Gen Con 2014 has now passed, and my crew of volunteers and I have collapsed into tired piles. It was a good convention, and it sounds like we broke record numbers again this year. 56,614 gamers flooded into the Indianapolis Convention Center, and played in thousands of events, making this years Gen Con the biggest gaming convention in the world. Overall, it was a great con but there are a few things we can highlight out as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Gen Con.
We saw so many wonderful cosplayers at this year’s Gen Con. Personally, I think the Weeping Angel from Doctor Who was my favorite though. She looked amazing, and actually made me jump. I was taking a second look, trying to decide if she was real or not when she jumped and scared the dickens out of me. Great job!
There were so many other great costumes at the convention, we could write for days about it. I’m always so impressed by the dedication these individuals have to their favorite characters. I walked around all weekend long in a t-shirt and jeans and found myself sweating from time to time, I can only imagine how the steampunk Chewbacca felt!
As many of you know, we are a board game library, open to the public in Indianapolis all year round. This year we were blessed by the generosity of the vendors in the dealer hall yet again. Our library is now stocked with many of the great new releases the convention had to offer, and we were able to bring all of that fun back home to you. We had 106 games donated at the convention, and several companies who are mailing games to us after the convention, and you will be able to find a list of the vendors who donated on our Facebook page in the coming days. If you appreciated their donation as much as we do, please drop them an email thanking them for supporting your local game library!
I love “Are You A Werewolf?”. When asked, I say it’s my favorite game, gladly, which is a large part of the reason that we play it in shop so regularly. This convention I found something even better: Witch Hunt.
You see, I play AYAW every night during the convention. I usually make it down to the hall to play around midnight and play until dawn (“Breakfast is coming!”). When I got down to the hall on Saturday night, the only village that was about to open up had a big sign up that said “Witch Hunt”. I admit that when I sat down in the village I was more than a little judgmental. Here was just one more AYAW knockoff, but at least it was a game, and I didn’t want to wait for another village to break up. What I found was amazing though, and has left me gushing for the days.
The Bad and The Ugly:
While we had a great time at Gen Con, there were a few moments that tarnished our experience. While these may not be universal to the Gen Con experience, they were true for us and worth reporting about.
Girl Magic Players Need Not Apply:
Like many small game shops all across the country, we host a lot of Magic: The Gathering events. What might be more unique about our shop is the gender break down of players; usually women make up a pretty solid 1/3rd of our M:tG community, and some nights it’s a downright 50/50 split at the draft table. Stepping into Gen Con’s M:tG area was a big bitter dose of reality. Not because it was more gender skewed, but because of the reception female gamers were faced with when entering that area.
Now let me state, that we were met with kindness and politeness by the actual event staff for M:tG. It was the attendees that became an issue. Simply walking through the M:tG area to get to other places, female members of my staff were catcalled, insulted, and talked down to. This didn’t just happen once, but over and over again (the M:tG area was a convenient path between the exhibit hall where we were running games and the dealer hall). One individual asked my assistant if she was lost and looking for her boyfriend because “girls don’t play magic”. I hate to break it to them, but I am a girl and I have been playing M:tG for well over ten years, thank you very much.
Given this response, it’s not too surprising to me that the population of M:tG players is mostly male. If that had been my first experience with the game, I know I would never have even given this game the time of day, let alone put up with such behavior in order to actually play successfully.
You can simply say “No”:
Many vendors were extremely gracious to us this weekend, but there were two that we spoke with that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Now, I perfectly understand that some vendors are not interested in donating, and that’s perfectly reasonable. It’s their product and they should decide the best way to use it. However, these two vendors were so rude, it is worth mentioning.
We spoke with the owner of a midsized game publisher on Saturday afternoon. We approached the booth, explained who we are, and were directed to the owner. He had just finished demoing a game, and there wasn’t a wait at his booth, yet he told us “I don’t have time for you, you should have made an appointment”. We were about to leave at that when he actually asked if we did have an appointment. We had emailed their company prior to the con and let him know that. He then proceeded to rudely berate us about how donating games to causes was a bad business decision and he thought gaming clubs were not of use to manufacturers or the gaming industry. I tried to further explain that we weren’t a private club, but a public board game library. Apparently that was a mistake on my part, but really a simple “no thank you” would have sufficed.
Lastly, there was a small game manufacturer near Entrepreneur Alley. We had stopped and talked to some members of the staff on Saturday, and were informed that we should come back on Sunday near the end of the day, but that the owner would likely be thrilled to give us a donation. What we received when we came back on Sunday was a fifteen minute lecture about how a board game library should not charge admission fees (he cited that public libraries do not, but seemed to fail to understand they are taxpayer funded institutions), that selling sodas and snacks was bad and we were unethical for doing so, and that if we were ever to trade, sell, or otherwise need to remove his game from the library we were to give him the money, what it was traded for, or ship his game back. He then opened a copy and signed the board as a demo copy (which is fine, I understand the reasoning on this), and handed it to us. At which point the tirade of grievances he had with our business model continued and the list of his demands continued to grow (which by the end included that we should be giving him royalties for the privilege of having his game in the library). Ultimately, we ended up handing his game back over to him, and excused ourselves.
There was over 300 vendors in the dealer hall, we came home with 106 games as donations. So it’s not as if these two were the only ones that declined, but it was more a matter of the rude and aggressive nature that I was taken aback by. We support the gaming industry by bringing games to people that might not otherwise see play in our area, and we have seen sales and preorders for games we have in our library rise, which is exactly what the industry hopes for when someone provides a demo copy, so to be met with hostility dumb founded me. Aren’t we all in this together?
This year featured a new game in Entrepreneur Alley: Furoticon. The game bills itself as a “sex positive” adult game with anthropomorphized characters. Here is the description from the games website:
“In Furoticon, you play as a well-renowned Owner (Master, Mistress, Mastress, or Dominator) dueling against one or more Owners for dominance over your opponents’ harems. Break through their harems with your own and climax your opponents! The last Owner standing is the winner!”
Why this is in our bad section is not because of the nature of the game, in and of itself, but that it was on demo in full view of children. It wasn’t even edited for family day on Sunday. And this game doesn’t simply feature suggestive, or seductive, art. But rather, it has fully illustrated pornography on the cards. This seemed like a major lack of judgement on behalf of Gen Con.
Conventions bring out the best and worst in people. This year was certainly no exception. We saw an outpouring of generosity, thousands of passionate gamers and cosplayers, wonderful new designers, and some of our old favorites. We also ran into the misogyny present in the gaming community, and rude and uncouth behavior from people that should be its leaders. It was a mixed bag, as it always is, but on the whole, I think it was a great convention and I look forward to attending Gen Con 2015.