Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gen Con 2013: Final Musings

Let’s call this Gen Con the final edition eh?

I don’t know if it was the mass of people, well over forty thousand according to some reports, but whatever it was, my T-Mobile phone was essentially a nice paperweight for my duration in the city. I was lucky to have 2G strength in my hotel room and the phone often just lost connection entirely. This happened most frequently while I was physically in the ICC. 

Some of the vendors in the Dealer’s Hall were not satisfied with AT&T. Having a good signal is vital when you’re using your phone to make the credit card charges. Could have cost a lot of money were it to fail.  I know a few people had Verizon and they did okay. Someone joked that there was a ‘conspiracy theory’ that the hall was blocking cell access in order to justify their outrageous prices of $100 a day for internet service but didn’t seem too serious about it.

If this is a result of the tens of thousands of people who descended onto the city of Indianapolis, then Indianapolis needs to step up. I don’t know if that’s more towers or what but for me, as much as I’m paying for my phone, having it go from portable computer to rotary phone status sucked.

In terms of people, the town seemed happy to have us. I asked about the conventions and reception and was told by several vendors that it was the biggest convention the city hosted all year around and that as far as crowds go, we were top notch in terms of behavior.

 I come from Chicago. Gen Con has nothing on a Cubs game. While I haven’t been to many, walk around after the game for a little while. If you don’t see a fight or some cat calling, you must be doing something wrong yourself.

In my ways, I think Gen Con is past the ‘gamer’ phase, or at least the ‘gamer’ phase associated with negative connotations. I think at this point, too many ‘geek’ things have become mainstream. For the last several years many of the largest summer movie block busters have been based on comic book properties.

Several of the ‘surprise’ hits like the original Kick Ass or Wanted, or even those movies that don’t do well, like R.I.P.D. or 2 Guns, are also from the comic side of things. Even when movies aren’t comic based, like Pacific Rim, how much more could it fit into the whole ‘gamer’ field with giant robots fighting giant monsters?

 Computer games that were once regulated to ShadowGate running on an Amiga, are making MORE money than those block buster movies. Games like Diablo 3 and Halo are pulling in massive amounts of people. The World of Warcraft online game, even if not as popular at its height, still enjoys a massive paying fan base in the millions I believe.

One of the fun things to see is the costumes. On one hand, I absolutely hate the potential bottlenecks it causes with people taking photos. By the time late Saturday had rolled around I wasn’t walking out of my way anymore to prevent getting in any shots. On the other, there was a lot of innovation. While there were many well done, even professional traditional customs ranging from Power Girl to barbarian savage, there were a lot of things I thought different. For example, a woman dressed as a Tardis from Doctor Who.

Some of the gestalt effects of having so many people at the convention can be seen where people who didn’t know each other, but were dressed in same genre costumes, got together to have their pictures snapped. Seemed to happen several times.

There also seemed to be a bit more age and race mix up. I saw an older women dressed as a Storm Trooper and another one as some sort of imperial officer that I didn’t recognize. At one of my games, there was a young black man who really dug the Lord of the Rings and had even read the other books including The Silmarillion. My hat off to him because I’ve tried several times to read that and failed each time. Now that may be the usual fare for other people but honestly, I think he was the first African American I’ve run for in the years I’ve been doing it.  I note his age not as a bad thing, but because I’m over the 40 barrier so I’m glad to see younger people coming into the hobby. 

In terms of ladies, plenty of representation there but a lot of them were disappointed in the pregen characters as they felt too many of them were men and that at worst, the game companies should provide extra characters for selection purposes. For example, if the scenario calls for 6 players, have at least 12 characters to cover both sexes. Personally I don’t see anything wrong with that. How much more work can it take to tweak things up?  I am glad to say that these conversations came up in pleasant surprised tones as the women were glad to see a mix of female characters for The One Ring.

For the room that I used at the convention center, room 110, to run the games, I was disappointed with the place.  Last year I ran at the JW Marriot. That room was smaller, cleaner and came with water that the hotel refreshed periodically. This room had too many tables, some of which were never used, but they put all of the games right next to each other which resulted in a lot of noise. In addition, their ability to keep it clean was lacking. The table cloth needed to be changed more frequently and the garbage cans needed to be emptied more regularly. And as far as water? Well hell son, don’t you know you have to buy that? I mean that may not have been the reasoning as there was free water available but hell man, make some effort.

In terms of weather, most of the days and most of the times, it was perfect. On Sunday it was a little hot and there were a few moments there I was like, “Aw, humidity, you missed me and came to visit from Chicago. How nice of you you son of a bitch.” But for the most part it was great. I still wore my coat though. I’m not quite an albino but I am definitely on the pasty white dude side and burn easily. As a matter of fact my face was quite red by Monday despite hitting up some face lotion that had a SPF of 15.

Last year I brought my laptop and tablet. This year I brought the tablet. Don’t’ know why. Never used it except to roll dice for Keltia because it uses d10’s and I only had the d6’s from The One Ring.  Next year unless I get some awesome apps for the convention, it’ll stay at home leaving me with just good old pen and paper.

I lugged around the slipcase of the One Ring in the dreaded Bag of Holding. It is a great little bag for tacking stuff to a game but it needs a revision for long term use. For example, the shoulder strap needs some padding to it. First hour carrying it isn’t terrible but as time goes on you’re like, “Man, just cut a niche in that and relax already eh?” It also needs two handles. For some reason it only has one . Making it a little wider probably wouldn’t hurt things either.

The good news though is it has plenty of pockets so I was able to drag some prepainted miniatures around, some dice, some pens, some small note books, a novel and my game books.  Not a bad product but a “Con Edition” Bag of Holding would be awesome.

Normally I take a few pictures with either an actual camera or in recent years, a cell phone. This year I might have snapped some of the food trucks, but that wasn’t because of how awesome it was having them, it’s because I’m from Chicago and there are a lot of things going on in legislation trying to determine what role, if any, food trucks will have in Chicago. It’s been a painful messy process and its not over yet. Chicago really needs to figure out what role it wants them to have.

The way I see it, unless it’s something really outstanding and I haven’t already snapped pictures of it in yesteryears,  I’m done with the photos. There are tens of thousands of people snapping up pictures of everything under the sun. The way it’s going, you could do a horror movie put together from different people’s video cameras and come out with not an inch of that convention hall unexplored.

This last observation may be off the beaten path but I’ll throw it out there anyway. What happened to the panhandlers? I remember one year getting up early and going to Walgreens or CVS or something and could recall a group of them talking about their plan of attack. Where each person would go, when they’d be there, and other bits. This year there were a few but no where near previous years. It made me think of when Chicago ‘cleaned’ up the homeless for Princess Diana’s visit. Same thing happen here?

So what is my summary of Gen Con 2013?

1.       Gen con is the largest convention in the city for the year.

2.       The city loves hosting the convention.

3.       The convention is growing and still remarkably well behaved.

4.       Cell phone service sucks. Seriously guys, get on that.