Have you ever gone into something with broad expectations, failed at those expectations, and yet, had the best time of your life? That was GenCon Indy this year. I had ideas in my head about how the show would play out long before the trip actually started. I was showing my first published design and giving away free copies in a series of sold-out events. I had five prototypes to show and play with others and one of them was being reviewed by a publisher. There were seminars I bought tickets for and people I planned to meet. There were games I was sure I was going to buy and places I was positive I would have dinner. The week was pre-planned in my head before we left for Indianapolis.
Much of that stuff didn’t happen, and I could not be happier.
My Scallywags events were some of the few things that went as I had imagined (hoped actually) they would. They were mostly sold out before the show and more than once I had players waiting to see if they could get a spot if someone didn’t show up. The events ran smooth, and stayed in the desired time. The players were enthusiastic, offered awesome feedback, and were excited to win. I answered a few questions about publishing and design. I even signed a few autographs. The only problem was that I spaced the events too far apart. With hours in between I had to tear down my table displays, put everything away and pack it back to my room only to come back a couple of hours later and set it all up again. That was tiring and next year I will be sure to do my events back-to-back. This year, it was worth it.
I did get a few chances to show my prototypes. I got in a great test of Hexploration with some design friends and they offered extremely solid advice. One of the observers, who opted not to play, offered tons of awesome advice and was extremely enthusiastic. I am excited about the game and roughly 1 billion ideas ran through my head throughout the show. I got to sit down with Travis of Indie Boards and Cards and pitch him Project: Dead End. I had no expectations from this test and because of that, it was one of the best tests I have had of the game. I hadn’t played in over a month at this point and my eyes were really open to what was going on. I did not have fun and that was my initial design goal: make a fast, fun, zombie game that is dripping with theme. I discovered that I still had a bunch of work to do. I’m not sure it will ever be a fit for Travis, but I am fine with that. Regardless of whether or not Travis works with me on it, we all agreed that I need to trim some of the excess and add a bit of excitement. This is the first rejection I have had that didn’t leave me sour… then again, he didn’t really outright reject it… he just asked for changes. I’m really not sure if that means the door is open or not but it doesn’t matter, I’m going to make the game better for me, not just so I can get published.
I attended some of the things I bought tickets for and learned a great many things. I got to record some awesome advice from some of my personal design heroes such as Eric Lang and James Ernest. I missed a few things and tickets were wasted, but I promise you, it was totally worth it.
I got to meet people. I met a lot of people actually, but most just shook hands and walked on. A few… a sarcastic bunch of jerks with an appetite for destructive criticism and non-apologetic advice… bonded. The regular group of five consisted of Eric Leath, AJ Porfirio, Grant Rodiek, Matt Worden, and myself. It would be this group that I spent the most time with and because of them, I missed a few events and meetings. Thanks jerks…. no, really. THANK YOU. I’m not going to write a bunch of details about them, nor tell our tales, because they have written better accounts than I could. Click their names to be taken to their thoughts on our gatherings… they are much better writers than I will ever be. This group is special. I have been on the Internet since there was Internet. I have met people from the Internet since the nineties and never have I met a group like this. There was no awkwardness. There was no need for introductions. There was no need for questions about our backgrounds and futures. It was like hanging out with a group of best friends that has always been and this group made GenCon truly special for me.
Outside of this group, I met some other great people that were inspiring. I have excluded them from this story not for a lack of respect, but for the sake of brevity. I have shared my thoughts with them through other mediums and I hope our friendships continue into the distant future.
I bought games. Great games. I’m happy with every single one I brought home. Before I left, I had ideas about what I thought I would buy. I thought Smash Up was coming home with me. I thought I was going to spend all my money on X-Wing and beg for food for the rest of the show. I was positive I was buying King of Tokyo. Yet, I didn’t buy any of those games for various reasons. This is not a review site, so I won’t go into all that. I did, however, bring home some awesome games! Morels, Spot It, Evil Baby Orphanage, Dicey Curves, D-Day Dice, Summoner Wars, Farmageddon, Jump Gate, Get Bit, and When Zombies Attack to name a few. Some I bought, some were gifts, all are awesome. There’s also this really great game that was given to me, but I can’t tell you about it. I was sworn to secrecy. If you want to know my thoughts on any of these games, please contact me. I will gladly tell you all about them.
Lastly, dinner. I had dinner… most nights. Only one of those was really planned. The rest just sort of happened. It was the first evening’s dinner at Lorenzo’s where I met and bonded with Matt. Lorenzo’s is an upscale Italian restaurant and I got to experience real Italian food which is something you don’t find in Fairmont, WV often. The rest of the weekend I ate wherever we ended up. I didn’t really care where I ate this year. I wasn’t picky about my choices of beer. I wasn’t upset that I didn’t wait 45 minutes to get a burger at RAM like every year past. I didn’t care about missing out on evening gatherings at Champions. Food wasn’t really a priority on my trip this year like it had been in the past.
There were seven people in my hotel room that all traveled from Fairmont. We are all friends and many of them attend my regular play group. I barely saw most of them the entire weekend and I felt bad about that. I still do. I went into this trip with a lot of grand expectations of the things we would do together. I expected it to happen much like it had in years past. The reality of this year, however, is that it was completely different than what I imagined and that made it magical. I didn’t stick to plans. I didn’t follow through with GenCon traditions. I was there for games and friendship and I just let the rest happen.