Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gen Con in My Back Yard 1 (RPG Blog Carnival August ‘09)

This blog is in response to the RPG Blog Carnival topic for August of 09. This month Chgowiz is hosting it over on his blog Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG Blog.

Milwaukee is many things. It’s the City of Festivals and a Great Place by a Great Lake. It’s been talked about in classic movies and classic television. It's the home of the Racing Sausages and the Bubbler. I’ve lived there all my life.

And for over 15 years it was the home of Gen Con.

It was the Saturday of Gen Con in 1986 that my dad dropped my friend Sean and me in front of Mecca Arena. My dad had given me $20 for the day. That was enough for a $5 visitors pass, some money for food, and 10 bucks for buying some gaming stuff.

I had never been to a gaming convention before. My knowledge of the gaming community was playing D&D and Marvel Super Heroes with my friends and reading gaming magazines. The games I had gotten were from places like Waldenbooks and B Dalton, or game stores like Napoleons in Milwaukee. Pa had heard that Gen Con was in town and asked me if I wanted to go. Of course I said yes.

Sean and I waited to get into the hall with everybody else until the magic 10 AM opening of the Exhibit Hall. When they opened the doors I was in Gamer Heaven. I played in Gaming demos. I got to see RPG and board games that I had only seen in advertisements in Dragon. I got to meet people who's work I had read and enjoyed. When Pa pulled up at 6 PM, we carted our grab bags full of catalogues, freebies and purchases and put them in the car.

“Did you have a good time?” Pa asked me when we got home.

“I’m going back next year,” I said.

So I kept my promise, finding some way to get to Downtown Milwaukee every year Gen Con was in town until it left in 2002. It became part of my summer tradition, getting up early in the morning on Con day to get an early start on the convention. Saving up the money to by up all of my small press favorites. I went at least 1 day to Gen Con every year from 1986 to 2002. That was some good times.

When it was announced that Gen Con was leaving Milwaukee, I was saddened but I understood. The city had never treated Gen Con with the respect that one of the biggest moneymaking conventions in the city deserved. Promised hotel building never took place, and other local decisions made the move to Indy inevitable. Late July 2003 was the first Gen Con I had missed in 17 years.

I finally made to Indy for Gen Con 2008 last year. I had a blast, and it was great wandering around the Con again. It felt like visiting a favorite cousin that lived around you for a long time, but moved away. I know I can always go to Indianapolis to attend Gen Con.

But I will always have the early Milwaukee Saturday mornings in August eating breakfast and getting all my Con gear together. Then I get in my car, driving about five miles to attend the Biggest Gaming Convention in the World, right in my backyard.

In the next blog, I tell some of my favorite memories of 17 years attending Gen Con.

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