Chris Pramas of Green Ronin shares his Gen Con memories with us in the second in our “My First Gen Con” series of guest posts. Tell us the story of your own first Gen Con (even if this upcoming one is your first) in our My First Gen Con contest!
It was 1989, and I was looking for distractions. I had just finished my second year at NYU, and I was in a bit of a haze. The first great love affair of my life had ended badly, and I was messed up about it. My roommate in Hayden Hall was from Milwaukee, and earlier in the year, a couple of his friends stayed in our tiny dorm room for a week. Before they left, they told me I could crash with them if I ever came to Milwaukee. I thought to myself, “Milwaukee… isn’t that where Gen Con is?”
To me, Gen Con was a mythical event in a far off land… Dragon magazine used to do inserts that listed all the events, and all through my teenage years, I’d read them and marvel at all the cool stuff that seemed to go on there. So I called the guys in Milwaukee, confirmed that I could indeed stay with them, and booked a flight. The convention was held at the Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena. That’s right; I was making a pilgrimage to MECCA.
For a week, I crashed on a couch, took the bus each day, and ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. I didn’t know anyone at the convention so I just explored on my own. I played a ton of RPGs and minis games. I experienced the awesome auction. I went to seminars. I drooled over things I couldn’t afford in the dealers’ hall. This was before you could order whatever game you wanted online, so just being able to find some of these games was a treat—never mind meeting folks from the companies that produced them. The whole experience was awesome.
After hearing my tales of Gen Con, my NYC gaming friends wanted to go, too. It soon became a tradition with us. We eventually started renting a van and turning it into a massively fun road trip. After awhile, going to Gen Con each year was just something I assumed I’d be doing one way or another.
My impulsive decision to go in 1989 had a major effect on my life. I had wanted to try my hand at game design for years, but it was my trips to Gen Con that made it happen. It was there I met people from various companies and hustled for freelance work. There, I started my career as a publisher. There, I met my future wife face to face for the first time. There, Green Ronin won the Best Publisher ENnie Award 3 years in a row.
This year will be my 21st Gen Con and I still look forward to it every year. See you there!
Chris Pramas is a game designer and publisher by day, punk and malcontent by night. His company Green Ronin has been publishing award-winning roleplaying games, card games, and more since 2000.