Gen Con Attendance Tips 3: Looking for Work

My Gen Con Tip Archive: Part 1: Before the Show! | Part 2: At the Show | Part 3: Looking for Work

(Jan 2011 edit: I edited this to remove names of a company and people I don’t work with anymore, so as not to create confusion when people read this article in the future. with jetpacks.)

Jess Hartley wrote a great series of four blog posts talking about how to prepare and approach game companies at conventions if you are looking for work: Part 1: The Basics, Part 2: Preparation, Part 3: At the Con, and Part 4: Follow Ups and Follow Through.

If you’re looking for work at the show [especially if it’s one of your first times], go read those … and then come back and read the few additional tips I’ve included below.

Looking for Work

  • If you have any material that you are leaving with people you talk to — business card, a tearsheet of art, a writing sample, etc. — be sure that your name and address is on every single piece of it, on every page. Be vain: put your photograph on your card, resume, etc. Anything to help people remember you when they finally dig through those cards weeks later.
  • When you give someone your card or other collateral, take the time to write on the back of it exactly who you intend it for. If you’ve been talking to someone at the Posthuman Studios booth and you’re interested in doing Eclipse Phase artwork, you’ll get pointed to our art director, Rob Boyle. If Rob isn’t around, someone else will likely take your card and give you a time when he will be back — but write on the back of it: “For Rob Boyle. Interested in doing Eclipse Phase art.” Why? Because it’s unlikely that your business card is going to be “properly filed” at the booth. It’s going to get tossed into a pile, into someone’s pocket, and it probably won’t make it to the proper person until the last day of the show, or afterwards. And in the case when you’re leaving a card behind and not giving it to the exact target … it probably doesn’t hurt to leave 2 or 3 of them.
  • When you are walking the convention and introducing yourself to prospective clients, don’t bring along anyone else that isn’t prepared to be as professional as you are. It’s not the time to be hanging out with your friends or gaming group.
  • However, if you know someone who works in the industry and is willing to walk the floor with you and introduce you to people — take them up on this offer. Assuming they have a good reputation. But you don’t hang out with people with bad reputations, do you?
  • If you are an artist, it’s likely that someone can take a peek at your portfolio and give you a quick “Yeah, you look like you can work on some of our projects” or “Hey, you kinda only do horror art, and we only do games about happy ponies, but we’ll keep your card in case we ever decide to hurt the horses.” If you’re a writer or editor, though, it’s much harder to evaluate your work quickly — so you’ll need to have samples that you can leave behind.
  • If you do have relevant experience on your resume, be sure that you list relevant references on it.
  • Don’t disclaim yourself. What do I mean by this? Accentuate the positive, downplay the negative. Here’s an example of something that happened to me at Gen Con 2003, when I was with Guardians of Order: A woman came up with a resume and a writing/art sample to leave behind. Her and her partner had worked on it together, producing a short d20 adventure to show that they can produce art, writing, and game design stuff all in one. This was a good idea. I flipped through it quickly, took a copy, said that we would read it after the convention, and all was good. The next day, her partner came by. I guess they didn’t properly coordinate who had been to what booth … because he gave us another copy. That’s not the problem. The problem was, he said something like “Oh, by the way, about the map in there… $HerName thought that we should have a map in it, but I’m not a great cartographer, so it kinda sucks.”

    To this day, that map is the only part of that submission that I can still picture in my head. And for someone who wasn’t a cartographer, it wasn’t that bad.

  • Bring all the digital files that you used to create any collateral with you. If you run out, there is a Kinkos only a few blocks from the convention center: Suite 107, 120 Monument Cir. Map from Convention Center to Kinkos.

Gen Con Indy Attendance Tips Part 2: At the Show!

My Gen Con Tip Archive: Part 1: Before the Show! | Part 2: At the Show | Part 3: Looking for Work

Here are some rules for what to do at the show, and just before the show:

Around Indy

  • Walking through the mall is the fastest way to get to certain hotels. And the most air-conditioned. I recommend figuring out the best path on Wednesday, if you arrive that day.

Not Getting Ill

  • Golden rule, courtesy of Paul Tevis: 1-2-3, 1 shower, 2 meals, 3 hours of sleep. Daily minimums.
  • Buy a flat of water when you get into Indy, or before [if you’re driving in]. Leave it in your hotel room. When you leave your hotel room, make sure that your backpack/laptop bag/whatever is topped up with 3-4 bottles. There are some fountains to refill the bottles at, and of course you can buy more water at the show, but you pay through the nose for it. As the day goes on, you drink the water and have more space in your bag for things you’ve bought!
  • Buy and bring some snacks with you, too. Trail mix seems to be popular, but I prefer apples or oranges.
  • Bring hand sanitizer. Use it all the time. Offer it to your friends, family, and everyone you’re going to be around a lot.
  • You’ve just walked into your hotel room. Wash your hands. You’re just about to leave your hotel room. Wash your hands. Don’t bring con gunk into your room.
  • Carry deodorant with you at all times. Use it every hour. I hate that I have to type this, and I know that the people that should follow this advice won’t read it … but seriously.


  • If you are trying to get something that will be in limited supply, you’ll want to get to the exhibitor hall doors early and line up.
  • Bring cash. Some booths don’t take plastic, the ATMs often run out of cash, it’s easier to pay cash if you’re buying food in the convention center, etc. There are banks nearby with ATMs; I suggest using them.
  • When you’re talking to someone at a booth, don’t just give them a generic question like “Can you tell me about X?” — you’ll get a spiel. Sometimes that spiel is long, and sometimes it’s boring, and it can be both. Try to avoid really open-ended questions. And if you are talking to a booth person that just won’t shut up … just tell them that you’re not interested, say thanks, and walk away. [As an exhibitor, I have “spiels,” of course — but I try to construct them in ways that I can spiel for 15 seconds, evaluate to see if the person gives a crap, and if they don’t, bail out. If they do give a crap, I continue on to 30 seconds, evaluate, 1 minute, etc … no use wasting my time and theirs if they’ve decided that they’re not interested!]
  • On Sunday, near closing, you can probably get some deals, especially if you ask at booths from small companies that don’t want to ship a lot of stuff back. But if you hover around the booth all weekend, taking up the exhibitor’s time, and then want a bargain on the backend … well, that’s kind of jerky.
  • I’ve never heard of someone getting pickpocketed at Gen Con, although I’m sure it’s happened. What I have heard of: cards and miniatures getting stolen, and people accidentally leaving a bag of new stuff in the exhibitor’s hall and having it disappear by the time they get back. If you have a bunch of valuables, don’t leave them lying around. Try to bring only what you need for that day down to the convention center. Edit: I have now heard from people who were pickpocketed last year at Gen Con, in the exhibitor’s hall.


(I’m really down on the state of food in Indy. I’d appreciate some comments from people who LIKE places in Indy. I’ll summarize those in a future post.)

  • Anytime you want to eat, it will take a half hour longer than you expect to get seated.
  • Anytime you want to eat, Indianapolis is inadequate. Hope you enjoy “american” food!
  • Naturally, the Steak and Shake right by the convention center is always packed. Thirty minutes for a milkshake.
  • There’s a food court in the mall. It’s not a bad choice — predictable and relatively fast.
  • But tip really well, because gamers are often poor tippers, and it’s not the waiter’s fault that Indianapolis is very narrow, food-wise.


  • Schedule a day with no schedule — just a day to wander, hang out with people, play demos, walk the exhibitor’s hall, all that stuff.
  • Buy a handful of generic tickets for dropping into games or giving to friends who have run out or didn’t plan on getting into a game and that you invited along.
  • Your first day there, grab 4 copies of the program book. Take 3 back to your hotel and put one in your bag. You will lose one every day. If you aren’t the type to lose one every day, don’t do this! You may want to just rip the important pages out of the book — the maps, IMO — and put them in your bag/notebook/whatever.
  • Don’t schedule stuff back-to-back. If you’re playing a game 10AM to 2PM, don’t schedule one for 2PM to 6PM as well, unless they’re in very close rooms.
  • Don’t play games that you play all the time at home, unless it’s some sort of special convention-only event.
  • Play more games for shorter periods of time; 2 hour introductory sessions for games you don’t know instead of 4 hour longer sessions.

Going Home

  • If you have to check out of your hotel on Sunday, that always sucks. It will eat at least an hour of your time to pack your crap up, check out, and arrange for some sort of alternate car parking/baggage storing for the interim. If you have a bunch of roommates, you should coordinate this early Sunday morning, so you know what you’re doing come checkout time. Remember to sweep your hotel room really thoroughly for things left behind. It’s easy to accidentally tuck a sword or something behind the door and walk out without it.
  • If you are planning on buying a lot of stuff, bring a suitcase inside your other suitcase on the way to show, and bring one home full of games on the way back!
  • There is a UPS outlet just outside the exhibitor’s hall in case you want to ship odd-sized stuff home. As of two years ago, the people running it were super-cool — there was a payment snafu with my shipment, and they shipped my stuff anyway, googled me up, and gave me a call the next week to extract payment.

Anyone have any further tips or advice? Post ’em up!

Gen Con Indy Attendance Tips Part 1: Before the Show!

My Gen Con Tip Archive: Part 1: Before the Show! | Part 2: At the Show | Part 3: Looking for Work

It’s just over three weeks to Gen Con Indy 2009, and a few months ago, a first-time attendee asked me for advice attending the show. I rattled off a ton of off-the-cuff advice for her, and now I’ve distilled it down into a short series of posts. Here’s Part 1: Before the Show!

  • If you’re looking to buy stuff that is brand-new at the show, figure out how the company is selling it well in advance. Some of them sell X copies each morning, some try and sell them all the first day, some ration them other ways.
  • Don’t bring your laptop. If you do, leave it in your room each day. You’re not going to use it, there isn’t a ton of free wifi around, and you’re not going to use it.
  • Don’t bring many gaming books. If you’re going to play X game, bring the X core book, but that’s it. I knew someone who brought is ENTIRE Shadowrun collection to Gen Con one year, and he carried it around in a giant rucksack. That was stupid.
  • But do bring your phone charger. There’s an AT&T store in the mall. You’ll probably want your digital camera and charger, too.
  • The Embassy Suites has a free breakfast if you’re staying there. They have a free happy hour, too.
  • There is a CVS about three blocks from the convention center. It is your best bet for inexpensive bottled drinks, snackfood, cigarettes, Red Bull, and condoms. The hours are awkward, though:

    Tues-Fri: 6:30am – 6:30pm
    Sat: 8am – 6:30pm
    Sun: 9am – 5pm

    Edit: Daniel Perez has a great point — the earlier you do your shopping at the CVS, the less likely they are to run out of stuff. Buy everything you know you’ll need on Wednesday if possible.

  • Bring comfy shoes. This seems like a no-brainer, right? If you’re wearing a costume or something like that, keep a pair of your regular shoes in your bag for long-distance walking.
  • Bring twice as many pairs of socks as you’d normally wear. You’re walking a lot and it will be grossly hot and humid.
  • Hand sanitizer. Bring a bottle. Use it. Offer it to your friends whenever you use it. You don’t want to get sick at or after the show. The dreaded “con crud” can be defeated!

Gen Con Emerging from Bankruptcy

Gen Con Scheduled to Emerge from Chapter 11!:

SEATTLE (January 9, 2009) – Gen Con LLC announced today that the US Bankruptcy Court of Western Washington has confirmed the company’s plan of reorganization and approved the company’s rejection of a hostile takeover bid.

“This is bright day for us”, said Adrian Swartout, CEO of Gen Con. “The entire team is looking forward to 2009 and continuing our growth as a stronger, more focused company. Our emergence from Chapter 11 is a testament to the skill and perseverance of our employees and the strength of the phenomenal Gen Con brand. Everyone here is excited to begin working outside of Chapter 11.”

Since filing for bankruptcy protection in February of 2008, Gen Con has significantly reduced its expenses and increased its cash position. The company’s cash flow is positive and prospects have never looked better. Under the confirmed plan, Gen Con will pay all of it creditors in full over time and will continue to operate. A three-member Advisory Committee will assist the company and its board, and Peter Adkison will retain ownership. “This is an extremely successful case,” said Shelly Crocker of Crocker Kuno, Gen Con’s bankruptcy attorney, “largely due to the efforts of Ms. Swartout and her team, and the cooperation of the Creditors’ Committee.”

Gen Con Indy 2009 will prove to be one of the best shows yet with thousands of events and hundreds of exhibitors. Gen Con attendees can expect to see all of their favorite programs such as the Costume Contest, Auction, Art Show, Family Fun Pavilion, eGame Arena and much more!

I consider this fine news. This year’s Gen Con will be my 10th, and I’m glad that it will still be run by the same people who have been running—and growing and improving—the convention quite successfully for seven years now.

[Hat tip to Matt Forbeck for being the first posting of the news that I saw.]

The latest Gen Con LLC updates

Trask over at Living Dice has posted the most recent news about Gen Con LLC’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing, including a nice summary and some of the documents themselves.

In short, Gen Con LLC has come up with a plan to pay back their debts, and the creditors have until the end of December to decide on whether to accept those terms. So, it’s likely that everyone will have to wait a few more months for further news.

For my previous posts on Lucasfilm’s lawsuit against Gen Con LLC and the Chapter 11 filing, please check the posts under the gencon tag.

More News about Gen Con LLC bankruptcy filing

A few excerpts from

This year, Gen Con Indy is expected to attract 25,000 attendees who will spend more than $25 million on lodging and entertainment.

So the average Gen Con Indy attendee spends about $1000 dollars over the entire convention. That seems a little high to me, based on the number of times I’ve seen gamers discuss how they attend Gen Con as cheaply as possibly — it seems to be part of “gamer pride” to try and work the system as much as possible.

Indeed, in a statement issued Feb. 15, Gen Con said the “flagship” convention “remains a vibrant, profitable event” and will take place as scheduled from Aug. 14-17. The Chapter 11 filing won’t affect its other conventions in France, Australia and the United Kingdom, either.

“Gen Con LLC will continue to operate without interruption during this process,” the company said in a statement.

Seattle-based Gen Con said it had to file for bankruptcy in Washington state because of “significant unforeseen expenses associated with attempts to expand its core business to encompass externally licensed events.”

In the filing, Gen Con lists its assets and liabilities as each between $1 million and $10 million. It owes $748,956.81 to its largest creditor, convention services company George E. Fern Co. of Columbus, Ohio. Gen Con owes the Indiana Department of Revenue $116,858.70 in sales and income taxes, but Gen Con disputes that claim, according to the filing.

More on Gen Con LLC

Writing and Parenting Machine Matt Forbeck has some analysis of what’s going on with Gen Con Indy and Gen Con LLC. I’ve been super busy this weekend with a probably-not-about-to-be-secret-for-much-longer project, so I haven’t had much time to keep up with the public reaction to this announcement. I’m still looking forward to the Best Four Days in Gaming this summer, though!

Gen Con LLC files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy


SEATTLE (February 15, 2008) Gen Con LLC announced today that it has filed for Chapter 11 protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the State of Washington. This action became necessary as a result of significant unforeseen expenses associated with attempts to expand its core business to encompass externally licensed events. Gen Con’s flagship show, Gen Con Indy, remains a vibrant, profitable event. Gen Con Indy will take place as scheduled August 14–17, 2008, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The protections afforded by Chapter 11 will allow Gen Con to further its efforts to address its liquidity needs, preserve value for its creditors and explore strategic alternatives for the business. “Because the fundamentals of our business are strong; and because our debt problems are challenges mostly linked to one-time events, we feel confident that the profile of our company will benefit under Chapter 11 and come out strong in the end,” said Peter D. Adkison, CEO of Gen Con.

Chapter 11 refers to the section of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code that provides for court-supervised restructuring of companies as they continue to operate normally. This proceeding is intended to help companies to become stronger financially.

Gen Con LLC will continue to operate without interruption during this process and looks forward to an expeditious resolution to the short-term challenges and the ability to focus entirely on producing Gen Con Indy, The Best Four Days in Gaming. International Gen Con events are unaffected by this situation and will continue to operate as scheduled.

About Gen Con

Gen Con, LLC produces the largest consumer fantasy, sci-fi and adventure game convention in North America. Itts operations include Gen Con Indy and licensees for European and Asia Pacific Gen Con shows. It was acquired in 2002 by former CEO and founder of Wizards of the Coast Peter Adkison, who solely owns the company headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Gen Con is a consumer and trade experience dedicated to gaming culture and community. For more information visit the website at

Gen Con LLC sued by LucasFilm LLC

Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter, Esq broke the news on January 14th that LucasFilm was suing Gen Con, LLC. This news didn’t make it to the gaming world until a few days ago in February, when GamingReport picked it up and other sites began discussing it.

Unfortunately, The Reporter’s summary of the lawsuit [which was filed on January 8th, 2008] was a little terse, and various postings around the ‘net have distorted the case and claimed false things — all of which could be avoided if people had actually read the brief complaint. A fair number of people are saying that Gen Con owes $1,000,000 to Make-a-Wish foundation, and no reading of the lawsuit bears that to be true.

As I read it [and I bounced the complaint and the bullet points over to a legal pal of mine for clarification — thanks Daniel!], the complaints levied against Gen Con LLC are pretty simple:

  • Gen Con LLC entered in an agreement — the “Fan Convention Agreement” — to run Star Wars Celebration IV in May 2007. They paid a non-refundable advance, but Lucasfilm alleges that they did not follow through with proper quarterly accounting statements nor payment, and Lucasfilm is seeking approx. $500,000 in compensatory damages plus interest.
  • Gen Con LLC entered in a second agreement — the “Auction Agreement” — in which Lucasfilm agreed to provide items to the auction, with the proceeds of the auction going to the Make-a-Wish foundation. It is not entirely clear from the lawsuit if all of the auction proceeds or just those from the Lucasfilm archives were intended for Make-a-Wish.#1 Lucasfilm is seeking approx. $150,000 in compensatory damages, plus approx $150,000 in pecuniary restitution, plus interest on both. In other words: they want the money that would have gone to Make-a-Wish foundation, and they they want to be paid for the merchandise that Gen Con allegedly auctioned off inappropriately.
  • Lucasfilm is further asking for punitive damages to be proven at trial.
  • Lucasfilm is also seeking pre-judgement interest plus the cost of the lawsuit.
  • Lucasfilm has asked for trial by jury on all claims that may be tried by a jury. My understanding is that this is done because a jury trial is more expensive, and thus more likely to force Gen Con to settle, and due to the nature of the donations — the average person isn’t going to look kindly on anyone ripping off a major charity.

That’s the skinny: approx $800,000 in various damages, plus potentially more.

#1: Based on the following quote at It’s a Hit: A Record-Breaking Celebration IV, I’m led to believe that the Lucasfilm-owned items were the majority or the only items available at the auction:

Fans were a huge part of the success of Celebration IV, contributing to programming and events especially in the Fan Fair Hall and on the Star Wars Fan Stage. Star Wars collectors raised nearly $170,000 in four silent auctions and one live auction of vintage toy merchandise from the Lucas Licensing archives. The profits from the auction will be donated to the Make-A-Wish foundation.

Thursday, Feb 24th edit: My bad; the name of the blog I linked to is The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. Also, the proper name of the suit is “Lucasfilm Ltd v. Gen Con LLC”