Geeks A Gogo attended GenCon 2021 this past weekend, and got a feel for the first post-covid Gen Con event. Though, there are risks to large gatherings such as this given the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, the organizers took caution to require attendees to wear masks at all times at GenCon events, cancelled the cosplay parade (which would have made social distancing difficult had it been held), and ran a smaller number of event venues. Attendance this year was about 35,000 attendees--around half of the last in-person event in 2019.
All of this, of course, made for a very different GenCon experience from recent years, in which the massive event has been known to be closer to 70,000 attendees. Many of the big-name vendors that tend to be main-stays at GenCon were absent this year, including Paizo, Dwarven Forge, Brotherwise, and Asmodee. Many of the restaurants that are most popular with attendees had, unfortunately closed, including RAM Brewery, Bee Coffee Roasters, and Dick's Bodacious Barbecue. Though, RAM is gone, Goodwood Brewing has opened in it's place, and it's just about as good, though lacking all of the gaming-related banners that we're used to seeing at RAM during GenCon. The lines for the food trucks were slightly shorter this year, which made it a lot easier to get those yearly Island Noodles. St. Elmo Steak House was still packed. Steak 'n Shake was only doing takeout, which left a rather odd image of an empty restaurant during the busiest week of the year, though they had a line out the door for takeout.
As well, a big part of the GenCon experience for many attendees is the chance to meet up with friends from around the country that we don't always get to see during the rest of the year. This year, with attendance being half that of a typical year, most of the folks that we meet up with every year weren't there. Many of those in the gaming industry, who are convention mainstays weren't there this year, either, making for a somewhat different experience, though providing a great opportunity to meet and network with people that we wouldn't have otherwise. There was still, thankfully, plenty of after-event beers and gaming going on in hotel lobbies, and we even got to make some new friends over some great new games--which is a big change for us on the Geeks A Gogo team, since we're typically on a stricter schedule since we often attend the convention as press and have a busy schedule.
Despite these differences, the event still felt like GenCon. It's the same setting, most of the same food trucks were there, they still had a cosplay contest, the Ennies, an official beer, and you could still buy dice from Chessex and Crystal Caste at their multiple booths on the convention floor. And of course, Crystal Caste was even offering sets from both 2021 and 2020 since there was no in-person event last year. It overall felt like the standard GenCon experience, but a toned down just a bit. It certainly didn't feel like it was only half as good as a typical year even though it was only half as big in terms of attendees. It was just another great year, with less time spent standing in line and more time at the game table.
In closing, we'd like to note that we worked the Cephalofair Games booth this year, with our founder, Monica working as a cosplay model for their upcoming game, Frosthaven. We'd like to thank Price and Isaac for having us back at their booth!