It’s almost that time of year, folks. It’s that time of year when the streets of our fair city are filled with strange people wearing weird costumes and t-shirts with ridiculous phrases. (It’s a Rat Flail!) They speak in code and carry strange polyhedrons on their person. They hold elaborate free form plays in crowded hotel suites and thousands converge on the Indianapolis Convention Center in search of swag, treasure, and the chance to find that issue of Dragon Magazine that had the chick with the chainmail bikini. That’s right…It’s almost time for Gen Con.
I know what you’re thinking…”Oh no, not that again!” “What’s Gen Con?” “Whoa whoa whoa…you mentioned bikinis?”
The answer is Yes, I’m about to tell you, and shame on you. Google is your friend.
Gen Con is one of the largest gaming conventions in the United States. Dedicated to Role Playing Games (RPGs), Collectible Card Games (CCGs), and Wicked Tarrasque Fights (WTF), it’s a four day convention of epic nerd proportions. Attracting over 28,000 people from all walks of life it’s quite exciting. It can also be really overwhelming if you are not prepared for it.
That’s where I come in! For years I’ve posted entries on my other blog talking about Indianapolis and Gen Con and I decided to offer some friendly advice on what to do while you’re here. I’m here to give you the skinny on Gen Con, some info about downtown Indy, and some old fashioned common sense for while you’re visiting.
The Con Itself
Lets start with some history. Gen Con was originally held in Lake Geneva Wisconsin, home to the legendary Gary Gygax. It was small then, only having 100 attendees who were mainly members of the International Federation of Wargamers. The name Gen Con comes from “Geneva Convention”, and the shortened version of the name has been used ever since.
The con has grown steadily over the years. It outgrew it’s home of Lake Geneva and was held in Milwaukee for many years. In 2003 Gen Con had outgrown it’s location yet again and moved to Indianapolis where it has been ever since. The con has changed greatly since it’s early days, where board games, wargames, and the first iterations of Dungeons and Dragons were it’s mainstay. Now you can find everything from video games to live action dungeons!
What’s the appeal? Gen Con certainly is a different sort of convention than what many people are used to. I had to attend a convention once for work where we spent the days attending panels on Group Management and Inspiring Our Peers; I would have given my left arm to have left and wandered a dealer’s room or played a round of Nuclear War instead of awkward meet and greets where you pretend to discuss what you “learned that day.”
Gen Con is a lot of fun though and has done it’s best to branch out. If you love board games, their are ready to play demos in the Exhibition Hall (Dealer’s Room) as well as tournaments you can take part in. (There’s even an Apple to Apples tournament if I remember correctly.)
Don’t like gaming as much? Perhaps you want to meet and greet with celebrities or attend workshops that deal with things you are interested in? How about these celebrities to hold you over!
Felicia Day, of The Guild and Doctor Horrible Fame. She’s hilarious and an amazing singer. Wil Wheaton, who plays the “Evil Wil Wheaton” on Big Bang Theory and a supporter of geeks everywhere.
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, who wrote many of the Dragonlance and Deathgate Cycle. Weis continues to develop TV shows like Smallville and Supernatural into RPGs while Hickman’s career has branched into everything from fiction to his famous “Killer Breakfast.” A friend of mine described his breakfast as the “Best Death Before Breakfast” he ever had!
As for workshops, Gen Con has just about everything you can ask for. From workshops on making actual chainmail, art sessions where you can learn to improve your fantasy art, to writing workshops which touch upon the important skills and fun thrills of being a writer, Gen Con tries to offer something for every member of the family.
Would you like to know more? Click here for the Gen Con event catalog!
In Ze Indy Indeed!
…I’ve got nothing on that title. I needed one, so I went with the first thing in my mind which was a stereotypical Frenchman. Sue me!
(Please don’t, I’m poor.)
So many of you reading this have probably never been to Indy before. For those that have you might not realize all that our city has to offer. Let me tell you about Indianapolis.
Indianapolis has done it’s best to be as family friendly and fun as possible. With the largest zoo in the state you can stop by and see our White Rhinos and as of this summer the Cheetah exhibit! (Did you know they may technically be canines? Weird.)
Downtown is almost home to the Indiana State History Museum and the Eiteljorg Art Museum. Showcasing Indiana history and some of the best Native American art in my opinion, they’re great places to take the family and take in some culture. On the Circle you’ll find the Indiana War Memorial, cateloging Indiana’s involvement in every US conflict.
Located just around the corner from the convention center is Circle Center Mall! Circle Center not only has great places for shopping but has a large food court, many restaurants for those looking for a bite to eat. The Circle Center Theater on the top floor of the mall usually has specials and shows geeky movies during the con. Last year I caught the midnight showing of Serenity while at the con. How can you say no?
My favorite places to eat downtown during the con are as follows:
The Ram is a popular bar downtown that caters to the Gen Con crowd. They run a special menu during the convention which includes their incredibly tasty Ram Chips as well as their equally fantastic hamburgers. They are also a microbrewery and showcase new beers at the event. I remember when Privateer Press hosted the bar during the convention. I miss me some Khadoran Ale!
The Palomino. You want to take your princess out for a nice meal? Maybe your knight’s been especially patient during the con. The Palomino is a nice place to go and eat downtown. It’s menu is a mix of Italian and Continental but the food is great if you don’t mind the wait!
The Claddach Pub is my personal favorite while downtown. An Irish pub, I’ve lost many a braincell and flat out abused my liver while there. It does tend to get crowded but some of the best friends who I have no idea who they were at the time were found there. The beer is great and the Jameson Steak is 2d4. (2d4? Two die four? Get it? It’s a gaming article!)
Asian Ciao. Asian Ciao is Asian Ciao. It has bourbon chicken. Look, bitch all you want but if you’re in a hurry and need to stuff your face Asian Ciao has cheap bourbon chicken.
There are also plenty of CVS style stores and liquor stores downtown to cater to your needs. Make sure to check with your hotel concierge or search Google Maps for the closest one to you!
Now to end on a serious note but something really important…
It’s Safety Centaur Time!
Hi folks! I’m the Safety Centaur! I’m here to give you helpful tips on how not to hurt yourself and enjoy your time at Gen Con!
What? You don’t want to be lectured to like you’re a kid and I’m not a licensed mascot? Touche, but with the fact that some people end up hurt every year while downtown and the fact I’ve seen people been taken advantage of means I’m going to do it anyways.
I’ll start with the touchy issue first: Indianapolis like many large cities has a homeless problem. At almost every street corner you can find war veterans, single mothers, and homeless men asking for money. In years past I have warned people away from providing money to them because of safety issues. I’ve also had a change of heart on the subject and have given money to them anyways. It’s a serious issue for which I have no real answer.
But what’s important to realize is that the people asking you for money aren’t some Random Encounter put in to make the adventure more interesting. They’re real people, which means like real people there’s a ton of things to consider. Some of them really do need the money and without the help of telepathy it’s hard to tell who really needs the money to feed their kids and who is looking for their next fix.
If you are uncomfortable with the panhandlers I recommend walking with friends and ignore them. If they step in your path do your best to walk around them and if they get aggressive do not be afraid to seek assistance. If you wish to help them, remember that they can use more than just money and some really appreciate cool drinks on a hot day or food. If you do give them money, be careful about flashing any large amounts of money around on the street as that can attract the wrong attention.
(For the record despite working for United Way I want to reiterate I am not a trained social worker, so please treat that last paragraph as advice.)
DRINKING! Lots of people are going to do it. Hell, ther are going to be parties every night while at Gen Con. Depending on where you go you might find flavorful theme drink specials at some bars or if you are really lucky you might get into the White Wolf party where there is an Open Bar.
Now we’re adults here. I’m not telling you not to drink. But drink safely when you do. Seriously.
Cabs can be found on every street near the bars downtown, and while cabs can be expensive here is something you should consider: Indianapolis is struggling in this economy. While I respect our local police department I do know that they are in a pinch and are being extra vigilant in monitoring cars on the road. Most of the time this involves writing up tickets to people but they will crackdown on drunk drivers. Drunk driving is also a pet peeve of mine.
If you plan on drinking, either walk from your room to the bar or drink locally. Arrange for a ride to pick you up or see if a friend can give you crash space. Call a cab if you’re drunk. Anything is better than the alternative and I know people who get pulled over by the police or crash their car and regret it.
Health! I know people who burn out pretty quickly at the con. They tend to not sleep or don’t drink enough water and they end up crashing hard with no energy after two days. You’re going to be around thousands of other people who will be carrying germs from their hometowns to the convention. In other words…take care of yourself dummy!
Drink water regularly and try to get some rest. While it might seem lame taking a break while at Gen Con you should listen to your body. Make sure you pack snacks if you’re going to events that take place during times you regularly eat, and bath regularly. Like, seriously? Bath regularly. I hate smelling like ass at the con so I shower every morning and change clothes a lot.
I hope I was helpful to you in some way! Remember, Gen Con can be one of the best events of the year. I know I’m going to have fun so I really hope you all have as much fun as me!
“Buy My Book! Buy My Book! Buy My Book!” – Jay Sherman from the Critic
….seriously, buy my book (that I worked on)
Maschine Zeit is going to be on sale at the con! It’s a Science Fiction/Horror RPG set in abandoned space stations. It will be at the Indie Press Revolution booth! We will have flash drives, copies of the book, and other swag. While there I also recommend games like 3:16 or SHOCK! Try something different, gamers!
WoD: Mirrors will be at the White Wolf booth. I’ve heard so many great things about this book that I am crazy mad that I can’t find it locally. Chuck Wendig pretty much convinced me if I don’t buy this book my head will explode and ever since then I’ve had migraines. Would it satiate you Chuck if I say the magic phrase, “My beard is so fat I wanna do laser?”
Want to buy some great art? Check out Chris Dunn’s art booth in the Artist Gallery! He’s amazing and has done great pieces featuring famous movie monsters as well as character portraits. Make sure to stop by and see what he’s got!
Have something at Gen Con and want to share it with the world? Leave a comment and I’ll make sure to post it here! I’m a giving sort of person.
See you in Indy!