Thursday, August 21, 2014

Some GenCon (and WBC) Observations

I’ve spent much of this month either preparing for or attending the World Wargaming Championships (WB C) and GenCon. These are very different conventions. WBC, currently in Lancaster Pennsylvania, is a boardgame and card game tournament convention. At 1,700 unique attendees is an intimate and family oriented convention that fits in a single hotel in a “country” tourist spot.

GenCon overflows from a huge Indiana Convention Center into quite a few large hotels.
GenCon announced a turnstile attendance in 2014 of 184,699 and unique attendance of 56,614 (which means that each attendee was there more than three (3.26) of the four days). The turnstile attendance is larger than the attendance at Essen Spiel (I’ve not seen a unique attendance announced for that convention).  “Since 2009, Gen Con’s annual attendance has more than doubled.”

Does this mean GenCon is now a bigger board and card game convention than Essen Spiel?  No. GenCon has become one of those now fairly typical “Amalgamated” conventions including board and card games, role-playing games, costuming, film, fiction writing, comic books, video games and more. (DragonCon in Atlanta is another example.)  Of course, it has been a role-playing game convention first and foremost.

GenCon was certainly teeming with people.  Unfortunately, my first experience was standing in the “will call” line - the line for people who pre-registered, to pick up their tickets - for half an hour.  The lines for walk-ins were much less.  Not good planning, I’d say.  Maybe they want to encourage everyone to have their packets delivered at significant expense so that they won’t have to wait in line so long . . .

I gave four talks, well-attended even though they were in the far corner of one of the hotels.  One was at 9AM Sunday. One guy said "I didn't know there was an AM!" But it was before exhibits opened, and 40-odd came.  I was surprised that the most well-attended was “How to Write Clear Rules” (also the title of one of my online audiovisual classes).

The exhibition hall at GenCon was Vast, something like 370 exhibitors.  Many of the largest companies rent separate rooms as well.  Lots of card games with fine artwork were laid out on tables for demo or sale.  How do any of them differentiate from all the others?  Same for RPGs.  Artwork is no longer a differentiator, in most cases.  There was a huge number of less-than-30-minute games as well. All must be more-or-less shallow (opposite of deep) when for more than two players, because there simply isn't enough time per person for deep gameplay.  Little enough when only two play . . .

Staying at a hotel distant from the convention center, and giving talks in the Crowne, I walked much more than I cared to, but I survived GenCon (need a T-shirt that says that).

WBC being so small in comparison with GenCon, even if you don’t stay at the hotel it’s 200 yards to the building from parking, and no more than 150 yards to anywhere within the building.

Seeing the Brit games being played in the tournament at WBC, the things I want to snuff out (such as “the deal” between Welsh and Romans), what players asked me to change (I could usually say, “done that”), gives me new interest in getting Epic Britannia done.

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