Gen Con 2022 – Almost Back to Normal
by Transmute Jun
Gen Con is the biggest gaming convention in North America, and is highly anticipated each year by those who enjoy tabletop games, RPGs, LARPing and other forms of non-electronic gaming.
There has been a long, slow climb back from the depths of COVID lockdowns, and much as we might all want to be free, many of these restrictions are unfortunately still with us. This was certainly true at Gen Con 2022 (held August 4-7). While Gen Con is moving toward a return to normal, there is still progress to be made.
Attendance was down this year, both for attendees and exhibitors/game masters. There were fewer events and fewer people, with some in both groups canceling last minute due to COVID-relegated issues. However, there was significant improvement in this area as compared to Gen Con 2021, which was a reduced convention experience. Major event providers (e.g. True Dungeon, Paizo) returned in 2022, and many more attendees felt comfortable making the trip to Indianapolis. Additionally, the 2022 con was held during its usual timeframe (first weekend in August) rather than the one-time September timeframe used in 2021, which prevented many who wished to attend from coming last year. So while 2022 was less than 2019, it was a big leap forward from 2021.
Overall, attendees with whom FoCC Blog spoke were thrilled to be back in Indianapolis for their favorite gaming event. While most cons have crowds of people, tabletop gaming involves a level of interaction beyond simply sitting in a panel room. The social isolation of the past 2 years has been difficult on us all, but nowhere (at the numerous cons this author has attended over the past 12 months) has this been more evident than at gaming events. People were thrilled to be able to connect with others and indulge in their favorite games, finding joy in simply sitting together at a table and interacting. Exhibitors were excited to be back to in-person demos, and performers were happy to see packed audiences once more.
However, there was one aspect of the convention that was almost universally disparaged this year: the COVID restrictions and their implementation. Unlike most cons, Gen Con took a big step backward this year, implementing more stringent restrictions/requirements than in 2021, a development that was troublesome to many. Additionally, the implementation of those restrictions not always appreciated. Most onerous was the new requirement of a COVID vaccine to attend the con (no negatives tests accepted). Not only did this prevent a number of people from attending, but the stations to check in and obtain a vaccine wristband were overwhelmed on Wednesday and Thursday, with reports of attendees waiting hours to check in. On Wednesday, the line to get a wristband was particularly bad, wrapping around the convention center and at one point being capped. This prevented some people from making it to Wednesday evening events.
Even more frustrating was the mask requirement. Masks are bothersome when simply sitting and watching a panel, but when people are playing games and attempting to speak with each other (especially in a noisy hall) they are a significant impediment. Given that the vaccine requirement was in place, FoCC Blog encountered many attendees who felt that the mask requirement was unnecessary, and that people should have been given the choice as to whether or not to wear them. There were also some attendees who were hard of hearing and had especial difficulties when there were not able to see others’ mouths as they spoke.
Hopefully, these COVID restrictions will not be necessary in 2023, allowing everyone who wants to come to Gen Con to be able to attend, and to fully interact with others at their gaming tables. As such, these issues can be overlooked as temporary re-growing pains.
Most importantly, this was the year the people returned to Gen Con, with crowds, excitement and events drawing in long-time fans and newcomers alike (attendance was over 50,000 unique individuals). Unlike last year, the Exhibit Hall was full, with large company booths and very few empty spaces. The food trucks and beer garden on Georgia Street were constantly full. Demo rooms had little space to spare as attendees flocked to see the latest games. Gen Con is definitely on the right track, and FoCC Blog anticipates that 2023 should be a full return to the pre-COVID experience.
Did you attend Gen Con 2022? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!