John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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GenCon 2015 Final Thoughts

As promised, here are some final thoughts and a bit of perspective on this year's GenCon Indy for 2015. Think of these as random Musings and Ravings (sic) about the convention, with some pics of the loot that I acquired there this year. To read the report on the final day of the GenCon trip, check out this journal entry.

So, how was my GenCon 2015? I guess that depends on perspective, but of course, hindsight is wonderful.

One of the things I wrote about before I left for GenCon Indy in this blog was the fact that there were certain things I wanted to do and accomplish at the convention. For the most part, I think I managed what I set out to do, but there were some wrinkles along the way.

For one thing, while I managed to pack as lightly as I could for the convention, with just a smaller suitcase (with a messenger bag inside it), an overnight carry-on bag, and a carry-on bag with my meds, both diabetes and other, I was a bit thrown off by the addition of the insulin therapy materiels that I needed to take with me. Even so, I found the luggage to be quite heavy (despite the Swiss Gear luggage being relatively lightweight) due to the fact that my left leg/ankle were so bad from the sheer amount of walking that I did in Indianapolis. The shipping home of some of my initial purchases via FedEx were quite costly, but that cut down on the weight of the luggage going home, though I was afraid with several of the purchases I made after the stuff went out with FedEx that the suitcase was going to be too heavy come the Monday of travel back to Ottawa. Truth be told, if I decide to go to another convention out of the country down the road, I need to rethink how I'll carry the insulin materiels. The hardest part of the convention for me was the Friday and Saturday, carrying around the gaming stuff to run the two Primeval RPG scenarios, and I was very grateful to have spross around to help me out with some of that stuff. I was glad that I packed the extra pairs of underwear and socks for the most part, though in fact it wasn't all that advantageous to be honest, as with no means of getting back to the Indianapolis Marriott North, there was no way of changing clothes and washing a bit when one felt really hot and sticky.

When it comes to my personal issues, well... I managed to take care of myself and my health for the most part, though the insulin therapy and the sheer amount of walking (exercise) I was getting made me feel "off" several times, resulted in some brain chemistry "incidents" (that I'll let spross mention here in the Comments if he wants to), and made me feel rocky and shaky at times. Not to mention the headaches. I drank a lot of water and stayed hydrated as best I could, and had to rely on some Aleve a few times for the pain in my back and left leg/ankle. For the most part, I pretty much followed the "8-3-1 Rule", though there were several nights where I barely got 4 hours of sleep, I made sure I ate the three meals per day - breakfast, lunch, and supper - and supplemented that with snacks twice a day, and got in my one shower per day... Even so, I lost 8.3 pounds over the course of the convention. While I washed my hands and face as I needed to, and used good soap, I still came down with con crud (or perhaps it was merely an aggravation of the bronchitis that I had suffered from before the convention), but there were days when I felt off, and dirty and grungy. Just the feelings from the heat and humidity, combined with the physical exertion at times, I guess. From a health standpoint, I think the biggest thing that I was worried about was the taking of the insulin. To some extent, I was right to be worried. Taking the insulin injections was no problem, though I had a bad one the night we arrived when I had a panic attack and cut myself with the insulin needle because my hand was shaking so much. The real problem was that I had to adjust the insulin dose down several times during the course of the GenCon week, as my sugars plummeted from the sheer physical activity at the con. I had a couple of close calls losing my balance and the like with escalators during the two airport trips as well as at the convention, but managed to get through them (a couple of times with spross's help. But let's not dwell on health aspects.

Lastly, there's the pacing. One of the things that I promise myself every convention I go to, and GenCon is no exception, is that I'm going to pace myself. GenCon is one of those conventions where this is always a real issue, because it's just sooooooo big that one just can't see everything, and so one has to make the most of what one can see while one is there. Not staying at one of the downtown hotels put time management at a bit more of a premium in many ways, but I think I did a lot more walking this time around then during the previous attendance years of 2008, 2011, and 2012 simply because GenCon has grown over those years. The insulin therapy has been good for me in the sense that I've got more energy, and I was able to get around the convention a bit more easily (other than the left ankle issue), but I actually felt pretty chipper on some days of the convention, though I did start to flag as the early evening came along. I had wanted to play in some games, but such was not to be, as with the running of the two Primeval games and the hit-or-miss method of using generic tickets, not to mention the travel time between the ICC and the hotel. I did get to play in some demos, which was fine, and have to say that I was pretty pleased overall with the convention, but I would have liked to have played in some full games, rather than demos.

I had a good time wandering around the convention, and was able to get some photos of people and stuff that interested me. I think I was a bit jaded this year at the various gaming materials I saw, as most of my pics are of people and the like. One thing that I photographed on the late Saturday afternoon from the level up above was the balloon squid that was quite impressive.

The balloon squid, and folks milling about

What was really cool about it, as per usual at GenCon, is there's an auction/raffle where someone got to "slay the squid" by exploding the balloons one at a time. I would have loved to have seen the destruction, but such is life. And I'm not sure I could have taken the explosive noise of the balloons popping, truth be told.

There were a lot of folks in costume over the weekend, but I only managed to take the one photo of the Elizabethan couple which I posted in an earlier blog entry. Here's that one again, for folks who'd like to see it again.

Elizabethan couple, once more

Needless to say, one of the real highlights for me this convention was seeing some of the folks that I like in the gaming industry. GenCon is certainly the place to do that. It was good to see Dom and the folks from Cubicle 7, Robin, Simon, and Gar from Pelgrane Press, all the folks at the Modiphius Entertainment booth (they really do have some of the best rpgs out there, with some great projects coming up), Sechin, Katie Tower, Melissa (!!, whom I didn't expect to see there) and Jeff at the Exile Games booth, though I did miss out on seeing many of the HEX gang as they were gaming elsewhere (still not sure where!). It was also good seeing Matt Somers again, as well as Nelyhann (of Shadows of Esteren fame) Neko and some of the folks from 7ieme Cercle, marketing the English versions of Yggdrasill and Keltia at the Cubicle 7 booth. However, the week for me was pretty complete with finally meeting my long-time virtual friend, Lynne Hardy and her amazing husband, Richard; talking to Shane Hensley and several of the other folks about the new Torg: Eternity RPG, and finally meeting the very kind Matt McFarland and Michelle Lyons-McFarland of Growling Door Games and getting to talk the new Chill 3rd Edition RPG with them.

The Exhibit Hall was as usual, massive. Larger than the one from 2012. (Not surprising, since GenCon has...grown.) The division of the Hall into sections, with relatively wide aisles and good lighting, continued this year, though there were narrow areas that were the exception rather than the rule, and this was a good move on the part of the convention organisers. One of the things that impressed me is the division of the Hall into seeming sections, and the relatively wide aisles and good lighting in most parts of the Hall. The largest exhibits and booths were the Paizo, Mayfair, Azmodee, and Fantasy Flight Games areas (from what I recall, but there were a couple of other large areas that had demos which I didn't get to), and the Artists and Authors areas were huge as well, with large, lavish displays. Most of the game manufacturers were there, with some exceptions, but there were also folks selling game accessories, steampunk clothes and gear, kilts and other items associated with the culture, t-shirts, buttons, Doctor Who merchandise, and... well, you name it, you could probably find it here. Some of the stuff that I saw really impressed me, but I had come to GenCon Indy to purchase specific gaming stuff that I was looking for (primarily Keltia, Chill 3rd Edition, and a couple of other things) as well as some t-shirts, and that's what I did. I did buy a few other things, impulse buys, but I don't feel that I got too carried away (though it seems I spent a lot of money because of price increases and the lousy Canadian dollar), but pretty much stuck to my guns on the purchases. Mind you, they still ran me a pretty penny or so, as I've said.

I didn't get to play in any full fledged games, due to poor luck with generic tickets when I went out to try and get in some games, but I did have some fun with several demos. I didn't get to see or go to any of the Seminars that were going on that I was interested in, although I did see some of the action going on in the constantly operating (or so it seemed) Games on Demand area. Lots of interesting games, but nothing that hooked me in to a game or three. And time did not allow, for various reasons. Even though I had the mobile phone with me this year, I didn't really arrange to meet a lot of (virtual) friends for socialising or games, though I did use social media to hook up for lunch and finally meet Lynne and Richard Hardy (fabulous meeting you both, finally!), but nothing else really happened in this regard. Am I sorry about the stuff I didn't get to see or do? Sure, but again it comes down to making sure you pace yourself as well as the health and other restrictions that you have for yourself. And I'm proud to say that I stuck to my own lifestyle and physical limitations (for the most part).

That leads me to discussing the hotel... What can I say? I didn't really want to stay in a hotel that was 20.92 kilmeters (13 miles) from the Indianapolis Convention Center, but what can you do? The hotel reservation lottery system that GenCon uses is broken, and to be honest, I managed the best hotel room that I could get under the circumstances. There were disadvantages to the hotel being so distant from the convention - couldn't drop stuff off at the room, couldn't go back to the room for snacks or to take a quick sitz bath or change clothes or shoes - notably in the area of staying at the convention activities late (especially in light of the "8-3-1" Rule), but there was one big advantage: after the hustle, the bustle, the sheer *loudness* of the convention venues, including the other hotels downtown, the lovely quiet of the Indianapolis Marriott North was a welcome relief, and eating breakfast in the atmosphere of Bistro 33 was just wonderful in the mornings. The services and amenities of the Marriott North were what one would expect, and the breakfast crew went out of their way to make sure that I had diabetically healthy food. The mini-fridge at the hotel was another matter, and proved problematic. spross and I could not get the temperature in that fridge to stabilise easily between 2-8oC (35.6-46.5oF) for the storage of the insulin, and I had to throw out the two extra cartridges (600 units of Lantus) that I took down with me, as they were rendered inert by the fridge at one point dropping down to -10oC. Heck, spross and I couldn't even eat most of the celery and grapes, as they had frozen (though the frozen grapes were quite tasty). But, 'nuff said about the hotel.

As for the stuff that I bought down at GenCon (what is affectionally called "the loot"), well... I went down to GenCon hoping to find certain products in the Exhibit Hall. Here's the photo that I've already posted to the blog of the over-view of what I bought down in Indy. This photo doesn't include one of the rpgs as well as the dice and dice bags and the t-shirts that I purchased.

GenCon loot - the over-haul

My main goals at the Exhibit Hall were to purchase a copy of the boxed set of the Chill 3rd Edition RPG, a couple of the Atlantis: The Second Age game materials, some nine to ten t-shirts, possibly a copy of Keltia, Revelations of Mars, and Of Dreams and Magic (ODAM), if I saw them, as well as a couple of gifts, and some other stuff. I pretty much accomplished my goals in the purchasing department, though Khepera Publishing wasn't present at the convention (for reasons unknown, though I have my suspicions) so I was unable to purchase the Atlantis: The Second Age stuff. I also picked up a couple of impulse buys as well, but that's normal at GenCon. I did ship some of the initial purchases home via FedEx, at what I feel was exorbitant prices, but if I'd waited another day, I could easy have shipped more stuff (though I'm glad I didn't, given what the charges for the basic stuff that I did ship home cost). Anyway, see the separate post about GenCon loot that I'll write up after this one for more on what I bought at the convention.

Are there any regrets that I have about GenCon Indy 2015? Of course I do. Given the size of this convention, one just cannot see the whole convention and do everything that one would like to do. My biggest regret is the loss of the two cartridges of insulin due to the problems with the fridge; that stuff doesn't come cheap, but it happens. My second regret is that I didn't get to play in the Chill 3rd Edition game that I would have liked to, though I did manage to play in a demo Matt McFarland ran at the IGDN booth. Attached to that regret is my sadness at not getting to use any of my generic tickets and playing in any other full games at the convention. I wish I could have attended several of the Seminars in particular, but they were at times that turned out to be impossible to get to because of the travel time from the Marriott North. I just couldn't rise and shine *that* early. I wish I had spent a bit more time (heck, a lot more time!) at the Art Show and Authors' Avenue. I regret that I didn't get the chance to get to the Sasquatch Game Studio booth to check out their wares. I deeply regret not getting to meet and spend some time with virtual friends, old and new (that I've met the past year or so on the internet; you Twitter folks know who you are!). I deeply regret the struggles that I had with the insulin therapy and keeping myself more "balanced" and on an even keel (most of the time). But most of all, I wish I had not come home with con crud!

With that said, there are several fond memories that I have of this convention that I will treasure. But I'm not going to talk about them here. Suffice to say, GenCon Indy 2015 was a good convention for the most part, and had some real highlights. (And Lynne, if you're reading this, meeting you was at the top of the list!) While I had some problems at the convention, I enjoyed myself for the most part, but am somewhat relieved that I can't do this convention every year (unless one of the game companies flies me in to it! :)) Just too expensive to do every year, between the airfare and the hotel room costs. And the fact that one has to book rooms so early. And the fact that I'm getting old and that this was a tough convention to do given my state of health.

And that's it. GenCon 2015 is now well and truly a wrap for me, other than all the great reading material I've got from the convention. And the memories, of course. :)

Just one more post to come about the convention... GenCon loot! :)

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome. :)
Tags: convention, gaming hut, gencon, personal, photos, report, retrospective, rpg hut, thoughts

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