#### ‘PRIDE is delivered unto the inferno with regards from WARREN MOONBEAM.’
-Battle Tech Report, Gen Con Indy 2013, August 15th.
The backpacks formed a secret trail through the streets of Indianapolis. Crossing in front of a suit going through his morning routine, an elf made the pilgrimage to the convention center. My photographer and I had arrived; we had tracked the herd to the source: GenCon Indy 2013 was underfoot.
Although the Cosplay population was seriously low compared to my first convention at Chicago’s C2E2, the hardcore fanbase of board and trading card games was hard to miss. This time I came prepared; I had a photographer that seemed to know the terrain and native language well. After hyping us up at the gates of the Exhibit Hall, two performers attempted to soothe us with an ole folk-sounding tale of “Johnny”. The other press stood on balconies pointing their black lenses down onto us. They had no field guide, afraid to get their hands dirty. I was in the mass of people ready to charge. “Hey, ho, Ajani!” my photographer mused.
Good, I thought. He feels comfortable making friends in the stampede. But the gates opened, and the backpacks, suits, elves, and robes made peace in the traffic. My day already felt colored by my trip to the General Ticket booth to exchange real money for gamer bucks. “Well I can’t just buy $200 worth of tickets for one day.” People here were serious. I had to double down.
Before the Hall opened, I managed to find my way into a full blown mech-simulator, “Battle Tech”. Virtual World, a 25-year-old company, fashioned 10 white cockpits next to the Exhibit Hall. The complex control scheme of 7 screens, over 50 buttons and levers, and a joystick hooked me. I was looking for my pond of digital gaming to dive head first into. I couldn’t pass it up.
Inside the simulator, I experienced Gamer Hell. I spawned in a mech battlefield with 9 others. It was quickly the original arcade Jurrssic Park on steroids. I could barely continue a conversation with my photographer, who snuck around taking photos of the other cockpits and ensuring me that “those buttons have to do something!” We couldn’t figure it out at the 10 minute marker when my game and mech quickly ended.
But besides the complex simulator, GenCon Indy so far has been a no-show for computer gaming. The main Exhibit Hall was loaded with table top game demos, manned by companies peddling hundreds of prototypes like street drugs. Every game was the “newest, most ways to play” type game. These men were in deep; far enough in to make money off of these devoted beards and dice-throwers. Even the Cards-on-Dice man took his new product serious enough to question my credentials as a member of the press.
Halfway through Day 1, I am still baffled at how many games there are. I could barhop from table to table and lose a whole day if I wasn’t careful. If I didn’t have panels to cover the rest of the weekend, a photographer hungry for card-playing, and a D&D Ballroom Gala to attend, I would be worried. Or maybe I wouldn’t. This circus of folks has been looking forward to this event for months now. At least I know I have.