Looking Back at Gen Con 2015

Zoa at Gen Con
Zoa demos No Thank You, Evil! in the MCG booth while Monte chats with fans in the background.

Gen Con 2015 is over and there’s been a decent amount of time to reflect on it. My arms are still just the tiniest bit tired from the heavy lifting in preparation for Gen Con and from the tear down afterwards. The cold I caught is only just beginning to dissipate, as is the exhaustion I feel. Oh the exhaustion. And yet, if I was asked to do it all again, I would sound off with one big resounding “YES!” There’s something about Gen Con that just feels good. Something that feels like home.

Maybe it was the Monte Cook Games booth. Since it was open and spacious, it invited merrymaking along with work. Chatting with fans was extraordinarily pleasant, and I made quick friends with many of our volunteers. With everyone, there was the common connection of loving the game, and you could easily discuss your most recent adventure with ease.

Or maybe the good feeling came from the way people stopped by the booth to buy a corebook and nothing else.

“Is this all for you today?” I would ask.

“Yeah! I just played this with one of your GMs, and I’ve never had so much fun with an RPG!”

Or maybe it was the CSR launch party on Friday night, which morphed into a surprise birthday party for Charles Ryan, the COO of Monte Cook Games. It was a beautiful surprise for a beautiful person.

Seskii Cake at Gen Con
An incredible seskii atop Charles’s birthday cake at the CSR launch party.

But probably the reason this year worked so well for me personally, was the fact that I got to run No Thank You, Evil! (our upcoming RPG for kids), and there was magic in watching the faces of young children light up in fright and excitement as they pulled out their infinite water balloons or flaming sword, and attacked the goblins terrorizing the theme park. They would look at me with such happiness as I guided them through their mini adventure.

Before this year, I had never run a game for complete strangers. Yet here I was, sitting in a chair in front of the short table preparing to run demos of No Thank You, Evil! Not only was I going to run the game for strangers, I was about to run it for children. I had been handed the most recent copy of playtest rules of No Thank You, Evil! the night before, and asked to learn them by the morning. It was an exciting proposition.

Thursday morning began. I was apprehensive. What if they didn’t like me? What if I forgot the rules? My gosh! WHAT IF I DO SUCH A BAD JOB THEY NEVER LIKE ROLEPLAYING GAMES AGAIN?! I didn’t want to ruin games for children! My worries melted away when the first child finally sat down to play.

I’d always start with the same questions. “Do you like theme parks? Popcorn stands? Rollercoasters?”

They’d nod.

“Good, I’d reply, “because you’re in one right now!”

Sometimes they were immediately captivated. Then I would describe the cotton candy take over. They were always too smart to eat cotton candy off the floor, but they would squeal in delight if their father grabbed a bite, and laughed when he started hiccupping bubbles. One girl insisted we throw all the cotton candy in the trash and clean up the park. When that didn’t work, she insisted it was now time to recycle it!

Zoa at Gen Con 2
Zoa with another group of kids trying out No Thank You, Evil!

If I didn’t have the children drawn in by the end of the roller coaster, I did by the time they entered the cotton candy stand. I cackled ominously, and would tap on the table with my nails so as they approached the stand their imaginations would run wild. Often they’d whisper “It’s a witch!” to someone else at the table, both excited and apprehensive. I would ask them if they wanted to venture in, and they’d give their parents a look, “Is this safe for me?”

Sometimes after rolling a success, they reenacted the motions of the game. One player mimed every motion he did, from playing dead to sneaking past the goblins, to unlocking a lock with his pencil as the key. He couldn’t stand still, jumping when his character needed to jump, and swinging an invisible sword when he needed to fight. It was glorious.

Almost always the children would start off shy, and quiet, and end the game pointing excitedly and grinning. There is magic for children in this game. However, as the guide, there’s something magic for me as well. To see their genuine excitement, their imaginations working at high speed. They got it. They understood how to have fun. To see that was amazing. To be part of that was indescribable.

We had a lot going on at Gen Con this year. We ran over 70 games and events. The Strange and the Ninth World Guidebook won several ENnies. We talked to hundreds of fans. But if there was one thing I loved most of all at this year Gen Con, it was seeing the next generation falling in love with games right in front of me.

IA at Gen Con
Monte, Bruce, Jen Page, Shanna, and Tom Lommel show the crowd a great time at the Instant Adventures seminar.
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