It’s convention season! Woo! I know GenCon isn’t until August, but it’s never too early to start preparing, especially with this convention, as it requires a bit more planning than usual even for old hats like me. GenCon has a lot of unique systems and traits -- some of which leave me scratching my head and others that make me wish they were the norm across more conventions. Without further ado, let’s hop on into it!
1. Dat Hotel Lotto, yo
Badges go fast! You need to make an account before you can buy a badge. Pay attention to when that portal and the housing portal go live. If you’re going with friends (and you should) have them buy badges separately. GenCon buys out EVERY hotel in the Indy area before the convention, so you won’t be able to circumvent their hotel block before the housing portal goes live. This portal is based on a lottery system and assigns you a time slot to access the hotel booking. In order to maximize your chances of not having to pay exorbitant costs set by the hotels after the portal drops (GenCon also secures you cheap con rates for otherwise very pricey hotels), have each friend make a separate account, and you each will get a different housing portal time. Choose whoever gets the earliest one, and use their guide to make a shortlist of hotels you’d be willing to stay at.
2. Ticketed Events?! Say What Now?!
Unlike other conventions, GenCon also uses a ticketing system for panels, games, and other events. Larger cons typically do tickets for concerts and large events, but GenCon is unique in that each event is ticketed. You order these in advance of the convention and they’ll be sent to you in the mail with your badge. You can also purchase the tickets at the convention. You can either buy tickets for specific events (usually around $0-20), or buy “generic” tickets, worth $2.00 a piece. As events fill, everyone with a ticket for that specific event will be let in first, and then everyone with generic tickets will be let in after. In order to save yourself some cash, I’d recommend buying generic tickets (you can also purchase them at the con) for less popular events or ones with fewer seats (such as a panel on women in gaming), and specific tickets for more popular ones (Star Wars tabletop tourney or Cosplay Burlesque [psst: go see Cosplay Burlesque if you’re of age, it’s really great and there are a LOT of puns]) to ensure that you get your bum in a seat at that event.
3. It’s Really Big.
I know what you’re thinking “Ya don’t say, bird” – but seriously, this convention is huge. Like 60,000 people. It’s also REALLY HECKIN’ HOT. Last year they didn’t turn on the A/C until Saturday and even with it cranking, it’s still really warm because of all the bodies. Plan your outfits/cosplays accordingly. Hydration is also really important, and thankfully our merciful overlords provide water at strategic points throughout the con (read: bring a refillable water bottle, you’ll thank me later when you don’t have to pay $5.00 for Poland Springs in the food court). This many people in one place also means herd mentality and “walk around aimlessly” logic applies, so it can take you a bit to get from one side of the con to the other, especially when you’re short on time. All hail lawmaker Murphy. That being said, please walk with a purpose or at least stick to the sides of the halls if you’re meandering. I have kobolds to shank and you’re making me late!
4. Used to being treated like the scum of the earth by normies?! Fear no more!
Honestly the biggest culture shock of attending GenCon for me was the warm welcome from the city of Indianapolis. I’ve been attending conventions for 11 years, and the non-attendees, or “normies,” are usually pretty peeved about the presence of a large faction of nerds descending upon their city. More specifically, businesses seem to be particularly irked, which has always struck me as odd given how much money we funnel into their economy. Previously, my standard of a “nice” reception was people not being outwardly hostile – but GenCon really raised the bar for me. Local restaurants have GenCon specials, the craft breweries create special beers, and even some of the hotel staff dressed up in Star Trek uniforms for the weekend! It was really shocking to have such a warm welcome and it was nice to not feel on the defensive all weekend. Whether that’s the case for cons in the Midwest in general or if it’s exclusive to GenCon, it’s a pleasant change of pace.
This is not an exhaustive guide by any stretch of the imagination but my corporate higher ups like things to be short and sweet around these parts. While there’s probably a bunch of other things I’m missing, I hope you find this helpful! And if there’s anything else you want to know, hit me up here or on any of my social media platforms; I love giving advice!
FancyDuckie is a 20-something researcher by daylight, and mahou shoujo cosplayer by moonlight! She’s also known to play murder hobo elven clerics with a penchant for shanking twice a week. Also known as “science girlfriend” of The Heavy Metal GM. When she’s not chained to her sewing machine or doing other nerdy stuff, she enjoys watching ballet, musical theatre, pro hockey, and playing with any critter that will tolerate her presence. You can find her on Twitter, Tumblr, ACParadise, Facebook, Instagram, & Wordpress.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.