I think I mentioned much earlier in the year that I decided to take the plunge and go to GenCon this year. It is my first time at GenCon, and my first time at any "major" convention. I have convention experience, sure, but years ago and at a much smaller venue.
With today (this post is going up a day early) being the beginning of Event Registration for the con, I figured it would be a good time to take a moment and talk about the experience so far. Why? Well, because there are a lot of things that I wish I had known before I started and maybe, just maybe, this will help someone planning their own first trip down the line.
Lesson 1: Things Go Fast
It makes sense when you think about it. GenCon is a huge convention and it is also very popular. Basically the entire gaming world descends on Indianopolis for what is widely considered the best four days of gaming in the world. I've heard stories of how the entire city turns out for GenCon and it sounds awesome. What folks don't say how much is how fast things go.
Seriously, you need to be ready to go the millisecond that the next step of things becomes available. Don't have someone ready to go right at the buzzer for signing up to attend the con? Well then you have a 0% chance of getting a Very Important Gamer tag, and may even be on a waiting list for a 4 day pass. Not ready to click the "find a hotel" with your top hotel already selected and ready to go as soon as housing opens? Hope you're happy with your 15th choice on your third back up list of hotels.
I can't say it enough. The first few steps is crazy because it is like January and you are hearing the news that "registration and housing opens up in 2 weeks" but you're thinking "yeah, butt he con is in august so what is the rush?" and then not 4 minutes after housing opens the servers have crashed but that doesn't matter because all the hotels in Indy are fully booked and there is already three coalitions
Lesson 2: More Than Just Gaming
I found out yesterday that along with GenCon being a huge gaming convention it is also a huge writing convention. Authors of a lot of my favorite works are giving lectures and seminars on the crafts of writing, world building, plotting, and so on. There are lectures on the business side of things and the craft side of things.
Knowing this early is good for me. My intention isn't to "work" this first convention, but at the same time I would be stupid to not go prepared. In the event that I find myself with time to spare and an agent or publisher is taking pitches shouldn't I have something ready? Why yes, yes I should.
Even if I don't work, it still is just something to keep my eyes open for. Opportunities will be there to meet some of my favorite authors and game designers. wouldn't you want to know that going forward?
Lesson 3: Coordinate With Friends
Myself and the friends I am going with, along with my cousin who is going on his own trip, are trying to coordinate things. Why? Well, because it'll be nice to see familiar faces and also to share some of the experiences. All of us are doing our own things, but we're also all going to some of the same events (or hoping to, being as I'm writing this before event registration.) Having a friend in a game can help shake off some of the nerves while still getting the experience of being in a new game.
And finally, not a lesson, but something I am looking forward to..
Hope #1: Experiencing New Takes On Familiar Worlds
Of the games I have signed up for I am making a point of attending at least one L5R game and one Star Wars game. Why? Because I love these settings, but my entire group already has a fairly meshed view of both worlds and how they work. Seeing how other people run with the worlds, and the systems, is going to be fun. Even if I disagree with it, it will still give a new perspective and a chance to grow. That's something I can't get very often at home.