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GenCon/WorldCon 2001 Review

~ by N. E. Lilly (November 2001) ~

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GenCon, for anyone who doesn't know, is the largest Role-Playing Game convention in the U.S. Every year Role-Playing Game afficianados, affectionately called gamers, descend on Milkwaukee, Wisconsin, and roll dice to hearts content.

WorldCon, again for anyone who doesn't know, is one of the largest science fiction conventions in the world. Each year WorldCon is held in a different city. In 2000 it was held in Chicago, Illinois. In 2001 it was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2002 it will be held in San Jose, California.

Both conventions are great, but for different reasons. GenCon is, after all, a gamer's convention, while WorldCon focuses on science fiction fans. The one thing that they have in common is that they're a lot of fun.

For any convention there seem to be four main reasons to attend: Seminars, Dealers, Games, and Movies.

GenCon 2001

GenCon 2001 was my second GenCon. There were quite a few differences from last year.

In 2000 Wizards of the Coast was hyping up the newest version of the old role-playing standby, Dungeons & Dragons, with its 3rd edition release. This year it seems that much of the budget had been cut. There weren't nearly as many giveaways as there had been the year before.

Still the 2001 GenCon was reported to be the largest one yet, with an estimated 25,000 fans attending.

GenCon Seminars

Almost pathetic. GenCon, just like in 2000, had very few business seminars. The few seminars that were held were pretty decent. Unfortunately the rooms were consistently too small for the crowd attending them. Some hosts never even showed up.

There were instances of people ralling together to remove tables and move chairs so that more people could attend the seminar. Even when the hosts didn't show up there were often impromptu discussions among the people attending.

It just proved how starved the attendees were for seminars.

GenCon Dealers

There is really only one thing to say about the GenCon dealer's room. Five Stars. The dealer's room was always packed. Every gamer there was like a kid in a candy store. If there is one thing to see when going to GenCon, it's the dealer's room. It's a great time to visit your favorite gaming publisher and see what they have coming up. It's also a great time to see new companies make their debut. Movies, Games, Books, Magazines, Comics, Toys, Action Figures, Plush Dolls - you name it and it can be found in the dealer's room.

I spent at least two and a half days in the dealers room and I still didn't get to speak with all of the dealers that I wanted to.

GenCon Games

I myself was too busy wandering the dealer's room to play many games.

Is there anything else? GenCon is the oldest and largest gaming convention, sponsored by Wizards of the Coast, current makers of Dungeons & Dragons the gran'daddy of all role-playing games, and Magic: The Gathering Card game and the Pokemon card game - so I guess you could say that games were a pretty big element of GenCon.

GenCon Movies

Were there movies at GenCon?

WorldCon 2001/Millenial PhilCon

GreenTentacles had visited PhilCon in 2000. It was a must, since Philadelphia is our hometown. The 59th annual WorldCon (Millenial PhilCon), however, was quite a different animal.

To compare it to PhilCon of 2000 is a little unfair, but the main difference was simply size. PhilCon 2000 had about 1,500 people attending, while WorldCon/Millenial PhilCon totaled about 8,000 scifi fans.

WorldCon Seminars

The seminars of WorldCon were the best part. When else do you get to hear industry leaders from around the world profess about their views on everything from the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, to Publishing, the Internet, and Computer Games.

The seminars were well run. There were very few people who were scheduled to be on a panel who didn't show. And even then, there were plenty of other panelists to take up the slack.

Meeting with industry professionals - authors, artists, and illustrators - who were only to happy to answer your questions.

My only problem with the seminars were that there were so many that were so good - that I couldn't attend enough of them. Even though the convention lasted five days, I wish it had lasted another ten!

The seminars covered areas of interest from fannish fun to industry information. The were 'history' seminars and academic seminars, gaming seminars and publishing seminars. Just a few of the seminars listed were...

...and many, many more.

I left WorldCon2001 tired, but wanting more.

WorldCon Dealers

The dealer's room at WorldCon wasn't as impressive as at GenCon, but still pretty good. There was ample room, but there just weren't the throngs of people here that you'd see at GenCon.

I guess most people were at the seminars.

WorldCon Games

There were games at WorldCon, but it seemed that most people didn't attend WorldCon to play role-playing games.

WorldCon Movies

Classic science fiction, fantasy, and horror films from every era, from early black and white scifi, to modern releases like The Matrix and StarWars. They even played Anime. The highlight was actually a rare screening of the silent film Nosferatu which was accompanied by live organist George Akerley.

All I can say is WOW.

Should You Attend?

Despite their individual short comings, both conventions are well worth saving a thousand dollars to attend them, as an attendee.

Conventions in general still don't seem to cater to people who run speculative fiction businesses, like they should, by providing the information that someone would need to decide to going to any particular convention. How else can someone decide is going to a convention is worth the expense? For a business owner that's hard to answer in raw numbers without this information.

To recap the information given in previous years by Wizards of the Coast about GenCon...

In 1998 they only showed information for:

But, they also stated that the top three reasons for attending are gaming, product purchases, and product releases.

In 1999 they gave:

In 2000 they give:

But the top reasons for attending GenCon are absent from both 1999 and 2000.

This isn't nearly as much information as they collect in their on site surveys. In their survey they asked questions such as, How did you hear about GenCon?, and Which of the following magazines do you read regularly?, but this information doesn't appear in the survey information that they've released.

Additionally the survey neglects to ask questions that would potentially be useful, such as:

Finally, one thing that would make these surveys a little more useful, is to report the number of people that filled them out.

WorldCon doesn't provide this kind of information. GenCon is one of the few conventions that gives any kind of analysis. And even then the numbers are scant. Will these conventions be worth the time, effort, and expense to attend them? Why should any artist, author, publisher, etc. bother to care about these conventions?

In the grand scheme of things the answer is simple. Because your potential fans care about these conventions. If you're a science fiction artist, author, publisher, etc. then you'd better be at WorldCon. If you run a gaming company then you'd better be at GenCon.

But if you're an established speculative fiction business, then you already know this.

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