Thursday, October 1, 2020

GenCon 2020... Online!

This year, amid the chaos, Matt and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. I guess, technically, we celebrated it in February with a nice daytrip to Salt Lake before all hell broke loose. But, it had been our plan to take an actual anniversary trip to Indianapolis at the end of July/beginning of August for GenCon. While this isn't exactly the usual anniversary trip destination, it would have been perfect for us. Clearly, though, that didn't happen. Much to our disappointment, so many things went wrong. 

First, due to the coronavirus, the in-person convention was cancelled. Despite our disappointment, we were actually completely fine with this. Putting 70,000 people in the same place at the same time, amid a pandemic, would have just been irresponsible. Instead, they decided to do the convention virtually. Which, let me say right now, was still so much fun! 

But, even if it hadn't been cancelled, we wouldn't have been able to go to Indy. Two and a half weeks before we would have left for this trip, Chewbi got extremely sick. No way, no matter how much money we would have been out, would we have even for one second considered leaving him at that point. The hotel we were going to book would have been about $5,000 for 4 nights and completely non-refundable, so I was glad I'd not ended up booking it before learning the convention was getting a whole change of venue.

Matt and I both still took the week of the convention off work so we could attend all the virtual sessions. Chewbi was stable and improving at this point, so while we were worried about him we still tried to settle in in to enjoy the convention. But, instead of being in a packed convention center, we got to enjoy it from the comfort of our living room. We got to order overpriced Doordash and eat our own vegan junk food, rather than paying for overpriced food trucks. I know we would have had a hell of a lot of fun if we went in-person (and still might if we go another year), but it's really no overstatement to say we had a great time at home. We're both pretty introverted, so that's valuable to us.

We both packed our schedules with a ton of seminars, I joined the discord server so I could see announcements and mingle with other virtual convention-goers. I actually didn't mingle, I just sort of watched them mingle, but that was fine too. The seminar sessions were held on Twitch, through Zoom, and occasionally on YouTube or Facebook live.

My schedule was packed for the full four days, but  would occasionally change here and there as I'd try a different session than originally planned. I learned about Game Mastering from a guy who has been doing so for almost 40 years and about worldbuilding from a Brigadier General--which is not only useful for gamers, but also as a writer. I went to two sessions about the history of TSR, the company that started Dungeons & Dragons, and how they wound up being owned by Wizards of the Coast. Both super interesting. I took a session about dice statistic that was so far over my head, I really had no idea what they were talking about. I won a beta invite to a fantastic world building platform and had so much fun!

Sometimes Matt and I would attend the same session, sometimes we wouldn't, but overall we both really enjoyed our week. We came away from the event with more knowledge, a whole host of new ideas, and some great swag... just like we would have if we'd gone in person! 

My favorite souvenir has to be the plushie. Genevieve is GenCon's dragon mascot and she is adorable!! Her wings are even wired so they're shapeable and she has the two d20s on the side to represent GenCon 2020. 

Of course, of all the great things you can do at GenCon, the one I was most looking forward to had to be shopping for dice. I'm a huge dice collector, running somewhere around 500 sets, so finding something to add to my collection was a big priority for me. When the in-person convention was cancelled, this was the thing I was most disappointed about. Not being about to have the experience of shopping the exhibitor's hall. Turns out, they had that covered, too. I got my dice! 

After the convention was over, we talked about hoping they do a sort of hybrid convention going forward. Maybe they'll do the in person convention, but have a virtual element for the seminars. That would be amazing. So many people were able to attend this year that cannot otherwise afford a trip to Indy. Something that would have cost us $6,000-$7,000, cost us only what we paid for our own snacks and swag. I think we may have come out around a few hundred dollars. And, best of all, we enjoyed ourselves sharing in our mutual hobby in a way that was meaningful. Even though we didn't make it to Indy, Happy 20th Anniversary to us! ♥