Two weeks ago I was in Indianapolis with Ray and the kids attending Gen Con. This was our third year making the trek. Actually, Ray and I went alone the first year and then last year we decided to bring the kids. This year the kids insisted on going again…I don’t feel like we had a choice in the matter. I think we have a fairly unique perspective when it comes to Gen Con because there are not a lot of parents that take their young kids for the full 4 days of gaming. You do tend to see more kids on the Saturday, and even more on Sunday (Sunday is Family Day so a family of 4 can get into the Con for only $35) but a lot of those kids are only there for 1 day.
As I mentioned, the first year that Ray and I went to Gen Con we decided to go alone. We didn’t really know what the atmosphere would be like, and whether it would be appropriate for kids. We knew that there were kids activities but our kids were pretty young so we just didn’t know if they would be able to handle it. Without the kids we had an absolute blast. We made a point of trying every different type of tabletop game (RPG, Board Game, Miniature etc) and we got to see a lot of the exhibit hall. We stayed up late, got to go out for some nice meals and even splurged on some big purchases…like a GeekChic table! Despite thoroughly enjoying our time together, we spent the entire time talking about how much the kids would have fun at Gen Con. We discovered that the people at Gen Con are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, the atmosphere is very family friendly, there are tons of kids activities, and there is even babysitting available. Before the con was even over we had already decided we would go back the next year and we would bring the kids.
In the early months of 2014 when the Gen Con badges went on sale, we didn’t hesitate to buy them for the whole family. By the time we headed off to Indianapolis Juliana was 5, turning 6 (her birthday was while we were at Gen Con!), and Aidan was 8. We got a room at a downtown hotel a few blocks from the convention center, which was nice since the previous year we stayed about 20 minutes away by car. The hotel was fairly quiet and had a small pool, which the kids used for a quick swim before and after spending the day at the con. We bought tickets for a few of the kids activities at the Family Fun pavillion and also booked one afternoon with the babysitting service so Ray and I could play an RPG together. Although the kids had fun doing their scheduled activities, their favourite part was actually going around and doing the demos. Juliana wanted to try all the Mayfair games and collect all the ribbons and Aidan was on a mission to find a new game to take home. Although he was only 8 years old, Aidan was already heavily into gaming so he wanted something that would challenge him. I eventually lost him to the Privateer Press booth and he emerged with a couple of new Warmachine starter sets. He also spent a good four hours one day playing Pathfinder and his character actually survived. I was pretty impressed not only that he survived but I was impressed at how welcoming and patient the other players were. I’m sure they didn’t expect an 8 year old to show up at their table. Both kids really enjoyed all the costumes and the giant Cthulu made out of balloons, and just spending time together as a family. One of my most memorable events was the introduction to LARPing that we did as a family. It was only an hour long but I couldn’t believe how much fun I had running around with a foam sword and strategizing with kids and their parents on how we were going to achieve some imaginary mission. We all had a blast as we lost ourselves in our characters even if only for a few minutes.
We may not have been able to stay up until the wee hours of the morning crawling through a dungeon, or attending parties, and we may have felt like we only saw a quarter of the exhibit hall floor and way more Mayfair games than anticipated, but we saw the con from a whole new perspective, tried some great games we would not have otherwise tried, and we got to eat and sleep! I don’t regret for a single minute bringing the kids along with us, which is why all 4 of us went back again in 2015….