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!