GenCon 2019 Impressions

The crew day 1This year was my best GenCon experience of them all.

TSR-GenCon-34-Program-2001My first GenCon was in 2001, when it was still in Milwaukee and it was something new for me then. Video gaming had a huge year and I am struggling to think of anything that was revolutionary in the RPG, Board or Card gaming industry in that time frame. Wizards of the Coast had come out with their version of the Star Wars RPG the year prior and they had a big presence that year. I am a huge Star Wars geek. There were some well-known television stars in attendance that year, as well.

GenCon moved to Indy in 2003. My whole family went down to try and get in that year. There was a line around the block of people waiting just to get inside the convention center. They were not prepared for the number of people that showed up, nor did they have a good plan for registration. A lot of people didn’t get in. Including us. My wife was quite pregnant then if memory serves and we didn’t wait around.

I missed a few years but then started attending again. I took my older two kids in 2008 I think it was. Four years ago, my oldest son, Nick, had his first taste of GenCon without tagging along with me. We had a pretty good time. I was focused mainly on the Writer’s Symposium. I then skipped a year and went back in 2016. 2017 was my youngest son’s first visit and he had a great time.

Cardspiracy Playtest

Cardspiracy Playtest

This year we had big plans and actually started thinking about what we wanted to do months in advance. I also did something this year that I had never done before, play in the First Exposure Playtest Room. It was so much fun I went back for seconds. I am adding this to my plan every year from now on. I got to test two new games being developed by Brainworm Inc., Dauntless Dirigibles and Cardspiracy. Both were fun and easy to learn. I hope they sell a lot of these games. Lock and Brent were fun to work with. I met a lot of game developers this weekend and the amazing thing to me is how many of these companies are run by just a couple or people. One was just one guy.

I always love the Art Show and Author’s Avenue area. Saw some amazing art and

Steve Williams Art

Steve Williams’ Art Work for BalanceSheet

perhaps an artist to do cover art if I end up self-publishing. I do plan to do some hybrid publishing of some older stuff or short works later on. Loved Steve Williams‘ stuff.

Nick and I sat in on Lisa Stevens talk about her experiences in the industry and it was amazing. It was a little misleading by title alone, Auntie Lisa’s Story Hour. She has to have been involvLisa Stevensed with more epic RPGs and card games than anyone in the last thirty years. She is now the CEO for Paizo Publishing, makers of Pathfinder. She helped develop Vampire: The Masquerade (One of my all-time favorites,) and got in on the ground floor at Wizards of the Coast and the development of Magic the Gathering. She was president of the Role Playing Game Association (RPGA) and the Star Wars fan club. Just an amazing life in the gaming industry, both as a player and a producer. So  much more to tell, but if you ever make it to GenCon, you have to sign up for this talk.

Steve JacksonRan into the legendary Steve Jackson. He is probably responsible for more games than anyone in the history of gaming. I don’t know that for a fact but he has been making games for a long time. Next year is his 40th anniversary for his game company, Steve Jackson Games. He told me they are working on an updated version of Car Wars. I had the original pocket game from back in the early 80s. They did a Kickstarter earlier this year to do a re-release of all the old pocket games.

Nick and I played a lot of games this year, including Magic the Gathering, The Red Dragon Inn, Hero Flix and a bunch of games demoed on the Exhibitor’s Hall floor. We both sprinkled in some discussion panels that we enjoyed.

I sat in on a talk with Cherie PriestCherie Priest and it was great. I also got her to sign a book, but was disappointed to find out the distributor for Half Price Books had stopped doing books about a month before the con, so they didn’t have any of her books for sale there. She is a lovely person.

All in all it was a great long weekend. What made it so great? Connecting to people. We met a lot of game developers this weekend. Nick just graduated from Indiana University with a degree in game design, so it has some real meaning for him, and it’s a great chance to get to know people in the industry, not just have fun, which we did. We actually learned a few things as well. Protospiel is a thing where game designers get together and playtest each other’s games. I had never heard of it before.

We are excited for next year, and plan to be even more prepared and do more playtesting. I will reserve an entire afternoon for walking the floor in the Exhibit Hall. Maybe two, there is so much to see and do and buy. One of these years we are going to stay in the Marriott and play all night.

Is there a convention you like to go to? Writing or gaming or pop culture?

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