Yesterday, my son and I and a friend of his spent a few hours at GenCon. It was a bit of a lark, since I hadn’t even heard of GenCon a week ago – a priest at my church mentioned that she was taking her sons for “all games, all weekend” and my interest was piqued. A few google searches and emails later, I was purchasing a discounted ticket for the three of us to get official badges for Sunday only.
We spent about 5 hours in an around GenCon, but I have to say it left a bigger impression that I guessed it would. Some thoughts 24 hours after getting back home:
- Who knew that so many people are so into gaming? I’ve been to lots of conventions before, but this one was packed – it was almost hard to see things in the vendor area. I’m sure some of that had to do with it being Sunday and the tickets being cheaper, but still…
- Who knew that so many people are so into a specific kinds of gaming? When I heard “gaming convention”, I thought this might be games of all sorts – board games, card games, video games, portable games, arcade games, etc. While there were a few spots where you could play video games, the vast majority of the space and the people were there for card,strategy, or role-playing games. There were more games in these few categories at the show than I would have guess existed overall.
- GenCon is proof positive that the market is everywhere. A few examples:
- Magic the Gathering cards – I don’t know much about this game, but it was one of the few I had actually heard of before I walked into GenCon (I think I’ll be learning a bit more since my son came home with a box of 500 cards – yes…I already learned that they are all “old” ones and not very useful for tournaments). One thing I learned on the show floor is that there is a planned scarcity of some cards (Magic seems to be entirely card based) and that (albeit artificial) scarcity drives prices. I saw some cards that were going for as much as three and four hundred dollars. There is supposedly a card that has sold for over a thousand.
- Games funded by Kickstarter – this shouldn’t have been a surprise given how much Kickstarter (and Indiegogo) seems to get used for everything else, but it seems to be making a big difference in the gaming world, letting fans fund the games they want to see made, disaggregating the power of the established game publishers. Very cool.
- The ecosystem that springs up around specific games: there were miniature makers, costume designers and artists all selling their wares based on the characters and themes from the most popular games. Prices ranged from a couple of bucks to thousands. There was even a bespoke furniture maker there that could custom craft a mahogany gaming table for D&D sessions with the global elite 😉
- Some people really get into this gaming thing. I suppose its all just a function of math – given that there are lots of people into gaming, that there would per a certain percentage that would really get into it. Really into it as in dress like their favorite characters, which could be anything from Anime FemBots to Gargantuan Barbians. As adults. In public. With other people around. Honestly, it was cool to see people expressing themselves so freely – just not something I would do (unless it was a really cool steampunk outfit…)
Most of all, going to GenCon reminded me of what its like to be new at something. It’s not that I don’t try new things, I do all the time. Rather, I usually know what I am geting myself into – I know what to expect, I know something about the terms, I know a little about the people. The internet makes all that basic research possible, but I learned that it also kills a little bit of the joy of first person discovery. Only having heard about GenCon a few days before I was buying tickets and going took away any opportunity to do any prep work. To be honest, I think I’m going to go into a few more things “cold”.
If none of this has persuaded you to go to next year’s GenCon (my son and I will be there), then perhaps this will: