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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Thoughts About Gen Con 2016

With all of the good things that Gen Con does to accommodate people, it still has some drawbacks that it could significantly improve upon with very little effort required.  This segment is not designed to cause trouble.  We have a lasting respect for the event and are more than grateful that it’s available only 20 minutes away from us.  What we are doing is addressing legitimate concerns that can easily be remedied which would significantly improve the overall experience for every person who attends Gen Con.  There are issues that do significantly impact the people who attend, and that should be discussed.  Please read on and give your thoughts regarding the post and anything else that you want to say.

This year, one of our friends forgot his 4 Day badge on the first day. It was an honest mistake that I'm certain hundreds if not thousands of people have made over the course of the 4 day event. He had to pay 75.00 for a single day pass! That amount is clearly a punishment, but due to the circumstances, he would pay for the single day pass until he made it back home that evening to get his 4 day badge. However, there is no need for that much. This is about Gen Con making significantly more money off the mistakes of others.

Another mistake this year was made by me as well.  I paid for a ticket to be in the 6 hour long Star Realms Legend Series Tournament Saturday in Hall A.  I misplaced my ticket which I was later unable to find.  While at the convention, I inquired through three different personnel from Information, Event Registration, and the Volunteer HQ booths.  Each of them informed me that I would be able to get my ticket reprinted if I showed my confirmation email to Customer Service.  I went to customer service, pulled up my email receipt on my phone which showed my complete purchase information with the customer number and event information for each ticket I had purchased, along with my drivers license for proven identity.  They informed me that they could print a new ticket for me as long as I paid for it again.  They looked right at my receipt on my phone, but this meant nothing to customer service.  Also, they were very rude in the manner to which they informed me that I was told wrong.  So, if I wanted to take part in the event, I would have to pay again for the already purchased ticket, and that was not going to happen so I left.  The result, no Star Realms Tournament for me, and I was really, really looking forward to that event.  When I spoke with the event coordinators at the Star Realms tables, they said it was completely out of their hands as the tickets are to be turned in later so that both parties are paid.  Otherwise, if the tickets are not used, Gen Con receives all of the money for each one.  The Star Realms event personnel were however, very sympathetic to my situation and told me that they hoped it would get resolved.  Looks like Gen Con would receive all the benefits for this though.  Again, this is just another way for Gen Con to cash in for honest mistakes made by their customers.  It should have been handled in a better manner more suited to the attendees of the event since the attendees are the people who keep this convention alive.

A solution?  How about including the complete tickets with bar codes in the email since everything else on the ticket is listed in the email already?  It's a broken system that needs to be fixed.  It works for Gen Con because they make more money off of us, but this is not 1995 anymore.  We don't need to stick to physical print out tickets that can only be attained by "customer service" in line.  We've come as far as we have with technology, there is no excuse for us to not be able to just print off our tickets from a kiosk at the event, or at home from our own printers.  Or better yet, just let people keep tickets on an app so there is nothing to lose.  No waste, no printing expenses, just a simple barcode scan.  There's no reason it can't be put into practice, the fact remains that Gen Con just wants to have as much control as possible even if it's uncalled for.

The will call line this year was entirely outrageous for the attendees.  Even when I was on the Gen Con website, there were warnings in the discussion boards that were made, explaining that the will call line has doubled in size this year.  This is good and bad.  Good in the fact that the event is still steadily growing, but bad because all of those attendees were having to wait that long in line.  They are losing hours out of their day because they have to pick up their tickets in person.  This Instagram photo provided by Ashley Grenon displays just how long the line has become.  This is another reason why people should be able to print their tickets anywhere or have an app rather than picking them up at will call.  If you've purchased something, you should be given complete control over accessing it at that point.  This picture is a prime example of things that need to change at Gen Con.  It's just too much for the attendees to have to endure.

With as frustrating as it is, it's still the largest tabletop gaming convention in the US, and they know that.  My friend wasn't going to spend an entire day not going into the exhibit hall because he forgot his 4 day pass at home, he would pay the 75.00 and get a single day pass.  However, I wasn't going to pay for my misplaced ticket again.  I would simply not participate in the tournament I was looking forward to, not necessarily just because of shelling out the money again, but because of principles.  I wish Gen Con cared more about ease of use, but I'm not sure if this will change or not.  Everyone always wants more money out of people and they'll apply their foot however heavily they want to in situations like this.

I want to be clear about this though, I'm NOT saying people shouldn't go to Gen Con because of these issues, I'm merely pointing out a flawed system that hurts the attendees and I think that's wrong, and ultimately counterproductive.  Three of my other tabletop friends informed me they would not be attending Gen Con this year because it has become too expensive, which is accurate.  Their prices do continue to climb.  It's a complicated situation to be honest.  More money can go toward events, which means it also gets distributed to help bring more people to the city of Indianapolis which is something Indy REALLY needs!  You cannot argue the upside to everything Gen Con has to offer a city like Indianapolis, such as a lot more business and tourism not only from the U.S., but from all over the world. 

As a press member, some of the statistics from this year were provided to me and the numbers did not increase like I had hoped.  This year the unique attendance actually decreased at 60,819 whereas last year the unique attendance was 61,423 which was an 11% increase from 2014!  This year we managed 2.5% in the turnstile attendance so it's good that people returned for multiple days.  The unique attendance over the last 3 years was really the eye catcher though.  For the last three years, we saw an influx between 8 and 11% of unique attendances increasing every year, so if you do the math, that's an average of 7,000 more people every year.  However, this year it actually stayed at the same line.  Is this because of the 50th Anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, or perhaps the mistakes made by our governor from last year? 

We can only hope that Gen Con continues to return to Indy regardless of the poor actions that were made by Indiana's governor.  While there are some close-minded people in Indiana, not all of us are like that.  There are plenty of us that are loving and accepting no matter who you are.  We understand that the diversity of Indy's culture is a big part of what makes it so special.  The city is very lucky to have such a massive, world-wide known event held here every year.  I know the contract goes until 2020, but hopefully the event will get renewed and continue to remain here well after that.

Gen Con is large enough that there are plenty of attendees that probably have some thoughts regarding the overall event, and how things could be improved.  Even if it's not directly related to the things I mentioned in this post, what do you think?  Tell us about your experiences and thoughts whether it's from this year, or another time at Gen Con.   


  1. The price increase is what concerns me. IMO gencon is becoming a massive consumers market place more than a board game convention.

    1. I agree with you about the increase of admission prices, that's been a continual thing every year. I'm really confused by the second portion of your response though. Are you talking about the outfitter booths and the art show? You can't turn around at a place like Gen Con without seeing another board game. Not to mention, all of the gaming that takes place throughout the event hall's like the Star Realms Tournament that I mentioned I was supposed to be in this year. I think the board gaming aspect is as strong as it's ever been.

    2. I want more full length gaming.

  2. I decided not to go this year and it looks like I dodged a bullet with that line too. I agree they should just go all digital at this point. Too many attendees, and not enough upkeep to handle the demand. Something needs to change. Good post!

  3. I went this year, but I felt a little remorseful because it was so damn expensive! The prices just keep going up and it's not worth it to me when you pay for a spectacle rather than an all out gaming experience.

    I agree about going digital for all tickets. A scanned barcode system from your phone is far more ideal. I would be really upset if I was in your spot for the SR Tournament too. So much more time saved from having to wait in line.

  4. I almost went this year but the increase of admission held me back. Doesn't seem like it's going to let up in the future either.