GenCon: The Best Four Days in Gaming

The crowd waiting to get into the dealer's hall on opening morning

The crowd waiting to get into the dealer’s hall on opening morning

GenCon is North America’s largest annual tabletop-game convention — this year’s attendance topped 56,000 people. The con started in 1968 Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (that’s where it got the name), but has been held in Indianapolis since 2003. This year was my 9th GenCon, and, as always, I had a great time.

What exactly does all that that mean, you ask? Well, the convention’s focus is on games that you play with friends around a table — things like role playing games, collectible card games, and board games. But there’re lots of other things to check out, if games aren’t your cup of tea. There are anime events, a cosplay competition, and a writing symposium, to name just a few. Years ago, I took a crocheting class to learn how to make amigurumi, which are adorable crocheted dolls. I’ve also constructed my very own chain mail dice bag and (kind of) learned the dance for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” There’s also a dealers hall, filled with games and books and toys and clothes.

Even the Doctor makes time for GenCon!

Even the Doctor makes time for GenCon!

Various loot

Various loot

This year, I just played games. For those of you who haven’t played a role playing game before, here’s how it works. In most games, one person serves as the Game Master, or GM. The GM is responsible for creating the world and plot of the story — they’re like the video game console, presenting the game as you play through it. Everyone else at the table plays one individual character. Conflicts are (usually) resolved by rolling dice. There are more rules systems than you can shake a stick at, and tons of different shapes (and pretty colors) of dice. Some systems do away with the idea of a single GM, and everyone at the table shares the responsibility, or they take turns.



Role playing games are limited by nothing but your imagination. Most people have at least heard of Dungeons and Dragons, which is a game set in a classic fantasy world. But that’s not the only game out there — not by a long shot. There are games like GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System) that can let you do pretty much anything, or games centered around a specific intellectual property. Do you love Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, or Lord of the Rings? You could play in any of those worlds. There are games that get rid of dice completely and one game uses a Jenga tower to preform actions instead.

Images via Green Ronin Publishing, Cubicle 7, Margaret Weis Productions and The Impossible Dream

And all of that is just one aspect of the convention. The convention sponsors a charity every year, and this year they raised about $40,000 for Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana’s BackSacks program. As part of that, volunteers build a city made out of old cards called Cardhalla. They work for days, then at the end of the convention, people donate spare change by throwing it and seeing what they can knock over.



GenCon is over for another year, and I’m already counting the days ’til next year. Maybe I’ll see you there?

About Jamie

Jamie loves reading and writing, and she's especially fond of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She also enjoys RPGs (both tabletop and console), crocheting, baking, and hiking, and she's passionate about unicorns, tea, flannel shirts, novelty socks, and William Shatner.

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  1. krystalons 09/02/2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Let me share a little info about myself…I love fashion, I’ve been in love with fashion since my early teens. Also, I love fabrics…I have an account with where I upload my fabric designs. I’ve not yet sold any of my designs, but hopefully…maybe the designers for Modcloth will one day be interested in purchasing some of my designs in the near future!

    I’d be more than honored to share my creativity with others! What could be all the more exciting…than to be able to share your very own creativity with fellow designer! I truly feel that sharing my artwork would be the most rewarding thing ever!
    Whoever happens to read this comment, here’s my personal website:
    Please…don’ hesitate to logon, and browse around! You are most welcome to check out my designs! And, if you wish to purchase some of my designs, you maybe email me at! Please, don’t hesitate to let me know when you’d like to make a purchase on my website!
    Have a ball!!

  2. Cordia 09/06/2014 at 3:39 pm #

    How fun! I attend GenCon as well and it’s such a great time and atmosphere. This year I worked in the vendor hall and had a great excuse to wear my R2KT corset!

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