GenCon 2011 Debrief, Part 1 (General Thoughts)

GenCon 2011 was this past weekend. I arrived Wednesday evening and left early Sunday morning. In that time, I had the opportunity to experience quite a lot!

Before diving into specific games I got to try out, I’d like to just give some general thoughts about the whole experience as well as a few highlights.

This was my second time to attend GenCon. I first attended 2 years ago. It was great to go back and see people I hadn’t seen in a while as well as meeting even more gamers with similar tastes. As always the indie gaming community is amazing. It’s extremely accessible and the amount of talent and creativity is always astounding. I love being able to chat with the game designers and sometimes even play their games with them. And those that are still working on a design are always gracious and accept comments willingly. It can’t be easy to put your ideas out there like that and not know how it’ll be received. I love gaming and I might someday like to try my hand at some design, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the hurdle of putting myself out there like that.

One of the highlights, for me, of this year’s GenCon was getting to meet Peter Adkison. To celebrate the release of Burning Wheel Gold this year he invited other BW fans into his suite and we sat around socializing and running some mock Fights as we tried to learn the new rules. Probably the best part of the evening was watching Peter & his dad square off in battle and roll the dice. I hope that when I’m his father’s age I’m still that enthusiastic about gaming.

The main exhibit hall seemed a bit out of the way this year. I remember when I attended two years ago, it was right by the main entrance of the convention center. This year it seemed kind of tucked in the back. I heard someone mention it was because of higher attendance and needed a larger space. Maybe that was it, but not knowing the full layout of the place it seems like it could have been done better.

Much like my first time at GenCon I spent a fair amount of time in the Games on Demand room. I absolutely love trying out new games and discovering games I’ve never heard of. The idea is that you show up and see who’s interested in running/playing what games and just grab a table to start. A lot of games can be demo’d in a couple hours, so there’s plenty of time to try out lots of games.

Their space was a bit lacking this year, but interest seemed really high. All the tables were almost always full and sometimes they spilled over into nearby rooms with free tables. With any luck they’ll be able to get a little larger space next year.

Also, I had the opportunity to see a seminar by Luke Crane & Jared Sorensen: “Game Design is Mind Control”. Fantastic talk. Seriously if you ever have the chance to see this at a con, do yourself a favor and do it. Very interesting topic and it’s presented well with a good sense of humor. I’d planned on seeing another talk from Luke, “The Mad Taxonomy of Game Design”, but I completely failed and put it in my calendar wrong and showed up late and only saw the last 10 minutes. What I saw was interesting, at least! I’ll have to catch it another time.

In the next few posts I’ll go into a little detail on the different games I got to play (in no particular order): Dresden Files RPG, Operation Blackbird (a 60’s spy hack of Lady Blackbird), Fiasco, Zombie Cinema, 2 games still in playtest (one called “Sparks” the other was a dungeon-crawl hack of Leverage called The Dungeon Job), Inspectres, Dungeon World, Apocalypse World, Bulldogs, Once Upon a Time, and a short in-booth demo of the upcoming Mistborn RPG.

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