I went to GenCon this year. This was my first GenCon and my first Con ever. GenCon promotes itself as the best four days in gaming, and I was not disappointed. I spent three of the four days wandering through the Indianapolis Convention Center, watching games in progress, looking at displays, checking out the various cosplayers, and browsing the booths in the Exhibitors Hall. There is a lot to see at GenCon, and I know I didn’t get to see even half of it. Next year, I plan to lay out a more comprehensive schedule for myself and try to pick up a chunk of the events that I missed this first time around.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the session with Wil Wheaton, one of GenCon’s Media Guests of Honor this year. Around 600 of us spent an hour listening to Wil read from his limited edition chapbook, put together specifically for GenCon, and laughing with him at the various moments in his experiences that we could all relate to. It was a great time together. Wil is truly gifted at highlighting the joys of gaming and of time shared with good friends and family. The session started late, due to what seemed to be an unnecessarily complicated seating system (I think in order to try to give the better seats to the earlier people in line), so Wil ran the session longer than its allotted time in order to make up for it. We actually had several GenCon Event Staff urging Wil to wrap things up so that they could reset the room for the next event. Wil was a trooper throughout the whole weekend. He had come down with a sinus infection the night before GenCon, so he had to pause in his reading several times to cough and drink some water. Several people were trying to capture shaky-cam footage of the event, so it’s possible some video will show up on YouTube soon.
Another highlight was getting to meet and say hello to several members of the hit webseries The Guild – including Jeff Lewis, Sandeep Parikh, Robin Thorsen, and Felicia Day – and Wil Wheaton. I finally got through to see them on Saturday, by which point Felicia had basically lost her voice. All four of the Guildies were very friendly and personable. My one regret is that signing tables never give you the time to really chat with these amazing people.
Meeting Wil was definitely the best part of the weekend. I’ve subscribed to his blog and podcasts for a while, so it was a thrill to talk with him for a few moments. I felt like a kid in a candy store! One of the funniest moments came when the three guys in front of me in line finally got up to Wil’s table. One of them had on a plain, white t-shirt that he used as a scoreboard for staring contests. Felicia Day lost. Wil was the first winner. It was fun watching these two stare each other down for several moments, and when Wil’s indomitable will (see what I did there) overcame the competition, he hopped up out of his chair with a shout of triumph and proceeded to sign the back of the guy’s shirt. To quote Wil: “I am Wil-fucking-Wheaton! You do not bring that shit into my house!” It was an hilarious moment that made the long wait well worth it.
On his blog and on Twitter, Wil requested that everyone who met him give him a die. Gamers share a similar philosophy: you can never have too many dice. Wil said that he would collect as many dice as possible during GenCon and then, when he get home, he plans to take a picture of all the dice and share on his site. I presented him with the one and only d20 I earned while at GenCon for demoing the upcoming Hack/Slash RPG. He told me to roll it, which I did and came up with a 10. He pointed out the appropriateness of the roll because just a moment before I had acquired a limited edition print of a cartoon Wil diving into his GenCon dice loot Scrooge McDuck style — number 25 of 50. It was a nice moment. I wished him well and went on my way.
On top of all that, I was also able to finally meet Jason Sizemore of the fabulous Apex Book Company. I’ve supported Jason and Apex in ways both financial and technical over the last several years, so it was nice to finally him. I also met Maurice Broaddus, one of Apex’s prominent writers, and Monica Valentinelli, an Apex blogger. It was interesting to share lunch with them and listen to them talk shop. Sadly, I had little to contribute, since I can’t seem to quite get my lazy butt in gear to start writing (and completing) stories and trying to get into the market. Still, it was enjoyable to share space with these folks and hang on to their metaphorical coattails like a leech for a few hours — even though I felt like the proverbial third wheel for most of it.
I also met Tobias Buckell, who was kind enough to sign one of his books for me (The Cole Protocol), Ryan Sohmer and Lar Desouza of Least I Could Do and Looking for Group, and Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary. All in all it was a great — and busy! — weekend, and I am definitely planning to go back next year. I’m already thinking about a steampunk costume, and I think I’m going to need the whole year to plan.
Best four days in gaming? Yes, please.