Gen Con is huge and exhausting and wonderful and disappointing and inspiring, all at once. There’s a lot to take in and one recap couldn’t possibly capture it all, but thankfully this recap is powered by Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, who is actually eight separate people and, therefore, can hopefully get everything that we need.
So here I present The Good, The Bad, And The Delphine of Gen Con 2015: A Recap In GIF
So. Many. Games. As always, Gen Con is the main board gaming event in the US (with Origins a close second). This year, there were over 400 games on display and while I heard complaints regarding the lack of “big” debuts, there was no shortage of titles.
Mysterium sold out (of course), Scythe proved to be impressive, and the Portal game made its first appearance. The major sleeper hit was Codenames, though – a team-based word-association party game. It’s simple and relies heavily on interaction, and like Apples to Apples / Cards Against Humanity, it gets funnier as the night goes on.
And then, of course, there were the people.
This Gen Con, I had the chance to meet/re-meet so many fantastic designers, producers, and media folks. I won’t list them all here, but I will say that the women in games rocked it particularly hard this year! The hobby is changing and expanding, and that means not only more games, but more people interacting with them. More points of view, more voices, and more diversity. Check out Monarch, for instance, a game by Mary Flanagan about a set of princesses vying for their mother’s throne. Or the launch of Dead Scare‘s Blind Mouse Games, an RPG imprint by Elsa Henry that aims to make games accessible to everyone.
I purposefully spent more time than usual this year at panels and events. I hear that most people tend to over-schedule themselves at Gen Con, but I usually do the opposite and spend hours wearing myself out around the Expo Hall.
I tried to avoid that this year by making sure that I had other places to be, and it was successful! I even tried my first convention RPG: Baker Street, by Fearlight Games. It was Sherlockian and Victorian and mostly fun, though not something I’m going to buy for myself. The game went well, but I’ve realized that I’m more interested in RPGs that that emphasize the role playing. If you’re looking for a solid deduction / mystery-focused game, though, check it out. I was a little nervous before I went – I’d heard horror stories about Gen Con event games – but I’m glad that I followed through. Next year, I’m going to sign up for more games, and I feel comfortable enough as a gamer, and also as a Gen Con attendee, to do so.
Not everyone had a great Gen Con experience, however, and I want to acknowledge that this is understandable and not okay. From inappropriate comments, to poorly-designed panels, to undeserved awards, gaming still has a looooong way to go before it can be considered a safe, accessible space for everyone.
As gamers (and, in this case, media) it’s our responsibility to make the space better. While I did see progress in some sectors (shoutout to the new Sensory Room, a quiet space amongst the bustle), there’s still a long way to go. I didn’t leave Gen Con discouraged by the state of the industry, but I do know people who did. That makes me sad, but it also makes me determined to do better. I’m trying to think of ways that I can do that, and I’m open to suggestions.
One thing that’s definitely out of my hands, though, is the crowd. So many people. Everywhere. The individual games were fine, but the crowds on the Expo Hall floor made demos of new games extremely challenging. Even if you managed to secure a spot at the table, it was difficult to even hear what was going on, never mind concentrate on learning a new game.
I don’t know if there’s really a solution to this, but I think the question of whether Gen Con has outgrown the ICC / Indy area is a relevant one. Another question that came up was whether it was time to move or disband the Artist’s Alley. I’m pretty glad that this question is not actually one I have to answer.
These are neither good nor bad, or maybe they’re both good and bad, or maybe…well, they’re complex. Let’s just leave it at that.
First up, it is so easy to just never go outside. I barely left the ICC, and this was a mistake…but one that I enjoyed. While it’s true that I was busy having fun and seeing friends, and I wouldn’t want to trade those experiences, I should have found a way to mix them in with some fresh air.
And the three minute walk to The RAM every night doesn’t count.
Also, the few marquee games sold out extremely quickly this year. That’s great for the publishers, but less great for the rest of us.
We weren’t able to get our hands on a copy of Mysterium because Asmodee brought far, far fewer copies than they should have. I’m not sure if this was an error or a way of generating buzz, but I was disappointed. And Asmodee wasn’t the only company in this boat.
Speaking of boats, here’s a sentence that came up a lot: “We have the games, but they’re still on the boat.” Gen Con was very early this year, and that seemed to have thrown off a few publication schedules. Mistfall, Steam Works, and Spyfall are just a few of the games that almost made it to the con but didn’t quite.
That’s…not great, but at least the games will be available soon! Gen Con should also be back into its August schedules next year, which means this won’t be a lasting problem.
That’s about it for Gen Con this year. I met lots of people, played a few games, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even better, the con inspired me to keep working, writing, recording, and playing.
Until next year!
Erin Ryan is a regular contributor to the site, and is thankful for her readers, among other things. Feel free to share your thoughts with us over on our social media pages!
Photo Credits: Orphan Black source images by BBC America.