While today is officially the start of GenCon Week for most, it's a very bizarre time. Most folks won't be leaving for Indy until either Wednesday or Thursday, others have actually already started to make their way to Indianapolis, but I will be heading for Indy mid-morning tomorrow for a mass date with all my geek (and I mean that in a good way!) and gamer friends. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts on the whole GenCon experience to share.
The last time I attended GenCon was back in 2008, three years ago, and before that I hadn't gone to a GenCon since it had been in Milwalkee. Yes, that's a long time. While the convention has changed over the years, certain rules of etiquette and behaviour have not, but as the convention has gotten larger, the scope of these basics of etiquette and behaviour have been modified somewhat. I'm not going to talk about these, so much as I'm going to talk about stuff that is important to me, and things about how I intend to enable a good time for myself this year at GenCon.
The first thing I'm doing for this year's visit to GenCon is to pack relatively light. Being diabetic there are certain medications and the like that I have to take with me, but from the point of view of clothing, I'm taking twice the number of pairs of socks and underwear that I need, two sets of comfortable shoes, and several pairs of pants and t-shirts along with me. The two pairs of shoes is a necessity, since one does a lot of walking at GenCon, and being able to change shoes each day is a desireable thing. Same thing with the extra pairs of socks. It's going to get pretty warm at the convention, and changing socks halfway through the day does wonders for keeping the feet relatively comfy. Comfy feet make for happy feet!
The second thing I intend to do is to take care of my health. With over 30,000 people attending GenCon, there are bound to be some health issues and the like. There are some basic guidelines that I intend to deal with in regards to my health this year. First off, I plan to wash my hands regularly. Second, I'm bringing a couple of small bottles of hand sanitiser. While there is some debate as to whether they work in helping to kill off germs and all, this is still a good move. Third, I'm bringing with me a box of kleenex. Fourth, I'm bringing a mask or three with me (just in case). Finally, I'm planning on exercising common sense in this regard.
Part of the common sense aspect of taking care of your health also involves what is called the "3-2-1 Rule". Simply put, this means that in a twenty-four (24) hour period, you should get 3 hours of sleep, eat 2 meals, and take 1 shower, MINIMUM. Sleep is good for you, and with the sheer amount of gaming and walking and all one is going to do at the convention, sleeping makes you healthier and happier. One of the things I plan to do in this regard is that if I don't catch enough sleep at the convention, I'm going to take short naps if possible. Food? Well, one needs it. Eating three meals per day is better than eating two, since you'll need the fuel to keep going at the convention, and we're not talking about snacking here. Snacking is all fine and good when you need it, but to stay healthy and keep the energy up, you need to eat real food at sit-down meals. I'm planning to eat good breakfasts, light lunches, and a healthy hot evening meal each night come hell or high water, and will have some healthy snacks with me as being diabetic, I need to keep an even level of blood sugar in my body if possible. Planning to buy some foodstuffs for the refrigerator that I asked for in the hotel room. Healthy stuff of course. Oh, and bottles of water or other stuff to drink. Everyone needs to remember to stay hydrated at the convention. I plan to buy a 24-bottle case or two of water for the convention to have to drink when I need it. Speaking of water, Shower. It's going to be quite warm in Indianapolis (as it always is at this time of year) at there are going to be around 30,000 people at this convention, and they're all going to sweat. You don't want to smell bad (or worse, stink) while talking to old friends and possible new friends, and so showering at least once a day (more often, if your body type needs that) is a good idea. Showering is good for your health, and will make you more friends. Not to mention a good, hot shower can ease those tired and sore muscles that you're bound to develop. Depending on how grotty and gnarly I feel, I plan to shower once every morning, and then take a quick wash down in the hotel room if I need to during the course of the day.
The third and final thing I plan to do this year at the convention is to pace myself. Part of the thing about GenCon is that the convention is just way too big. In many ways, this is more of a trade show than it is a gaming convention, although all manner of games are extremely well represented. <g> That said, the convention is just too *big* to see everything. So you have to learn to pace yourself. Have a rough idea of what you want to game in (hopefully having pre-registered for whatever games you want), and then allocate the rest of your time to doing what you want to do - whether it's some more gaming, catching up with friends, and of course, going into the Dealer's Hall. One of the things that I did in 2008 was I didn't pace myself, but that was largely due to the fact that I'd not been to a GenCon in quite a few years. Got caught up in the excitement. This year, I've thought things out a bit more, and am running a few games for two of the game companies, Cubicle 7 and Greymalkin Designs. I'll be running two sessions of Cubicle 7's soon-to-be-released Primeval RPG, based on the hit UK tv series, and two sessions of Greymalkin's superb post-apocalyptic fantasy rpg that uses the Ubiquity system, Desolation RPG, at the convention, as well as a Wednesday night playtest of the tentatively titled "Dinos on a Zeppelin" scenario that I've written up for the Primeval rpg. This scenario idea came about because of a conversation over on Twitter, and several people mentioning they'd be interested in playing that at GenCon. (I've not heard back from anyone about whether they'll be showing up to playtest the scenario, but we'll see... For anyone else who's interested, the playtest will start some time between 8:00 and 9:00 pm on Wednesday night, in the Omni Severin hotel.) I've already decided that the rest of my time will be split among a few other things, but suffice to say that I will pace myself this time around.
I've got the scheduled games I'm running at the convention, and at least one or two meetings with friends and virtual acquaintances (whom I think of as friends!), but there's so much to see at the convention! Between the games, the seminars, and all the other stuff going on, one can easily forget about the Exhibit Hall. Dealers from all over gaming goodness will be represented there, and some who deal in merchandise peripherally related to gaming as well, and it would be easy to miss all manner of goodies. I'll try to see the whole Exhibit Hall, for example, but I'm not going to go out of my way to see the whole thing - it's just too big. My key goal this year in the Exhibit Hall is to purchase the stuff that I came for as early as I can get it, and then just browse, mosey around, and see what else there is. Might buy a few other things, might not. I've left some time during each day (other than the Thursday) for taking in some of the other sights and sounds of GenCon, but whether I manage to succeed in this regard is anyone's guess.
And there are just a few other basic rules of etiquette.
First off, be polite to people. Courtesy is something that we all owe each other at GenCon, and given that there will be over 30,000 of us, politeness is a necessity. That and the "1" of the "3-2-1 Rule". This politeness takes the form of both the mental/social politeness but also the physical politeness. One tends to stand close to friends, not strangers, when talking to them. And people like their physical space. Second, don't monopolise peoples' time. While I know that you want to spend the next hour talking to the poor game dealer guy about your character in his game or your thoughts about their new line of products, bear in mind that others are waiting to talk to this poor fellow, too, and he wants to sell some product so that he doesn't have to travel back to his offices/warehouses with it at the end of the convention. Know when to say goodbye, and move on.
That's all I can think of for now, but this is a pretty long post. So that will do.
Back to packing for the trip.
However, anyone who wants to offer some thoughts or advice in the Comments section is welcome to do so. :)