The Untold Truth Of Gen Con

Whether you're a fan of gaming, electronics, comics, or even true crime, there's an annual convention for you to attend. These conventions provide hardcore fans the opportunity to get the latest scoop and mingle with people who have the same interests. For gamers, there are plenty of gaming conventions, such as E3, Gamescom, or Eurogamer, but there's one convention targeted toward a specific group of gamers.

Every year, thousands of game enthusiasts flock to Gen Con for the annual convention for tabletop games. Since the convention's inception, the number of attendees has only grown, with more and more people wanting to know what the fuss is all about. Gen Con's mission is to provide gaming fans a place to enjoy tabletop games with like-minded individuals (via GenCon). The convention features plenty of events, prizes, exhibits, and demonstrations of the latest tabletop games available. It's not only popular in the United States, but also throughout the world. In fact, 2018 saw attendees from more than 60 different countries enjoy the festivities.

The history of Gen Con

The first Gen Con, also known as Gen Con 0, was held in 1968 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary Gygax (above), the co-creator of "Dungeons & Dragons," organized a small gathering of war game enthusiasts and called it Gen Con — short for Lake Geneva Wargaming Convention (via Gen Con). The first Gen Con saw fewer than 100 people in attendance, and so did the first years after that.

Gen Con grew in popularity with the release of "Dungeons & Dragons" in 1974. According to Best 50 Years in Gaming, the convention was still primarily for war games, but "Dungeons & Dragons" events were added to the mix, offering a new type of game for fans to enjoy. By 1976, the convention's attendance had grown rapidly, which might have been caused by six "Dungeons & Dragons" events that were scheduled to take place. Gen Con grew more popular over the years. More tabletop games were featured at the convention as well, making Gen Con the biggest tabletop convention in North America.

Gen Con brings millions of dollars to Indiana

With the increasing success of Gen Con, organizers had to secure an even bigger location. In 2003, the convention was moved to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. With thousands of gaming fans attending the convention, Indiana's business booms and millions of dollars are generated each year. With attendees coming from different parts of the United States and around the globe, hotels are booked for miles around, according to Polygon.

Gen Con is a four-day event that features hundreds of exhibitors and numerous events. In 2019, per Indy Star, Gen Con set a record for attendance, with 70,000 visitors taking part. That year also saw other record numbers — 19,600 ticketed events and 538 exhibitors. Per Indiana's officials, the massive convention brings approximately $70 million to the local economy. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said that they are proud to be known as the signature location for Gen Con. "Gen Con provides a one-of-a-kind experience that lives up to its moniker as the Best Four Days in Gaming," he said in a statement quoted by the Indy Star.

What Gen Con is today

Gen Con started out with a focus on war gaming, but it eventually expanded to all sorts of games — board games, role-playing games, computer games, card games, and more. The convention provides a family-friendly atmosphere and welcomes people of all ages, per Gen Con. In essence, Gen Con is just like a game night with friends, only on a really massive scale. The fun vibe is also infectious, as people attend wearing game costumes and other unusual items of clothing. As gamer Ryan Lybarger said in a 2019 interview with the Saturday Evening Post, "At Gen Con, you're never the weirdest person in the room. And everybody is okay with that."

At Gen Con, there is something to do for everyone. There are costume contests, film festivals, and even dance lessons. Collectors can purchase items from exhibits, and those who want to learn something new can attend workshops and seminars. For first-time attendees, going to Gen Con can be a positively overwhelming experience, as the convention has so many things to offer.

True Dungeon experience

One of the biggest events at Gen Con is True Dungeon, which was founded in 2003. True Dungeon is a role-playing experience where players walk through a massive environment that looks just like a dungeon. In it, players must solve puzzles, test game skills, slay monsters, and use their mental and physical skills to come out alive. Per True Dungeon, the two-hour experience "combines elements of escape rooms, haunted houses, and its rules are very loosely based on the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons."

The first True Dungeon event was set in an 8,000-foot space, with approximately 400 players who passed through the dungeon. By 2019, it became one of the highlights of Gen Con, with more than 15,000 players. It's one of the events at Gen Con that sells tickets quickly. At the end of the adventure, players get to exchange treasure chips and collect points for unique prizes.

Traditional event for charity

Like many conventions, Gen Con also has some charity partners for gamers to be able to give back to the community. Per the Gen Con page, some of the charities they have previously contributed to include School on Wheels, Child Advocates, Special Olympics Indiana, and the Indiana Math and Science Academy, among others. The convention chooses one or two charities each year to partner with.

Since 1999, Gen Con has been conducting the Cardhalla every year. For the event, people donate thousands of game cards and volunteers construct buildings, towers, and an entire city out of all the donated cards, per Forbes. There is a designated time during the convention when attendees can start throwing their spare change to try and destroy the city of cards. All the money collected from Cardhalla is then donated to charitable causes. Since 2003, Gen Con has so far raised $340,000 from Cardhalla, sponsors, attendees, and exhibitors.

Gen Con 2021 is scheduled for September 16-19.