This year’s GenCon in Indianapolis, Indiana promised to be the biggest gaming convention in America and offer games, cosplay, a writer’s symposium and more. As a first time attendee, I’d say it delivered in spades. I literally did not want to leave on the last day of this July convention and it has taken several weeks for me to come to terms with the fact that my life isn’t just attending excellent conventions like this one. With games, cosplay/crafting, and geekery, GenCon was the perfect trifecta of entertainment and activities for this nerdy maker.
Although GenCon is a gaming convention, games weren’t the first thing that attracted me to attending when my husband suggested the convention as a perfect anniversary activity for 2015. While I play a lot of video games these days, my role-playing and board game chops have atrophied as of late. But when in Rome, one should play some games so I squeezed a few in.
Most of the games I played were board games and (annoyingly in some cases) none of them were yet available for purchase. The best of these was Quodd Heroes, which I loved and sadly could not buy.
In development from Wonderment Games, Quodd Heros is a hide-and-seek racing game where you plan your moves based which side of your cube-shaped character you activate. In combination with the environment and special action cards, you can chain complex moves together as you work to beat other players to finding the winning crystal. The play style of the game started out simple, but quickly developed into pre-planning moves to negotiate the terrain. It would be a good game for people who want something a little more challenging than Settlers of Catan, but not as complex as planning moves in Roborally. Frankly I loved it even in an unfinished state and can’t wait to see the Kickstarter come out so I can get my hands on a copy.
On the role-playing side, we got into one game of Clockwork Dominion, a relatively new RPG with a steampunk bent that uses a specialized deck of cards to resolve both physical and social conflicts. As someone who hasn’t role-played much in a long time, I enjoyed this system. It had enough rule structure to support my actions while the less random element of cards (vs. dice) meant that there was space to get creative with what your successes and failures actually looked like. While I was hoping for a creepier game (creepy RPGs are my favorite), the campaign we played was fun and I look forward to the chance to build out and play a character of my own in the Clockwork Dominion world soon.
Cosplay & Crafting
As a maker, Cosplay was actually my first focus in attending GenCon, and I attended many related events and workshops. Cosplay has a fairly large track as GenCon and with 60,000 attendees, even a small fraction of people in costume means you’re going to see a lot of your favorite characters and variations on the same.
GenCon was my first serious public cosplay experience and my husband and I dressed as Wilson and Willow from the game Don’t Starve for most of the day on Saturday while walking around, shopping the vendors floor, and attending contests. It was so much fun to be in costume and while we didn’t get stopped for many picture, it was a great feeling when we were. I look forward to doing more costumes and getting more involved in the cosplay community in the future.
The most “intimate” event was the Glitter Guild’s nerdy burlesque show which features both men and women performers dressed in (and undressing from) some amazing character costumes. Although this is obviously an adults-only performance, I would say it’s a must see. Check out their website for a taste (not safe for my work).
On the crafting side, the most interesting workshop was the Q&A about craft business presented by people from Craft Hackers. Craft Hackers is a cooperative of creative business owners and artisans who generally are promoting business with a geeky bent and have an interest in selling at conventions.
The Q&A was filled with many great questions about starting and operating a creative business, but it was visiting their website afterwards that gave me my greatest epiphany. In their pitch about whether you should join Craft Hackers, or start a crafting business, they very eloquently laid out the difference between crafting for your own satisfaction and crafting to make a living. This distinction made me realize that I’m not ready to start a craft/artisan business yet. I love all the projects I do, but I don’t think I would love them if they had to make me money. Not yet anyways. In an environment where people are always trying to sell you a “quick fix”, the way they shared this distinction was a breath of fresh air.
Of course this only scratches the surface of our experience. GenCon is a huge event, so even local businesses had GenCon specials and opportunities to win nerdy prizes (such as a “golden” dice from Bee Coffee). In addition, we kept happening upon little special moments of geekdom, such as the “Papers Please” cosplayers still denying entry to their fictional country after midnight on a Friday. There is something very nice about being surrounded by people who are equally enthusiastic about the things you care about too.
I left GenCon sad to go, but also inspired to work on my next project and to reach out to the other nerdy crafters and cosplayers in the community around me. I already have dug it my next costume and I look forward to making my next GenCon even better than the first.
Did you attend GenCon this year? Share your story in the comments or on my Facebook page.
If I took your photo at GenCon and have featured it in this article, please reach out to me so I may properly credit you.