If you are used to standing in the Otakon lines, then Gen Con will be NOTHING to you. Nothing. I've worked both shows. One of the things that first attracted me to Gen Con was that it was not what I call a "line con". You may have to wait for your badges/tickets on Wednesday, but once that line opened at noon last year, there was never more than a 20-30 minute wait. For the costume contest, I would say some people get in line an hour early, but that hasn't historically been necessary to get a seat. There are a few other events and large panels that might have a slight line, but remember, Gen Con has over 15,000 events. Most of the events are smaller gaming events, so you have a ticket, and you don't wait in line to get into your game. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Gen Con LLC
Are you attending by yourself? If so, I want to point out another "feature" that has yet to be mentioned...
When you dine, sit at the bar. I see large groups that wait an hour for a table while I go in, get a seat, eat and leave before they are even seated. The food trucks negate a lot of the waiting but if you feel like going out to dine don't be afraid to sit at the bar.
Apart from the will call, the swag bag line and a few very popular events, I don't think I've waited in a line at GenCon at all. For those times where I have waited, it's incredibly minimal.
Plan well and have fun!
Most of the potential lines have been covered: Badge pickup/registration is a biggie, and there are a few dealers in the exhibit hall that get backed up. Fantasy Flight Games stays pretty crowded, and occasionally Paizo has a long wait(but I don't think they have a major release this year). Any major company with a Gen Con early release is going to have big lines Thursday but after that they calm down a lot.
Popular demos in the exhibit hall can involve waiting or getting lucky. But really, there isn't a lot of waiting in my experience(21 years). There will be crowds, yes, but not so much lines.
I've rarely noticed long lines for any of the events I attend each year. Like everyone else said, it's a busy con for sure, but it's not overcrowded. I would actually argue that the adjustments made for heavier attendance has been spot on and lines or waiting has improved over years past.
For those of you who have never been to Otakon, or another anime convention, I will note that the pre reg line for Otakon, the last time I went, was outside and around the block, on their pre reg pick up night, the night before the show started. Around about half the entire convention center. I've never seen lines like I've seen at anime conventions.
I've been to Dragon$con and a bunch of other smaller events. Part of the appeal of gencon is the lack of lines. There was a year that will call was Incredibly Bad for gencon values of incredibly bad. At peak, Thursday morning, with events starting at 8am, the line was a half hour/45 minutes, which was frustrating for people with early events, like myself. I stood in line, my wife looked for help, I made it to my event. There's a huge mob of people waiting to flood into the dealers room when it opens. From the scheduled moment the doors open, to the time that everyone in the mob is in the rooms is under 5 minutes. You can walk up at 10am when the dealers room is scheduled to open, and you will be in the room at 10:10, easy.
If you don't have a ticket to a "people on a stage" event, you can expect to stand in line. Those events are not the core of gencon. Get a ticket. If you want to shop in one of a very few key vendors booths, you can expect to stand in line, and it could be an hour. Why you would do that, I don't know. Last year I wanted to get into Paizo. There was a line, I did something else, I came back, still a line, did something else, came back, the line was about 20 people, so I stood in line for 5 or 10 minutes. Oh, there was a big nasty line for the AEG big game night last year. That was people who didn't have tickets and wanted to get in with generics. They were told that the line was much longer than the number of available seats and they waited anyway. Again, I don't understand why. There's so much to do, so many options. I guess if lines appeal to you, you can find ways to stand in them. The food trucks can be busy, but walk a half block, and you will find restaurants with no wait at all, most people are not willing to walk an extra block.
Its a huge event, there are places that people cluster. But you don't have to stand in those clusters. Get tickets for games, don't just try to walk into seminars. Don't stand in line for autographs. Don't wait for busy full retail price vendors. Play games. Gencon is so much more than the dealers room.
My group travels from northern va. The car ride is 10-11 hours for us. We've done it for over a decade now. Worth it.
Glad I haven't gone to check out otakon. I have considered it, but, the opportunity to take pictures just doesn't sound like it worth it.
I am basically being told that most of my time will be spent waiting in line or fighting crowds and that it's not worth traveling 9 hours from Washington, DC to attend.I was wondering if anyone could tell me if this is accurate and if anything has changed since last year to alleviate the overcrowding of the convention. I really wanted to go, but I'm not sure it's a good choice now. Hoping someone can talk me back into going.
2. Long lines only exist in the dealer hall if buying something at a very popular place, waiting on demos, getting free crap, or meeting a guest. Long lines occur in hallways before an event begins; it's just the nature of the beast. Lines for events move rapidly; the Will Call line has moved incredibly rapidly over the past several years; I've never stood in one place for more than a minute. Alleviate long line anxiety by having a ticket which guarantees you a spot in the game. Generic ticket holders have reason to be anxious with lines....the longer the line, the riskier the chance to get in.
3. Events fill up months in advance! May is the event registration time. Typically, if someone does not buy tickets for hot events in May, those events are sold out come June. For some games, they sell out hours after events go live. As above, generic ticket holders are gambling on whether they get into sold out events. In my experience, only those holders first in the generic ticket line will get a spot.
In my experience the worst queues (in no particular order) are for the exhibit hall, seminars, will call, food, bathrooms, the use of generic tickets to get into events, and Guests of Honor (signings).
In recent years it's also become progressively harder to move around on Saturday afternoon since there are so many people trying to navigate everywhere at the same time. Hopefully the expansion into Lucas Oil Stadium will reduce this trend by spreading us out more. That said, the area around and inside the exhibit hall is going to be crowded always given how the con has grown.
I am another will call fan. The line /seems/ long but it moves along briskly and I lovelove watching all the nerd/geek/costumed folks walk by. Half the time, when the line stops for a bit it's because someone is gawking at something.
That said, from what I have seen there are very few lines, except maybe for autographs. If you're into seminars, whoever said get tickets ahead of time is spot on. Real tickets go in first.
I can't think of anything that actually has anything like a real hour-long line. 20 minutes, sometimes, and maybe if some game is uber popular, or possibly an autograph line, but when I think gen con, I do not think lines. Even the Stink, which usually has a line, only has it because people get there early.
A few helpful points, yes there is a massive crowd, but you can avoid the worst of it with good planning.
I always buy badge and event tickets in advance and have them mailed to me, no lines for me. If you do Will Call, it looks like people say the lines are long but move. If you can get in the day before the event, especially if you have stuff that starts first thing on Thursday morning. You can do will call on Wednesday and make sure you have all your stuff in advance.
Then pick up a copy of the catalog and check your event tickets and do a reccy of where all of your events are. Walk all around the convention center, learn the entrances, where the bathrooms and food courts are. Find the skywalks to the connecting hotels for events in those locations (really helpful if it rains).
Know that Thursday morning in particular the crowd waiting for the Exhibit Hall to open in the morning will be MASSIVE. It is a nice friendly crowd mostly, unless there are promos, exclusives or special release games when they might be a bit more edgy. If you don't care about those things you can hang at the back and enjoy the anticipation and celebration of the opening of the hall (it is fun, I have done it a couple of times). If you hate massive crowds, just wait about 20 minutes and the crush will be in and you can walk in easily. If you hate crowded days in exhibit hall, then avoid Saturday when the people who will be there just for the weekend show up and moving around slows to a crawl. They have expanded the exhibit hall again, so it may not be as bad, but you can dodge it by planning not to be there in the main crunch time.
If you have events around the exhibit hall opening time, avoid the entrances and halls by the exhibit hall when you head to your event.
Lunch and dinner times can be crunch time at food trucks and restaurants, but if you go out at off times, you won't wait as long. Big crunch time for restaurants is right after the exhibit hall closes. If you duck out a half hour before, or wait a couple of hours after, you will have less of an issue. Someone also mentioned eating at the bar, I always do that at the Ram for their yummy burgers and I don't have to wait more than a couple of minutes of the search for a seat. If you are attempting to eat with a big group, be prepared to wait unless you pick off times. Be prepared to be flexible in your food choices, there are lots of places to eat but there are lots of gamers in town.
I am a New Yorker and am use to crowds, but I seriously hate lines, I can't say I have ever stood on a big line at GenCon in all the years I have gone to it (all the Indy years so far). Lines I have been on were short ones to register for events that I had tickets for and the rare instance where I was picking up a promo for a friend, but that is it.
I did leave out the food truck lines: they always seem to be very long too and I rarely had the time to stand in them. Food courts (especially at the nearby mall), room service, pizza, and restaurants were almost always more practical.
I've only been twice, so take this with a grain of salt.
But of those times the ONLY times i've had to stand in lines is for Will call (And was only an hr or so at a peak time on thursday) and waiting to get something Signed by one of the Authors (Again, only about a 30min to an hour wait).
Never stood in line for ANYTHING else. Only other line I even SAW was around a couple of the larger booths in the Vendor hall on the first day.
Lines at Gen Con are the exception and not the norm. If you don't have a ticket and are hoping to get into something that may draw a crowd prepare accordingly. Con exclusives (or freebies) will cause some wait times so if it's that important to you be prepared, otherwise your FLGS or Amazon/Ebay are there for you once you get home. Someone above mentioned the many other options, try something else and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
The spousal unit and I went to Fandom Fest one year expecting something like our normal Gen Con experience (tickets, signage, prepared crew/volunteers). What we found to our dismay was what Marian described for Otakon...lines to get into lines but worse, no one know what lines were what and there wasn't even a rudimentary map. We use Gen Con as our idea of what an "organized" convention should be and have learned to ask in advance.
Enjoy your first Gen Con but don't get discouraged if you can't see and do it all...no one can in a single visit which is why you see so many double digit year veterans.
I've never had to deal with what I would consider terrible lines at Gen Con the few times I've been over the years. Now when I went to PAX Prime in 2011? Those were some lines. Even PAX South in 2015 was intense. Also my local anime con (A-Kon in Dallas) has become so unwieldy and huge that I quit going. Anime cons seem to be particularly bad about badge pickup, far surpassing anything I've experienced at any gaming con. I think it's because those cons have a lot of mass group events (seminars, concerts, celebrity signings), and Gen Con is mostly a whole lot of smaller events, with a few of the exceptions noted above.
I am curious to see what Gen Con is like this time around. Last time I went was 2008 and it was about half the size then, based on the numbers I'm seeing. Glad to hear from the folks in this thread that it will be nice and busy (wouldn't want the con to be too sedate) but manageable.
Someone mentioned that gencon is a huge number of small group events, and that is different from your comic cons and your pax and so forth. I think that makes a big difference. Gencon events are ticketed. If you have a ticket, and show up 5-15 minutes before start time, you will get in. At those other conventions, space is limited and there are no reservations, you have to wait in line if you want to fit into the room. I like the gencon approach better, but I know people who disagree with me. They then complain about lines at their events.
Others have mentioned the differences between Gen Con and anime and comic-con style cons, and why that results in shorter lines, but if I may elaborate:
Gen Con is about participation. Gen Con is about taking part in events, whether that means playing games, demoing new products, joining a larp, and so on. You go to the other cons to be entertained, and so the bigger they get the worse the problem becomes: everyone is waiting to be entertained. At Gen Con you entertain yourself and the convention exists to facilitate that. That's not to say there are no lines at Gen Con (if you want Marina Sirtis's autograph you're going to have to wait in line for it) but there's no need to wait in line to take part in the fun.
As far as I can tell the only lines at Gencon are for a popular Author/Actors autograph, to buy a new hotness of a game (both those would be in the dealer hall). To buy a badge on Thursday morning, after morning its not much of a line. Sometimes for a particularly wanted seminar there will be a wait list line for generics.
The Will call line looks horrendously long but I've been in one that extended all the way to the end of the Wabash corridor (believe me a loooooong way) that only lasted 25 minutes or so.
Most everything else is ticketed so you show up a few minutes in advance and you have a seat, now some of the shows, costume contest,glittergold and the d20 burlesque and a some others I'm sure may have a seating line but you can still get in if you show up just a few minutes early you just may be sitting in the back.
As far as games and the majority of seminars there will be no line just show up on time sit down and enjoy.
Oh, can't forget the consignment store line at the auction!
Getting into the auction is easy, just walk in. Getting into the consignment store area means standing in a slow moving line depending on the time of day. They only let so many into the store area at a time, so you have to wait for enough people to leave before you get to geek out on the offerings.