GenCon: The Exhibit Hall

Friday afternoon I was scheduled to play in a Tunnels & Trolls game.  I was kind of surprised when I saw T&T on the event list, and given that I’ve played plenty of solo games and GMed a regular game once but never played, I figured I’d sign up.  There were actually two games, so I wrote the second one down in my list of back-up games should I fail to get my first picks during event reg.  Which of course is exactly what happened, so I ended up with tickets to both T&T games.  By the time Friday afternoon rolled around I really wanted to spend more time in the Exhibit Hall and check out the Auction, so I gave the T&T game a pass, figuring I’d get my T&T fix on Saturday.  For now, it was off to the Exhibit Hall.

I have a tiny clip-on video camera I brought with me to the convention, and the one thing I recorded a lot of was walking around the Exhibit Hall.  Not terribly exciting stuff, but I figure I’ll eventually edit it to speed through the walking parts and may do a little voice over to comment on the booths we see.  For now, I’ll give you the highlights.

If I were summarize the feel of this year’s convention to others in one word, it would be: subdued.  I found no huge displays of anything really.  No massive booths decked out to look like a castle, no scaffolding that reached the roof, no big televised magic tournaments or huge statuary anywhere really.  OK, a tiny bit here and there, but not nearly what I’ve been used to in the past few years.  On one hand, this worried me a bit that the convention was suffering, on the other, it was kind of a nice “back to the roots” feeling, like the convention was all about RPGs again.  Except for my own company’s brief appearance handing out t-shirts for our latest game on Friday, I didn’t see a single video game oriented booth in the convention hall.

That isn’t to say there wasn’t some weird stuff in there.  Most notable was a booth that was decked out to look like a goth club, complete with thumping music, mini-bar, and lounging goths and steam-punk kids who looked far too cool to be bothered actually attending the convention.  I thought I saw some dates or a name near the top of the booth and I kind of figured it was basically an enormous and rather expensive ad for another convention.  Though I have no idea how much they were charging for those drinks, maybe enough to pay for the booth?  Anyway, turns out it was the White Wolf booth.  The fact that there wasn’t a single product being sold there (other than booze), what really boggles my mind is the fact that I didn’t even know it was White Wolf until reading other people’s blogs after the fact.  Seriously, how can you even claim it’s a promotional trick if I don’t even know what it is you’re promoting?

This year I bought no miniatures, but I did pick up the requisite Fantasy Flight game I’ll likely never play.  My main goal was to look for resellers of old out of print stuff.  Troll and Toad sadly had very little with them in that regards except for copies of Dark Tower and Palace of the Vampire Queen, both way too pricey to even contemplate I’m sure.  Otherwise their booth was full of magic cards and D&D minis.  Eventually I got BigFella to take me to a couple booths he found — House Atreides and another whose name I can’t find, but suspect was UK based.  I bought a few modules and old accessories, which I have yet to find the time to page through.  I really expected more though — I couldn’t even find a first printing PHB!  Well, turns out the real gold mine for that stuff is the Auction, which I will cover in another post.

I really enjoyed roaming the exhibit hall, which I did a lot, though ultimately I found very little to get excited about.  I saw no thrilling brand new releases.  Even Wizard’s booth had just their standard stock of Magic and 4e stuff.  Still, nothing really makes you feel like you’re at GenCon quite like roaming the Exhibit Hall.  It’s so overwhelming and awesome.  Despite having maps and making many passes over several days, you never quite get a handle on where anything really is.  Trying to find a booth you saw the other day is pretty close to impossible.  I guess that’s why I really want to get that video posted, I think it really gives you the best sense of scale of this crazy convention.  It really is huge!

Anyway, that was my Friday afternoon.  Next up was playing in the other Labyrinth Lord game, and the realization that the con is now more than half over.  So sad!

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3 Comments

  1. Me too. Personally I’m pretty psyched right now to go to some little local conventions, but that’ll be more about the gaming than the general ambiance. While you can get a taste of the gaming experience at the local con, sadly the opulence of the exhibit hall can’t really be found anywhere else.

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