As gigantic as Gen Con Indy has become, it's not hard to say that the show has something for everyone. If it's a game or style of gaming you're looking for, you're more likely than not to find it there. The convention's courting of younger fans, families, and even non-gamers has gone a long way in making the show feel like an event for everyone. In the past several years, Gen Con has grown into a fantastic meeting place for gamers of all shapes, genders, sexual preferences, ethnicities, and ages. If you love gaming, there's sure to be a community at Gen Con for you.
This year, though, Gen Con's vociferous welcome to gamers of all stripes proved to be about more than just marketing.
In March, when Indiana passed its controversial SB 101 bill—which, in part, protects businesses that wish to discriminate against same-sex couples—Gen Con wasn't quiet about it. The company issued a letter to Indiana's Governor Mike Pence, asking that he reconsider his support of the bill. They went on to explain that "Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state's economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years." As the largest annual convention held at the Indianapolis Convention Center—one that draws an estimated 50 million dollars to the city—Gen Con has some weight to put behind its words. That said, the convention also has a contract with the city of Indianapolis that lasts until 2020, so whatever action Gen Con chooses to take in response to SB 101—which remains Indiana state law—will take some time. Acknowledging such, Gen Con CEO and Owner Adrian Swartout issued a letter to Gen Con attendees, restating the convention's commitment to inclusivity and asking con-goers to contact Gen Con regarding both positive and negative experiences they have with local hospitality (you can see the complete letter here).
As a young gamer, Gen Con always felt like a place where I was accepted for who I was. Today, as a married gay man, it still does. I've always had an especially warm welcome in Indianapolis, and I don't see the passage of March's law changing that. At the same time, though, I also can't overstate how much I appreciate Gen Con standing up for all its attendees.
For the past several years it's been my honor to be a panelist on the popular Queer as a Three-Sided Die seminar, as well as on Paizo's own Diversity in Gaming panel. These discussions and events like them have been forums for enthusiastic feedback and invaluable criticism. They've been eye-opening and, at times, emotional experiences attended by folks who haven't always felt welcomed by their own fandoms. They've helped calibrate my perspective as a writer, game maker, and editor, and have had a direct, positive impact on the content of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. And they've all happened with the help of the supportive, earnest allies at Gen Con—both those who make the show happen and those who come to the show year after year. These events have become highlights of the show for me, not just because they're tremendously energetic, but because they've been a way to prove that, no matter who you are, you're absolutely welcome at the game table.
This year, I expect Gen Con to be the same as it always is—filled with amazing people, awesome events, and a community that knows what's really important: having great times with the people you care about. But even though this year has been filled with fantastic changes for many, that doesn't mean that your support or that of events like Gen Con is any less important. So be sure to swing by any of the great diversity or LGBTQ events going on at the show (a few can be found at TabletopGaymers.org, but be sure to post others you know of in the comments below). You can also nab your very own rainbow Gaymer ribbon at the Rogue Judges HQ table in Hall C—I know I'll have mine.
That Gen Con is so dedicated to fostering one big welcoming gamer community—well, for me, that's part of what really makes it the Best Four Days in Gaming.
Hope to see you all in Indy!
F. Wesley Schneider