It’s Monday, August 3, and after four fun filled days, my Twitch channels I followed are all offline, I’ve only gotten one Discord notification, and I found myself asking Siri to roll a D20 because I was having gaming withdrawals. For those of us in the gaming world, today’s the Monday after Gen Con (aka “the best four days in gaming”) and we’re all feeling like something is missing. To those of you not in the gaming world, Gen Con is a four day convention that typically happens every year in Indy. During the convention, attendees can game pretty much 24 hours a day and participate in more events than the mind can comprehend. However, like a lot of conventions, this year Gen Con Indy became Gen Con Online because of Covid-19. Brace yourself…the following is my review of Gen Con Online.
Sensational Sovranti – Hands down the best part of the weekend was playing Sushi Go, Hedgehog Hop, and Truck Off on the Sovranti App. Sovranti was there running games online because after two and a half years of work the app is about to go into Beta. Sovranti wanted to let Gen Con Online attendees try it out in order to get some early feedback. Great news? They started taking that feedback and immediately fixing bugs in the app. Problems I had on Thursday were not encountered during my events on Saturday and Sunday! An additional bonus? The Sovranti folks were AMAZING! Huge shoutouts to Dani and Jason for their awesome GM-ing and friendliness! By the end of the weekend, Dani knew who I was by my voice. That’s pretty awesome! They also had a GM named Mark who was phenomenal! He ran my session of Hedgehog Hop, and he just happened to be the artist who designed all of the illustrations for the game!
Excellent and Not So Excellent Events – At any con there is the potential for events to be excellent. Some of my most excellent events for Gen Con Online were the seminars on teaching and gaming in the classroom! I’ve always wanted to attend Trade Day at Gen Con Indy, but I’ve either been in school already or at Professional Development. Thus, I was very happy to get to do some of these seminars. The one with Kathleen and Catherine was AWESOME! There was also a fun game called Trophies from Facade Games that was a fun event! I also have to give Facade Games props for working through technical difficulties and not giving up! Unfortunately, there were some not so excellent events. Also, a bit of advice: if you’re going to run a game or give a seminar, whether it is in person or online, you need to have more personality than a blueberry muffin. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some blueberry muffins! However, if you’re trying to hold my attention for more than five minutes then you’ve got to have some charisma. Also, a problem with solely Gen Con Online has to do with motion sickness. There are certain video game camera angles that make me sick. The entire time I was doing a demo on Tabletopia, I thought I was going to get sick. After the demo, I had to go take Extra Strength Tylenol in order to make it through the rest of the evening.
Exhibition Hall – One of my favorite parts of the Gen Con experience is the Exhibition Hall. At Gen Con Indy, within the Exhibition Hall there are crammed over 500 booths with artists, authors, and game companies. The Exhibition Hall is AMAZING because you can talk to vendors, watch/participate in quick game demos, haggle for bargains, and collect freebies such as pins that you never knew you even needed until somebody handed it to you. With Gen Con Online, they attempted to replicate the exhibition hall experience via The Looking Glass (still open until August 30). The idea of The Looking Glass was great! But the execution of The Looking Glass left something to be desired. The extensive vendor list would have been a lot easier to browse with more than four filters, and my laptop had a difficult time with the interface. I could also tell that some of the vendors didn’t take a lot of time with their Looking Glass promos because they didn’t include any descriptions, product image thumbnails, or even links to their social media. If they didn’t provide descriptions or thumbnails, then I didn’t even go to their website. I also feel like I didn’t pay as much attention to the vendors after getting through the “G’s” or so on the list because it was kind of exhausting to read through. Plus, on The Looking Glass nobody handed me free dice or collectible pins. At real Gen Con, I would’ve literally spent an entire day going through the Exhibition Hall, but at Gen Con Online, I just didn’t have the desire to keep clicking.
What was missing by having Gen Con Online? There were two main things missing for me with Gen Con Online beside the Exhibition Hall encounters. One, the gaming library. For those who want to try as many new games as they can get their hands on, the gaming library is the place to be. This is where you can go for hours and hours and play games that they have on hand. The last two times we went in person, the gaming library was my second favorite ticketed event. (You have to remember in 2014, I accidentally entered a National King of Tokyo tournament and came in 3rd Place, so that’s hard to beat.) The second thing that was missing was the social scene of Gen Con. I looked outside my house, and there was no Georgia Street packed full of food trucks or a beer garden. There wasn’t a Sun King set up with the official beer of Gen Con. There wasn’t a tent serving “island noodles” which just might be the best noodles on the planet! I could stream music performances, but it wasn’t the same as jamming to bands playing live. Other little things were missing like pool time in the hotel, pick up games at random hours, and people waving you over to a table to jump in a game with an empty seat.
Gen Con Online Greatness – All of this said, if Gen Con had been in Indy and not online this year, then I wouldn’t have been able to go. Could you imagine LilKsby at a four day gaming convention? He would’ve been amused for maybe an hour, but since we were home he had a ball at Gen Con. While me and Mr Kisby listened to streams or participated in events, LilKsby played with his toys. He also joined in on some of the Zooms and Google Meets since he likes to see the people that live in the computer. Another perk? We weren’t rushing to pack up the car before checkout on Sunday, and we didn’t have a long car trip home. We also made it fun by having theme days as far as how we dressed each day. The best two were definitely Cat Day and Batman Day. We also saved A LOT of money by not having to pay for badges, a hotel, gas, and meals. We also didn’t buy nearly as many games as we usually would at Gen Con because we didn’t really get to try very many. There were some definite perks to Gen Con Online.
Where Can Gen Con Online Go From Here? I think that even when Gen Con Indy can resume, then Gen Con Online is still worth continuing. In an ideal situation, I think Gen Con Online would be great to have during the winter – like February or March – when it is cold and people want to game without leaving their homes. I also think that Gen Con Online reached a wider international audience than Gen Con Indy does as it could all be accessed anywhere with internet. No one had to worry about 24 hour flights to Indy! One of the biggest draws of Gen Con Online this year was also that it was free to attend and many events were free. Gen Con has already said that to continue Gen Con Online, then they would have to charge money. I think this would be okay provided the experience involved more events that I couldn’t have found and streamed free without even registering for Gen Con online. I also think that to charge for Gen Con Online, there would need to be something in it for me. For example, if Gen Con Online were $25, then getting a set 7 piece set of Gen Con specific dice and 25% off my official Gen Con merchandise would make the $25 worth it. Another idea would be for the $25 fee to include some event vouchers.
Overall, I feel like with the small amount of time they had to switch from Gen Con Indy to Gen Con Online that Gen Con LLC did a good job. In reality, one probably shouldn’t even compare Gen Con Indy and Gen Con Online as it is kind of like comparing Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi. Diet Coke (Gen Con Indy) is always the better choice, but Diet Pepsi (Gen Con Online) will suffice if necessary. I loved my experience with Gen Con Online, and I’m very glad that we made the choice to participate. That said, I can’t wait for Gen Con 2021! I hope that Covid-19 is under control enough to go in person, but if not, then I’ll be ready for another (and I’m sure much improved) virtual experience!
The Great Kaysby