Is GenCon Over-Crowded w/ Massive Long Lines for Everything?
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Posted by lagomorph

I had been planning to go to GenCon for the first time for the past few months, but I am being discouraged from going by three friends who went last year. They are warning me of the following:


  1. Overcrowded
  2. Long lines for anything interesting
  3. Panels/Events 'fill up' unless you line up an hour or more in advance

I am basically being told that most of my time will be spent waiting in line or fighting crowds and that it's not worth traveling 9 hours from Washington, DC to attend.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me if this is accurate and if anything has changed since last year to alleviate the overcrowding of the convention. I really wanted to go, but I'm not sure it's a good choice now. Hoping someone can talk me back into going.

Thanks!

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Posted by ginamarie72

1. It's going to be crowded, that's a guarantee.  However, I am hopeful this year since we'll have more space to roam. The exhibit hall feels like the mall during the holidays...lots of people, but generally you can move through, just not in a big rush.  There are some nice quiet hallways upstairs as well as a quiet room if you need to chill. 

2. As far as long lines for anything interesting, it depends on what you consider interesting.  We don't wait in lines to buy the newest release, I can usually wait until I get home to get it.

3. If you're interested in a panel/event, get an event ticket for it, even if it is free.  Ticketed people get in first,  then they'll let people without tickets in first.   

You just have to have realistic expectations...it's crowded, but that is part of what makes it so fun.  There's a spectacle to GenCon and that's part of why it is so great.  There's almost an infinite amount of things to do.

Granted, this is only my 4th year, so I've only known it to be crowded, but I think it is more than worth it to go! 

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Posted by brotherbock

Depends on what you're interested in. It has doubled in size in the last five years, 30k to 60k people. And for some parts of the Con, you just can't hide that. If you are hoping to get into the really popular events, you may not have good luck.

I spend most of my time playing games, specifically tabletop RPGs and LARPs, and the places I go for those are not terribly crowded. The games sometimes sell out, but there's often room for extra people, or open spots in the end because of no-show players. 

The exhibit hall has expanded, so it's not really much more crowded than it was five years ago (although still more crowded than it was 10 or 20 years ago). But there will be some aisles you will have to take your time moving down due to the people.

Ginamarie is right though, buy tickets for what you want if they are available. Eat meals not at standard times when everyone else is eating. And keep several options open for those times when you show up and find an event packed or sold out.

You can get stuck in packed areas if you're into very popular things. But you can also decide to do things at the Con that mostly avoid all those people. That's my take. I think it's worth it for you to go once if you have lots of interests, but yeah, some parts can get crowded, and it may not be worth it if you're planning on attending for only one or two things.

Keep in mind, I'm on the pessimistic side of the scale about there being too many people at the Con.

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Posted by jhs

With the exception of the lack of downtown hotels, gencon handles the numbers very well.  It has expanded its space dramatically in the past few years which has made the increase in attendance surprisingly manageable.  The addition of food trucks has made a big difference in getting meals even if you never use them as the siphon people from nearby restaurants.  Basically, there are a few very crowded things (the ram, getting into dealers hall at 10am, a few specific vendors) but on the whole not bad.  It is nothing like dragoncon, for example.

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Posted by lagomorph

Thanks for the feedback guys.

Have any of you been to Otakon in Baltimore and can tell me how the level of crowdedness compares?

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Posted by zaphod

The answer to your question is 100% dependent on what you decide to do at the convention.

Check out the events here:

http://gencon.eventdb.us/

If there is room in the events you're interested, there shouldn't be a long wait.  For most board games and RPG's you just show up and play.  If an event is sold out, you will definitely need to wait in line to try and snag spots that open up.  Alternatively, you can get tickets for the game library (under the Isle of Misfits) and other large group game events, and those won't have any lines at all.

If you're interested in the shopping, the dealers hall will be crowded.  However, if you take it slowly and aren't trying to fight for new releases, its not so bad.

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Posted by austicke lagomorph

lagomorph wrote:
I had been planning to go to GenCon for the first time for the past few months, but I am being discouraged from going by three friends who went last year. They are warning me of the following:

  1. Overcrowded
  2. Long lines for anything interesting
  3. Panels/Events 'fill up' unless you line up an hour or more in advance


It sounds like they're describing a large comic con or a geek convention like Star Wars Celebration. Are you sure they're referring to Gen Con?

Gen Con is crowded, but it’s not overcrowded. There’s plenty of people walking the halls and exhibit hall; but, with the exception of a few choke points, it’s easy to make your way through any of it.

Since the vast majority of events are ticketed for relatively small groups, there are mostly no lines at all for events. You get your ticket, show up for the game or event and then start playing at the appointed time. At this point, many of the most popular events are sold out, but there are still thousands of tickets available.

Unlike other cons, I’m bewildered why anyone would associate Gen Con with lines. I sure don’t spend any measurable amount of time standing in them during my four days. But, then again, I’ve only been to 15 Gen Cons and am a boardgamer, so perhaps there’s a whole aspect of the con I’m missing. I doubt it though.
 

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Posted by boc_mage

It really depends on what you define as your con experience. The dealerhall and other issues have been stated above. There are usual sellouts of must get events but even for most of those tickets become available (see True Dungeon, been snagging more tickets post event day myself).

Sadly I avoid dealerhall as anything truly good or real will be available from my FLGS post con. If you're looking for deals gencon really isn't the place anymore unless you get real lucky.

Indy has an awesome bar/brewery/restaurant scene if you're willing to walk a touch away from the crowds.

Look around, decide what games/stuff you want to do and then ask specific questions if you want an then make the decision.  

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Posted by brotherbock austicke

austicke wrote:
lagomorph wrote:
I had been planning to go to GenCon for the first time for the past few months, but I am being discouraged from going by three friends who went last year. They are warning me of the following:

  1. Overcrowded
  2. Long lines for anything interesting
  3. Panels/Events 'fill up' unless you line up an hour or more in advance


It sounds like they're describing a large comic con or a geek convention like Star Wars Celebration. Are you sure they're referring to Gen Con?Gen Con is crowded, but it’s not overcrowded. There’s plenty of people walking the halls and exhibit hall; but, with the exception of a few choke points, it’s easy to make your way through any of it.
Since the vast majority of events are ticketed for relatively small groups, there are mostly no lines at all for events. You get your ticket, show up for the game or event and then start playing at the appointed time. At this point, many of the most popular events are sold out, but there are still thousands of tickets available.
Unlike other cons, I’m bewildered why anyone would associate Gen Con with lines. I sure don’t spend any measurable amount of time standing in them during my four days. But, then again, I’ve only been to 15 Gen Cons and am a boardgamer, so perhaps there’s a whole aspect of the con I’m missing. I doubt it though.
 

Oh, there have been some epic lines in years past. Will call, event ticket, badge reg. They're usually fixed the following year, as something went pear shaped to make the long line happen. But they have happened. 

You'll also find long waits for celeb signings and the like. For me those are a non factor, so I don't spend time in those lines. But they can happen. 

My personal experience as I mentioned above is also not one of long lines. The only line I stand in every year is will call. If that's fast, then I am not in lines much. But I don't go to the very popular things. My nephews had a bit of a line for their boffer weapon build event last year, I remember that. 

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Posted by brotherbock boc_mage

boc_mage wrote:
Sadly I avoid dealerhall as anything truly good or real will be available from my FLGS post con. If you're looking for deals gencon really isn't the place anymore unless you get real lucky.

True with the exception of small games, and occasionally the very new ones will have Con deals--buy the base and get two boosters free, etc. 

I enjoy meeting the creators of small new games at small booths, that's one of the big reasons I hit the dealer hall. I can find the game later, but I can't talk to the people who made it later, get their direct explanation. I try to budget for one small company game at least every year. 

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Posted by austicke

I'm sure you're right, brotherbock, but the below photo is just one of the line rooms at Star Wars Celebration. Gen Con has nothing like that, but it's a major feature of other big geek cons.

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Posted by father bloodlust austicke

austicke wrote:
I'm sure you're right, brotherbock, but the below photo is just one of the line rooms at Star Wars Celebration. Gen Con has nothing like that, but it's a major feature of other big geek cons.

And that's just for a line?! Shit, and I thought the FFG line that snaked all the way around the booth was nuts!

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Posted by firvulag

Will Call has always been a nightmare which is why I always recommend having your stuff sent...but I know there's those of you who will swear by will call.

it seems like the DnD open stuff is always chaotic as is True Dungeon and Hickman's Breakfast.

The Exhibit Hall is typically full all the time.  I think they usually close kind of early (like 6 or 7) so it is usually wall to wall people since it's just open fewer hours than other "events".

Also the costume parade on Saturday can be a bit overwhelming.  The rest of it is just "busy" but definitely "doable".

Again...avoid will call like the plague!!!  Ignore me at your own peril!!!

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Posted by father bloodlust firvulag

firvulag wrote:
Will Call has always been a nightmare which is why I always recommend having your stuff sent...but I know there's those of you who will swear by will call.
it seems like the DnD open stuff is always chaotic as is True Dungeon and Hickman's Breakfast.
The Exhibit Hall is typically full all the time.  I think they usually close kind of early (like 6 or 7) so it is usually wall to wall people since it's just open fewer hours than other "events".
Also the costume parade on Saturday can be a bit overwhelming.  The rest of it is just "busy" but definitely "doable".
Again...avoid will call like the plague!!!  Ignore me at your own peril!!!

For the opposite side of this argument:

I've always done Will Call. Always will - I'm paranoid about accidentally leaving my crucial stuff behind. I've done it since my first GenCon in 2011. And I have to say, it's really not so bad. Just plan on spending maybe a half hour or so there (at most, in my experience) and either talk to the people in line or bring a book/music/your distraction of choice.

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Posted by austicke firvulag

firvulag wrote:Will Call has always been a nightmare which is why I always recommend having your stuff sent...but I know there's those of you who will swear by will call.

I'm one of the people who swear by it. We pick up our badges on Wednesday every year, and it hasn't been more than a half hour wait for the past several years.
 

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Posted by armadilloal austicke

austicke wrote:
I'm sure you're right, brotherbock, but the below photo is just one of the line rooms at Star Wars Celebration.

"One of the line rooms"?  You mean there's more than one?  As in, that's the line to just get into the line?

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Posted by brotherbock austicke

austicke wrote:
firvulag wrote:Will Call has always been a nightmare which is why I always recommend having your stuff sent...but I know there's those of you who will swear by will call.

I'm one of the people who swear by it. We pick up our badges on Wednesday every year, and it hasn't been more than a half hour wait for the past several years.
 

Will call was a nightmare some years ago, but has been better recently, I agree. Various other lines have been bad on and off as well. Depends on the year. I have clear memories of badge lines stretching outside the con center and down the sidewalk. 

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Posted by a dark rider on a pale ... unicorn?

I'm honestly having trouble identifying the Con your friends are describing as Gen Con 2015.

It sounds like they had a relentlessly shitty time when they were there last year, and they've taken the worst bits & expanded them out to be the whole convention.

Yes, there are crowds, and very occasionally they're too packed to move through. Such as when the Exhibit/Dealer Hall of wallet-emptying opens.
The rest of the time? Not that bad.

Yes, there are lines for things. A few specific things, not everything.

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Posted by kevinj4

GenCon does its best to accommodate the crowds.  Some days/areas, it is impossible to get around.  It took my friend and I over 45 minutes to get across the convention hall at one point on the Saturday due to the halls being so crowded.

The real challenge with the crowding is finding places to eat if your schedule doesn't allow flexibility to avoid peak times and, of course, the challenges with the hotels.

I've been going for years to GenCon but my friends and I are considering opting for conventions like Origins and Adepticon instead.  We can do these conventions at about the same price as it costs us to do GenCon simply because I wouldn't have to pay my VIG premium to secure proper hotel space.

GenCon is still a great thing to experience, we are just not sure if it will be a yearly event moving forward.
 

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Posted by raidkillsbugsded

For me it's like going to anything similar to this kind of experience like a major concert/sporting event or a theme park like at Disney World or the mall at Christmastime...you're going to have crowds to deal with.  You can either let it be a drag for you, or you can go in with a more positive attitude with the understanding that every so often in the dealer hall, you'll get checked into the boards by some guy's giant backpack.  The whole Gen-Con atmosphere/experience more than makes up for any of the sardine can moments or the gross bathrooms in the convention center.  Nothing else feels like Gen Con when it comes to gaming culture.  

One thing I find that helps is going in with a plan.  Know what you want to do/go/get beforehand.  Don't go in expecting to do/see everything, or you might get overwhelmed and frustrated.  Again, it's like going to some other such major event/attraction.  

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