Gen Con is one of the largest and most prominent annual gaming conventions in North America. The convention has featured role-playing games, miniatures wargames, board games, live action role-playing games, collectible card games, strategy games, computer games, and more, where attendees can engage in various levels of tournament and interactive play. Gen Con, begun by Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax in 1968 as a wargames convention, was initially held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The convention's main site was moved to various locations in Wisconsin from 1972 to 1984, until settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1985. Other Gen Cons were held sporadically in other locations in the United States, and beginning in 1990, Gen Cons were held in European locations as well. Gen Con, owned by gaming company TSR, Inc. since 1976 and later Wizards of the Coast, was sold to Wizards' founder Peter Adkison in 2002, and was moved to Indianapolis, Indiana in 2003.
Gen Con 2009 brought in about 28,000 attendees; which makes the convention similar in size to E3 in 2006, Entertainment for All, Dragon Con and Origins. Gen Con is currently held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gen Con UK conventions have also been held in the UK in a variety of cities. Gen Con experienced a short stint in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, due to a lawsuit from Lucasfilm on February 15, 2008, but emerged from bankruptcy protection approximately one year later, and continues to hold yearly conventions.
Gen Con began in 1967 as an informal gathering of wargaming enthusiasts at the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin home of Gary Gygax, later termed "Gen Con 0". In 1968, Gygax rented Lake Geneva's vine-covered Horticultural Hall for $50 to hold the first formal Lake Geneva Convention, also known as the Gen Con gaming convention for short, with roughly 100 attendees. The International Federation of Wargamers, which Gygax had also co-founded, sponsored the first Gen Con. Gygax met Rob Kuntz and Dave Arneson in August 1969 at the second Gen Con. The main events at this time were board games, and miniature wargames.
Gen Con's name is a derivation of "Geneva Convention," given the convention's origins in Lake Geneva. The name is also a play on words, as the "Geneva Conventions" are the name of a set of important international treaties regarding war and the earliest Gen Cons had a focus on wargames. For the first nine years, Gen Con was sponsored by the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association.
During the following decade the event grew and was hosted at a variety of southern Wisconsin locations, including an American Legion Hall, George Williams College, and the former Lake Geneva Playboy Resort. In 1978 the convention moved to the University of Wisconsin–Parkside campus in Kenosha.
An annual Gen Con South was held from 1978–1984, in Jacksonville, Florida. Gen Con East I was held in 1981 at Cherry Hill Inn, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Gen Con East II was held in 1982 at Widener College, in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Gen Con moved again to the Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena (commonly known as the MECCA) in Milwaukee in 1985, due to the need for more space. Attendance steadily rose from 5,000 paid admissions in 1985 to a peak of 30,000 in 1995, making Gen Con the premier event in the role-playing game industry. In 1992, Gen Con broke all previous attendance records for any U.S. gaming convention, with more than 18,000 people in attendance. Gen Con briefly joined forces with its major competitor, Origins, and were run as a single convention for 1988. Wizards of the Coast debuted Magic: The Gathering at Gen Con in August 1993; the game proved extremely popular selling out of its supply of 2.5 million cards, which had been scheduled to last until the end of the year. The ensuing collectible card game craze has been cited as generating the extra attendance that produced the 1995 record.
Wizards of the CoastEdit
Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR in 1997, and Wizards was in turn purchased by Hasbro in 1999. Gen Con moved to the Midwest Express Center (MEC, now the Midwest Airlines Center) in 1998 when the MEC replaced the MECCA. In November 1999, Wizards announced that Gen Con would leave Milwaukee after the 2002 convention. Peter Adkison, the founder of Wizards of the Coast, then purchased Gen Con from Hasbro in May 2002. Adkison formed Gen Con LLC in May 2002 to run the convention, and the first show under Adkison's leadership took place August 2002 in Milwaukee.
The Midwest U.S. convention moved to Indianapolis in 2003. Peter Adkison attributes the move to lack of hotel space, a less spread out convention center, 40% more floor space, and frequently broken escalators in Milwaukee's convention center.
Gen Con in the United States was split into two different conventions in 2003: Gen Con Indy (in Indianapolis, Indiana) and Gen Con SoCal (in Anaheim, California). Gen Con Indy is the larger of the two, drawing approximately 25,000 attendees per year, on par with the Gen Con conventions in Milwaukee during the 1990s and early 2000s. It takes place in the Indiana Convention Center. Wizards of the Coast helped to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons game at Gen Con Indy 2004. In 2005 it was reported that Gen Con Indy generated the most direct visitor spending of any annual convention in Indianapolis.
Gen Con SoCal was smaller, with approximately 6,300 attendees in 2005. Gen Con SoCal was the third-largest consumer hobby game convention in North America. It was held in the Anaheim Convention Center. One-day badge prices were $30 to $35, while 4-day badges were $55 to $65. On January 26, 2007 Gen Con So Cal was canceled.
In mid 2006, Gen Con LLC announced plans to provide more show space for video games to allow video game businesses a place to show their products after the downsizing of E3. Gen Con described their intentions as to "pick up where E3 [left] off." Several years earlier in 2003 Gen Con's owner, Peter Adkison, said that he did not want Gen Con to become a "mini-E3".
Gen Con LLC also ran Star Wars Celebration, the official Star Wars convention held in banner years of the franchise. This is unlikely to continue as on January 10, 2008, Lucasfilm filed a lawsuit against Gen Con LLC, claiming breach of contract, conversion and unjust enrichment over Celebration IV, held in 2006. The suit also claims Gen Con failed to give money from a charity auction held at the event to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Soon after, Gen Con filed a counter-suit claiming Lucasfilm had no basis for their claims and owed money to Gen Con.
On February 15, 2008, Gen Con LLC announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing "significant unforeseen expenses associated with ... externally licensed events". As a result of the bankruptcy filing, the Lucasfilm lawsuit was delayed until November 19, 2008. Gen Con Indy 2008 was held as planned.
On November 20, 2008, a letter of intent to purchase Gen Con LLC's assets was filed with the bankruptcy court. It announced that a to-be-formed company called Gen Con Acquisition Group would purchase Gen Con LLC., with the purchase price being set equal to Gen Con LLC's outstanding debt. Gen Con LLC President Adrian Swartout described the letter as "suspiciously cryptic" and concluded that the offer "is not in the best interest of our creditors." Gen Con rejected the hostile takeover bid, and the bankruptcy court allowed Gen Con to emerge from bankruptcy in January 2009, 11 months after it had entered Chapter 11.
Gen Con spread to Europe in the 1990s, with the first annual European Gen Con held in Sussex, England in 1990, and Gen Con Barcelona in Spain in 1994; both of these Cons were also held in 1995 and 1996. European Gen Con in England was the only 1997 European Gen Con, and the only 1998 European Gen Con was Benelux Gen Con, held in Holland. In 1999, Gen Con UK was held in England, Gen Con Barcelona returned, and Gen Con Europe was held in Belgium. The only Gen Con in Europe in the year 2000 was Gen Con UK, held at Manchester University. In 2001, Gen Con UK was moved to London, where it was held every year up through 2003.
After two unsuccessful years of running Gen Con Europe in the UK, Adkison decided to scale back and focus his efforts on the US shows. In 2004 licenses were issued to groups who would go about creating the franchises Gen Con Barcelona and Gen Con UK. In early 2006, Gen Con LLC announced that it was going to run a new official Gen Con Europe, to be held in Paris, France. The convention was held on the weekend of April 21–23, and reportedly received 4,000 attendees.> The convention was held again in Paris in 2007. A Gen Con was held in Brisbane, Australia in July 2008 and again in September 2009; a third was scheduled for 2010, but was cancelled just 68 days before the event.
The convention features a large exhibit hall filled with game publishers, artists, and related businesses. It is a popular attraction and frequently very busy. The majority of attendees spend at least $100 in the exhibit hall. Most Gen Con attendees are men between 20 and 39 years of age who earn more than $50,000 per year.<
The only game to be on the event schedule every year since Gen Con I is Fight in the Skies (later renamed Dawn Patrol), first introduced by game designer Mike Carr in 1968 and a fixture on the schedule every year since.
The D&D Championship Series (formerly the D&D Open) is a long running series of Dungeons & Dragons games at Gen Con. Game sessions are scored based on the team's progress; those groups scoring the most advance to later rounds. This leads to an emphasis on quickly solving challenges and moving through the modules. The D&D Open is currently run by the RPGA (Role-Playing Game Association). The open began in 1977.
The gaming group NASCRAG has run Dungeons & Dragons events at Gen Con since 1980. NASCRAG events sometimes donate their ticket fees to charity. The games run tend to be humorous.
The RPGA runs large numbers of events at Gen Con. They run so many events that they are given their own category (RPGA) instead of sharing the general RPG category. These days RPGA events are primarily "Living" games where players create characters who persist between events. The RPGA first ran events in 1981.
In 1987 a games library was added from which attendees could borrow games. The library is currently run by Game Base 7.
MIDI Maze, an early networked first-person shooter video game run by the Milatari Atari computer user group, was a draw to the early video game room of Gen Con. It no longer runs at Gen Con; the original display now appears at the Midwest Gaming Classic.
The Klingon Jail and Bail are a group of people who dress as Klingons from Star Trek. For a donation to charity they will "arrest" and detain another convention attendee for a short period of time. The Jail and Bail originally appeared at Gen Con in 1993.
Appearing in 1994 was the first Magic: The Gathering World Championship, won by Zak Dolan, who defeated France's Bertrand Lestrée in the finals.
Gen Con has also featured a number of events that raise money for a variety of charities. These include Cardhalla, in which donated cards are used to build a large city. Attendees are then invited to throw coins at the city to destroy it. The coins are collected for charity. Cardhalla was first run in 1999.
The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the ENnies) are an annual awards ceremony devoted to role-playing games. Established in 2001, the ENnies are hosted at Gen Con Indy (since 2002) and are organized and owned by EN World, a D&D/D20 System news website.
True Dungeon is an immersive life-sized dungeon crawl live action role-playing game (LARP), run at Gen Con since 2003. It features a challenging series of puzzles and scenarios designed to recreate a D&D environment and session. It emphasizes team work, creative thinking and problem solving, as well as employing a fighting and magic system; furthermore, unlike traditional LARPs, it does not require staying in-character throughout the experience.
The Gen Con Costume Contest runs Saturday evening at Gen Con Indy, and features a range of categories such as SciFi, Historical and Fantasy, Talent, and Children's divisions. This event is preceded by a costume parade, in which all costumed attendees are invited to show off their costumes around the convention center. The contest itself generally fills quickly, both for participants and attendees, and features pre-show and intermission entertainment.
Over Gen Con history, a number of games have been announced or released at the convention. Plans to update the D&D game with a third edition were announced by Wizards of the Coast at Gen Con 1999 as the game celebrated its 25th anniversary; the third edition of the D&D game debuted the following year at Gen Con 2000, with the release of the new Player's Handbook, while the fourth edition was announced at Gen Con Indy 2007. White Wolf Game Studio's New World of Darkness game line debuted at a party held during Gen Con 2004. Gen Con 2007 added a Trade Day to the schedule for the first time ever. This is an additional day of programming for industry insiders and retailers, held the Wednesday before Gen Con opens to the public.
Attendance at Gen Con conventions, based on the numbers given below:
1967–1977: Lake Geneva Edit
|"Gen Con 0"||August 1967|| Gary Gygax's Home|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con I||August 24, 1968|| Horticultural Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|50–100||First official year of Gen Con|
|Gen Con II||August 23, 1969|| Horticultural Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con III||August 22–23, 1970|| Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con IV||August 21–22, 1971|| Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con V||August 19–20, 1972|| George Williams College|
Williams Bay, Wisconsin
|Gen Con VI||August 18–19, 1973|| Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall/Legion Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|>700||TSR, Inc. Founded|
|Gen Con VII||August 23–25, 1974|| Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall/Legion Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Dungeons & Dragons published|
|Gen Con VIII||August 22–24, 1975|| Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall/Legion Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con IX||August 20–22, 1976|| Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall/Legion Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|1,300||TSR takes ownership of con|
|Gen Con West||September 4–6, 1976|| McCabe Hall|
San Jose, California
|Gen Con X||August 18–21, 1977|| Playboy Resort/Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall|
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con West 77||September 3–5, 1977|| Villa Hotel|
San Mateo, California
1978–1984: Parkside Edit
|Gen Con South||February 9–11, 1978||Robert Meyer Hotel, Jacksonville, Florida|
|Gen Con XI||August 17–20, 1978||University of Wisconsin–Parkside||2,000|
|Gen Con XII||August 16–19, 1979||University of Wisconsin–Parkside|
|Gen Con South||February 15–17, 1980||Ramada Inn, Jacksonville Beach, Florida|
|Gen Con XIII||August 21–24, 1980||University of Wisconsin–Parkside||4,500|
|Gen Con South||February 6–9, 1981||Ramada Inn, Jacksonville Beach, Florida|
|Gen Con East I||July 23–26, 1981||Cherry Hill Inn, Cherry Hill, New Jersey|
|Gen Con XIV||August 13–16, 1981||University of Wisconsin–Parkside||5,000|
|Gen Con East II||June 17–20, 1982||Widener College, Chester, Pennsylvania|
|Gen Con XV||August 19–22, 1982||University of Wisconsin–Parkside|
|Gen Con XVI||August 18–21, 1983||University of Wisconsin–Parkside|
|Gen Con South 8||March 16–18, 1984||Royal d'Iberville Hotel, Biloxi, Mississippi|
|Gen Con 17||Aug. 16–19, 1984||University of Wisconsin–Parkside||3,600|
1985–1997: MECCA Edit
|Gen Con 18||August 22–25, 1985||MECCA (Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena), Milwaukee, Wisconsin||5,000|
|Gen Con 19||August 14–17, 1986||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||5,000|
|Gen Con 20||August 20–23, 1987||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Gen Con 21/Origins||August 18–21, 1988||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Gen Con and Origins were run as a single convention this year|
|Gen Con '89||August 10–13, 1989||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>10,000|
|Gen Con '90||August 9–12, 1990||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>12,000|
|European Gen Con||November 30–December 2, 1990||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England||First European Gen Con|
|Gen Con '91||August 8–11, 1991||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>15,000|
|European Gen Con 1991||November 15–17, 1991||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|Gen Con/Origins '92||August 20–23, 1992||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>18,000||Gen Con's 25th year. Gen Con and Origins are run as a single convention this year|
|European Gen Con 1992||November 13–15, 1992||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|Gen Con '93||August 19–22, 1993||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||20,000|
|European Gen Con 1993||November 11–14, 1993||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|European Gen Con 1994||May 12–15, 1994||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|Gen Con '94||August 18–21, 1994||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>25,000|
|Gen Con Barcelona 1994||November 11–14, 1994||Drassanes Reials, Barcelona, Spain||First Barcelona Gen Con|
|Gen Con UK 1995||April 27–30, 1995||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|Gen Con '95||August 10–13, 1995||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||30,000|
|Gen Con Barcelona 1995||November 3–5, 1995||Drassanes Reials, Barcelona, Spain|
|Gen Con '96||August 8–11, 1996||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||27,000|
|Gen Con UK 1996||September 5–8, 1996||Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England|
|Gen Con Barcelona 1996||November 15–17, 1996||Mercat del Born, Barcelona, Spai|
|1997 Gen Con Game Fair||August 7–10, 1997||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||27,000||Wizards of the Coast purchases TSR, Inc., gaining control of Gen Con|
|European Gen Con 1997||August 28–31, 1997||Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England|
1998–2002: MEC Edit
|Benelux Gen Con 1998||July 31–August 2, 1998||Motel Tiel, Tiel, Netherlands|
|1998 Gen Con Game Fair||August 6–9, 1998||MEC (Midwest Express Center), Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>19,000|
|Gen Con UK 1998||September 3–6, 1998||Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England|
|Gen Con Barcelona 1999||April 9–11, 1999||Cotxeres de Sants, Barcelona, Spain|
|1999 Gen Con Game Fair||August 5–8, 1999||MEC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Wizards of the Coast is purchased by Hasbro after the convention. Hasbro now owns Gen Con.|
|Gen Con UK 1999||September 2–5, 1999||Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England|
|2000 Gen Con Game Fair||August 10–13, 2000||MEC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||21,000 (projected)|
|Gen Con UK 2000||August 31–September 3, 2000||Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester, England|
|Gen Con Benelux 2000||September 23–24, 2000||Den Bosch, The Netherlands||Last Gen Con in the Benelux.|
|2001 Gen Con Game Fair||August 2–5, 2001||MEC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>25,000|
|Gen Con UK 2001||August 30–September 2, 2001||Olympia 2, London, England|
|2002 Gen Con Game Fair||August 8–11, 2002||MEC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||23,000||Gen Con's last year in Wisconsin, 35th year of the convention. Peter Adkison purchases Gen Con from Hasbro.|
|Gen Con UK 2002||August 29–September 1, 2002||Olympia 2, London, England|
2003–present: Indianapolis Edit
|Gen Con Europe 2003||April 18–21, 2003||Olympia 2, London, England|
|Gen Con Indy 2003||July 24–27, 2003||ICC (Indiana Convention Center), Indianapolis, Indiana||25,000|
|Gen Con SoCal 2003||December 11–14, 2003||ACC (Anaheim Convention Center), Anaheim, California||4,148|
|Gen Con Barcelona||July 1–4, 2004||Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, Spain||(licensed event)|
|Gen Con Indy 2004||August 19–22, 2004||ICC, Indianapolis, Indiana||21,741|
|Gen Con UK 2004||October 14–17, 2004||Minehead Butlins, Somerset, England||(licensed event)|
|Gen Con SoCal 2004||December 2–5, 2004||ACC, Anaheim, California||5,559|
|Gen Con Indy 2005||August 11–14, 2005||ICC, Indianapolis, Indiana||25,106|
|Gen Con UK 2005||November 3–6, 2005||Bognor Regis, West Sussex, England||1,957||(licensed event)|
|Gen Con SoCal 2005||November 18–20, 2005||ACC, Anaheim, California||6,326|
|Gen Con Paris||April 21–23, 2006||Paris, France||4,000|
|Gen Con Indy 2006||August 10–13, 2006||ICC, Indianapolis, Indiana||>21,250|
|Gen Con SoCal 2006||November 16–19, 2006||ACC, Anaheim, California||5,840|
|Gen Con France 2007||May 25–27, 2007||Paris, France||4,200|
|Gen Con Indy 2007||August 16–19, 2007||ICC, Indianapolis, Indiana||27,000||40th anniversary|
|Gen Con UK 2007||August 30–September 2, 2007||Reading, Berkshire, England||1,746||(licensed event) (2006 was cancelled due to siting issues)|
|Gen Con France 2008||April 25–27, 2008||Paris, France|
|Gen Con Australia||July 3–6, 2008||BCEC (Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia||>10,000||First Gen Con in Australia|
|Gen Con Indy 2008||August 14–17, 2008||Indianapolis, Indiana||28,600+<|
|Gen Con UK 2008||August 28–31, 2008||Reading, Berkshire, England||(licensed event)|
|Gen Con Indy 2009||August 13–16, 2009||Indianapolis, Indiana||27,900+|
Scheduled future eventsEdit
|Gen Con Indy 2010||August 5–8, 2010||Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Gen Con Australia 2010||September 23–26, 2010||Brisbane, Australia||Cancelled July 17, 2010|
|Gen Con Indy 2011||August 4–7, 2011||Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Gen Con Indy 2012||August 16–19, 2012||Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Gen Con Indy 2013||August 15–18, 2013||Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Gen Con Indy 2014||August 14–17, 2014||Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Gen Con Indy 2015||July 30 - August 2, 2015||Indianapolis, Indiana|
- Gen Con LLC (Gen Con Indy & Gen Con SoCal)
- Gen Con UK
- Gen Con Barcelona
- Gen Con France
- Gen Con Australia
- The Keeper of Ancient Gen Con Lore's Site