Indianapolis

19 08 2013

I’ve just returned from another wonderful trip, this time to Indianapolis to attend GenCon.  It’s the world’s largest gaming convention, and for four solid days the events go around the clock.

*****

I married one gamer and gave birth to another one.  My late husband started attending GenCon when it was still being held in Lake Geneva, WI (for those who wondered where the “Gen” came from).  He followed it as it moved to successively larger venues and rarely missed it.  He did miss the one in 1988, which was a few weeks after our baby gamer was born.

When the baby gamer was about five years old, they started going to GenCon together.  The con had figured out at that point that lots of gamers were parents, so having kid-based activities could pay off for them.  They were right and GenCon continued to grow.  It was conveniently in Milwaukee for much of the time that the two of them attended together; when it outgrew that space, it moved to Indianapolis.

GenCon attendance stopped with my husband’s death.  Our son couldn’t bear the idea of doing it without his father.  Within a couple of years, though, he mentioned that he would like to go again, and would I think about going with him?  So I did.  That was five years ago and I’ve gone every year since.

*****

Overheard in the GenCon crafting room on Saturday: “My son is at home inventing a game out of Yu-gi-oh, zombie dice, and buttons.”

GenCon has changed even in the time I’ve been attending.  It used to be the whitest, malest event I had ever seen.  And it is still heavily white and male.  But I’m seeing lots more women now, more people of color, and loads of parents.  There are lots of little children – the youngest I met this last week was five weeks old.  Last week I saw my first Hispanic gamers at GenCon – and it was an entire family.

The stereotypes about gamers usually involve some form or social awkwardness, with the implication that they have no people skills.  The truth is that gamers MUST have people skills.  The vast majority of gamers want to play with other people.  The solo games are okay, but what they really want is to sit across a table from several other live humans and interact with them.  If anything, they crave social interaction more than non-gamers.  I love it when I see whole families that get involved in this together.

*****

GenCon is wonderful on its own.  It is made even more so by the city of Indianapolis, which welcomes the convention with open arms.  There are banners everywhere welcoming gamers to the city, and restaurants within ten blocks of the convention center all have special gamer menus.  This year there were food trucks outside the convention center on Georgia Street, with wonderful vendors from all over the area.  The array changed daily and everything I had was superb.  Peak moment:  an avocado popsicle from Nicey’s.  I swoon.

*****

Moments from GenCon:

Yes, that would be Chewbacca on a cello.

Yes, that would be Chewbacca on a cello.

And Cthulhu made out of balloons.. because, GenCon.

And Cthulhu made out of balloons.. because, GenCon.

And so many great costumes, including the tiniest Boba Fett.

And so many great costumes, including the tiniest Boba Fett.

*****

And this, seen at Monument Circle:

Some spectacular yarn-bombing.

Some spectacular yarn-bombing.

 

Accompanied by a reason and an invitation.

Accompanied by a reason and an invitation.

*****

Indianapolis, like many large cities, has a homeless population.  Unlike many cities, there seems to be more humanity and decency in how they are treated.  In Indianapolis there are collection boxes on street corners for homeless programs, and the city government doesn’t “relocate” the homeless in order to make their downtown all pretty for the tourists.  During events like GenCon, there are people sitting against the buildings, asking for help.  I gave money.  I don’t know what they’ll use it for.  I just know that they’re in a worse place than I am.

A related moment: When I was walking to City Market on Saturday, I came across a homeless man sitting on a corner.  While I’m used to seeing people around the convention center, in this case I was several blocks away, and this man was sitting on a less-travelled corner.  I stopped and told him I needed to dig out my wallet, because I wanted him to have something and I wasn’t going to act like he wasn’t there in front of me.  I handed him a single dollar – one dollar! – and he asked if he could hug me.  Which should maybe have set off a thousand alarm bells, but I said yes.  Then he stood back and took my hands, and said “I’m in a bad place, and I’m pulling myself together… but I get so lonely.”  And tears flowed down his face.  For the sake of a simple touch.

 

 

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