Understanding Others: My GenCon 2012 Experience

I am a gamer. Or at least I thought I was going into the GenCon experience. On any given night you can probably see me gaming on either my iPad or on a PS3. Some of my favorite games are very simple in nature such as Words with Friends where the object is to score the most points for words like in Scrabble. With this game, it’s easy to keep in touch with others and also easy to enjoy the classic word game that many grew up with. I like games like that and also more complex ones such as Parallel Kingdom for the iPhone/iPad/Android which is a game where you can be a part of a kingdom and work together and collect gold, collect property and defend against others. So there are many games that I enjoy but I must say I was pretty overwhelmed going into GenCon. From the first step into the convention center and seeing some of the people in costumes, I felt immediately out of place since it was my first experience. That’s when I knew, I’m not that big of a gamer.

It’s not really a problem at all that I’m not as hardcore of a gamer as some of the individuals at the convention. Everyone was having a great time whether they were dressed up (some of the best costumes included power rangers, various Star Wars characters and Final Fantasy characters) or whether they were there to play a tournament.

I guess I should step back and describe what happens at this convention. The Indy Convention Center is effectively taken over by GenCon. Each of the exhibit halls and even some of the conference rooms in the surrounding hotels were full of game demos, tournaments and seminars of various sorts. I had never seen such a sight as this as so many excited people talked about strategies of what weapon or spell to use for games.

I got a chance to walk around the main exhibition hall many times. This was where the most action for me was. A lot of game companies had booths where they displayed their newest games and had sales for all of their products. I got a chance to demo quite a few games and even though the demos themselves are abridged versions of the games, they gave a good flavor of what the games were about. There was anything from card battle type games to full on panorama and figurine type games. There were many retailers that sold many sided dies. The crowds were thick and sometimes it was even hard to navigate.

One of the coolest things about the experience was when Keller won a big prize. There was a raffle that was held and he won $300 worth of games. It was the first time either him or his dad won big at GenCon and being the avid board gamers that they are, it was very exciting indeed. One of the games, called Thunderstone, we ended up demoing later that day and it ended up being a pretty sweet game.

Another interesting experience we had was an event called True Dungeon. You team up with nine others and go through 12 rooms of a dungeon that are designed to test your puzzle solving skills and “combat” skills. We ended up doing the mostly puzzle type dungeon. Our group for the most part worked ok until the very last room when we all ended up dying. It was an experience though in trying to do a real life dungeon which gave me lots of memories when I played RPGs as a kid. I just wish that last room was a little more forgiving. Well that and we had more members that were interested in working as a team instead of doing their own thing.

I think the overarching thing that I got out of experience though is that there is a whole other culture out there that centers around gaming and maybe more specifically board gaming. Each game that was played in tournaments or just for fun around the convention center centered around specific gaming jargon. I couldn’t say that I understood much at all but I did see that many of them were having fun with what they were doing. Many were getting very into the strategy parts of the games and discussed with others about the best moves to use for certain situations. There were others that were very serious and were pros at the game they were playing because they could make decisions as quick as a flash and react very well to changing conditions.

The culture that was present at the convention is not that different than the real life honestly. The types of personalities ranged from the quite types to the serious ones to the very bubbly types. I think when most people look at these individuals, they automatically dismiss them as “freaks” or people who are just misguided and spend too much time not doing anything productive. What I’ve learned though is that this is just another culture of individuals who demands the same amount of respect as everyone else in the world. Their craft is gaming. They take it seriously and it provides a great escape and entertainment.

I think we should be open to all individuals no matter what their interests are. It’s a hard thing I know because most of the time we make judgment calls on anyone that are in our lives. But if we are open to seeing things in a new perspective and from the eyes of those individuals that we judge, we might change our minds about how they really are. There are so many things in the world that are interesting and that makes us all so unique since we like a different combinations of interests. These gamers are no different than the rest of it.

For me, I am glad I got to experience this and see another side of humanity. I can’t say I will be converted into a hardcore gamer like many of those individuals are but I definitely have a better understanding and appreciation for them. Hopefully, the rest of the world can get this understanding as well!

~The Lermz

The Lermz

Michael Lerma graduated the University of Notre Dame in 2009 with an Information Technology Management degree. He is currently a senior Project Manager with the Nielsen Company.

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