Every August since 2003 our hometown of Indianapolis has hosted the Wonder of the World that is Gen Con, one of America’s oldest and largest gaming conventions. Whether your gaming mode is RPGs, tabletop games, TCGs, dice games, family board games, or video games, Gen Con has its sights aimed in your direction. Try a new game, pick up supplies for your current campaigns, network with gamers from faraway lands, or just wander the premises and gaze upon the wonders. Attendance over the past two years has topped 60,000 and shows no signs of slowing down. On the occasion of their 50th celebration in 2017, as phenomenal as it was by all accounts, I’m surprised a squad of fire marshals didn’t simply shut the whole city down.
I attended Gen Con five times between 2008 and 2014, four of those times with my wife Anne. This was back in primitive times when Indianapolis had no other large-scale entertainment or comic conventions to call its own. Small-scale cons were a thing, but Gen Con was the largest possible shindig within easy driving distance where geeks could be geeks and we could hang out with others of our own kind, or at least kind-adjacent. For me it was a little more special when we had a few comics companies mixed in with the exhibit hall — past graphic-novel purveyors have included Oni Press, Giant in the Playground, Kenzer & Company, and creators such as David Petersen (Mouse Guard) and Jim Zub (Skullkickers).
One problem, though: while we like board games and own a couple dozen, gaming isn’t among our primary geek specialties. Our Gen Con experiences largely comprised an hours-long walk around the amazing colossal exhibit hall, cosplay photos where possible, an interminable wait to get into the annual costume contest, a half-hour of pre-show belly-dancing, and then one of the best costume contests ever, which reminded me why I was willing to endure the interminable wait to get in. But then…that was it for our weekend. Gen Con used to invite media guests as well, but that aspect was minimized and then taken off the table once the showrunners realized tens of thousands of fans were happy to flock into our Indiana Convention Center and multiple surrounding venues for just the gaming. It was a totally understandable move, and yet…ultimately it wasn’t a one-hundred-percent perfect fit for our specific interests.
Once comic-con planners finally noticed Indy has a population with geeks in it, and once we picked up the necessary road-tripping skills to attend cons in other major metropolises (metropoli?), we quietly stepped away from Gen Con as an annual appointment. It remains an awesome thing I highly recommend whenever family or coworkers ask, though. And someone always does.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, I’ve shared photos from four of our Gen Con experiences. If you’re interested, links to those photo galleries break down as follows:
2008 (done-in-one): our very first Gen Con, at which we met an old message-board friend who was once a costumed reality-show contestant
2012 Part 1 (our first Gen Con after MCC’s launch): costume contest winners
2012 Part 2: More costumes; special guests Wil Wheaton, Nichelle Nichols, Wes Bentley, and author Michael Stackpole; and one (1) photo of a special gathering of League of Legends cosplayers (which in turn was responsible for the following true data: this entry resulted in the second-highest day in MCC’s 7-year site-traffic history)
2012 Part 3: Last call for costumes, including extra blurry ones at the bottom of the barrel, but there’s also a pic of Wil Wheaton taking a selfie with his copy of Android: Netrunner, which he bought at the Fantasy Flight booth on the way to his autograph table
2012 Part 4: Exhibit hall samples, including statues from the Dungeons & Dragons mega-booth — I reused one photo for my recent mini-memoir about my Dungeons & Dragons experiences as a kid
2013 Part Zero:: Scenes from the annual Wednesday night pre-con party on Georgia Street, featuring food trucks and musical guests such as the great Five-Year Mission
2013 Part 1: Costume contest winners, including some of the best steampunk work I’ve seen to date
2013 Part 2: More costume contest, many from games I’ve never played
2013 Part 3: Last call for the costume contest, in which the commenters helped me figure out orientation tags were a thing that turned several photos upside-down (which I’ve now hopefully fixed over the past tedious hour)
2013 Part 4: Superhero and cartoon costumes
2013 Part 5: Still more costumes, including mandatory Star Wars
2013 Part 6: Exhibit hall fun, plus the second time my face was ever slapped on a Yu-Gi-Oh! card
2014 Part 1: Costume contest winners
2014 Part 2: More costume contest entrants
2014 Part 3: Last call for costume contest, featuring the greatest Bane variant ever
2014 Part 4: More non-contest costumes, including superheroes and Star Wars and whatnot
2014 Part 5: The last Gen Con costumes I ever photographed (I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed to returning someday if circumstances lined up, but for now these are the last ones)
2014 Part 6: Our last time in a Gen Con exhibit hall (for now)
One Saturday in 2009 I attended Gen Con alone without Anne. I honestly don’t remember why, but if she reminds me there was a fascinating reason why, then I’ll update it here later. Mostly I remember being silent and lonely all day long, which is never my best state of mind. Conventions are among the many things we love doing as a couple. Without her, it was just…me going window shopping, then occasionally bugging cosplayers for photos. Whee, to a limited extent.
I shared the photos with online friends at the time, and did a sort-of write-up for a short-lived “news site” that was later deleted without my consent, but I failed to add them to MCC till today. (One was previously given its own entry for undisclosed cynical reasons.) Reviewing my files in hindsight, over half the photos were varying degrees of terrible and remain locked away. Some were okay; some exceeded okay. For personal posterity, and for strangers who didn’t hang out with me online in 2009, are the better pics of the bunch, we present the following Gen Con cosplay photos to you roughly a few weeks before the tenth anniversary of that day I took them. Enjoy! Yay cosplay history!