Gen Con So Cal

by Jennifer Knighton

Gen Con Southern California is a much smaller convention than its Midwest counterpart. In its second year of existence, this con has created a somewhat different ambiance to its predecessor. Although you will find similar activities at both conventions, such as the True Dungeon, vendors, and of course gaming, you will also see some differences.

Standing on the stairs looking over the registration area, a group calling themselves the Penzance Opera Company sang songs of drinking and of the sea – with a few specifically Gen Con oriented twists. Who would've expected a Wookie on the Man o'War? They later serenaded the Pagan Publishing booth with pieces from the "Very Scary Solstice" songbook, produced by The HP Lovecraft Historical Society, which was being sold there.

So Cal is a considerably smaller con, which has benefits and consequences. On one hand, it is far easier to find people as well as vendors. There aren't as many aisles to push through and crowds to peer around. This was great for vendors who wanted to do demonstrations of their product. Crowds would form around them to watch, whereas at the larger con they may not even be noticed through the crowd pushing past them.

Jeanette Keblish, Director of Sales and Marketing for Gen Con, found that one of the best parts of the smaller convention was the ability to talk to people. At the larger con everyone is always so busy; but at So Cal she actually had a chance to get feedback from participants. Feedback is a necessary part of any con because it helps the people running it understand what they need to work on for the next year as well as what went really well and should be kept. Coming after the Indianapolis convention is quite a bonus to So Cal because it gives the Gen Con crew a chance to use what feedback they do receive from the larger con to make the smaller one better. The True Dungeon people, at the very least, improved on a few things.

The smaller convention has its negative side, however. One of which was that actors like Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin from Firefly did not get the coverage or attention they may have rightfully received at a larger con.

Another downside was the number of Live Action Role Playing events. By comparison to the larger con, So Cal is lacking. Gen Con Indianapolis had 119 LARP listings on the schedule, while Gen Con So Cal had 43. That’s just a little over a third of the total LARP listings at the larger con, quite a significant difference. Considering the number of actors who live in the area, one would think LARPs would be the gaming of choice. Live Action games were not the only thing lacking on the schedule.

Another weak spot for the Southern California convention was the number of writing workshops. A few interesting seminars and workshops were on the schedule for writers, but only a handful at best. At the Indianapolis con, writers are stuck with the decision of which one is more important to go to, writing for such and such company or one on plot by a professional author, because they're scheduled opposite each other on a very full day. To see so few writing workshops on the schedule at the So Cal convention could come as a scheduling relief but as a disappointment in variety.

There are pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, to both Gen Con Indy and Gen Con So Cal. There are similarities and differences due to size, location, years of existence and many other reasons. One thing both cons had very much in common this year, however, was rain.

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