Gen Con Online Sets Standard for Online Gaming

by Transmute Jun

Gen Con Discord Server

Conventions have been canceled left and right since COVID-19 began keeping everyone at home. Many of these cons have attempted some kind of online presence, although much of the in-person excitement is lost when making pop culture events virtual. Yet while comic conventions are a pale shadow of themselves online, gaming cons have managed to retain much of the social interaction and fun reminiscent of the attending in-person.

2020 has already seen successful gaming cons, such as PaizoCon,  IGN’s Summer of Gaming, and Con of Champions. Yet the recent Gen Con Online (held July 30th – Aug 2nd, replacing the 2020 in-person event, which had been scheduled for the same weekend) raised the bar for such offerings. Hosting over 7,000 events and 40,000 participants, Gen Con Online surpassed the expectations of many, offering a wide variety of games and events from which to choose.

The Looking Glass virtual Exhibit Hall

This variety ran the entire gamut, from tabletop (board and card games) and role-playing games, to seminars, panels and events, including live entertainment streaming on Twitch. Unlike the recent SDCC @Home, nearly all of the events were held live, simply because they had to be. Attendees enjoyed live gaming with other participants from around the world, allowing the spread of Gen Con to reach further around the globe than ever before.

The convention was anchored by the Gen Con Discord Server, which gave everyone a place to start, to socialize, to find open gaming, and to ask for help (whether technical or otherwise). Gen Con TV was hosted on Twitch, while the traditional Exhibit Hall was replaced by The Looking Glass, a site that allowed attendees to ‘wander’ the floor, checking out booths both big and small. Each individual gaming event had platforms determined by the event host. Some of the most popular were Discord and Zoom (for text, audio and video interaction), Roll20, Fantasy Grounds and Foundry (for roleplaying games) and Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia and Board Game Arena (for board and card games). Game Masters (GMs) were friendly and helpful if attendees struggled with the technology, making sure that no one was left out.  Events such as the Film Festival (hosted by The Fantasy Network streaming service) and the Costume Contest were also successfully ported online.

Gen Con Online was free to all (although individual events typically had a nominal fee of $2-$10 each) and was successful enough that event organizers are seriously considering making it a regular event, even once the in-person con starts up again. A survey sent to online attendees indicates that they are considering the possibility of making the online version concurrent with the in-person con, or perhaps instead being hosted in the middle of the year, between in-person conventions. Additionally, the success of this con has caused many in the tabletop / roleplaying game industry to consider hosting more regular online events, and FoCC Blog spoke with a few different event hosts who were eager to bring their games to other online cons before the end of 2020.

If you are looking to get into online gaming, 2020 is the right time to check things out. Stay tuned to FoCC Blog for information on upcoming online gaming cons. Gen Con returns in-person August 5th – 8th, 2021 in Indianapolis, with details on future online events to come.

Did you attend Gen Con Online? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.

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