Figured it might be fun to make a thread about things from older Gen Cons people miss or reminisce about. For me:
I miss the old TSR castle from Milwaukee. For those who don't know, TSR's booth at Gen Con would be a large fake castle in the center of the exhibit hall. It was a nice centerpiece and easy to orient against, as it was usually visible from basically everywhere. WotC used it for a couple years but it didn't make the move to Indy.
There was a spy-themed restaurant in Milwaukee called Safehouse that was fun to go to. Other dinner options, however, tended to be less good/extant.
Lots of good restaurants in Indy have disappeared over the years- there was a chili place we used to go to every Wednesday before the con, the site of which became Noodles & Company, which is now nothing, I think. Obviously miss the Ram.
I remember when True Dungeon had wooden nickel tokens, and if you spent a certain amount the game creator would dress up like a squire from Monty Python and come on the adventure with you banging coconuts.
I somewhat miss when the exhibit hall was in halls A-E - it was so convenient if you were staying at the Marriot. Just pop across from the skywalk and you're there.
I really miss early exhibit hall access - used to be that press, VIGs, and Trade day people got into the exhibit hall an hour early. It was so convenient to avoid some of the super long lines, and wandering around a much more empty hall had a certain Zen quality.
We used to get media guests of honor - basically an actor sponsored by the con who would sign autographs for an hour or two at no extra cost to the attendees. Used to be some long lines for these people.
Not sure I actually miss swag bags - we used to get a bag full of ads and promos at check in, but honestly most of it ended up in the trash after the con. It was nice getting free stuff, but you'd spend 10 minutes glancing at flyers and opening random boosters from obscure CCGs and that was that.
I still love Gen Con and I have a great time every year. Just thought I'd share some things of days gone by that I miss, and invite others to do the same.
The best thing about this forum is reminiscing about past cons!
Does anyone have a story about bumping into random celebrities or guests of honor? It's happened to me a few times. The most memorable for me was bumping into... literally bumping... Billy Mitchell and Walter Day. They were cool. Not the most major celebrities, but the randomness made me smile.
One time in the mid 90s I was about 5 feet away from Mark Hamill, there at a booth for the Wing Commander video game. This was during the dearth of Star Wars stuff before the special editions and prequels came out, so I had nothing SW related on me to get signed.
Once rode up a hotel elevator with Ethan Phillips (Neelix from Star Trek Voyager). Didn't bug him because he was clearly tired and "off duty" and I feel it's rude to annoy celebrities in their off time.
I think I miss the element of surprise the most. 10+ years ago, you really didn't know what was going to be in the Exhibit Hall. While I'm still open to that, I know what's going to be in most booths and have already scouted my potential purchases.
I miss buying things for my kids. They are adults now. I'll still buy things for them after consulting with them, but it's not the same.
It hasn't been long, but I miss Burger Study. You could get Elmo's Colas and the St. Elmo shrimp cocktail with a slightly cheaper bill in a more casual setting. Closed during the pandemic. To a lesser extent, we miss Bacon Legs and Turntables; it was a funky restaurant bar that flamed out after a year or two.
We really miss the JW from ~2017 and before. They used to lean into Gen Con, but there was a change in management. Things became more professional. Bah. Ironically, we started having more issues during our stay after they went "professional."
I miss Scotty's. It really felt like a gamer home.
One year I came in on a Monday solo back when MegaBus still ran. I stopped in Scotty's on my way to the hotel for lunch since it was close to the bus stop. They still had sports on the TV's, but were in the process of setting up the banners and signs for Gen Con and the cool merchandise that would be available the next day.
It just felt like, "Yes, I am home!"
Also, with the JW, I miss the Lord of the Rings soundtrack they would play in the halls.
I do miss The RAM. I never got to Scotty's as much, since it was a bit further away.
I also miss having media guests of honor. From Indy, I have photos of myself with Nichelle Nichols and Wil Wheaton. And from way back in 1993, I have a photo of James Doohan and Mark Hamill sitting at the same signing table.
It is funny how people reminisce about Scotty's Brewhouse as an integral part of Gen-Con despite the fact that it was around for, like, what, 4 years total? Not dissing anyone; I absolutely miss it, too, haha
Certainly I heard from people in 1997 that the Exhibit Hall's variety was already hugely streamlined compared to pre-Magic-changing-the-industry years, 1993 I guess being the last "basically all wargaming and roleplaying" year by that reckoning.
Yeah, Scotty's didn't have a long legacy, but they and the Ram really took to the con goers. It was so far beyond just a restaurant to eat at in Indy.
But I don't have the long history with Gen Con that many have. My first year was 2006, when a buddy asked me to go with him because the electronic game company he worked for was curious if they should have a booth. We just drove up on Saturday to check it out.
I remembered Gen Con from the ads in Dragon Magazine in the 1980's, but since college, it fell out of my knowledge.
So I said sure. I thought it was a trade show.
Wow, was I blown away! We just wandered around looking at the dealer hall, perusing the miniature tables and all the boardgames. I saw Kevin Sorbo in the corridor. I was wondering where this magical place was my whole life.
Needless to say we returned every year since (except 2021).
I started volunteering in 2010.
I think my fondest memory is the very first game I played at Gen Con: Felt vs. Plastic -- Muppets vs. Toy Story. It used 5th Edition Hero for the mechanics, and it was just a major hoot, from the start when Dave Mattingly (the GM) had the lot of us singing the theme to The Muppet Show through the crazy combat in a kid's bedroom to the ultimate resolution: Toy Story won. (sob) But I got to play Beaker throughout, my all-time favorite Muppet. Even got to exact some revenge (or rather, tried to) on my tormentor -- er...boss, Professor Honeydew. Stupid dice anyway.
"Meep, meep, meep, meep..."
And speaking of bosses, a couple years later, Dave became my boss when I started doing some proofreading for him and BlackWyrm Games. Wish that lasted longer than it did (just a few years), but Real Life was making its demands; I burned out and had to step down. It was fun while it lasted though.
I remember those old 80s Dragon magazine recaps of Gen Con. They were a big motivator for me wanting to go in the first place. My first Gen Con was 1995, so still in the MECCA building. I'm still amused at how games were run in cubicle farms called the "Labyrinth" and "Deep Labyrinth." 1995 was also the year that approximately 175 CCGs released at gen Con, with companies attempting to hook into that sweet MtG money. I don't think any of those CCGs are still active at this point.
The exhibit hall does have a different character nowadays. Besides just being bigger, and us having the ability to research things online before arrival, there are just some major differences. I'm still bothered that WotC doesn't have a booth anymore - it used to be that D&D was much more up front and center at Gen Con, and it was really neat to be able to go to official seminars and demo new games at the con. Back when Magic was newer, you used to be able to challenge employees to games to win free boosters.
Lou Ferrigno and John de Lancie used to just have booths in the exhibit hall for signing autographs.
One year (and only one year) I got to work the Wizards of the Coast Booth (2010). We got to go through the vendor's hall for an hour every morning before being open to the public. I spend the one day running life sized D&D, one day running the Archenemy expansion for Magic the Gathering and Saturday playing/demoing the new Magic game on the Xbox. Sunday was my day off and we were done at 6 so I still got plenty of game time in as well. At some time in all of that mess, I babysat the red dragon statue on the second floor where you could get your picture taken with the "Red D&D Box Cover." I was working that area when Wil Wheaton came through. Interesting experience there.
They fed us not one, not two but three steak dinners including the Saturday night dinner with R.A. Salvatore and Ed Greenwood. I got to talk drow with Salvatore for half an hour while we waited for our food.
Besides the usually badge/room treatment, we were given boxs of Magic cards, a chance to buy the last "From the Vault" boxes and a chance to win the few remaining Orcus minis that came out that year.
So many people volunteered to work for WOTC that I never got another chance like this and two or three years later was their last at GenCon.
But good times...
I'm part of the "problem." I do a Gen Con New Release list on RPG Geek (for RPGs). If a publisher has announced a release on Twitter or their website, I know about it and pass that on to anyone interested - tens of people! Lol.
The BGG Preview list keeps me informed in the same way for board games.
Kickstarter has changed the landscape. Many publishers prioritize their Kickstarters over Gen Con; it's nice when a release syncs, but it's problematic when a product shows up at Gen Con before it gets to backers.
All this said, I still really enjoy finding that unknown publisher booth with stuff that appeals to me. It just doesn't happen as often over the last 10 years.
I just finished reading Slaying the Dragon by Ben Riggs, if you are into TSR history it's a must have book. There is a heartbreaking short chapter that starts on page 237 titled "The Tomb". When TSR ran out of money in 1997 they stopped paying lots of people, including a storage facility filled with all the dioramas and miniatures they used at Gen Con. All but one pickup truck load apparently wound up in a landfill.
Will there be a physical program?
I know the trend is to vaporous app stuff, but I sure love the physical program to hold and collect.
I also have wonderful memories of Scotty's, and we LOVED the times when Five Year Mission would hold a concert in their outdoor area. The nights when the 501st stopped by were a blast. You could hang out at Scotty's for a few hours and it was almost like a min-con within Gen Con.
The Doubleclicks put on concerts several years in a row, and those are wonderful memories.
I really miss all the statues that WOTC used to bring along. We have amazing pictures with the Beholder, Drizzt, and Lolth.
I miss Who North America at the con. It's been a few years since they have attended, and we especially loved when they would bring along a Doctor Who celebrity. Meeting Peter Davison was a Gen Con highlight. I know they are always available just down the road in Camby (just outside Indy's SW side), but it's not the same as visiting the Dalek in the dealer hall.
I WOULD include Killer Breakfast in this list, but it's coming back this year! Huzzah!
A booth I miss is Cloud Kingdom games. They would put up a new riddle on a sign every hour and if you solved the riddle you got a "Riddlemaster" ribbon for your badge. I had a point of pride of getting the ribbon on their first riddle every year. One year I managed to solve all their riddles (at least the ones they posted while I was in the exhibit hall)so I bought a Riddlemaster button from them - had one person comment "How come you get a button instead of a ribbon - are you that much better at riddles?" Yes. Yes I am. ;P
I really do miss the TSR castle, it made the exhibit hall feel....Grander and more magical. The charity Klingon Jail was also a neat thing, although with the amount of Stormtroopers around, is there a starwars themed charity jail?
Playing Living City (RPGA) in the basement added a nice flair to it as well.
Hmm all these are from Mecca....I am getting old. Anyway BRING BACK PEG BOARDS!
I also miss Mayfair Games' coffee and water "booth" in the mornings out on Georgia Street. A great way to start the day with a free coffee and a conversation with someone you just met.
I miss Mayfair's Great Ribbon Quest. The coupon and goodies were nice, but the capacity and organization of their demo area was so well done.