Thoughts on GenCon 2013 Part 1
So, I’m sitting here in a bit of a fog. It’s not a bad fog necessarily. And it’s not a literal fog, although it was a little foggy overnight and this morning. No, this is just one of those fogs that you’re in after you’ve experienced something new that you’re not accustomed to. That, or I’m still really tired from being in the car for 5+ hours.
Yesterday I arrived home from my very first GenCon trip. It was quite the experience, let me tell you. No, seriously, allow me the opportunity to tell you about it. When thinking about how I wanted to organize my thoughts about GenCon, I started to have grand designs to have all these nifty sections with headings and Top X lists and such. Will I do that? OoooOOooh, suspense!!!
Yeah, I’m don’t think I’m gonna do that. Instead I will do some random stream of consciousness stuff with some quotes sprinkled in because quotes are cool!
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra
Holy herd of people, Batman! I knew going in that GenCon was going to be much bigger than Origins, the only other gaming convention I’ve attended. You know what? Whoever told me that was not lying. There was a constant stream of people everywhere. Vendor hall? crowds. Gaming halls? crowds. Registration/Will Call/Event lines? crowds.
But there was a part of the massive sea of people that was really cool to experience. It was one of those rare times where I felt a strong sense of kinship amongst a sea of strangers. Everyone there was there because of a hobby/passion/lifestyle that they love that isn’t necessarily popular outside of their circle of friends, family, and acquaintances. Now, I’m not one for cosplay (SO MUCH SPANDEX!) or some other pastimes being celebrated this past week, but just seeing everyone not having any shame or hesitation in showing their passion was encouraging.
“The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.”
― Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Meniti Bianglala
Now on the other hand, there was a darker side to the crowds that reared it’s ugly head. For those that don’t know me that well, I’ve struggled for most of my adult life with depression and anxiety. It’s something that I’ve gotten better with over the years, but can still be triggered in certain situations. Unfortunately, for a part of my time at GenCon, the proverbial bear got proverbially poked.
In my relatively short time with hobby gaming, I’ve made a surprising amount of friends and connections. Well, I guess it’s not that surprising, there are some really fun and cool people in this hobby. (OoOOoooOh, foreshadowing). Most of these people I’ve met through stumbling down the Twitter rabbit hole or have met through the Twitterati in a friend-of-a-friend pyramid scheme. My first real world exposure to these people was at Origins 2012 and 2013.
Quick sidebar on Origins vs. GenCon, based on my *cough* vast experiences with the two conferences. I’ve heard people make the comment that Origins is about the people and GenCon is about the games or the spectacle. I think GenCon is very much about networking, primarily from a business perspective. Now, that’s not horribly surprising seeing as it’s a trade show.
But I guess going into my first ever GenCon experience, I didn’t realize how different the two conferences were going to feel. There was a stretch of time where I just could not seem to connect with any of the friends I had made from cons past. I had all of these awesome new games to play, and no one to play them with. And with the slightly screwed up wiring I have in my head, I took it personally. I thought I was being avoided or ignored, and that I had some how alienated or ostracized myself from these cool and awesome people.
Now I’m not going to claim that my thoughts were completely off base. There’s likely a non-insignificant amount of truth to my feelings. But looking back now, I’m realizing that I had lost sight of how insanely vast the amount of things to do and see was at GenCon, while I was in the moment. The vendor hall is massive. Practically all of the big names in the industry are there. And there’s a large contingent of people who I consider friends who are trying very hard to make a living out of this hobby, either as publishers, designers, or reviewers/press. Also, news flash!, people’s preferences don’t always line up with mine! I know, right?!
In the end, I think I let myself get overwhelmed by the whole experience, and lost site of the realistic and rational perspective I should’ve had going in. Like a lot of things in life, I had a vision of how I wanted, and in some senses expected, things to play out, and, also like a lot of things in life, got caught up in how reality didn’t play out like the script I had in my head. I’ve learned some things personally that I plan on applying at future GenCon’s and am chalking the whole thing up as another personal development learning experience.
Looking at the nifty little word count thingie that WordPress shows, I’ve written a lot of words up to this point. So, I think from here I’m going to split this off into multiple posts. Will I actually talk about games from GenCon?! Uhh, yeah, I totally plan on it. CRAP! I totally blew the suspense on that one!