GenCon for the First Time: Days Three Through Five

Like many tabletop, RPG, and board gamers, Gen Con has long been a bucket list item for me. In late 2021, we decided that 2022 was going to be The Year, and started saving for the trip. Now that we’re home, I have some thoughts to share. This is Part 3 of a three-part series.

Part 1 covers preparation for the con.
Part 2 details the first half of our con experience.

Despite the intense heat, these aliens made it out and made our day. Photo by Angela Leach.

Day 3 – More Talking, More Walking

Saturday was an exciting day. Not only did we more or less give up on the zig-zag of the exhibit hall and just went wherever we wanted willy-nilly, but I got the opportunity to meet Matthew Lillard while he worked his Beadle and Grimm’s booth, talk to Luke Gygax about some of his upcoming projects, and get my well loved and well read copy of The Annotated Chronicles of Dragonlance signed by both of the authors and its poet. In the line for the autographs, I was lucky enough to meet an absolutely wonderful woman, Claire. Claire had with her a tube of prints of Dragonlance artwork, and she told us why she had it.

Turns out, one of Claire’s friends had once decorated their basement with prints of the same artwork, but some time ago it had flooded and the artwork was lost. Claire and some other friends conspired and were working to collect autographs from Larry Elmore, Margaret Weis, and Tracy Hickman. The prints had been traveling five years now, missing only Tracy Hickman’s signature, and we both found it miraculous that he had again returned to Gen Con, as it had been five years since his last appearance. Claire shared a few anecdotes, but always came back to how important it was to get this done for her well deserving friend. My heart melted, and in the line we became new friends. Since we’ve gotten home, Claire has shared with me that her friend is now the proud owner of all the prints and rather than getting them professionally framed, the recipient will be hand making frames for each of the prints so they are worthy of the artwork and autographs.

I was nearly as excited as Claire was watching Tracy sign the prints, but then my turn came and two of my favorite authors TOUCHED MY BOOK. They touched it, they signed it, and they even took a selfie with me! We did the hold-your-breath-and-pull-your-mask-down photo, which is the one singular time my mask was off inside the convention center for the entirety of Gen Con. I am not ashamed to say that as I walked away, I cried.

I absolutely lose it as Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis sign my book. Photo by Angela Leach.

Claire stuck with us as we made our way back to Beadle and Grimm’s where Matthew Lillard was signing autographs and taking photos with fans. After my short conversation with him that morning as I was purchasing yet another set of dice, I was excited for the chance to say the one thing I had walked away earlier regretting not mentioning: that as much as I truly enjoy his acting and directing (and I do – particularly as Cereal Killer in Hackers), I am just so grateful that he is a nerd like the rest of us, bringing some extra fancy stuff to our world so we can be extra fancy in our games. My shoulder got a pretty big squeeze after that, and then I watched my teenager take a picture with him and then break down, having grown up idolizing him as Shaggy in Scooby Doo.

The most excited you’ll see the teenager all weekend. Photo by Jason Leach.

We made our way back to the hotel, most of us in shock for one reason or another, with plans to meet our friend’s wife for dinner at a Korean restaurant they are regulars at despite living a few hours away. MaMa’s was an excellent “fancy dinner” for us, since authentic Korean food is near impossible to find in rural Oregon. We feasted, and headed back to the hotel full and happy. Once there, we pulled out a couple more new games (Pantone and Prepare to Die) and played them in the lobby again until bedtime.

The feast of authentic Korean dishes was perfect to recover our strength. Photo by Angela Leach.

Day 4 – Wrapping Up and Winding Down

The final day of the convention, we all had some pretty specific things we wanted to do before we headed out. The teenager and one of the braver adults headed to the Warhammer 40K Laser Tag Arena and duked it out while I revisited a few booths that I had promised to come back to, then we visited a couple of places that had looked really interesting. We turned in our proofs of purchase from the Pin Bazaar for our Rare and Ultra Rare pins, and took more pictures with the giant inflatable Urbanmech outside.

Two of many, many pins from the Pin Bazaar. Photo by Angela Leach.

After saying farewell to the convention center, we started our journey under the street to Lucas Oil Stadium. On the way, we discovered something I’m incredibly glad I didn’t completely miss: the Collective Art Project started at Gen Con 50 by artist Kathleen Hardy. Sadly, we missed the deadline for contributing to the project, but next time we’ll make sure we’re there. The tunnel to Lucas Oil Stadium contained the other three Collective Art Projects, all of them gorgeous.

Over fifty Gen Con attendees helped paint this. Photo by Angela Leach.

The teenager was a little saddened to discover that the opportunity to fight with boffers had ended by the time we arrived, but the activities in Lucas Oil Stadium were a wonder to behold. Much of the stadium floor had been dedicated to a board game library, while the rest was for even more gaming events.

When our Uber arrived to take us back to the hotel, I think we were all completely exhausted, so we rested a bit and then limped to the hotel next door for fancy burgers. We then stumbled back to our rooms to make a feeble attempt at organizing our luggage and preparing for travel home the next day. Before bed, we all ended up in one room reminiscing and making plans for trying out the rest of our new stuff once home and recovered.

Day 5 – Homeward Bound

As we checked out, the incredibly awesome hotel staff made sure we were well prepared for the journey home. We got to the airport well before our late evening flight, and ended up waiting almost three hours for the counter to open so we could check our bags. Thankfully, the check in kiosks had a luggage scale so we could test and repack our checked bags, and with that much time to wait there were no witnesses to the jockeying of items back and forth. The Indianapolis Airport does have a small food court before TSA and we got lunch while we waited to check in. Once at the gate, we settled ourselves comfortably and chatted quietly with the occasional interspersed laughter.

As sun sets over Seattle, so it does on this year’s trip to Gen Con. Photo by Angela Leach.

As on the way to Indianapolis, the plane was full of Gen Con attendees. This time, however, the mood was far more subdued and the flight was pretty quiet, occasionally punctuated with snores from around the aircraft. I made the mistake of reading the entire flight when I should have tried to sleep, because our second flight was too short for a good nap and I still had a long drive ahead of us. We finally pulled into our driveway around 2 AM Monday morning, and I’m not sure whether we or the dogs were happier about it.

Gen Con Attendance Lessons

The next time I attend Gen Con, I’m not going to try to make it to every booth. The completionist in me was desperate to see everything, but that’s just not a feasible achievement for me to unlock. I will devote one day to visiting booths and vendors, and maybe return on Sunday if there’s something I want to go back for.

Gen Con is called the Best Four Days in Gaming, but it’s hard to game if you’re in the exhibit hall the entire time. Next time, I’ll set aside actual time to play. While I’m happy with all of the gaming we did at the hotel, I think it would have been fun to meet some new people and play some actual RPGs.

Finally, I needed to hydrate so much better than I did. I am determined to find ways to improve this next time, whether or not masks continue to be required. I think I’m likely to keep wearing masks to minimize the likelihood of Con Crud but I need to be more careful about getting water and feeding myself appropriately. Somehow one of us managed to develop COVID (the only non-boosted family member) but none of the others did, so when it all comes down to it I’m calling that a win.

I’m grateful to my family for helping me save, and I hope to return again sooner rather than later.

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