Posted in Blog Posts, Convention Center

Gen Con

The Best Four Days In Gaming

So… though this is cancelled for in-person attendance this year we are all still celebrating this killer awesome weekend. Over 4000 events in 6 languages (including ASL) will be presented online this year due to Covid-19. We will be celebrating at home NEXT WEEKEND (July 30-August 2) within our social distancing circle and online with friends and all of you!!! But first a brief history of Gen Con and how things kicked off for this particular convention!

Gen Con is EPIC! From its beginning to its current iteration, this convention has so much going on that I don’t even think that anyone can truly do everything there is offered while having to sleep.

Originally called with “Lake Geneva Wargaming Convention”, the convention was created 1968 by the LEGENDARY Gary Gygax. This is the longest running tabletop gaming convention in the country.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017, the convention had the highest attendance record in its history and consistently is the highest attended gaming convention in the US. The convention currently averages over 60,000 unique attendees EVERY YEAR!

When Gygax started the convention it was located in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin… taking place IN HIS HOME and backyard in 1967 following an event for the International Federation of Wargaming (IFW) that many locals couldn’t get to. This would eventually become Gen Con 0. The following year Gygax rented the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva to hold a follow up event for the IFW. This would eventually become the Gen Con we know today. Horticulture Hall’s footprint was recreated at the 50th anniversary of the convention for current con goers to walk through. Boy was it tiny!

During its first few years the convention bounced to various locations in Wisconsin. During this time Gygax co-founded Dungeons and Dragons, one of the very first Roll Playing Games in history. The game would eventually become a staple at Gen Con. In 1985, the convention found its first permanent home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where it would remain until 2003.

Gen Con was started to celebrate the love of board games and miniatures wargames.

Around 100 people attended the official Gen Con 1. Which seems insanely small by our current standards but that was a lot of people for 1968! This convention was one of the biggest and was one of the first conventions for what are now known as tabletop games in the world. The first convention only cost $50 to rent the hall and Gygax and his friends sold hotdogs and other items they had purchased at the grocery to feed the hungry guests. This is a far cry from how much the convention now costs and brings in and feeds every single year.

Leading up to the relocation of Gen Con in 2003, there were several collaborative events held around the country. Gen Con West lasted for about 3 years in California while Gen Con South ran for 6 straight years in Florida. Gen Con East popped up for 2 years being hosted in New Jersey and then Pennsylvania.

While all of this was going on Gen Con continued to grow. Between the creation of more miniatures wargames and Gygax confounding Dungeons and Dragons, more and more people attended the convention each year. By 1985 when the convention moved to the Milwaukee Convention Center there were over 5000 attendants and they had more than outgrown their smaller locations throughout the area in Wisconsin.

1992 marked an incredible year. Over 18,000 attendants came which raised the small homespun convention to the largest US gaming convention in history. And this was ONLY the beginning.

Gen Con joined forces with Origins Game Fair (which we will also be talking about on the blog) and they ran as a single convention in 1988. Eventually they separated again and now are held on separate weekends, often attended by many of the same people!

Wizards of the Coast debuted Magic: the Gathering at the 1993 convention, selling out of the Cards they had produced for the WHOLE YEAR in 4 days… over 2.5 million cards. And it would not be the only company to use the convention platform to jump start and introduce a new game.

Having changed hands several times Gen Con was finally acquired by Wizards of the Coast (yes, the same company that makes Magic) and they made the decision to move the convention to its current home: The Indiana Convention Center, located in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana and just south of my hometown.

This is where it has been for the last 17 years. And it’s only grown exponentially. For the last 3 years there have been over 60,000 unique attendees and it is only growing bigger. In fact it is now so HUGE that the convention center isn’t big enough to hold all the around the clock events and the convention has basically taken over Downtown Indianapolis for 4 days every year sometime in late July and/or early August

Events are extensive and overflow to local parks, hotel ballrooms, even Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Colts for any football fans out there). There are themed LARPs, miniatures competitions, cosplay seminars, writing groups, VR gaming, an artists alley, giant versions of games, and even a FULL BLOWN live Dungeons and Dragons inspired dungeon event.

I am so sad that we don’t get to be together this year because it isn’t safe. But this will just make next year all the sweeter. So, thank you Gen Con. For helping to keep us safe. And we will see you online next weekend!!!

All information was found on Gen Con’s official website or on their Wikipedia page which was linked on their official website as of the time of writing.

Image found on Gen Con’s official website.

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