GenCon 2016 – Day TWO (Three)

You know how armies have consistently throughout history prepared for the previous war? I consistently prepare myself for my previous mistake. The upshot is that I live in perpetual fear that I have forgotten something extremely important, but not so important that I would remember it.

The upshotted upshot is that if I knew how to sew my lanyard onto my clothes, I would have.

Welcome to GenCon 2016, Saturday Edition – Day Two (for me)

The crowds don’t look so bad when they’re spread over seven city blocks!

Saturday was peak day at GenCon. The crowds were denser and felt more intense. Everyone had somewhere they need to be, and everyone was ALWAYS in the way.

Except for me. The great thing about not knowing what I’m doing is that everywhere I go is my destination.

On the second day, did I have any idea of what I was doing? Hell no! In a crowd like this, sometimes the best plan was no plan.

But I felt more confident. On Friday, I had to be led around like a little kid by a group of very nice people. “Where are we going now, mommy and daddy?”

But that Saturday, I had a preset destination.

Some people came to play games or to socialize or to make new friends. I went straight for the shopping.

The Convention of Things

GenCon 2016 Exhibitor
Note: just a portion of the actual floor.

I was sailing rudderless into the dark heart of nerd capitalism. I was sweaty, my back hurt, and the dark shadow in me was whispering, “look at these prices!”

The vendors who were doing it right were discounting their goods to get people to their store. The ones who were doing it wrong, and there were a number of them, didn’t seem to realize that I would buy their stuff on Amazon for the same price sans the sales tax.

That didn’t stop people from shopping there.

Note: they did it right.

Which brings me to my nerd weakness – dice.

Here are my bonafides: I started gaming when I was eleven years old and got my hands on the D&D basic set, aka the magenta box. This was first edition D&D in 1981. I played with a few of my friends and rolled up my first character, a fighter named Lepus.

The box came with one set of dice, and therein lay the problem: ONE set of dice. In order to play with friends, I needed more; especially since our group of three got tired of sharing.

At that time, there were arcades, which for you younger readers was a large building containing very lame, simplistic games that old people now won’t shut up about.

This particular arcade also carried dice. The display was amazing (to an eleven-year-old.) They had dice, alright; colored, semi-transparent dice glistening like jewels under the bone-white, buzzy fluorescent lights. They were the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

I was, again, eleven.

Sometimes an experience happens to you that bonks the nucelus accumbens in exactly the right way. Seeing these dice did it.

Throughout my life, I fell in and out of gaming. I came back in my mid-twenties, then fell out again. I told my wife that when my mid-life crisis hits, it wouldn’t take the form of cars or college girls – it would be gaming.

I was right. I started back in. The first thing I did was buy some dice. The second thing I bought was books for 4th edition D&D (I was away for decades – I didn’t know any better.). I continued buying dice after that. Now, the first thing I look for in any games store is the dice.

After all, it’s a truism of gaming: versions come and go, systems gain and lose popularity, but you will always need more dice.

Boy, did GenCon have dice.

Pictured: Ahhhhhhhh…

There is a mercenary edge to the exhibitor area. Here, everyone is the predator, everyone is the prey, and everyone is hungry. I am included in that auspicious list. I was hunting dice, and the dice vendors were hunting me.

Here is my total kill.

Pictured: my younger daughter’s birthday money.

Two frosted plastic dice sets, a set of metal dice, a set of dice made of hematite, four d4 dice, two new dice bags, and a set of miniature metal dice.

They caught me!

Further Notes from the Feeding Frenzy

I think the Star Trek nerd phrase “resistance is futile” was inspired by GenCon. That is pretty much the only way you can exist here: don’t resist. You have to just let things flow around you and accept that whatever’s happening at that exact moment is exactly what is happening and there’s nothing you can do about it.

For instance, giving up on getting from A to B.

This is a relative empty spot in the crowd.

By this point, I had long since stopped saying “excuse me” when I bumped into people.

Keep in mind, I was raised with a relentless, blind, perhaps self-destructive sense of politeness. I actually practice “phone courtesy.” I would say sorry if hit by a car (then cuss them out in language I like to think of as “blue-collar poetry.”)

I may not mean to be polite, but it just happens. It’s a reflex. On the inside, I might be a pressure cooker of roiling rage ready to think the absolute worst of any or all who wander into my eyesight.

But damn it, I’m going to say “please,” “thank you,” and wish them a nice day, all as a thoughtless reaction to encountering another human being.

So to be driven so far as to not say excuse me when bumped, even if I did the bumping (shock!) meant that I became numb to the experience. I was tired past the point of common courtesy.

Which I suppose was fine, since originally I was the only person saying “excuse me” when being bumped. Everyone else was an old hand at GenCon. To get from A to B, you might need to run over some people on the way.

The bald gentleman wants you to know that if you get between him and the Steve Jackson gaming booth, HE WILL CUT YOU!

Then, there was the Fantasy Flight booth.


This one had an actual line. Because Fantasy Flight (the maker of such games as Star Wars Destiny, The Force Awakens Beginner Game, Mansions of Madness, DOOM: The Board Game, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and plenty of other amazing games!*) is a fairly popular games designer, they had to manage the crowd.

Hence, the queue.

And they were right to do this. Otherwise, they would’ve been swamped.

But on another level, it struck me funny that one had to wait in line to spend money. It’s one of those things that I’ve done at least once a week all my adult life, queuing up to buy something. But this time, in the middle of a crowded convention center, I stepped out of myself for a second and saw… well… something that by any outsider’s perspective would be considered weird.

There is an apocryphal story about communist-era Russia. Supposedly, an American journalist visiting Russia had an idea for an experiment. He stood in front of a random, non-descript doorway and waited. Eventually, a Russian citizen stopped in front of him, looked at the journalist, and lined up behind him.

By the time an hour had passed, there was a line stretching around the block. No one had any idea what they were queuing for, but they were certain that whatever it was must be absolutely necessary. Otherwise, why would everyone be waiting in line for so long?

I am fairly certain that this would work at GenCon. If I didn’t get trampled first.

And Now, a Word from Aleister Crowley


What more can be said about this? Other that it’s not a very good book. I read it years go, then sold it to Half Priced Books. It seems to have returned with interest. For this price, it should be one of Crowley’s many Horcruxes.

A Note of Serious Seriousness

While I was on the vendor floor, my thoughts wandered to a very put-upon subgroup at GenCon, and indeed at most “cons”: booth babes.


There is no snark here at all. I imagine that being a booth babe is exhausting work. One has to wear uncomfortable clothing, maintain a friendly demeanor, and get leched upon by large numbers of people who look at the booth babe the same way a lion at an open air zoo looks at a child.

I really hope booth babes get paid a lot of money. It looks like extremely exhausting work. That kind of body doesn’t come easily. Hours of workouts, diets, and general discomfort goes into being an object to lure in the rubes for a couple of days.

I never asked any of the people in costumes selling items how many times somebody has tried to make a snarky, witty comments to them about their outfit. I bet the number is depressingly high.

However, this gentleman missed an opportunity to cosplay as the weird guy with the stomach baby/leader in the original “Total Recall.”

The New Section: In Which I Escape

After a few hours, I felt like I had milked the possibilities of the vendor floor and, more importantly, it had milked me. With no games to join in, I cut myself loose to wander around.

I saw a Kylo Ren cosplayer stand next to a Star Wars original trilogy stormtrooper and almost lost my shit. So I think I relatively got into the spirit of things.

I wondered how many of these costumes are not costumes at all but everyday wear, like a Leia bikini being worn while doing housework. My feeling is “not enough.” In many cases, a lot of care has been put into the costume. It would be a shame to wear it only once or twice a year. At the very least, wear it to the store or to a house of worship. I think nothing could better liven a Southern Baptist service more than the sudden appearance of a Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine.

In the meantime, they had a place to keep the children!

Here, scientists are developing the new generation of Geek/Nerd hybrids for the market.

By the end of it all, I found three Carmen Sandiego’s and saw Waldo seven times. A friend of mine didn’t see any Waldos, which means he is suffering from Waldo blindness. I honestly don’t see what the big deal was with all those books if a Waldo is going to bump into you at random while walking.

Time Keeps On Slippin’ Into Our Faces

By gaining weight, growing a beard, and getting old, Mark Hamill has done a lot of cosplayers a huge favor. Any elderly, portly male with a beard you could smuggle weasels in can buy a bathrobe and become a Jedi.

One day, I vow to be that elderly, portly male!

Am I missing the point in thinking that a lot of people are cosplaying as Jerry in Parks and Recreation? One day I will look like that man. The 2000 Year Old man said, “we mock the thing we are to be.”

If that’s the case, I suppose Mel Brooks was terrified that eventually, he would become a Nazi.

Oh, escalating fear of aging and death. You ARE a scamp!

I left as teams of competing packs of Ghostbusters postured over turf in the hallway. Perhaps I was leaving too early. Would it have been too much to hope for a cosplayer dressed up like Slimer to bum-rush the whole lot of them?

Perhaps, but I am a dreamer.

Next Post: Sic Transit Gloria!


Additional Thoughts

Note! A huge bundle of thanks to Britnee King, Tyler Moore, and Brad Ferris for helping me through my second day of the process, taking me to the beer garden, and showing me the art section on the kill vendor floor. Y’all is great people!


* Lifted directly from the website.