My wife and I love D&D, but we haven't really delved much into other genres of table top games. We're really big into PC gaming. Neither of us read much but we both love Critical Role. I used to LARP but that was ages ago and now we both RP privately through text. My concern is we will spend a lot of money to attend, but then go and be bored. I have a lot of social problems, issues with meeting new people and being in large groups. I have been trying to find more information about kinds of events are at this convention. I have been to a few other conventions they were usually panels, shows, shopping, meet and greets, that sort of thing. Lots of sitting and watching things.
So I suppose my question is to previous attendees, what should I expect from GenCon? I am concerned I will feel uncomfortable around many strangers and board games aren't really my thing, neither are one-shots if I am being honest.
Many many RPG's offer 'living world' versions. Chances are you'd be most interested in the Adventurer's League dungeons and dragons, but Pathfinder and Shadowrun offer living worlds as well, where you take your same character through adventures.
That said, because of the nature of Gen Con, there will be a lotlotlot of one shots, most with characters already created. It's a time issue. As for people, unless you attend the opening of the exhibit hall, the crush really isn't so very bad since the con is playing games. There are also lots of what you listed, panels, shopping, etc, (you can spend an entire day, easily, in the exhibit hall) but mostly games. Have you looked at past year's offerings? That should give you a very good idea of what to expect.
A friend of ours just retreats to his room if he becomes overwhelmed, but he's now attended three years and loves it. Still, the con DOES have an attendance of 60K+ so it is not going to be just a few people.
Gen Con is a large square footage of convention center with a LOT of people. If you do not like being around lots of people in tight areas, then the halls and dealer room will not be the place for you.
I do not play board games at Gen Con, just Pathfinder, D&D, and AD&D.
I play a lot of Pathfinder Society, Starfinder Society, and Adventurers League games because I like to run my own characters and I usually try and have one or more of my friends who attend in a game with me. Otherwise, I get to know the people that I am playing with in a particular game. Most folks at Gen Con are really nice, but there are always those that, well, you know...
So, I would recommend Gen Con to everyone, but if large crowds and strangers in games are not your cup of tea, then you may want to avoid it.
I always suggest GenCon to all people who love gaming. But there will be a lot of people, even in the RPG rooms, you are at a table with a few people, surrounded by a lot of people doing the same thing. Depending on the level of issues you have with social situations I would think long and hard about spending the money it takes to go. One thing that might help if you search you Tube for GenCon videos. There are a lot of videos that show all different events and such. That might give you a better view at least of the amount of people.
I have a problem with large crowds and meeting new people. I was kind of freaked out leading up to my first GenCon. At my first convention I had a few jitters in the dealers hall, but in the end it wasn't as bad as I had feared. I think knowing that we are all people who love the same things helps a lot. Everyone is super friendly and the atmosphere really helps. Where else could this many people be together and not have issues. Sure there is some bumping and congestion, but my experience has always been a quick sorry and a smile and off we go. My suggestion is avoid the opening ceremony, and give the hall a couple hours to calm down the first day. Sign up for a couple of events that are marked specifically "Learn to Play" in the title. Steve Jackson games have always been good for this.
And remember at least half the people there have the same issues we do, but we come together for what we love.
"And remember at least half the people there have the same issues we do, but we come together for what we love."
That's great point.
Also when event registration happens in May you'll get an idea of the types of games/seminars/events you can expect.
I went years ago as a favor to my husband and loved it so much we've been going back every year since! I'd really recommend going just once - and not letting any fears or apprehensions you have stop you from trying this unique experience.
I avoid the dealer hall (except to find my husband and kids), because it is so crowded.
My son and husband love Games on Demand, which they've found consistently well run. Anyway - there is tons to do - I hope you decide to try it!
If you go to gencon.eventdb.us you will find an easy to navigate listing of last years events. It might help you decide if there are enough things that you’d enjoy going on at a typical gencon.
I don't know how far away from Indianapolis you are, but if it's reasonable to visit for just a day - a Toes In The Water First sort of thing :) - then maybe that'll give you an indication of whether you think it's worth it or not.
But yes, what others here are saying is totally right: This is a very large convention. It's the epitome of being around tons of strangers. I would never discourage anyone from going because it's such a blast, but I'll readily admit, Gen Con may not be everyone's cup of tea.
There is a "quiet room" somewhere at the ICC, where you could go to get away from things for a while; also, there are places on the 2nd floor which are fairly quiet where you can decompress for a while.
Having said that, yes, Gen Con is crowds upon crowds. I've never been in the Exhibit Hall when it wasn't packed with people; there are jostling and collisions, but people are usually cool with it, knowing we're all the same boat. Also, many of the rooms where events are held are fairly crowded. You might be at a table with 4 other people, but there are 15 similar tables in that room, and the noise level can be deafening. I definitely don't want to turn you off from going, but giving you an honest assessment of conditions so you'll have to determine if that will be too much for you.
As far as things to do, you won't run out of those. There are numerous RPG events, using almost every gaming system that's out there. Also, don't turn yourself off to board games; search the entries, there could be one you might find interesting. There are LARPs, Escape Rooms, True Dungeon.. the list goes on. Even if you avoid the exhibit hall, you can fill 4 days easily.
To address the "What Sort Of Events Are There" question, here's an archive of event descriptions from the last few Gen Cons;
You may also want to cost/benefit it.
As others have said, the convention itself is essentially one massive crowd; attendance for the past several years has been in excess of 60,000 attendees. There are some quiet corners to be found, so to speak, but the ICC hallways, attached hotels, nearby restaurants, food trucks, etc. are going to be packed.
You'd mentioned your interest in Dungeons & Dragons and, in my experience, a lot of the tabletop RPG games are held nearby hotel conference rooms where there will be maybe ten round tables of 5 - 8 or so players, each running at the same time. If you're into Pathfinder, its official events take place in a massive ballroom with literally a hundred or more tables running. Crowds and new people do not at all bother me, but even I give the occasional sigh of relief when getting back to my hotel room and having a few minutes of solitude.
4-day badges will run you and your wife in excess of $200 and if you are staying in Indianapolis, hotel and meals will easily run you up to a thousand dollars or more. Many attendees spend several times that depending on purchases in the vendor hall and event prices.
I've been attending the convention for roughly a decade and it is absolutely one of the highlights of my year. I'd encourage almost anyone to give it a try. However given that you have a "lot of social problems, issues with meeting new people and being in large groups," please bear in mind that the nature of the convention itself means that you will constantly be exposed to large groups and in almost any roleplaying event will be meeting a half-dozen or so new people.
I don't want to discourage you from attending, but it is a significant time and financial investment and it seems to me that environment at Gen Con is one that will significantly test your social problems and issues on a regular basis. If I were you, I might do the old trick of writing down the pros and cons and seeing how things stack up.
Also while Gen Con is absolutely incredible, there are also many other smaller, regional gaming conventions that might be more conducive to your particular situation. You could easily attend two or three of these throughout the year for the price of a single Gen Con and possible have a much better time with much smaller crowds and so forth.
Regardless of your decision, best of luck and I hope things work out well for you.
Best way to look at events is to check out last years listing, which can be done (as mentioned above) by visiting some of the 3rd party databases.
There are a lot of workshops to go to that are not game related.
I want to second the second-floor option. Last year, I spent a lot of time in a couple of the game co. rooms (Rio Grand and one other), a SPA craft room, or just a quieter corner when the dealer hall got too much or my knees gave out. This year, I'm going to split the exhibit/dealer hall into sections and try to explore a section at a time rather.
My inclination is that there are so many things to do at Gen Con that anyone can find something they're interested in. But the corollary of that variety is that we're here to try a little bit of everything, so almost every game is a one-shot. If you want to spend the entire weekend playing through one campaign, a convention probably isn't the best place for that.
It's also not a good place for the agoraphobic. The shopping area and hallways are very crowded, and there will be other games at nearby tables. But you don't have to socialize with all those people. (Unless you're in costume, in which case people will ask to take your picture).
When you look through the lists of past year events, you'll see that they specify a number of players. And you'll find tons of "sitting and watching things" options in the Seminar and Entertainment categories.
This year, I'm going to split the exhibit/dealer hall into sections and try to explore a section at a time rather.
There are plenty of Critter meet ups planned. We have a lot of things planned for this year; An All Day PJ Party, Viewing Party for the Live Show, and there is a Facebook Page: Gen Con Critters and a Discord Channel, where we plan events and meet and greet. Last year I cosplayed as Jester and my husband and I spent most of the convention talking to people. We only played a few games but we still had a blast! You don't have to play any games to enjoy yourselves at Gen Con, and if you are interested in learning to play, I am starting up an online game that will have the final battle at GenCon. Feel free to email me if you want! [email protected]
I would ordinarily say that there's something for everyone at GenCon, but it's hard to make the case given your stated likes/dislikes.
You mentioned Critical Role - and they have been doing a live show in Indianapolis the last couple of years, and while it's not officially part of the convention, there was (at least last year) as part of the Convention a book signing event and one panel discussion, and an awesomely decorated Invulnerable Vagrant booth up in the Dealer Hall at which Matt made an appearance cosplaying as Pumat Sol.
Your stated preferences seem on the surface to make it unlikely that you'll enjoy the convention, but there may be just enough there for you to make it fun. Look at a site that shows the events that were there last year (http://gencon.eventdb.us/) which will be generally representative of what you can expect to find and see if you think there's enough there to make it worth your while.
I am overwhelmed by the amount of replies, it took me a while to read through them all. The main reason we chose GenCon initially is because we are both lovers of Fantasy. She is an aspiring voice artist, she is actually very talented. My hobbies beyond D&D are creating miniature terrain and painting minis. I am an artist by trade, most of my work is creating reference drawings for other peoples RP characters and I had originally hoped to sell things at GenCon and just stay put in one place, but I didn't want to rob my wife of the experience so opted out. Now it's too late for that and I am getting cold feet, worried I am spending a lot of money on something that might traumatize me.
Last con I went to was DragonCon2015 and the person who was supposed to meet me and split the cost bailed a week before. I stupidly went anyway, was overwhelmed and left after one day in tears. I believe that negative experience left me with Con jitters. My wife seems really disappointed I am having second thoughts, but she would thrive in this kind of environment. She's super social and just loves playing, I think ultimately I made the choice because I wanted her to have the best time and she absolutely would. I am the kind of person who would be overjoyed to visit museums all day and go antiquing, I love old things.
On the point of everyone's advice, I have looked at the previous rosters and events from last year it is what made me initially concerned. I used to play card games like Magic, but it became too expensive of a hobby so I stopped years ago. We haven't had great experiences with finding groups online to stick with, having gone through about ten groups over the last two years. We had a sit down, in person group but we had a great deal of player conflict so that's been on break over the "holidays".
I do love cosplay, making the costumes is the best part and I have made an investment in my wife's suit of armor money and time wise already. I was going to make her enter the cosplay contest which I thought might be fun. I wanted to cosplay as well and actually changed our entire lifestyle, we've each lost weight and are better for it, regardless of what happens. That was a good outcome although there is way more cooking in our lives now.
I believe a Pros and Cons list might be a good idea, but thank you everyone for all the helpful knowledge. It's one thing to read a list but it's another to hear from people who have experienced it first hand.
I just did not want you to be further traumatized if you were planning on setting up an artist spot outside the dealer hall and were in violation of Gen Con sales policies.
I wish you good luck and hope you and your wife are able to attend. I cannot understate how fun Gen Con is as a convention, but I do not want to undersell the fact that it is a giant swarming mass of humanity as well...mostly great folks in that mass of humanity...but there are a lot of them!
My wife and our friend got to Gen Con with me. They are both very anti social and get very stressed at Gen Con. They do not like the crowds in the Exhibit Hall, nor playing games with lots of people we don't know.
We got a DT hotel so they can go back to the room if they ever need to. This helps them a lot to just get out of the masses.
Also when we play games we try to play games where we have the majority. So get 3 tickets for a 3,4, or 5 player game. That way there is only 1-2 people they have to interact with.
We also space games out, so that we only have 1-2 events every day. This keeps them from getting overwhelmed.
There are times when the hall is less busy. Friday and Sunday are much less busy than Thursday and Saturday. These would be your best bet to brave the hall.
If you like RPing, LARPing, RPG games, just make the whole con one big RPG for the two of you. Make going into the hall a quest that you must overcome. Lets say you have a task of interacting with 5 (NPCs lol) each day. Come up with what works for you.
But the most important thing is HAVE FUN. Once you start having fun, the rest just washes away and you notice it a lot less. I won't say you don't notice it, because YMMV, but it reduces the stress, and you are there to have a good time.