First Time at Gen Con? Read This First!
We are officially one week away from the start of Gen Con! The best 4 days in gaming! More people in attendance, and more games to play, than any other convention in the country. It can all be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re attending for the first time. And we want to help! So we asked our team, our friends, and scoured Facebook groups, Twitter posts, and BGG forums to provide the best possible advice for surviving the weekend.
Hopefully you already have things like hotel and transportation figured out. This is more for getting ready, and what to do once you get there. It’s separated into 4 sections so you can find what you’re looking for quickly, or read the whole thing and take notes!
Packing and Planning
Wear comfortable clothes- Especially shoes! People average about 13,000 steps a day at Gen Con, and that’s just in the convention center! That doesn’t include walking from your hotel, or going to a restaurant. You’ll be movin’ and groovin’ so plan accordingly. There are some nighttime events where you can dress up, but most of the time you’ll be walking around, carrying new purchases, and even sitting on the floor playing games in the hallway.
Pack a reusable water bottle- If you’re flying, you can’t take liquids on the plane, but you can take an empty water bottle. You’ll save a lot of money refilling it rather than buying new bottles multiple times a day. And trust me, you want to be drinking multiple bottles of water a day.
Bring multiple masks and proof of vaccination- It’s important to game responsibly, and Gen Con is enforcing health and safety measures designed to keep us safe. You’ll need to check in with proof of vaccination (your physical vaccine card, a photo of it, or information entered in the CLEAR app) before you can go into the exhibit hall. They’ll give you a wristband for the rest of the weekend. You can read the whole health and safety update here. Be sure to bring at least one mask per day, not just to keep things more sanitary, but also the inside of the mask can get a bit… stinky. So also consider gum or mints to handle that coffee breath.
Bring an extra suitcase?- This one really depends on how you plan to spend your Gen Con. Are you there to play games, buy games, or both? If you plan on going home with some games, make sure you have room in your suitcase, because shipping those boxes home won’t be cheap. Gen Con veterans recommend checking an empty suitcase that’s devoted just to all the games they buy and bring home. If it’s your first visit you probably won’t need that much room, but definitely be cognizant of how big game boxes tend to be. They’re also pretty heavy, especially if you like games with deluxe components like metal, wood, and plastic minis. So keep an eye on weight limits, and think of ways to disperse it a bit.
Sign up for Events ahead of time- There are literally thousands of games being run by professionals throughout the weekend, from TTRPG games, to learn to play events, to seminars about various topics. We’re even running some events for Kinfire Chronicles! These do cost money and tend to sell out, but don’t panic if you can’t get in. There are always free play areas, demos at booths, and plenty of friendly folks willing to add a chair to their table. Truthfully, if this is your very first Gen Con, it’s probably better to skip the ticketed events for now.
In the Exhibit Hall
Look at the map early- There is a LOT to see in the Gen Con Exhibit Hall. Take some time to study the map ahead of time. Then you can make a plan of how you want to approach the hall. I recommend a serpentine pattern, that way you can make sure you see each and every booth. If you really want to go above and beyond, you can bring a printed version of the map and a couple highlighters, that way you can notate which booths you want to revisit, which ones you want to buy a game from, or which ones you missed and need to go back to. Am I going a bit overboard? Maybe.
Set a budget- It is very easy for you to take one step into the exhibit hall, see all the games on tables, and go “thanks, I’ll take one of each!” But remember, you have limited space to bring stuff home, and probably a limited amount of money as well. I recommend taking notes on game size and cost before impulse buying.
Don’t wait too long- This goes completely against what I just said, and I only recommend it for brand new releases. Publishers only bring a limited amount of copies of their latest release, so if you want one, take note of where the booth is and make visiting it a priority.
The Greater Gen Con Area
Food Trucks- The restaurants in Indianapolis are excellent! But maybe you don’t want to spend the time to sit down and eat a full meal. Maybe you want to get some precious vitamin D and be outside for a bit. Whatever the reason, I highly recommend checking out the food trucks that are parked outside on Georgia Street. There’s almost 50 trucks across the entire event, with menus to accommodate most dietary restrictions. You can see the entire food truck schedule here.
Other Rooms to Visit- There’s more to Gen Con than just the exhibit hall. This list by no means exhaustive, but here are some places we’re excited to visit and are definitely worth checking out.
Quiet Room- Located on the second floor, this is the perfect place to go and unwind for a minute. Lights are usually dimmed, and there’s no games being played. Just a simple place to get away from the noise for a bit.
BIPOC Lounge- Brand new for 2022, the BIPOC lounge is just down the hall from the Quiet Room. This lounge area is for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) professionals and attendees. Attendees will find games created by BIPOC designers, a BIPOC creators’ game library, BIPOC art, scheduled events, giveaways, refreshments and a space to meet with fellow members of the community.
Tabletop Gaymers- A place for gamers who are members of the LGBTQ+ community to find other gamers, and to showcase games made by queer creators and designers.
Family Fun Pavilion- The Family Fun Pavilion is a section of the Exhibit Hall dedicated entirely to kid-friendly exhibitors and games. Also a great place for early holiday shopping!
Auction Room- If you’re looking to get some older games for a deal and don’t mind if they’re a little banged up, definitely check out the game auction across from the main stage.
Take Care of Yourself
Drink lots of water- This is the most obvious piece of advice in this entire blog, yet it will be the one that most people don’t follow. If you’ve been following the blog so far, you already have a reusable water bottle with you. Fill it up at every water fountain you can. It’s very easy to forget to drink water when you’re wearing a mask, so you can do things like take a drink every time you finish demoing a game, or set a timer on your phone to take a drink every hour or so.
Take breaks- Make sure you’re not running yourself too ragged. “Con Crud” is real, and has been a thing long before Covid ever was. People go too hard, too long, not enough sleep, not enough food, and then they come home and get sick. Make sure you’re taking time to rest. Pick a day to sleep in, or go to bed early. Take advantage of the Quiet Room to close your eyes for a minute. Seriously, the lights in convention halls can zap your energy real fast. You’re never too old to take a nap.
Don’t expect to do it all- If you only take one thing away from this entire blog (and yeah, it’s gotten pretty long), let it be this. Gen Con is huge. People have been going for 20+ years and still haven’t seen everything in one weekend. If there’s a game or an event you absolutely must see, make it a priority. Otherwise, there’s always next year.
Will we see you at Gen Con? Jane Hoffacker (our CEO), Kate Redesiuk (our Art Director), and Risa Petrone (that’s me! The Community Manager) will be there all weekend long.
Kate will be creating art and meeting people at the Forteller Booth (3043) on Thursday from 2:30-4:30, Saturday from 10am-11am, and Sunday from 1pm-2:30pm.
Risa and Jane will be running demos at the First Exposure Playtest Hall on Thursday and Saturday from 2-4 and running the aforementioned events in Hall B (Friday and Saturday 4pm-6pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11am-1pm).
Those are places you can definitely find us, but we'll also be roaming the halls and playing the game wherever we can find players! It’s a busy weekend for sure, and we hope to see you there!