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Gen Con 2014 report: Indy's population challenge and tips for the future

The D&D game hall.
The D&D game hall.
Michael Tresca

Sunday was the last day of Gen Con. It's a time for deals in the exhibit hall, a chance to say goodbye to old friends, and a lot of hustle and bustle to get all the items attendees purchased onto planes and into cars. Some attendees had up to 14 hour drives, while others had long flights. But just as the hardcore gamers wind down, Sunday is also Family Fun Day, when many gamers bring their children to Gen Con.

Indianapolis
Indianapolis
Michael Tresca

The exhibit hall was still packed, but many vendors -- who are not looking forward to taking all their inventory back on the road to their home stores -- slash prices to liquidate everything. Magic: The Gathering play mats, for example were deeply discounted in one booth from $20 to $5 by the end of the con.

For those planning on attending Gen Con next year, here are a few tips:

  • Visit the exhibit hall on Sunday for deals. You will need to balance the possibility of a rare item selling early in the con with the likelihood that it will be 50% off by the end of the con. Some vendors are willing to haggle on Sunday, so don't be afraid to ask.
  • Stay...SOMEWHERE. It's become clear that the legendary "gamer funk" of smelly gamers is a little more complicated than simple hygiene. Many gamers save money by not staying in a room at all, sleeping in chairs or even on the floor throughout the convention center. Gen Con is sorely in need of some sort of room-sharing sign-up.
  • Hotel food is cheaper than exhibit hall food. It's tempting to just eat in the exhibit hall when you're there, but the food is expensive. However, many of the events take place in other hotels and the hotel stores that cater to their guests are open to all. The food and drink is considerably cheaper, by as much as 50%.
  • Take the shuttles. Indianapolis now has a shuttle service to and from many of the hotels further away for the duration of Gen Con for just $50. If you get stuck at a hotel a considerable distance away, this is a must. There's also a $10 shuttle to the airport that beats a taxi by 50%.
  • Hydrate. Bring a water bottle. Ideally, bring a water bottle with a filtration unit built in.
  • Bring a light coat or sweatshirt. Gen Con gaming halls are notoriously chilly but the temperature outside might be over 80 degrees. This leads to the unpleasant combination of arriving at your destination covered in sweat, only to be chilled when you get there. A light coat wrapped around your waist lets you adjust to the temperature.

Overall, this Gen Con seemed to be the most diverse. Card games competed with board games, which competed with the arrival of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, where the Player's Handbook was on sale everywhere. The Very Important Gamers (VIG) package seemed to help relieve some pressure for those unwilling to wait on lines, but there were still some key things Gen Con could do to address the population surge like set up designated areas for cosplayers to take pictures. According to Gen Con's press, 2014 set a record for pre-registration. And oh yeah, there was a Colts game on Saturday that surely strained the resources of Indianapolis' restaurants.