Is GenCon still worth it?

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
Morrus' announcement of Pronouns on GenCon Badges (Do NOT comment about that here. That is NOT what this thread is about!!) got me wondering if GenCon is still worth the trip with all the COVID stuff going on. I'd like to go before I die which, hopefully is 30 years off, but I also don't want to waste money.

What are the thoughts on this?
 

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SAVeira

Explorer
To be honest, I realize would like to go in person but not would not go in the current environment. The risks for me and family are still too great. I have had a great time going via the online con for the last two year. The first year was best as I got in some of the celebrity run games, which during the second seemed to be limited to in person.

Mind you, my case might be different from yours. I would be traveling from Canada. Internationally travel has several issues and increased expenses these days. Just going by the experience of a friend who travel from Canada to the US over Christmas to visit his mother and then the return home.
 

Retreater

Legend
My first GenCon was in the early 2000s after it had moved to Indianapolis. Since that time the attendance has tripled. It's gotten difficult to get into events, which sell out in minutes. The accommodations are frequently sold out. Every bar and restaurant in the vicinity is at maximum capacity with hours-long wait times.
Getting a chance to purchase a VIP badge is your only hope to get to do what you want, and that is very iffy.
GenCon has outgrown the space in Indianapolis. I think it's even outgrown the organizers' abilities to make it successful. Smaller cons don't have the same issues, are cheaper, friendlier, and more relaxed.
After going to GenCon every year since around 2004, I'm going to stop going and do virtual cons, Origins, and maybe the occasional smaller con like GaryCon or North Texas.
So, no, I don't think it's worth it.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
If I lived within an hour(ish)'s drive and were going in for a day trip and we weren't in the middle of the latest pandemic wave, I think it would be worth it. But at a 6 hour drive, needing to book a hotel room, and dealing with the crowds for multiple days... not really worth it.
I'll stick to the more local cons like Gamehole Con (20 min drive). Gary Con is about the limit I'm willing to go at an hour and a half long drive and smaller crowds - but even that's gotta wait until the pandemic settles down more and someone figures out how to fix my wife's long haul COVID disability (since the Grand Geneva has limited accessibility).
 

I can't speak for pandemic-era Gen Con. Right now, I don't think I could countenance going to Gen Con - they're trying to de-densify it, but only to a point. It's still way more crowded than I would feel comfortable with.

But prior (and presumably, at some point after), I would say that it was worth doing at least once, depending on what your costs and logistics for getting there are, unless you are particularly crowd-averse.

Having such a massive wealth of gaming options means you can customize your experience as much as you want. Want to work through a bunch of Adventurers League content? Want to check out the indies? Catch a new or old game run by the person that created it? Want to just wander around and demo games? Check out the cosplay or participate in the parade? You can do all of that as you see fit.

The dealers room is worth seeing, because there's nothing else like it. It's honestly overwhelming and exhausting, and should be divided into two different trips. There's just that much stuff there.

Beyond games, there's so much to do. I've checked out shows from The Gamers, Hello from the Magic Tavern, and more.

However, as @Retreater mentioned, things sell out super-quickly, and you have to really be on the ball for hotel and event registration. The applications always grind and groan under the load, and it can be stressful. Logistically, I prefer Origins - it's closer, less crowded, and generally easier to book (though event registration always finds a new way to glitch out, every year).
 


Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
You will never know unless you go.

I started going back in 1985 and while not making every Gen Con have been to about 25 of them, some have been great, and some have been just okay, but I have never been disappointed.

People will say it is too crowded and talk about getting a close hotel, but that has always been an issue. Yes, there are smaller conventions, and some are very good but then, they are not Gen Con. Each has their own identity and cater to a local niche. It is important to remember Gen Con is a tabletop gaming convention and promotes that fanbase. It is not a movie/TV or comic fan convention; it is tabletop gaming. It has other events but not to scale of conventions that cater to those genres. So, make sure why you are going.

It is what you make of it.
 

I started going back in 1985 and while not making every Gen Con have been to about 25 of them, some have been great, and some have been just okay, but I have never been disappointed.

People will say it is too crowded and talk about getting a close hotel, but that has always been an issue.
Hotels have always been an issue, but the crowding is definitely new. I also have been going since Milwaukee days and the last five years or so have seen substantial changes that have led to me being less interested in Gen Con nowadays. Specifically:

Fewer Exciting Cool New Things
Obviously not specific to GenCon, but Gen Con was the place people used to release their new and cool product. Now it's on Kickstarter, more likely. I remember dashing off to my favorite companies to see what was new and exciting. Now, at best, I go to pick up my KS rewards from them. So the dealer hall experience is less exciting, and more of a search for things that went under my radar. Still fun, but a change from "WOW" to "nice".

Crowds
Maybe 5 years ago at the last Gen Con I went to, I made the mistake of trying to cross across the center near the dealer hall area as it was opening and it took my 20 minutes of being packed into a crowd. Covid or no Covid, that's just no fun. If you are short, you will see a lot of people's backs at GenCon

Game Variety
For GenCon I always look through the list of games on the search for smaller games and systems that I'd like to try out and see how they play. But recently they have been very hard to find. Looking through the list of games on offer, it's hard to find even relatively well-known smaller games. I used to look for the latest Paranoia, Godlike, One Ring, etc offerings -- but they are much rarer than they used to be. Maybe a lot of potential GMs have been put off by the following issue:

Ghosting Games
With the broadening of appeal of games (a good thing!) Gen Con now has a lot of people who are gently committed fans; not as "core gamer" as in previous years. This is a great thing for the hobby, but on a personal level it makes GenCon less fun. It used to be that if you ran a game, or played in one, you would be 90% sure that everyone would turn up. I recall in Milwaukee at the Cthulhu Masters that waiting for half an hour before a game so that you would be the earliest of the alternates if someone dropped was almost expected. Nowadays I pretty much expect that up to half the people simply won't show because they double-booked, or were having a fun conversation, or so on. It's particularly bad at GenCon because the total cost is so high, that the financial cost of missing a game is effectively zero. You might as well buy tickets for every possible hour of the day and then just go to ones as the day turns out. For smaller cons, I find this is is not the case -- perhaps because there's less to do than actually game!

----------------

Overall, GenCon doesn't feel like "The Best Four Days in Gaming" anymore -- it feels like "The Best Four Days in Gaming Culture". It's a great place to hang with friends, experience the community and wander around seeing what people are into. But for actually playing games -- which is really why I go to cons -- it's a poor return on time and money. So if you want the experience of Gaming Culture, or if you've never been to Gen Con before, absolutely go for it! But if you actually want to play games, maybe look elsewhere.
 

Retreater

Legend
Even with my complaints, I'd say if you've never been and you love gaming, you should experience it at least once. My comments were made from my perspective. I've been many times, experiencing a lesser return on investment in recent years (not even including the pandemic). I also have other conventions and get to regularly play with friends I used to see only at conventions.
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
Overall, GenCon doesn't feel like "The Best Four Days in Gaming" anymore -- it feels like "The Best Four Days in Gaming Culture". It's a great place to hang with friends, experience the community and wander around seeing what people are into. But for actually playing games -- which is really why I go to cons -- it's a poor return on time and money. So if you want the experience of Gaming Culture, or if you've never been to Gen Con before, absolutely go for it! But if you actually want to play games, maybe look elsewhere.
S :) Don't take the wrong way but you may just be getting old. As we get old, we sort of drop off the gaming radar.

Gaming Culture is a good term for it.

I don't have my age breakdown of attendees anymore but here is events to attendees, please note it is events, not seats.
 

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MGibster

Legend
A few years ago (2017?), I figured out I have enough time and money to be able to afford to go to Gen-Con so I started looking into it. I found the process to be a bit overwhelming and would likely find it stressful had I actually been planning to go that year. Just finding a room close to the convention center was going to prove difficult and then getting my convention pass and registering for events I wanted to attend was no picnic. I don't remember what I calculated my total price at, but it was a few thousand dollars to include accommodations, travel, and even a little to spend on new games. As I said, I'm at a point in my life where I can certainly afford the price but I think my priorities have changed since I was as wee gamer. Is it worth spending that money on Gen-Con? I'd probably have a good time at Gen-Con. But maybe I'd have a better time going to Scotland or something.
 

ART!

Legend
Morrus' announcement of Pronouns on GenCon Badges (Do NOT comment about that here. That is NOT what this thread is about!!) got me wondering if GenCon is still worth the trip with all the COVID stuff going on. I'd like to go before I die which, hopefully is 30 years off, but I also don't want to waste money.

What are the thoughts on this?
I've attended many times, mostly since it's been in Indianapolis, including in 2019 and 2021. There was no GenCon in 2020.

It is VERY VERY VERY VERY LARGE.

GenCon 2021 was smaller, either due to lowered interest because of COVID concerns or admission restrictions because of COVID concerns, or both. So, it was only VERY VERY LARGE. They spaced things out much better, mask requirements were enforced, lots of vendors had hand sanitizer available, all the game and event rooms hand restrictions on crowding, the convention center had installed hospital-grade air cleaners, etc.

I found it more manageable in 2021 because of all that. Previous years have been a veritable sea of humanity, sometimes almost crushingly so. If you have issues with crowds, do not go.

There are events for every interest, from board games to card games to RPGs, cosplay to anime screenings, writing panels, live gaming podcasts, kid-friendly programming - you name it. It's four days of wall-to-wall - and there are a lot of walls! - gaming and vaguely-related nerdity. The convention center is sprawling,a nd the convention spills over into adjacent and nearby hotels and the stadium nextdoor. there's a lot of walking to be done. A LOT.

I mostly like to walk the exhibitor's hall and just see what people are making and selling. There's big areas there where big gaming companies have multiple demos you can jump into. There's vendors selling games old and new, well-known and obscure, and also costumes, props, dice, minis, t-shirts, etc. I can theoretically see everything in the exhibitors hall one day, but only if I'm alone and don't attend any events - that's how much there is to see just in the exhibitor's hall alone. The last couple of times I've done 3 days or the full 4 days of the con, because a good friend is a vendor and had a guest pass and bed at the hotel for me.

Beyond the Exhibitor's hall, there's also companies that have their own large rooms or event areas for playing just their games.

Like I said, it was more manageable last year because of the reduced size - I actually attended a couple events!!! But, this has made me want to find a smaller con nearby.

I have rarely if ever paid for a hotel to attend the con, because Indianapolis is close enough to drive to early in the morning and drive home after dinner. So, I can't say if it's worth it to attend if you have to pay to stay somewhere for one or more nights. Clearly, hotels full of people think it's worth it - I think it's the biggest convention Indianapolis has, and hotels are packed for blocks or miles around. You kind of have to book rooms - and reserve events, for that matter - as soon as humanly possible.
 

TheLibrarian

Explorer
If you've never been, I'd certainly say it’s something every gamer should experience at least one in their life. If you do go, go with a group. I’ve been solo on rare occasions and I always have a better time when I can hang w/ friends.

The rest of this post is just an old grognard b!tching, complaining, and back-in-my-daying. Take it with a block of salt lick. I debated on whether or not to even post it. But it’s another perspective… which may or may not be helpful. 😊


I've been asking this question myself over the last couple of years and I'm slowly inching toward: No.

With the exception of the most recent Plague Years and a few years here and there, I've been going to Gen Con since the 90s. I'm increasingly finding it not as enjoyable as I used to and just plain stressful. From the Hotel Hunger Games to Games Registration Hunger Games to finding parking/transportation Hunger Games if I didn’t get a downtown hotel to navigating the hallways and exhibit hall... It feels like: Work.

The exhibit hall is more of a pain than a pleasure. Even if I want to talk to a manufacturer or designer or artist/author… It’s really hard. The crush of the crowd makes it difficult to stop and look at things, let alone get in close to talk w/ anyone or hear them.

It’s also really expensive. I've spent less for flights and a boutique hotel in Vegas, for longer periods of time, than I spend on three or four days of just lodging for Gen Con.

The last several years there also seems to be more socio-political drama around aspects of the show. The pronouns thing seems like it will be this year’s issue. (I truly don't care one way or the other.) Maybe this has always been present and I just haven’t noticed it. Whatever the case, I have less patience for it. There just seems to always be an “it” to contend.

(Which is not to say that the issues that are raised aren’t important or to be dismissive of them. They’re just not things I want to deal with around or on my vacation. I don’t involve myself with them, but for whatever reason I’m also not able to tune them out. I’ll fully admit that’s a Me Problem.)

Lastly, and I guess this is the big one for me… Someone above mentioned that it doesn’t feel very friendly anymore. Its not exactly unfriendly. It used to feel like I was part of a family. Now I just kinda feel like I’m part of crowd. And I’m glad the show and the hobby has grown. There’s so much going on at the show (and they’re all truly wonderful) that I’m having a bit of a hard time finding my tribe these days. (Again, that’s a Me Problem as I get older.)

I'll go back to my rocking chair on the porch now.
 



pogre

Legend
I have been going on-and-off since 1984. I think I'm done.

Totally agree with the folks above who say - you have to experience it at least once. However, not the best place to get in a lot of games - there are way better Cons for that.
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
Note, best go with friends and try and do stuff you do not play at home. I know people that have been going for years and do not know what The Stink is. Also, for 1st timers, play in NASCRAG they are a fun and welcoming bunch.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I've put in to run two DCC games and to volunteer at the Goodman Games booth this year at Gen Con, so I'm planning to go. The last time I went was in 2018; my then-5yo was dressed as Gandalf and I was dressed as Bilbo Baggins. It was awesome.

The con is enormous, but that's part of why it moved to Indianapolis. Indy has a lot of space and is relatively easy to reach travel-wise. And especially for those of us who came up in the 80s and 90s when we had to hide our hobby from basically everyone, it's incredibly empowering to be among such an enormous mass of people who all love the same stuff we do.

Of course, I grew up not far from Indianapolis, so I have a bunch of family and old friends in the area. That makes the trip itself worth it for me.
 

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