This weekend our fair hometown of Indianapolis hosted the 45th edition of GenCon, one of America’s oldest and largest gaming conventions. When I was a kid, it was hosted up Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which I remember because once per year TSR’s Dragon Magazine would include a free GenCon event schedule as an insert, several pages long. I was in the upper years of elementary school at the time, but as a precocious fan of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and other TSR games, I thought that a gathering of RPG fans would be a unique experience. I fell away from RPGs after junior high after all my friends moved away, and never really returned to the hobby. For me 2003 was a little too late for GenCon to relocate here, but we outsiders can find entertaining sights and activities among the massive crowds. At the very least, my past allows me to get more jokes than the other non-gamer commoners.
Attendance in 2011 was in excess of 36,000. This is no gathering of a dozen sweaty guys in a single hotel conference room. Not only does GenCon use just about the entire convention center (including the recent expansion made possible by the demolition of the old Hoosier Dome), it also requires additional gaming space in several adjacent hotels. If your interests and gaming specialties are diverse enough, you could tally up miles’ worth of steps all over downtown Indy on your pedometer by the time your four-day weekend is over…if you could afford to take that much time off work, and also owned a pedometer.
This was my third GenCon, having missed the last two due to scheduling issues. I’m still hesitant to pay extra to participate in any real games, but I certainly wasn’t bored this year. I’ll outline some of our activity options in some other installment because I’m exhausted after conventioneering two weekends straight and I’m running out of time tonight. For now, please enjoy some samples from GenCon’s 27th annual costume contest, as well as costumes proudly worn throughout the grounds outside of competition.
About that contest: some of those photos weren’t the greatest. I deleted many, kept many more than aren’t worth keeping, and will still have to keep pruning. The ballroom was poorly lit even with every house light fired up, but was kept dim throughout the contest. Flash photography was forbidden, largely to ruin the day for most of us with inadequate cameras that blur everything when the flash is turned off. Worse still, my wife and I were roughly back in row 10, which was hardly ideal (albeit still in the front third of the ballroom, better off than several hundred other attendees fared — the smart Costume Contest audience members start lining up at least two hours early). We did what we could with the location, technology, and limitations at hand. It’s something we enjoy doing, to show our appreciation and awe for those with the flair for this particular aspect of the scene. This installment features some of our better shots and their better costumes, but we regret a fair amount of greatness that we missed nonetheless.
One more disclaimer: as an old man, my knowledge of anime and MMORPGs is woefully sketchy. If you catch me misidentifying anyone, please don’t hesitate to call me out. I like learning, I like giving credit where it’s due, and I have no problem owning up to my own ignorance, which will only worsen with age if someone doesn’t stop me here and now.
While contestants are organized backstage, pre-show entertainment is usually provided each year by DDBD, a belly-dancing troupe. This, like cosplay, is another hobby that’s best left to other people besides me.
Overall winner of the shebang was this looming Tauren warrior from World of Warcraft. On the right, if my hasty notes can be trusted, is someone from Tsubasa who won the Anime category.
Winner of the Science Fiction/Super-Heroes category was Lady Mechanika, from Joe Benitez’ creator-owned Aspen Comics series of the same name.
The winners of the Fantasy category were a duo. Rusty the Gnoll (unsure which specific fantasy game — gnolls aren’t unique to one) posed with the photogenic prowess. His dwarven partner proved more elusive.
Champions of the Group division: steampunk Ghostbusters, successfully merging two of the mandatory convention cosplay types into a single victorious, Victorian hybrid. Their inspired motto: “Who ya gonna telegraph?”
A special prize was given to the overly tall Arkham Asylum version of Bane, hopped up on the Titan drug and ready to flatten you if you can’t master the mystical Zen art known as “sidestepping”.
Also receiving a special prize: Kaylee’s fancy dress from the Firefly episode “Shindig”. That shared moment between Kaylee and Mal remains one of my favorite non-funny moments of the entire series.
Dr. Girlfriend from The Venture Bros.
Zelda, a character even aging NES owners like me should recognize.
Alternate take on Zelda, Twilight Princess style. She even sang for us, but the song escaped me — something pretty about shining a light or somesuch.
Marian Hawke from Dragon Age. Photos of anyone who wouldn’t hold still looked not unlike her weapon there. Prime example: one contestant as a guy from a Resident Evil death squad spent his onstage moments performing some nifty tumbling and stomping and dodging of imaginary fire. He refused to hold still for a single second. At such a distance and without permission to use a flash, our cameras totally hated and rejected him. Sorry, guy.
Lilith Sahl from Trinity Blood.
Inquisitorial Guard from Warhammer 40K.
Gary and Walter from The Muppets, alongside good ol’ Captain America. Gary also received a special award as the longest-running entrant (every year since 2000). Kudos!
Vash the Stampede, from Trigun.
Captain Hook Gaston, the Evil Queen, Hades, and Jafar represent for Disney Big Bads.
Ichigo from Bleach.
Also armed with a sword of sorts: Darth Revan from Star Wars: the Old Republic.
Deadmau5! The only musician costume in attendance.
It took me some time to convince my wife that, yes, Uncle Marvel was a real comic book character, and yes, this costume is uncanny in its accuracy. If you’ve ever had the chance to read the original Captain Marvel comics by C. C. Beck, Otto Binder, and other writers from the 1940s and ’50s, I strongly recommend them over the humorless travesty that the “Shazam!” mythos has been for the past twenty years. Yes, I sincerely do prefer good ol’ Dudley here to that mess.
To be continued!
[In our next episode: more costumes, maybe a little more blurriness, the three media guests, and lots of something called League of Legends, which I’d never heard of before today.]