GenCon, There and Back Again a Designers Story: Part 2

GenCon is THE tabletop game convention in the states, or at least that is what I have been told. I figured it was time that I went to a big board game convention to show off Robit Riddle to the world, well to the 50 or so people that I got to show it to.

This will be a three part series on my preparations, experiences, and reflections of GenCon 2015 as a first time attendee and game designer.


Part 2: At GenCon 2015

Flying into Indy the day before GenCon was pretty amazing, it seemed as if just about everyone on each of my flights were heading to GenCon. There were more geeks, neckbeards, dweebs, nerds, and generally amazing people then I am used to seeing converge in a very small radius.

Going alone and not meeting up with with anyone is it forced me out of my comfort zone. I talked to people, anyone that looked like they were heading to the same place as I was. I met some amazing people because of this.


Day 0: Wednesday, The Calm Before the Storm

This is the day for retails and educators. I headed to the convention center to pickup my will call badge and tickets. On the way I stopped at a noodle place to grab a quick bite. Here I sat down with a retailer that was doing some personal trades in the area. Got some good tips from him, thanks Mike, and went into the convention center.

As I arrived I could see that everyone else had decided to pickup their tickets and badges as I did. They ran it very smoothly and without too much wait I had my badge, and my event tickets.

I couldn’t pickup my game master badge because that didn’t open until 5pm for some reason. So I hung-out and people watched. I met an Indy local, Kim, who came to check things out too. We chatted and enjoyed the spectacle.

After picking up my game master badge for the play test hall, I head back to my room for an early night since I was going to have a 8am to 4pm straight set of slots for play testing. 


Day 1: Thursday, It Starts

I get up early and grab a quick breakfast on my way into the hall. I set everything up in the First Exposure Playtest Hall and feel pretty good about myself. I had a plan for running my playtests, and for the most part I stuck to it. The first couple of slots I had two tables going because… why not, I can handle it.

I was bouncing back and forth constant writing down notes. This was good in one respect as I was getting tons of good input constantly. What I was missing is just observing and making my own notes based on what I was seeing. After the first two slots I ran just one group through which allowed me to do just that.

By the end of this marathon of demo’s and little food to eat, I was ready to collapse. But it felt great, really great. I knew I had a solid idea that everyone wanted to be awesome. Some found it awesome with little tweaks, others thought it needed more polish.

Nobodies body language was telling me they were ready to be done. Everyone wanted to reach the end of the story, which was more telling than them praising the game. I would watch as almost everyone started with the mechanics of the game, then slowly got more into the story telling. It really was an awesome sight.

I went back to my bed with a belly full of yummy food truck fiddles. I made even more notes before passing out. It was a great day.


Day 2: Friday, SEMINARS

This was my late start day 10am, so I got to sleep in; which was a good thing since I was to jazzed to get to sleep at a decent hour the night before. I got to the FEPH for my one and only slot. Get more feedback, awesome.

This day was mostly filled with events. I went to several, and they were all related to game designing in some form or another. I learned things from professionals in the industry. This ranged from: creating characters and story, to self publishing, to talking with publishers, to kickstarting.

All this information was very beneficial, as it helped my game directly or indirectly. Like how to write for a character or making a decision on self-publishing vs finding a publisher.

That night I went to a Game Crafter event where I meet many more designers, and playtested even more games. Not only did I get superb feedback on my game, I also got some insights into designers that were at different states in their publishing.


Day 3: Saturday, Average Joe

This was my day to go around the dealer hall and buy games I was interested in. I wanted to get Mysterium for a friend that had gotten me a “hot” game a couple of GenCons ago.

I hate black friday mobs, but there was something about being in a mob of geeks all tweaking about the game they were most excited to get. I lined up at 8am and was right at the front. We played games while we waited, and I meet some new friends.

I ended up getting Mysterium because of the group of people I was with new the best path, and we had a plan. It was amazing. From there I wandered around the hall picking up titles I was most interested in, and meeting more awesome people.

I found out about a couple of indie game alliances, and talked to smaller publishers that had started very similarly to me. All these interactions were special and could not have happened anywhere else.

I meet up with one publisher that I was interested in talking with about my game. In the end it wasn’t a good match. It was still a great experience and a contact that was super awesome and willing to help. I was much better prepared for this meeting thanks to the Bamboozle Brothers that gave one of the seminars from the previous day.

I went to another seminar or two, then went back to bed with more yummy truck food in my belly. I could have gone out and done more networking, but I wanted to save a little for my 8am slot on Sunday.


Day 4: Sunday, Sad but Relieving End

The last day, I setup in the First Exposure Playtest Hall at 8am. This slot had a low showing of testers, but I was able to get a full group.

The way the slots work is you get one group for 2 hours. My game plays in 30 minutes with explanation and feedback it may take up an hour, leaving me nothing to do for another hour. The great thing about this is there are usually people walking through the hall. I was almost always able to seat my own group for the 2nd hour.

Sunday is also family day, which I really didn’t put two and two together when I signed up for slots. This was the demographic that I needed. What made this okay is that the Double Exposure people are okay with you squatting if the table isn’t being used. I stayed for another slot and picked up more players, which was terrific!

With that I headed back to the airport. I was sad to see GenCon end, but was ready to sleep in my own home.