What is GenCon?
Nathan Letsinger


Editor's Preface:
Nathan says of role-playing gaming and Gen Con: "You don't have to read Chomsky, Foucault, or Joseph Campbell to realize that stories are a very important aspect of human existence. I agree with Tracy Hickman when he calls DMs the 'modern bard,' and I think Gen Con is at its best when we 'bards' gather to share our ideas, because there is more going on here than just a consumer hobby, its a chance to share in a very human endeavor - sharing stories - nobody accused Homer of indulging in escapism."


Gen Con is the self-proclaimed world's largest gaming convention currently held in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Gen Con was founded and operated by TSR, and now by Wizards of the Coast, and is managed by Andon Unlimited, a division of Wizards. Gen Con is thousands of role-players, CCG-aholics, and wargamers convening once a year to celebrate their hobby. Gen Con is where the fan base can touch base with the face of the industry, where they can speak with more then just their dollars. Gen Con is a great place for those (attention parents, teachers, and religious leaders!) interested in learning more about what role-playing is REALLY about. Gen Con is about honest, good, clean fun. Gen Con is, for some, the mecca to which every gamer aspires to journey.

When TSR was a young budding gaming company nestled in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Gen Con served as the meeting grounds for the fledgling hobby now known as role playing gaming. That meeting ground of fans and industry leaders would grow over the years, eventually moving from Lake Geneva to the MECCA center in Milwaukee, until the convention would bring gamers by the thousands.

"Besides blatant consumerism, the convention provides a forum for players and fans to talk directly with their favorite designers, artists, and novelists."

They gathered to celebrate their hobby, trade ideas, mingle with the industry, and try to weasel cool free-things from them (a time-honored tradition carried on by canny con attendees.) Gen Con doesn't just cater to role-playing, for almost every kind of game, from hugely popular live role-playing (Vampire, Deadlands, even Planescape!) to wide-scale miniature combat, to CCG tournaments, and even strategic board games (RISK, Axis & Allies) are present.

Attention Parents!
Ever wonder just what this hobby was all about? Concerned about what role-paying and other such games are like? Gen Con is an excellent chance to experience them first hand. Just pick up a $15 visitors pass during a day of the Con and sit in on a free game demo!

Having hundreds of gaming companies and industry vendors hawking their wares is also a familiar site. If your local game store seems lack-luster, then you'll never get enough of perusing the dozens of tiny booths and monolithic corporate displays of companies large and small.Today, Gen Con brings in 20,000 plus visitors to view the latest industry releases, make scads of purchases, plague the special guests with autograph requests, and, if time permits, play a few games.

Besides blatant consumerism, the convention provides a forum for players and fans to talk directly with their favorite designers, artists, and novelists. Albeit public forums often mediate these meetings, the tenacious fan is sure to have their questions answered. There are seminars and Q&A sessions with your favorite designers, artists and novelists galore. We can't all be expected to be treated to dinner alone with Ed Greenwood, now can we?

"Where else can you...decend upon Dunkin' Donuts to convene another adventurous night in true gamer style...?"

If you are interested in meeting other gamers (or at least can deal with their co-existence despite your misanthropic leanings after hours of playing Fallout 2) or meeting your favorite designer (and can deal with the fact that she's probably just like you, only she gets paid for her obsession, and is maybe cuter) then the convention is a good place to start. While the online communities, such as the Planescape Mailing List, provide an excellent forum to discuss and develop ideas, there is something about the personal face-to-face exchange that will make conventions, like Gen Con, a perennial favorite with fans of our hobby.

Where else can you stay up to 3 AM with people unknown, but with characteristics vaguely familiar, hacking your way through the Dungeons of Perilous Danger, and then descend upon Dunkin' Donuts to convene yet another adventurous night in true gamer style, sharing stories of the day's spoils and your heros' most glorius deaths?

For some candid chant on what's new at Gen Con read my Opinion Rant.



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  Copyright 1999, Nathan Letsinger. Graphics by Jeremiah Golden.