Gen Con is the largest tabletop-game convention in North America by both attendance and number of events. It features traditional pen-and-paper, board, and card games, including role-playing games, miniatures wargames, live action role-playing games, collectible card games, and strategy games. Gen Con also features computer games. Attendees engage in a variety of tournament and interactive game sessions. In 2015, Gen Con had 61,423 unique attendees, making it one of the largest conventions in North America.
Established in 1968 as a wargames convention by Gary Gygax, who later co-created Dungeons & Dragons, Gen Con was first held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The convention's location moved between various sites in Wisconsin from 1972 to 1984 before becoming fixed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1985, where it remained until moving to its present location, Indianapolis, Indiana in 2003. Other Gen Con conventions have been held sporadically in various locations around the United States, as well as internationally.
In 1976, Gen Con became the property of TSR, Inc., the gaming company co-founded by Gygax. TSR (and Gen Con) were acquired by Wizards of the Coast in 1997, which was subsequently acquired by Hasbro. Hasbro then sold Gen Con to the former CEO of Wizards of the Coast, Peter Adkison, in 2002. Gen Con spent a short time under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, due to a lawsuit brought against them by Lucasfilm in 2008. The organization emerged from bankruptcy protection a year later, while still holding its regularly scheduled events.
The International Federation of Wargaming (IFW) hosted a number of small regional conventions in the months following its foundation in 1967, including the first annual club convention in Malvern, PA, in August. Some IFW gamers in the Chicago area could not make the journey to Malvern, so they had an informal gathering that same weekend at the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin home of Gary Gygax. Later this gathering would come to be referred to as "Gen Con 0." In 1968, Gygax rented Lake Geneva's Horticultural Hall to hold a follow-up IFW convention, the Lake Geneva Wargames Convention, later known as the Gen Con gaming convention. The IFW, which Gygax co-founded, put up $35 of the $50 Horticultural Hall fee to sponsor this first Gen Con. Almost 100 people attended. At the second Gen Con in August 1969, Gygax met Rob Kuntz and Dave Arneson. During these early conventions, the events centered around board games and miniature wargames.
Gen Con's name is a derivation of "Geneva Convention", due to the convention's origins in Lake Geneva. It is also a play on words, as the "Geneva Conventions" are a set of important international treaties regarding war, the subject of many of the early games. Starting in 1971, Gen Con was co-sponsored by the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association.
Beginning in 1975, Gen Con was managed and hosted by TSR, Inc., original publisher of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. 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, where it remained through 1984.
A Gen Con West was held in California for only three years, 1976–1978. From 1978 to 1984, Gen Con South was held in Jacksonville, Florida, and Gen Con East was held in 1981 and 1982, first in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and then in Chester, Pennsylvania.
In 1985, Gen Con moved to the Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena (MECCA) in Milwaukee, due to a need for more space. After the move, attendance steadily rose from 5,000 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, the Origins Game Fair, and the two were run as a single convention in 1988. Wizards of the Coast debuted Magic: The Gathering at Gen Con in August 1993; the game proved extremely popular, selling out 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 credited with generating the extra attendance that produced the 1995 record.
Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR in 1997, which was in turn purchased by Hasbro in 1999. Gen Con moved to the Midwest Express Center (now the Wisconsin Center) in 1998. In November 1999 Wizards announced that Gen Con would leave Milwaukee after the 2002 convention. Peter Adkison, founder of Wizards of the Coast, purchased Gen Con from Hasbro in May 2002, forming Gen Con LLC to run the convention. The first show under Adkison's leadership took place that August in Milwaukee.
The convention moved to Indianapolis in 2003. Peter Adkison attributed the move to the lack of hotel space, the convention center layout, and frequently broken escalators in Milwaukee's convention center.
In Indianapolis, the convention, now called Gen Con Indy, continued to draw between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors each year, at the Indiana Convention Center. Wizards of the Coast helped celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons game at Gen Con Indy 2004. In 2005 Gen Con Indy generated the most direct visitor spending of any annual convention in Indianapolis.
Adkison also restarted the convention in California, this time named Gen Con SoCal. Smaller than its mid-western counterpart, it drew approximately 6,300 attendees in 2005, making it the third-largest consumer hobby game convention in North America. It was held in the Anaheim Convention Center.
In spite of Adkison saying that he did not want Gen Con to become a "mini-E3" in 2003, when E3 downsized in mid-2006, Gen Con LLC announced it would provide more show space for video game businesses. Gen Con described their intention to "pick up where E3 [left] off."
Gen Con was held in 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. The European convention was held in England for 8 years, through 1997. There was no European Gen Con in 1998, but it reappeared in Belgium in 1999 for a single year, before again reappearing in Paris for three years between 2006 and 2008. Benelux Gen Con, was held in the Netherlands in 1998, and re-occurred there in 2000. Gen Con Barcelona occurred five years, in 1994-6, 1999 and 2004. Gen Con UK was held between 1998 and 2008. A Gen Con was held in Brisbane, Australia, in July 2008 and again in September 2009. A third Gen Con Australia was scheduled for 2010, but was canceled.
The convention features a large exhibit hall filled with game publishers, artists, and related businesses, wherein most attendees spend at least $100. The only game to be on the event schedule every year since the convention's inception is Fight in the Skies, (later renamed Dawn Patrol).
The D&D Championship Series (formerly the D&D Open) is a long-running series of Dungeons & Dragons games at Gen Con, beginning in 1977. The RPGA, beginning in 1981, has run large numbers of events at Gen Con, so extensive they have been given their own category. The 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. 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 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 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 Gen Con Live Games Auction is another long-running event, though the majority of the Auction (including the Consignment Store) is not run for charity.
The EN World RPG Awards (the ENnies) are an annual awards ceremony devoted to role-playing games. Established in 2001, the ENnies have been 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, featuring a series of puzzles and scenarios designed to recreate a D&D environment.
2008 was a tumultuous year, legally, for Gen Con LLC. On January 10, Lucasfilm filed a lawsuit against them, claiming breach of contract, conversion, and unjust enrichment over Celebration IV, held in 2006. The suit also claims Gen Con failed to give the money raised at a charity auction held at the event to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 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 had 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., for an amount equal to Gen Con LLC's outstanding debt. Gen Con's 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.
In 2008, Christian Children's Fund was reported to have turned down $17,398 from a GenCon Live Game Auction, during that year's Gen Con. The donation was made in honor of Gary Gygax, who died in 2008, and was a frequent donor to CCF. Some individuals within the gaming community expressed disappointment about the decision; author and game designer Rich Burlew, for example, called it "insulting," and the response by gamers led both the CCF and Gen Con to issue official statements explaining what had happened. As a result of the misunderstanding, Gen Con chose to support a different charity.
On March 23, 2015, Adrian Swartout sent a letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pence, asking the governor to reconsider his intent to sign SB 101, the so-called "Religious Freedom" bill that already passed both state legislatures. The bill would allow businesses in the state to deny service to anyone on religious grounds, with opponents of the bill stating that it would allow businesses to unfairly single out and discriminate against the LGBT community and other groups. Swartout pointed out in the letter that "Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds" from over 40 countries and all 50 states, and that welcoming such a "wide-ranging diversity has been a key element to the success and growth of our convention," as well as injecting "over $50 million dollars" annually to the local economy. Swartout stated that signing such a bill "will have a direct negative impact on the state economy and factor into [Gen Con's] decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years," after the Indiana Convention Center had already completed a major expansion in 2011 to accommodate increased attendance to Gen Con.
Attendance at Gen Con conventions, based on the numbers given below:
|"Gen Con 0"||August 1967||Gary Gygax's Home
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con I||August 24, 1968||Horticultural Hall
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|96[b]||First official year of Gen Con|
|Gen Con II||August 23–24, 1969||Horticultural Hall
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|187[c][d]||First two-day Gen Con|
|Gen Con III||August 22–23, 1970||Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con IV||August 21–22, 1971||American Legion Memorial 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
|300||TSR, Inc. Founded|
|Gen Con VII||August 23–25, 1974||Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall/Legion Hall
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|350||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 X||August 18–21, 1977||Playboy Resort/Horticultural Hall/Guild Hall
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
|Gen Con XI||August 17–20, 1978||University of Wisconsin–Parkside||2,000||Moved to Parkside location|
|Gen Con XII||August 16–19, 1979||University of Wisconsin–Parkside|
|Gen Con XIII||August 21–24, 1980||University of Wisconsin–Parkside||4,500|
|Gen Con XIV||August 13–16, 1981||University of Wisconsin–Parkside||5,000|
|Gen Con XV||August 19–22, 1982||University of Wisconsin–Parkside|
|Gen Con XVI||August 18–21, 1983||University of Wisconsin–Parkside|
|Gen Con 17||Aug. 16–19, 1984||University of Wisconsin–Parkside and Gateway Technical College||3,600|
|Gen Con 18||August 22–25, 1985||MECCA (Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena), Milwaukee, Wisconsin||5,000||Moved to MECCA|
|Gen Con 19||August 14–17, 1986||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||5,000|
|Gen Con 20||August 20–23, 1987||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Gen Con's 20th year|
|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|
|Gen Con '91||August 8–11, 1991||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>15,000|
|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|
|Gen Con '93||August 19–22, 1993||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||20,000|
|Gen Con '94||August 18–21, 1994||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>25,000|
|Gen Con '95||August 10–13, 1995||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||30,000|
|Gen Con '96||August 8–11, 1996||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||27,000|
|1997 Gen Con Game Fair||August 6–10, 1997||MECCA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||27,000||Wizards of the Coast purchases TSR, Inc., gaining control of Gen Con. Gen Con's 30th year|
|1998 Gen Con Game Fair||August 6–9, 1998||MEC (Midwest Express Center), Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>19,000||Moved to MEC|
|1999 Gen Con Game Fair||August 5–8, 1999||MEC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>22,000||Wizards of the Coast is purchased by Hasbro after the convention. Hasbro now owns Gen Con.|
|2000 Gen Con Game Fair||August 10–13, 2000||MEC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||21,000 (projected)|
|2001 Gen Con Game Fair||August 2–5, 2001||MEC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin||>25,000|
|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 Indy 2003||July 24–27, 2003||ICC (Indiana Convention Center), Indianapolis, Indiana||25,000|
|Gen Con Indy 2004||August 19–22, 2004||ICC, Indianapolis, Indiana||21,741|
|Gen Con Indy 2005||August 18–21, 2005||ICC, Indianapolis, Indiana||25,106|
|Gen Con Indy 2006||August 17–20, 2006||ICC, Indianapolis, Indiana||21,250+|
|Gen Con Indy 2007||August 16–19, 2007||ICC, Indianapolis, Indiana||27,000||40th anniversary|
|Gen Con Indy 2008||August 14–17, 2008||Indianapolis, Indiana||28,600+|
|Gen Con Indy 2009||August 13–16, 2009||Indianapolis, Indiana||27,900+|
|Gen Con Indy 2010||August 5–8, 2010||Indianapolis, Indiana||30,046|
|Gen Con Indy 2011||August 4–7, 2011||Indianapolis, Indiana||36,733|
|Gen Con Indy 2012||August 16–19, 2012||Indianapolis, Indiana||41,000+||45th anniversary|
|Gen Con Indy 2013||August 15–18, 2013||Indianapolis, Indiana||49,058|
|Gen Con Indy 2014||August 14–17, 2014||Indianapolis, Indiana||56,614|
|Gen Con Indy 2015||July 29-August 2, 2015||Indianapolis, Indiana||61,423|
|Gen Con Indy 2016||August 4-7, 2016||Indianapolis, Indiana||60,819|
|Gen Con 2017||August 17-20, 2017||Indianapolis, Indiana||60,000+||50th anniversary|
|Gen Con West||September 4–6, 1976||McCabe Hall, San Jose, California|
|Gen Con West 77||September 3–5, 1977||Villa Hotel, San Mateo, California|
|Gen Con West 78||September 2–4, 1978||Villa Hotel, San Mateo, California|
|Gen Con South||February 9–11, 1978||Robert Meyer Hotel, Jacksonville, Florida|
|Gen Con South||February 17–19, 1979||JAX Hilton, Jacksonville FL|
|Gen Con South||February 15–17, 1980||Ramada Inn, Jacksonville Beach, Florida|
|Gen Con South||February 6–9, 1981||Ramada Inn, Jacksonville Beach, Florida|
|Gen Con South||February 5–7, 1982||Jacksonville Beach Convention Center, Jacksonville Beach FL|
|Gen Con South||March 11–13, 1983||Thunderbird Resort, Jacksonville FL|
|Gen Con South||March 16–18, 1984||Thunderbird Resort, Jacksonville FL|
|Gen Con East I||July 23–26, 1981||Cherry Hill Inn, Cherry Hill, New Jersey|
|Gen Con East II||June 17–20, 1982||Widener College, Chester, Pennsylvania|
|European Gen Con||November 30 – December 2, 1990||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|European Gen Con 1991||November 15–17, 1991||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|European Gen Con 1992||November 13–15, 1992||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|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|
|European Gen Con 1995||April 27–30, 1995||Pontin's Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex, England|
|European Gen Con 1996||September 5–8, 1996||Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England|
|European Gen Con 1997||August 28–31, 1997||Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England|
|Gen Con Europe||July 31 – Aug 1 1999||Bouwcentrum, Antwerp, Belgium|
|Gen Con Paris||April 21–23, 2006||Paris Est Montreuil, Paris, France||4,000|
|Gen Con Paris 2007||May 25–27, 2007||Paris Est Montreuil, Paris, France||4,200|
|Gen Con Paris 2008||April 25–27, 2008||Paris, France||9,000|
|Gen Con Barcelona 1994||November 11–13, 1994||Drassanes Reials, Barcelona, Spain|
|Gen Con Barcelona 1995||November 3–5, 1995||Drassanes Reials, Barcelona, Spain|
|Gen Con Barcelona 1996||November 15–17, 1996||Mercat del Born, Barcelona, Spain|
|Gen Con Barcelona 1999||April 9–11, 1999||Cotxeres de Sants, Barcelona, Spain|
|Gen Con Barcelona||July 1–4, 2004||Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, Spain||(licensed event)|
|Gen Con UK 1998||September 3–6, 1998||Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England|
|Gen Con UK 1999||September 2–5, 1999||Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England|
|Gen Con UK 2000||August 31 – September 3, 2000>||Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester University, England|
|Gen Con UK 2001||August 30 – September 2, 2001||Olympia 2, London, England|
|Gen Con UK 2002||August 29 – September 1, 2002||Olympia 2, London, England|
|Gen Con UK 2003||April 18–21, 2003||Olympia 2, London, England|
|Gen Con UK 2004||October 14–17, 2004||Minehead Butlins, Somerset, England||(licensed event)|
|Gen Con UK 2005||November 3–6, 2005||Bognor Regis, West Sussex, England||1,957[e]||(licensed event)|
|Gen Con UK 2007||August 30 – September 2, 2007||Reading, Berkshire, England||1,746||(licensed event)|
|Gen Con UK 2008||August 28–31, 2008||Reading, Berkshire, England||(licensed event)|
|Benelux Gen Con 1998||July 31 – August 2, 1998||Motel Tiel, Tiel, Netherlands|
|Gen Con Benelux 2000||September 23–24, 2000||Den Bosch, The Netherlands ||Last Gen Con in the Benelux.|
|Gen Con SoCal 2003||December 11–14, 2003||ACC (Anaheim Convention Center), Anaheim, California||4,148|
|Gen Con SoCal 2004||December 2–5, 2004||ACC, Anaheim, California||5,559|
|Gen Con SoCal 2005||November 18–20, 2005||ACC, Anaheim, California||6,326|
|Gen Con SoCal 2006||November 16–19, 2006||ACC, Anaheim, California||5,840|
|Gen Con Australia||July 3–6, 2008||BCEC (Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia||>10,000|
|Gen Con Australia||September 18–20, 2009||BCEC, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia|
|Gen Con Indy 2018||August 2–5, 2018||Indianapolis, Indiana||Gen Con LI|
|Gen Con Indy 2019||August 1–4, 2019||Indianapolis, Indiana||Gen Con LII|
|Gen Con Indy 2020||July 30 – August 2, 2020||Indianapolis, Indiana||Gen Con LIII|
|Gen Con Indy 2021||August 5-8, 2021||Indianapolis, Indiana||Gen Con LIV|
|Gen Con Indy 2022||August 4-7, 2021||Indianapolis, Indiana||Gen Con LV|
Gen Con, Indianapolis' largest annual convention in terms of direct visitor spending, reported record attendance for its last trip to town for a while.
Pour infos, cette année entrées payantes + invités, la GenCon a eu un peu plus de 4200 visiteurs. [For your information, this year's paying and invited entries, GenCon had a little over 4200 visitors.]
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