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Gen Con Goes Online for a Subdued, but Fun Experience

Given the Coronavirus pandemic in the US this year, Gen Con 2020 couldn't happen as the massive in-person event that we're all used to. The event sees about 50,000 attendees per year, all packed into the massive Indianapolis convention center. Though, it's a large convention space, the event is known for its packed vendor hall and at-capacity events. Though, it's one of the best gaming events of the year, there was no way that the convention could have been held safely this year.

So, Gen Con wisely turned into an online event this year. The event was somewhat subdued, with fewer game publishers making their big announcements, less vendor involvement, fewer events and gamers participating. But the event was still on, and there was still a lot to see and do, and since online attendance was free, this was a great year to check out Gen Con, even if it wasn't quite the same.

Though the event, of course, wasn't what it typically, we still did see some of what we see year to year. Paizo, of course played a huge part in the event, running tons of Pathfinder and Starfinder society games virtually, and they really came through with a lot of events, making it pretty easy to find a game to get into. Many of the top RPG publishers had a presence, and you could pick up a game of Call of Cthulhu, play in a D&D Adventure League game, or get in a session of Dungeon Crawl Classics. In lieu of in-person games this year, games were played through Discord, an online app commonly used for gaming that has become more and more familiar to gamers during the pandemic.

For those who go to Gen Con for the vendor floor--which I definitely do, the experience of seeing the big displays, the demos, meeting the developers and writers wasn't quite there this year. But it was great to see that Gen Con made an effort to recreate the experience to a point, with the Looking Glass feature on their website that let you browse various vendors, artists, writers, and events at the convention to give the feel of the browsing that's a big part of the Gen Con experience.

As well, there were quite a few events and panels this year. Though there weren't quite as many big announcements, we still got some exciting news out of the event. We at Geeks A Gogo are big fans of Marvel Crisis Protocol from Atomic Mass Games, which really brought a lot of exciting announcements this week, including X-Men and Defenders minatures for their popular game through a bunch of livestreamed events throughout the weekend, in addition to a special GenCon play at home event. We also caught some of the livestreams from XYZ Games, which is local to us here in Chicago. And a very nice feature was the Gen Con TV Twitch channel, which let us just casually watch some live play events throughout the weekend, and hosted the opening and closing events.

Of course, it wouldn't be Gen Con without the Ennie awards, of course, and the event was held online this year. It shouldn't be much of a suprise to anyone who has played it, that the Alien RPG took the top prize for best game, with Free League sweeping several catagories for Alien and Mork Borg, and another Ennie for the fan's choice for best publisher!

Overall, the event didn't quite generate the excitement that it usually does, but I must say it had its advantages. As I write this, I realize that this is the first Gen Con Sunday in years where my feet don't hurt, since I didn't spend the weekend walking the 20+ miles that I usually do running around between venues. I spent no time waiting in line, didn't have to put much thought into finding a restaurant or squeezing in a meal before my next game or panel. It was also much cheaper, but then again, I didn't get to buy much of anything cool this weekend, or take a look at the auction hall. Moreover, I didn't get a chance to see my Gen Con buddies from around the country whom I hang out with for a weekend every year in Indy. Nor did I get to drink the exclusive beer brewed specially for the event every year.

Though the event couldn't happen in-person, it was still nice to have something. And it was nice to not have sore feet for a change, or a chance of catching con crud. But let's hope next year we can all get back to Indy to play together in-person.

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