GenCon2018: Day 3 — 4 takeaways from GenCon aka Worg is Dead, Long live Worg!


The final day of GenCon 2018 is ringing in my head. It’s been a long weekend and one packed with fulfilment of some very old dreams (30+ years in the making). Instead of giving the scoop on something in particular, let me finish with a bit of reflection. These are the four things I took away from the biggest gaming convention in the world.

Number 4: We were here to help and have fun.
I was able to sit in on panels, look over a lot of booths, play a few games, and wonder around in more venues than any one single convention should have right to include. I do not like crowds. Sincerely, if you know me at all, you’d know if you ever see me shopping—-I ain’t having fun. If you see me shopping without headphones, you know I’m one inch away from losing it. GenCon is one massive crowd moving at once. The only way I could get through the weekend is because, for the most part (let’s say 90%), everyone was here to have fun and everyone helped each other. In this short weekend, I witnessed merchants offering their own booth space to customers in need of costume repair (to avoid the trample); I’ve seen total strangers give up general tickets to me when I came up short for an event; I’ve seen legends in the field (James Lowder) take time to address aspiring writers after a conference; I’ve seen more than a few strangers share dice, give support, and just be darnright happy people with each other. It is great to see people come together from all over to have fun and help each other.

Number 3: Plan. Do. Improvise.
There is a lot to do. Seriously. A lot. As in, just finding out what to do took effort. I had the guidebook, the website, an unofficial app, and the luck of someone who wanders around getting into things—and I still was a bit overwhelmed at times. There is a lot to do.

This is not like a regular Con where you can see everything on a one-day pass. I thought if I could get a ‘bit’ in Thursday (whoops, plane was late, nope!) I would be bored by the time Sunday rolled around. Ha! Even if the plane was early, dropped me directly off at the convention center, and pushed me out the door with a set of dice, I would not remotely be bored by Sunday.

There is so much to do, half of the experience the first time is figuring out how to ‘do’ the Con your next time. My advice is to use a game plan. See where you want to be—what do you like to do—and then use the Con’s guidebook for advice (it does give great tips, by the way), use the unofficial app, and be open to improvise. Chances are you will have anywhere from 3-5 things that you want to go to going on at the same time. This is OK. See what event will happen again in the day, or tomorrow, and then hit the ones that are ‘one-shots’. Rank them if you have to—but be OK with not seeing everything. Be OK with running into happy surprises. Flow. Be OK with Flow.

Number 2: Gamers are darn right cool
Why do I sometimes cringe at other cons? Vendors want money and they show it. Events want money and they show it. Yes, money can be a motivator but it shouldn’t be the prime one. At GenCon, the fans and the gaming are the prime motivators and the money is a happy flowing aspect of this motivation.

I’ve seen more booths sell out completely (heck, some were gone before I got there Sunday because they had nothing left!) at this GenCon than all my other conventions combined. Why? Because the focus is on the gamer. I’ve mentioned a few cool merchants already, but I left an entire galaxy out.

One group of people who went above and beyond every time I walked past their booths (plural) were OffWorld Designs. Every time I walked by one of the booths, people were having fun. That’s right, they were having fun at a merch booth that sold shirts, backpacks, hats, and various other goodies. Why? Other than the kick butt designs of the t-shirts (the best I’ve come across at any Con), the reason was the staff. The staff made everyone feel at home. Even when the lines were long (and boy was this booth popular!), they took their time and made you feel like a person and not a walking wallet. I got to talk to the owner a bit and, just like a lot of the good people at this con, OffWorld is a Mom N Pop family event. In a world where everything is faceless numbers of statistical data and bank accounts, it’s great to see companies that are down to Earth, graceful, and still kicking butt. I loved everything I bought from the store (my major purchases came from here—and that says a lot) and I loved that they recognized me from previous days. This is a place that saw thousands of people in foot traffic and they still took time to say ‘hi’. That’s just amazing. If you missed GenCon or maybe didn’t get everything in the weekend, give their website a shot. It’s the best thing since this side of the Galaxy developed Bill Murray.

Number 1: It’s okay to Worg repeatedly as long as you try (oh and wash your hands after you Worg).
I’ve had a lot of fun dying over the weekend. It was my first time in decades playing games like this and I loved it. Worg (his name was changed to protect the innocent) never did make it out alive, nor did any of his five descendants (all named Worg), but he had a lot of fun throwing halflings across trap pits, trying to help a druid out of tree-form by attempting to chop him down (to be fair, the druid was being used as a weapon at the time by an ettin), trying to bribe a horde of goblins if they spare Worg he would Worg the whole party for them (darn if Worg didn’t know others could speak Goblin in the party), and sacrificing himself in true Worg fashion by using the 1 hp ally as a meatshield then entering the fray.

The point is—Worg lived to the fullest because Worg was out there trying everything he could Worg. It’s OK to try something new—-maybe you’re good at it, maybe you aren’t. Who cares! Did ya have fun? It’s okay to mess up at a table game or RPG, or parking, or whatever—-did you have fun? Did you get hurt?

If you are someone who wants to publish their material, it is OK to come up to talk to the panel after or even anyone in the crowd. If I self-identify there, it means I am open to people coming up to me after. Some great talent and conversations are usually had after the panels. What’s the worse that will happen if you approach someone politely to talk? They might turn you down—-and? So what? You weren’t talking to them before this Con, right? It’s a wash. The best thing that can happen far outweighs any negative. Ask. Approach. Try. Be polite (and wash your darn hands after you go to the restroom! I’ve seen the insides of those bathrooms *shudder*). You have a dream, it takes just one step from audience to panelist (or as DLR would say, the difference between being in the crowd and being on stage is about 15 feet). Take that step—-you deserve it. You are worthy. Promise.

Jim is going to do something weird right now—-he’s going to offer up his own personal serenity prayer that he’s been saying since a child: May everyone go there and back safely and may everyone have fun—-and nobody get hurt. That’s really a mantra now, and darn it, I think this GenCon fits the bill. It’s okay to have fun and try things that might make you look silly to others or just try something new even though your heart is beating 1000000 beats per second. Just have fun—-have fun and do no harm. Everything else will be alright. Worg Promise.

That’s it from GenCon. I want to thank everyone who made this weekend special that means to thank the GenCon staff for allowing this 30+ year dream come true—on a press badge for the best darn job I’ve had in decades. How cool is it that GenCon takes care of everyone from high to low and that a complete long-shot is welcomed in like I was a long lost relative in from the cold wasteland? Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, have I ever been treated with such grace and welcoming open arms than I have here at GenCon. I’ve had a lot of love and luck through my life but GenCon was the one area where it didn’t matter who I was because everyone was treated equally with the respect and kindness that is sorely missing elsewhere in this world.

After all the take always and the energy still wizzing in my head, I know one thing for certain: Next year, Worg will rise again!

Until then….


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