Going to GenCon (Part 1: Overview and Travel)

I went to GenCon for the first time this year, and it was an absolute blast. It was an amazing three days for me (I wasn’t able to stay for the convention on Sunday for a variety of reasons), and my only regret is that I wasn’t able to stay longer.

For my readers who don’t usually read my gaming content, I’ll start with a brief explanation.

GenCon is a yearly convention specifically targeted at tabletop gaming; it has a strong focus on Dungeons and Dragons and similar games, though pretty much anything that isn’t played on a PC or console (and a handful of things that are) features prominently.

It’s also sort of a general nerd culture convention, owing to the target demographic as much as anything else. People dress up in costumes as their favorite characters, hang out and play games until the wee hours of the morning, and generally get together to commiserate and follow trends.

As a game designer, I was there as an exhibitor for Degenesis, a game with some upcoming products that I’ve worked on. What that meant was that I stood in a booth from 10-6 (with a couple breaks; there were four of us and we only really needed two people), trying to sell games to people.

It was a great experience, barring the fact that I almost lost my voice a couple times. GenCon takes place in Indianapolis, where apparently everything opens late and closes early (including the CVS by the hotel I was staying at), though other than that it was a fantastic place to be.

It’s the first time I’ve gone to a convention as an industry insider, and it was great. I got to meet people (I’ll talk about this more when I get to it), and it went really well. I also got a couple leads on potential work, which will have to wait until I’ve done the work I’m currently working on, but means that going there and hanging out with people will definitely pay off for me in the long run if I can turn the time I spent at GenCon into the connections that mean more work and a higher profile in the future.

It was also my only recent time traveling by airline other than Southwest Airlines. As someone living in the Southwestern United States, I’ve been spoiled by the fact that our local airline has consistently positive experiences in my book, with low fees and painless customer service.

I flew out to Indianapolis on American Airlines. They’d overbooked the flight (fun) but fortunately enough people took vouchers so that I didn’t get bumped off my flight. If there’s one lesson to take from it, my impression is that American Airlines will treat you like a peasant if you don’t give them money, and the upgrades you need to get treated how a paying customer should be treated are not cheap.

I flew back on Delta Airlines. Other than the fact that my flight from Indianapolis to Phoenix had a connection in Detroit, I have no complaints with them. I was on a similarly basic ticket, but they were a lot friendlier and more on the ball. Admittedly, some of this might be the Phoenix ground-crew versus the Indianapolis and Detroit ground-crews; I’ve heard those are actually airport rather than airline employees though I haven’t looked it up to verify it so take that with a grain of salt. In any case, Delta felt more on the ball on both flights (with much friendlier attendants) and the only sign I was traveling super-cheap was how long I waited to board the plane (which I was able to do without incident, since neither leg of the flight was over-booked).

I was staying at a Hilton hotel a couple blocks from the convention center. It was nice. I don’t have a lot of criteria for hotels; it was clean, the room was stocked with towels, prices were exorbitant for almost everything at the hotel (there was actually a pizza room service deal that may have been less than atrocious, though there were definitely better dining options around). It had that peculiar hotel feel of stepping off the elevator and immediately stepping into a labyrinth of beige.

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