Our Gen Con Online 2020 Experience

With the recent quarantine that happened all over the globe a lot of plans seemed to have gone out the window especially the conventions. We never cared much for attending GenCon before, only because it was held in the USA, and we couldn’t feasibly fly there and back just for the conventions. This situation soon became everyone’s dilemma so a plan was hatched to host it online, and in came Gen Con Online. Anyone around the world was suddenly now able to enjoy the acclaimed Tabletop Gaming convention. What they did was made it free and people paid for the respective seminars, panel discussions, and workshops they wanted to attend. Some were free and some were priced at $10. The only problem being scheduling since most of the exhibitors were from the western side of the map.

Here I will be sharing my own experience with the Gen Con Online as well as some of our friends’ experiences as well. unfortunately for me, I was only able to attend one event, the Game Designer Panel discussion of White Wizard Games. a lot of questions about their upcoming games like Epic, or Star Realms lore, but they did answer a few questions about beginners designing their own games, which I did enjoy since some friends and I have been trying to do for a while now.

The following answers come from our friends;

  • Ninay, a chef, gamer and has recently been dabbling in resin art,
  • Lanz, a friend of ours from the Greasy Snitches, they are known for D&D but she has been dabbling in other TRPG systems as well,
  • Shyla, a freelance artist who has done some anime/cartoon-inspired pieces like Shampoo from Ranma 1/2, and some that use the Star vs the forces of evil art style,
  • John, one of our writers here at DAGeeks, and our resident game master for TRPGs.

What did you attend/go to during Gen Con Online 2020?

Ninay: Streamers for Beginners, How to Manage an Art Business with a Day job, Christian Service

Lanz: (to briefly summarize what she attended, a lot of seminars from the National Security Decision Making Inc., Horror Roleplaying Masterclass, Poisons in Gaming, The science of Science Fiction, and more)

Shyla: Gen Con Online was an artist’s paradise. There were many offerings such as artist interviews, talks about art for games, comics, and sourcebooks, live art streams, and teaching workshops for sculpting, miniature painting, and crafts. I chose which events to attend based on:

  1. If I can stay up for it and
  2. If it aligns with my artist goals for the year.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and quarantines, I have been pondering a lot about switching my career path into games as it is one of the industries that is thriving and Gen Con came at a great time. I am very thankful for the chance to attend it online. The workshops I attended are: Chuck Walton, Artist Freelancing 101: Writing and Illustrating for TTRPGs, The Art of the Witcher How to Manage an Art Business with a Family, and a Day Job Interview with Artist Steve Cummings The Art of Cyberpunk Red

John: During Gen Con 2020, I mostly focused on the various talks given by the Gen Con Writer’s Symposium. Aside from this, I attended a few other events such as Before; After a Kickstarter, which was hosted by a couple of Kickstarter staff, as well as a talk on “Music as a Worldbuilding” tool, and a talk tackling “Designing Layouts” for games.

What was your favorite event & why?

Ninay: Streamers for Beginners

LanzOh, I just can’t choose. I learned so much from NSDMG – National Security Decision Making Inc. They’re a war gaming group and they invited so many interesting speakers. I ended up joining most of their talks after hearing the first one. I also enjoyed Indiana Science’s speakers, they were scientists who gave their perspective about different topics in gaming.

Shyla: I liked The Art of the Witcher best as it was presented from the point of view of an art director. Jaye Kovach talked about their work for A Witcher’s Journal and she visually showed step-by-step how her team worked with and guided the illustrators in developing pieces. I learned what an art director does, what’s expected of illustrators, and how each piece is developed from art script, blocking, rough sketches, color drafts, to the final illustration. There was a lot of trivia from the Witcher lore as well, such as scar placements and how it can be telling of the time period the character is in (as a Witcher’s scars add up over time).

John:It is a little difficult to pin down which session I liked the most, as overall they had a wide variety of topics and themes. But the one I felt I learned the most from was the Kickstarter session,
which answered some questions of mine on how to create a Kickstarter and gave a lot of good reminders and best practices on how to run one.

What is your overall impression of the experience of Gen Con Online 2020?

Ninay: It was a good way to attend the convention despite the pandemic, also a good way for us who doesn’t usually get to attend Gen Con to see what it’s about.

Lanz: Pretty well done despite this being its first time to go online.

Shyla: I really learned a lot! I liked how they talked about the technical and practical applications such as what dpi submitted artworks should be and how to approach committing to your work schedule as a freelancer. Chuck Walton talked about how producing good artwork is not enough, you have to be visceral and have impact in what you create, i.e. don’t just throw monsters at [players], create a parasite that gets in their suits. It was inspiring how people were discouraging him from doing too much details but it became the style that made him recognizable in the industry. Jaye Kovach, in The Art of Cyberpunk Red, gave practical advice on what they are looking for in artist submissions: consider the worldview and what the character would be doing in his/her daily life.

John: Despite being virtual, Gen Con 2020 was probably the first digital convention where I felt a bit of the “convention” atmosphere. There were a ton of activities to sign up for and virtually dash around to, as well as many which were simple hangout types and community interaction types. The vague sense of hectic activity, as well as the odd feeling of “I, need to choose which one”
among the many activities is certainly reminiscent of convention experience.

Do you think this would work for other cons? What would you like to see more of?

Ninay: Definitely! I would like to see more of the same ones I attended with more varied speakers

Lanz: I think it could work for other cons. I’d like to see more experts share their fields and relate them to gaming.

Shyla: I’m looking at the cons I have attended in the past. Gen Con worked because attending panels and playing TTRPG games with each other can be done online. I can’t imagine attending a cosplay con online, although I heard it has been done. I just feel it can’t compare to seeing the cosplay in totality in real life, seeing the work done to put it together, e.g. the textiles used, how pieces are constructed, the functionality of seeing cosplayers walk around in them. Toy conventions would work, because toys look the same as it does seeing pictures of them online. Personally, I would still like to attend comic conventions in person as I like flipping through pages, touching covers, and talking with the artists who created them. In a way, GenCon Online has made accessible what otherwise we would have to be in the US to attend and I’m grateful for that.

John: While Gen Con 2020 has managed to do quite well for a digital convention, there feels like much more room for improvement. The use of certain apps and tools, I feel, can help contribute to a more visual and intuitive way of navigating the place outside of hopping through different digital environments (twitch, youtube, zoom, etc.) Nonetheless, given the huge logistical and technical challenges, I did appreciate how adapting streamer culture and video conferencing to this digital convention seems to have translated quite well versus other conventions. I ascribe this to the built-in geek culture familiarity with those platforms and mediums. These are avenues I’d like to see applied in other conventions. Lastly, I’d love to see more in the way of talks for gamers and game masters – there was a lot and I wish I could’ve seen all of it! But for now, this experience will do.

Now, what did I think of Gen Con Online? It’s definitely a great idea, I would have liked it more if they had more events for the people who live across the world, because honestly, that’s the only reason I didn’t attend many events. I do understand this wasn’t ever the plan for 2020, but I’m hoping should they ever hold another one of these, that publishers and designers from across the globe take advantage of this opportunity to get their games out there, or even local professionals as well.

With regards to online conventions for other hobbies? I’m not sure it could work. There have been talks of an online Cosplay Convention, though I personally think they’re better experienced in person, where other cosplayers can do poses and some collaboration photos with each other.