It's that time of year again, kids. When the fat man rolls up in big red ride and brings joy and cheer to all the gamers of the world. Only in this case, the fat man is in a YuGiOh shirt, his vehicle is littered with mostly-empty Mountain Dew cans and discarded candy wrappers, and the joy and cheer he brings is accompanied by copious amounts of horribly offensive body odor. Also, he probably has a foam sword.
Yes, it's GenCon season, and for the first time in five years, I'm NOT there. It's hard to explain to your average nerd why I'm happy to miss the biggest show in gaming, but since I write about this catastrophe of hygiene once a year, many of you have probably heard most of this already.
In the past, I've been at GenCon because I was working. The first year, I was there with a press pass, writing an article for Knucklebones Magazine. For the next three years, I was manning a booth for VixenTor Games, selling dice towers and adventure bags and dice boxes and hating nearly every minute of it. But this year, VixenTor Games is taking a break. The only excuse I have to be called a journalist is this site, and let's face it, I'm about as much a journalist as Ryan Seacrest. So I skipped it, and man am I happy about it.
The thing is, a huge number of my friends are there right now. They're probably all at a bar somewhere, drinking and slapping each other on the back and getting ready to go back to the hotel and play games for five or six hours. They'll be laughing and joking and yelling at each other (all in fun, of course, unless some of them get really drunk, and then it's all in fun and inebriation). And I'll be here, home, writing about not being with them. That's actually kind of depressing.
But then I think about what I get to avoid because I'm not at GenCon. I get to avoid a 15-hour drive. I get to avoid looking for parking in downtown Indianapolis, a city that defies rational exploration and invites travelers to get hopelessly lost. I get to avoid rude locals who hate tourists. I also get to avoid rude hotel clerks, rude GenCon staff, and rude nerds.
I get to avoid staying in a hotel with two or three other people in a room that has fewer beds than guests (that happens every year). I get to avoid walking all over a steamy hot town, dripping sweat everywhere, just to get back to my hotel room and discover they've turned off the water (that happened last year). I won't have to ride in the world's slowest elevators, taking fifteen minutes to get twelve floors, unless I decide to hike down twelve flights of stairs and arrive at the ground floor dripping sweat on anything within ten feet, and all because the Embassy Suites managed to have one of their elevators break down right before every occupant in the hotel tried to leave at the same time (that also happens every year).
I won't have to push my way through an enormous convention hall that, despite being four square city blocks, is bursting at the seams with pimpled adults dressed like Jedi Knights and social throwbacks arguing that there's no way their paladin would have died if the DM hadn't forgotten about the potion of putrescence. The restaurants I visit this week will be completely clear of elf ears, demon horns, fairy wings or alien contact lenses.
Another joy to which I will not be party is the unbridled pleasure of dealing with the degenerate assholes who run the show. Out of, say, ten GenCon staffers, it seems that at least nine will be so unfriendly that their faces are locked in a permanent rictus of disapproval and disgust. The security guards are abusive. The check-in staff are disinterested. The people setting up the hall look at the vendors like we were all just tracked in on the bottom of their shoes.
However, I also won't be playing all the year's hottest games before anyone else sees them. I won't be visiting my favorite booth, a guy who sells second-hand miniatures at prices that make me wish I had taken a second mortgage. I won't be sampling any of the delicious beer found in many of the Indianapolis mini-breweries, either, and I'll miss that more than anything else.
So there are parts of GenCon that I actually like. I love how, after the hall finally closes and my friends are all finished running their tournaments and counting their money, we all get together to drink and enjoy each others' company. I really like being right in the middle of the business of games, even if much of that particular business is overrun with sleazeballs and rank amateurs.
I really don't miss being at GenCon. The cons outweigh the pros by a massive amount. But if I could plan a perfect vacation, I would be on a beach in Cancun with my wife all day, and in downtown Indianapolis during GenCon season at night.
One of these days, I'm going to go to GenCon and never actually go to the convention. That's going to rule.
Editor's note: This article does not contain pictures of Matt or anyone we actually know.