A Gamer in Paradise

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What I did

Flag of United States  , Indiana
Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gamer's paradise. What do you imagine? A lot people hear the word gamer and instantly think of the socially awkward young man who lives on burritos and soda in his mother's basement. Add the word paradise, and people might add a hot babe inexplicably at the gamer's side and giant TV for the gamer to play on. Few people, if any, would think of the city of Indianapolis, yet for 45 years it's been playing host to an ever-growing number of gamers for a week in August at an event called Gen Con.

I had no idea what to expect when my best friend and I rolled into the parking lot across the street from the convention center. We had seen gamers on the streets, some meeting the stereotype, and some decidedly not. As we walked, I had trouble deciding where to look as people walked by in costumes, chatting happily amongst themselves. People held giant foam swords against their shoulders and anthropomorphic animals walked shoulder to shoulder with men.

I had the benefit of having a tour guide for Gen Con, my best friend the consummate gamer, but even if I hadn't I wouldn't have had a problem. Guides in bright blue t-shirts stood by to direct everyone to the line for tickets and to answer questions, from the simple, "Where does the line end?" to the more exotic, "What time is workshop for villains?" As we stood in line, my friend told me how Gen Con had grown over the years, starting from a simple meeting of friends to the humongous event that takes over downtown Indianapolis every year.

I liked watching all the people in costumes as we waited to get tickets. Fandoms of all sorts meshed in the convention halls, and people of all ages gathered to enjoy each other's company. Gamers weren't the geeky group the world imagined them to be. Slender young woman dressed in My Little Pony costumes walked together through the halls. Men of all shapes and sizes were everything from super heroes to movie characters to game characters. Even people not dressed in a costume often had humorous shirts making quirky references to both everyday life and the unique gamer culture.

Finally, we got through the line, and a man working the table handed me my badge. I was in. My friend and I flipped through the huge guide to the convention we had been handed while we stood in line. I was surprised at the sheer amount of things to do at the convention. More specifically, I was surprised at the number of non-game related things to do, like the writer's seminar my friend and I were hurrying toward.

The smell of pizza wafted through the convention hall as we passed a million things to do. Dice games and card games covered tables surrounded by grinning groups, friends happily showed off their crafts they had made in workshops, and newly poor men and women poured out of the vendor's hall with bags of unique toys. Some of them toted games to play while others clutched anime CDs. Still others clutched proudly to customized pieces of art, and a few souls stood in line at a portable UPS station to ship home their new swords.

Gen Con runs for four days, but I made the mistake of only attending one day. I assumed I would be bored because I didn't know what I was missing! Now, armed with the information of how diverse the workshops run, and how unique the crowd is, I plan to go next year and proudly fly my geeky, gamer's flag through Indianapolis.
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