invited back next year.

Tip Number Ten:  If people have to guess at what your costume is, it sucks.  Take it off.  Go play D&D.

Tip Number Eleven:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book.

Tip Number Twelve:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you?

Tip Number Thirteen:  Do some prep work.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

Tip Number Fourteen:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have an aroma (see Tip Six.)

Tip Number Fifteen:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

Tip Number Sixteen:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.

Tip Number Seventeen:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same.

Tip Number Eighteen:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful.

Tip Number Nineteen:  Go early.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish.

Tip Number Twenty:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win.

You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

Tip Number Twenty-One:  Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it.  If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out.

Tip Number Twenty-Two:  Don’t wear costumes that are creepy.  A 49 year old 300 lb. unshaven dude wearing a Sailor Moon costume is not creative – it’s an invitation to a Dateline Catch-a-Predator episode.

Tip Number Twenty-Three:  Try some things you’ve never played before.  Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

4 thoughts on “Annual Gen Con Survival Guide

  1. Kevin Rivenburg

    In reference to tip number 19, quit giving away our GenCon secrets. We don’t want the pods getting mobbed when we’re planning to play. Also, not sure if I am qualified but I had a couple more tips:

    – Be careful wandering around Indy during the Convention. Last year there was some big biker rally/event a few blocks from the Convention Center. I’m not sure that geeks and bikers are a good mix.

    – To add to tip number Twenty-Two – 300 lb Pricess Leia in the gold bikini. Good idea or bad idea? You be the judge.

    1. Author and Historian Blaine L. Pardoe

      Good points Kevin. I should also have added “Buy a Growler” Saves on trips to the bar.

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