Why I Missed GenCon 2009…


Ok, so in this case the title doesn’t say it all. Actually, it’s just a lead-in to my thoughts that I’ve been gathering over the weekend.

I did miss GenCon 2009 this year. First convention in about 10 years I missed and man, it was tough. As the weekend went on (and I watched the boards and Twitter) my reasons for missing it shifted from one end of the spectrum to another.

It was strange.


There were, without a doubt, a lot of things I missed about it this year: a gaggle of friends and professional associates whom I only see during this time of year, gaming in games I would never otherwise try, playing BattleTech with players from literally around the world, and the photographic opportunities – especially of miniature displays.

But originally, the biggest thing I missed – at least, at the start – was the stroking of my ego.

Yeah, that’s right, you heard me. I admit it – I enjoyed the attention most of all. Especially over the last couple of years.

My “ascension” through the writer ranks with BattleTech has been nothing short of divine intervention. It was only a scant five years ago that I’d been invited to submit for Dawn of the Jihad – a measly 3000 words at the outset (which morphed into over 7K) – that progressed to far, far more than I ever had dreamed of or even hoped for. To the point that now I’m one sane brain cell away from being the Line Developer and have a major hand in crafting the future of the game’s storyline.

I guess it kinda got to my head the last couple of years.

I could probably spend all day dissecting the hows and whys of why I enjoyed the attention. But it doesn’t excuse the bottom line – it made me a jerk, really. It turned me into one of the people I never liked at conventions, those writers and developers of other games I loved. I used to accost the company reps at their booths when I started going to the conventions, trying to talk my way into working for them, fawning over their work, and trying to be their buddy. Most of them pretty much blew me off in their arrogance and ‘superiority’; why not? By and large, they’d made something someone liked. Even if it only sold a few thousand, that’s a “large” fanbase in what is – let’s face it, gamers – a niche market.

Experiencing that, I swore I wouldn’t be like that when I “grew up.” Wow, don’t make vows you won’t keep.

So the first couple of days of GenCon this year, I moped. I was missing my time in the spotlight. (I wasn’t missing the insanity that goes with running those grueling events, however.) Working the booth, selling stuff for CGL, smiling and acting all embarrassed when someone pointed me out… Yeah, I was in withdrawal.

But some time around Friday afternoon, I realized I was missing my friends more. And wandering around, taking photographs of truly stunning artwork. And talking ‘smack’ with my friends, even if I never touched a pair of dice or sat down over a board or terrain.

And then I realized I didn’t care about the spotlight-whoring anymore.

The rest of the weekend was great. I enjoyed hearing about other experiences at the con, knowing the sheer awesomeness of the moments involved in someone’s first big convention. And though I ached for what I truly missed, I felt better knowing that the attention-getting jackass I was had faded. Hopefully forever.

My wife and I discussed this over dinner last night. We both knew it was right for me not to go this year – even if I hadn’t lost my job and been unemployed for four months, it still wouldn’t have been good to go. (Money, while an issue, was the convenient excuse to not go. It just helped bring home the epiphany I needed.) As we discussed my newfound perspectives, we also talked about next year.

Seems my hiatus may well be only a year long will continue for the foreseeable future.

Tentatively, both of us are planning on attending next year and working the CGL booth. With all the hype of the 25th out of the way and things on a better financial keel – along with extra vacation time, assuming I cement this FT job – it will finally be a lot less burdensome to go.

So get ready, Indianapolis. We’ll be seeing you in 2010.

[UPDATE JULY 2010: Due to other considerations and situations that have occurred since I wrote this, I’ve re-hashed my decision and, for now, will NOT be attending GenCon this year. Next year, if I do go, it will be to promote the new nonfiction book I just contracted to write. We’ll see.]

And to everyone who’s met me at prior conventions – my apologies for being a jackass. What matters is the fact that you’re a fan of the universe and enjoy the game, not how well (or poorly) I write for the universe.

10 thoughts on “Why I Missed GenCon 2009…

  1. An interesting read. I didn’t realize how quickly you flew up the ranks of TPTB. hopefully one of these years I’ll be able to make it out to one of the big cons.

  2. Ben, I think you’re being too hard on yourself. I mean, that con is all about ego. Look at all the girls in skimpy costumes. I mean it. LOOK AT THEM! What was I talking about again?

  3. Ben,

    The one time I met you, while you admittedly felt like crap, you seeemed pretty cool. You at least gave me a two minute time of day (as I tried to keep my fanboy in check). Thats all you can ask for.

  4. Hey Friend-o.

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t think your convention persona was jerkish. I don’t mean to say that you acted like me, (Heaven forbid) but that maybe you’re being a bit hard on yourself. You’re allowed to enjoy the spotlight. It’s part of being a geek.

  5. You were missed this year. Just nothing like raiding your room to play Mechassault while drunk.

    Seriously though, dont be so hard on yourself. You seemed like a cool guy when I meet you last year and you didnt give me a reason to think otherwise.

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