Each summer tens of thousands of gamers take over a Midwestern American city to experience the “Best Four Days of Gaming,” the Gen Con gaming convention. Comic book and pop culture fans have San Diego’s Comic Con, Hobby gamers have Gen Con. In 2001, the convention became so large that outgrew Milwaukee’s large MECCA convention center. For the past nine years, Gen Con has been held in Indianapolis’ large Indiana Convention Center and they have been filling it to the brim. Since last year the Indiana Convention Center has doubled in size. But like the freeways of Southern California, the increase in accessible flow space has quickly been filled with excited gamers.
Gen Con LLC won’t release official attendance figures until Sunday night, but those who had pre-purchased attendance badges with the expectation of quickly picking them up were in for a surprise. Both the night before the formal festivities began, and the first morning of the convention, the line to pick up badges extended for blocks. Wise where those who had their badges Fedexed to them before the show.
The event is filled with PR panels where publishers announce new product, industry pros discuss breaking into the industry, game auctions, two awards celebrations, and game design workshops. Oh...and there is a ton of game playing going on as well.
In short, it's like Comic Con before Hollywood descended onto the occasion. It's an event for Hobby Gamers and by Hobby Gamers. Peter Adkinson, the Owner of Gen Con LLC, is a long time veteran of the gaming industry who says that "in recent years I've hungrily devoured many of the games that might be labeled 'indie RPGs' because I love how their designers are turning upside down so many traditional notions about how RPGs 'have to be.'" This veteran's quote hits on something amazing. In a downturned economy, the gaming industry is booming. While sales figures for many games may be below record levels, there has never been a greater variety of excellent gaming product available for play. What's more, the Indie Games are growing in their audience and pushing new demographic ground as well as new mechanical ground.
Speaking of Indie Games -- Wednesday Night, the Diana Jones Awards awards celebration was held. The Diana Jones Awards are an annual award that is won by something that represents "excellence in gaming." It's a broad award criteria that has allowed for a broad array of prior winners. People have won the award for their contribution to the community, conventions have won for their charity work, websites have won, and yes games have won. This year, the excellent Indie Game "Fiasco"by Jason Morningstar took home the prize.
Fiasco is inspired by cinematic tales of small time capers gone disastrously wrong – inspired by films like Blood Simple, Fargo, The Way of the Gun, Burn After Reading, and A Simple Plan. You’ll play ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control. There will be big dreams and flawed execution. It won’t go well for them, to put it mildly, and in the end it will probably all go south in a glorious heap of jealousy, murder, and recrimination. Lives and reputations will be lost, painful wisdom will be gained, and if you are really lucky, your guy just might end up back where he started.
Fiasco is a GM-less game for 3-5 players, designed to be played in a few hours with six-sided dice and no preparation. During a game you will engineer and play out stupid, disastrous situations, usually at the intersection of greed, fear, and lust. It’s like making your own Coen brothers movie, in about the same amount of time it’d take to watch one.
There is much more to report, but I am getting ready to head out to a panel hosted by Margaret Weis Productions where they will be announcing their new game license. They say it is a HUGE license.