Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gen Con Part 1: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door..."

Aaron and I just got home from Gen Con 2014, the largest gaming convention in the country. Around 50,000 people attended this year, and we all packed into the charming Midwest city of Indianapolis.

I've written up a journal-style account of my adventures, which I’ll spread over the course of three days. I really felt like I had to go in-depth to create a true picture of our time at Gen Con. My hope is that it will be insightful both for Gen Con diehards and those who have never even heard of tabletop wargaming or Dominion (what Aaron and I play). Here goes!

We had indescribable amounts of fun! I reveled in the opportunity to be in a like-minded community of nerds, where it was perfectly acceptable to dress up as wizards and elves, and not uncommon to be in line at Starbucks only to see Ned Stark walk by.

However, Aaron and I made one fatal error: we took a red eye flight from California to Indianapolis.

We’d spent the previous five days visiting family and friends in California. We flew into SFO, worked our way down the coast, and flew out of LAX just a few short days later. First off, that was not enough time. It was so, so good to see people we love, eat Mexican food, and drink coffee at Joe Momma’s. We squashed as much fun as possible into our time, and still, of course, didn't get to do all that we wanted.

So flying away from LAX, we were already exhausted and while I was so happy to have made the California trip, I had a really hard time leaving. We flew out of LAX at 9:30 at night, made a connecting flight in Phoenix, and arrived in Indiana at six in the morning. We were so tired we figured we’d most definitely sleep on the plane. We were sadly mistaken.

We met one of our Santa Barbara friends at the airport, and shared a taxi into the city, and immediately located the nearest Starbucks, which luckily was across from the convention center. We weren't able to check into our hotel until 3 PM, so we had to lug our luggage around with us the whole day, and our schedules were packed.

I bid Aaron good luck at his Infinity tournament, and headed to my first seminar, Worldbuilding 101, which started at 9 AM. It was going to be a long day! However, I really enjoyed the seminar, and forced myself to take notes so I wouldn't forget everything. The seminar was led by a panel of writers, editors, a game writer, and a professor, so it was very insightful. To create a believable world, ask questions such as “What is normal to the everyday life of a character?” and “In what world would a situation be as difficult as possible for the characters?”

I left the seminar still exhausted, yet totally excited about the convention, and headed straight into yoga, which was exactly what I needed. Yoga at the convention was taught by yogis from a local studio, and they were amazing. Those yoga classes almost made me want to live in Indianapolis just to practice at that studio! It was definitely worth the time and money, and an activity I will definitely make time for next year. (Oh yes, we’re totally going next year!)

Shortly after yoga, I went in to my first Dominion tournament. I was nervous, because I certainly didn't know what to expect. To my surprise, the competition was not as cutthroat as I’d expected, but was incredibly friendly. Plus, the Dominion room was stocked with food, tea, and coffee, which made me happy. I won my first game and placed second in my next game, which gave me a boost of confidence. I really enjoyed getting to know the people I played with, which included a Bible translator originally from California and a ten-year-old girl who nearly won last year’s tournament.

After Dominion, I had a break. Finally! I checked into the hotel and climbed into bed. A little later, our good friend Dee arrived, and I said hello to her, and then climbed into bed again. I slept until dinner, which was Caribbean food from a food truck.

Outside the convention, Georgia Street was set up with food trucks and tables. The food trucks parked there for each day of the convention, but throughout the year, food trucks set up on Fridays, and they have a free workout session on Wednesdays, as well as other community gatherings. Just another sample of the cool local flavor of Indianapolis!

After dinner, Dee and I attended a class to learn how to etch geeky glasses. The etching material we used was nontoxic (usually etching is accomplished through heavy chemicals that require gloves and extreme care). We’d picked out designs in advance, and after the instructor walked us through the process, we dove right in. I’d picked out the Gen Con logo and the Firefly logo for two glasses, Celtic designs for another glass, and Harry Potter designs for a fourth glass. We had so much fun and came away with awesome glasses (which totally survived the trip home!). 

Read Part 2 and Part 3

Quote in the title comes from The Fellowship of the Ring, chapter 3, page 74.

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