Wednesday, August 12, 2009

General Gaming Rant - GenCon

Ah, it's that time of year again - GenCon week. You can smell the excitement in the air. For those of you who have not been here before, it smells like hair grease and buttcrack sweat. I freaking hate GenCon.

I know, right off the bat, I just lost half of you. Hold on, I'll try to lose the other half.

Maybe it's because I work the show. That might be it - but I don't think so. My first year I wasn't working, and I hated GenCon. The first year I just cruised around the hall for four days, then went out and drank at night. That doesn't sound too bad, but it still sucked.

Or maybe it's because my idea of the perfect vacation is not going to some almost-a-big-city suffering from a drastic loss of industry, sweating my ass off walking around the only town I know more humid than Orlando, sharing a hotel room with more guys than we have beds, and spending sixteen hours a day playing games. Call me crazy, but I would prefer a nice beach, some rolling surf, and complimentary margaritas. At the price I pay for a booth, it could probably be cheaper.

Or maybe it's the nerds.

Yep, that's it.

Until you stand in a hotel lobby, waiting to check in to your one-bed hotel room that you'll share with three other guys, and overhear a woman who is very excited tell a man who is very excited that they'll be making Halo armor in a workshop, and the woman's friend is holding a lightsaber made out of an office light bulb, it's tough to completely grasp how intensely nerdy GenCon really is.

Let's start with the stink. It's not as bad on Thursday, because many of the party animals who show up here bathed before they got on the plane. But by Sunday, you're sitting in a crowded hall with people who have not washed their assholes since Lincoln was in office, and at times the smell can make your eyes water. You'll be begging for a whiff of raw sewage.

Or how about the freaky son of a bitch who was throwing a tantrum at the check-in desk? Yes, this was a fine specimen - stringy black hair halfway down his back, a beard growing in random patches, and a lovely bald spot right on top. Add in a black t-shirt, black jeans, and a belly that juts outs over both, and I think I can tell you why he has to pay for sex.

While walking back from the garage where I parked my car (it's about eight blocks from the convention hall, which means that most of the fat bastards who visit here would need a Careflight ambulance to take them to a Jack in the Box before they got halfway there), I saw a man who looked like 600 pounds of butter shoved into a pup tent. I saw a couple grown men wearing Yugioh shirts (they had gray hair and pony tails). I also saw two women dressed like they were serving wenches at Medieval Times - except they were in sneakers, and they were carrying plastic boxes full of toys.

And the show hasn't even started yet! I'm really wondering what kind of oddities I'll encounter for the next four days. Will I get to see a man in a corset again? Will there be old ladies wearing skirts that fail to hide underwear I could use as a parachute? Or will it be tame, and there are just going to be goofy throwbacks who live on Pocky sticks and Mountain Dew who think they're really cool because they have a mohawk (which, incidentally, has not been cool since Mister T).

Look, I'm more than willing to admit that I'm a nerd. I have an extensive collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys, sixteen boxes of comic books, and more board games than some small towns. I like movies about superheroes. I can tell you the functional differences between Advanced D&D and 3rd Edition, and I've seen every episode of Firefly, twice.

But I am also a functional member of society. I know that even if I'm at a convention geared toward nerds, there is never an excuse for a dude to have hair past his kneecaps (well, there might be, but it mostly involves being stranded on an island with nothing but a lifetime supply of Pantene Pro-V). The only scenario I can imagine where I would tuck my t-shirt into my jeans and pull my pants up past my navel is if my pockets were full of water-activated piranhas and the tide was coming in. And you would have to club me over the head and dress me while I was unconscious before you'll ever catch me wearing a pair of purple capri pants - but I'll be damned if I didn't see a cat with exactly that outfit today. His flaming red beard and shaggy hair might have said, 'I'm a man who doesn't own a mirror,' but his pants are saying, 'I dig hairy men.'

Being a nerd is fine, but it's not a badge of honor. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the stuff we enjoy - lightsabers, kung fu movies, and miniatures games are all awesome. I love 'em. But you're still part of the whole world, a country of people who work and drive and go to the grocery store, and when you tip the scales somewhere between 'ginormous' and 'Shamu', you should never, ever wear a bikini. Especially if you have a dick.

Apparently, GenCon serves as an excuse for the absolute bottom of the social barrel to pop up and show off how totally bizarre they are. I guess the theory is that as long as you can find someone weirder than you, then you must be OK. Sorry - you are not OK. If you are over 35 and have never kissed a female who weighed less than you do, then you are not OK (or you're really small). If you can't piece together three sentences without a snort and an awkward giggle, then you are not OK. If you can't talk to a pretty woman without blushing and staring at the floor, then you are most definitely not OK (you are also not OK if you can't talk to a pretty woman without staring at her breasts - but if it's just a quick glance to hold the image in your head for later, then you're probably fine).

There's nothing wrong with belonging to society as a whole. There's no downside to being fit enough to jog a block or two. I'm not calling for a cessation of nerd activities, but would it kill you to take off the foam demon horns when you go out for a drink? And it may sound like I'm harping on the weight problem here, but let's not dance around it - these people are fatter than normal. They are not healthy, either physically or emotionally, and yet they still wallow in their abnormality and wear it with pride.

At this point, I expect I have hurt some feelings. I am sure there are several readers who think I am a big mean bully who likes to mock freaks and fat people. Well, I might be mean, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. It just means that you have surrounded yourself with people who lie to you and tell you that being a complete aberrant is not bad for you. Nerd stuff can be awesome, but you need balance, and that's what is missing at GenCon.

I have to be here four more days. I cannot pretend that I am looking forward to it. I have friends who plan and save all year, and this is their big annual vacation. More power to 'em, but if I wasn't getting paid to be here, you couldn't drag me to this show with a team of magic unicorns lead by a strange woman selling Halo armor.


Richard Hoover said...


"Weird" and even worst, "Weird and outlandish" has become a rediculous badge of honor. That's crap.

A badge of honor is to be able to enjoy non-mainstream and niche things, but still be able to look, act and negotiate everyday society like a civilized adult, like a grown up.

Sharon said...

A bit o' Vick's Vapo-Rub under the nose and a fake smile on the face, that works pretty good. ;)

I was going to carve d20's out of soap and hand them out at Dexcon, but then I thought about it and realized that those chunks of soap were even LESS likely to get used if I made them look like polyhedral dice.

About the only thing geeky you'll catch me wearing at a con is t-shirts with gamer-centric quotes that I wouldn't be caught dead wearing in "public"

Chris Norwood said...

Drake, you ignorant slut!

If people were doing this kind of stuff on a random friday night at the local Wal-Mart, then I'd totally agree with you. Balance in everyday life is completely important.

But you're talking about GenCon. If there is ever a time or place where people should not be judged for flying their freaky geek flag, that's it (along with DragonCon, of course, which is probably even freakier and geekier).

So quit your freakin' whining and let them have their weekend of fun. Maybe tell them to take a bath ('cause that's never okay to skip), but get into the spirit and maybe try out a corset of your own!

Chris Norwood said...

@Sharon - On their 10th anniversary, a local con (MACE) handed out cakes of clear, hand-made soap with a d10 embeded in them as souvenirs. Stinky people got two (one to keep and one to use). Unfortunately, as you feared, no one took the hint.

Unknown said...

Chis you commie pinko!

All we are saying is "Give soap and good grooming a Chance!"

Thomas D said...

What? No mention of men wearing utilikilts?

I am disappointed, sir.

Mark Johnson said...

Wow, a whole page of zingers, and I have to say I agree with it. (I haven't been to Gencon, but I've been to similar events.) What especially gets me is if these are the same folks that complain our hobby isn't enjoyed by a wider audience in America.

I don't know--maybe those aren't the same people. But surely there's no sense in expecting/wanting more popularity for our hobby, combined with social behaviors that are a total turn-off to regular folks.

Anonymous said...


Matt Drake said...

That is some incredibly clever spam. I usually delete spam, but the pitch segues wonderfully with the current discussion, even if the target site is just a place where you can go if you collect old D&D crap.

(Incidentally, making a nerd website is not worse than walking down the street dressed as Sailor Moon, especially if you have to stroll right past the courthouse, and especially not if you're a dude.)

Anonymous said...

LOL, this wouldn't be near as funny if it was so true.

Matt Drake said...

Chris, I've been thinking about your point here, and thought you should know that I've been cutting people more slack when they're in the convention center. Dressed oddly, looking bizarre, acting silly - I'm giving that a pass because, like you said, if there's a place you should be allowed to be goofy, this is it.

But I am still just as irritated by the misanthropic fat-ass bastards who can't look up from the floor to say hello, the socially retarded goofballs who think that just because I know the term 'Fourth Edition' means I want to hear all about their character (while I'm trying to work, no less), and the total dropouts wearing shirts that declare them as sexy despite having to wrap around their sagging man-boobs.

Anonymous said...

my pockets were full of water-activated piranhas and the tide was coming in


Black Pit of Lag said...

You = Preach the truth!

Anonymous said...

Excellent review! I have been there and experienced all that you report. Your report on the smell is especially accurate. Great observations.

Anonymous said...

Certainly the facts of your rant ring true on several accounts... but sadly Matt, the spirit of it shows a huge lack of compassion.

Gaming - and more specifically, Gencon - is an oasis of sorts for many in our society who have few resources for self-expression and community.

I personally take great joy in seeing the diversity, creativity, spirit of play and overall friendliness of the attendees.

I count my blessings that I am not burdened by debilitating physical, social or emotional handicaps, and I do my best to have compassion for those who might - and who find a brief few days of solace at Gencon.

I can even have compassion for people who seem to have no great store of compassion for others.


Matt Drake said...

Compassion... that rings a bell. I'll have to look into that. It sounds interesting.

But seriously, you're right, I don't have much compassion. In the absence of an actual medical condition, I find virtually no excuse for the behavior exhibited by the socially autistic game nerds. Hell, I don't feel particularly sorry for anyone so oblivious that they can't bathe regularly and eat something resembling a sensible diet. There's just no reason for a grown man to be that pathetic. Call me a calloused asshole (I probably am, really), but if you don't have enough pride in yourself and your appearance to wear clean clothes, use some Acutane, and try to at least resemble a functioning member of society, my compassion for your condition is pretty damned low.

I do sometimes wish I could help the cave nerds. I wish I could tell them, 'here's a diet that will keep you healthy, and here's some wardrobe choices, and here's a couple exercise ideas,' and walk them through the basics of just being normal people. I would be delighted to give a workshop on casual conversation - it's not that I'm particularly great at it, but I do know that when you talk to people, you should not stare at their shoes.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the acaeum comment, "spam" is the only useful thing on that site.

They have great cake though.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from a Slick Rick song:

"Dave the dope fiend/shootin' dope/who don't know the meanin'/of water nor soap"

The only way Gencon would have even REMOTELY normal people is if there was a contest on BGG to get a free copy of Talisman based upon how much weight people lose while abusing laxatives.

NASTY FUCKING PEOPLE. The kind of people that look WORSE than they smell, which is a mix of chicken manure and 3-day old death.

These people need to learn to operate a water faucet, learn that soap DOES stop cellulitis, and learn that walking for 3 days in a hot, enclosed space wearing leather sandals is a BAD GOD DAMN IDEA.


Truth said...

I like GenCon. *hides*

Steve Severino said...

Matt... always enjoy your writing. This line is an absolute classic:

"But by Sunday, you're sitting in a crowded hall with people who have not washed their assholes since Lincoln was in office, and at times the smell can make your eyes water."

Truer words were never spoken. LOL. Thanks for the fun read!

RockPhotoStar said...


How about compassion for civilized society? Or for the soap makers or clothes makers?

And what do you mean we don't have compassion? Why do you think we wait till they are not around before making fun of them?

Do you realize how much pain it is holding it in? Matt deserves a Purple Gaming Heart or something!

Anonymous said...

Pretty mean, Drake. Really mean, in fact.

Anonymous said...

"At this point, I expect I have hurt some feelings. I am sure there are several readers who think I am a big mean bully who likes to mock freaks and fat people. Well, I might be mean, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. It just means that you have surrounded yourself with people who lie to you and tell you that being a complete aberrant is not bad for you."

Anonymous said...

Gen Con Thumbs Up for this article

Anonymous said...

Wow - Internet Conan "Drake" the firebreathing hero.

Last time I checked, Pamela Anderson was not looking to sleep with dudes who make and sell dice towers...the single most nerdy game accessory ever invented.

Dice towers are the gamer equivalent of pocket protectors. Sexxxy!

Last time I read The Iliad, Achilles did not make and sell dice towers. Maybe Hector did - better check again.

Last time I went over the text of Beowulf, the firedrake did not have any dice towers in his horde.

How very clever to build into your rant the argument that if anyone think's you're being stupidly mean THAT MAKES THEM WRONG! Wonderful logic. I couldn't possssssssibly think of counter-argument!

Let's hear your story Mr. Dice Tower He-Man Winner Drake. What was your great accomplishment? How did your enemies come to fear your mighty deeds? Or, was it just the rippling muscles and all those boxing trophies?

Oh, wait...I forgot the dice towers! Those dice towers make John Wayne look gay. If Tommy Lee had made dice towers then Pamela Anderson probably wouldn't have dared to divorce him. What was I THINKING?

Good thing the fat loser nerds have a hero like you to lead them to hygenic victory.

How brave you are! How wise!

Anonymous said...

Gee, internet goober FormCritic, the whining dungeons and dragons martyr... thank you for the life altering success meter you've established by using Pamela Anderson's overused rubbery gray hole to weed out the undesirables.

Are you seriously going to expound about how nerdy dice towers are and how cool you are within five seconds of quoting the Illiad and Beowulf?

You asked what Mr. Dice Tower's accomplishment was and I submit that it is soap and if you need further segragation from those less accomplished then I proffer a decent sense of humor and the aversion to raping children as is the norm at

Anonymous said...

Honorary Gen Con Attendee

Matt and his critics. We have to learn to live and let live. We all have our oddities, so let's compromise.

GenCon freaks can have theirs regarding hygience, weight, dress ... and we can have ours regarding laughing our asses off at them :D

Matt Drake said...

Man, I wish that anonymous stinkhole had signed his name. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to make fun of someone whose name is 'Anonymous'? I mean, what kind of cheap shots do you take at a person whose only identifier sounds like a homeless man's toe tag?

Look, I would love to light you up like Christmas, but it's late, and there were like four people after you who covered all the salient points. I will just say this:

I've dated a hot-ass stripper.

I think my credentials are established.

andy said...

Old news I know but I had to mention that my experience of Gen-Con as a 14 year old was most notable as being the place where I saw enormous piles of pubic hair in the urinals. My only theory was that the attendees removed their underwear so rarely that when they pulled it out a pile of built up pubic detritus followed.

Now that I am older and more experienced in the ways of mankind I have only seen this in one other context, working engineering jobs in large companies where apparently the same rarely-take-off-their-undies folks work and still unload their pubes in the urinals every day.

Jeremiah said...

but it mostly involves being stranded on an island with nothing but a lifetime supply of Pantene Pro-V

Thank you, my day is better now.

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