When I started my career as a librarian, I had to get certified by the state, and to maintain that certification, I have to accrue Library Educational Units (LEUs) over the course of the certification’s span in order to prove that I am continually growing and developing my skills and knowledge as a librarian, which are then submitted upon my certification’s expiration for renewal as proof.
So what does that have to do with Gen Con?
As it turns out, I could get a few LEUs by going to Gen Con’s Trade Day, which is how Gen Con was put on my radar. “Learn about games, play games, AND further my career? Why wouldn’t I go?”
And I did.
For those unfamiliar, Gen Con, referred to as “the Best Four Days in Gaming”, is, according to their website, “the original, longest-running gaming convention in the world”. Their website goes on to say that it “hosts the largest consumer hobby, fantasy, science fiction, and adventure game convention in North America.” and that it has been going on since 1968.
It’s a pretty big deal.
So I am here to tell you about my experience at Gen Con, for my first time, both as an attendee and as a librarian, while also promoting International Game Week. I won’t do a day-by-day summary, but will instead give an overall summary of what I did, what I learned, and my overall thoughts.
WHAT I DID:
To talk about Trade Day, I found it to be hit-or-miss, as most seminars go. Some of them were great for giving me new ways to think about programming with games or concepts to consider, but others were either not what I thought they were going to be about, I already knew the topic more than what they were speaking on, or they didn’t really speak well at all. What I found to be the most helpful for what I was wanting was the Demo and Networking Night session that they had at the end of the day. This is where about 20-30 different game developers and publishers set up one or two games that they want to demonstrate and promote while we (the attendees) play the games and talk to them about their games or each other. I spent this time searching for the tables that didn’t have people at or the game staff weren’t talking to anyone at the time. Of course, I would play their game to show interest (which I was – the best way to know if you like a game or not is to play it, after all), but would also talk to them about International Game Week and if they would be interested in being a sponsor. In the end, I did several business card exchanges, and got a lot of positive support about being sponsors, as well as trying out different games and finding some to keep a lookout for as potential purchases.
The rest of the time at Gen Con fell into three different categories – events I had registered for, exhibit hall networking, and downtime. One event I found to be exceptionally fun was the First Exposure Playtest event, where indie game developers brought their game, which could vary in how far along the development process they were, and the players give feedback both during and after the game. I played a game about being Hobos in the 1930s currently called Ride ‘em Rails. It’s still early in development, but I quite enjoyed it, and the process of playing and giving good feedback was enjoyable as well. Other events were different roleplaying games so I could try out new games and see how other people GM/DM, or other game demos that could only hold so many that they had to limit attendance by ticket.
The Exhibit Hall was crazy busy, especially the first day. I made sure to hit specific developers’s booths that I wanted to meet with over the course of the week, but overall there were too many to meet if I had wanted to meet with each one. I speficially went to smaller booths, as those are the game developers whose games generally aren’t as well known, so it’s easier to talk to the developers while also finding those hidden gems. It was a pleasure to see the vast variety of the games being made, not to mention all of the other booths for game accessories, costume play (cosplay), or live action role playing. I got to meet with a lot of great developers and learn about a great bunch of games to look for later.
Downtime was your standard in-between ticketed events time, where I would either be looking for where I was to go to next or eating. I will say that if you don’t bring your meals with you like I did for most days, the food trucks outside were exceptional. Most conventions are known for having overpriced food stands, but these food trucks, while they could be pricey, weren’t overpriced for the food you got, or at least mine weren’t.
Overall, Gen Con was a blast. My days were usually 12-14 hour days, but that was my own choice, since I wanted to do as much as I could without destroying myself. I still felt the fatigue near the end, especially on the fifth and final day, but it was still an immensely enjoyable experience. I was able to make a lot of great connections, both professionally and personally, and would recommend it for everyone to go at least once.