It was a good year for geeks, 1977. Dungeons and Dragons was just hitting the mainstream (and starting to be attacked as evil…which, of course, only fueled its popularity). The Atari 2600 was released, which was pretty much the end of going outside to play for the next decade. A little kids’ movie called Star Wars was just about to change the world. And in the middle of it all, GenghisCon was born here in Denver.
Forty years later, GenghisCon still celebrates all things joyfully nerd-tastic, especially anything that has to do with games and gaming and the desire to never stop playing. In return, we’d like to celebrate GenghisCon itself on its fortieth. Remember, you don’t stop playing because you grow old — you grow old because you stop playing. So here are ten of the best ways to stay young, as seen at the fortieth GenghisCon, February 16-19, 2017, in Aurora.
Where would the hobby be without all those weirdly-shaped dice? Polyhedrons are where it’s at, man, in every color of the rainbow. Metallic? Got it. Made from meteor rock? It’ll cost you, but sure. Twenty-siders the size of your head, as well as ones too tiny to actually read (especially if you were around for GenghisCon 1)? It’s all here. Name them, protect them, store them in your Crown Royal bag…gamers love them some dice.
2. Amazing Virtual Reality
Hadley’s Hope Nerdporium (based in Craig) was one of a few VR providers at the show this year, but Shaun Hadley and his team were wise enough to let con-goers experience seeing the Millennium Falcon land, wield a lightsaber to guard R2-D2, and generally participate virtually in the communal love of Star Wars. Watching the smiles on con-goers’ faces as they’re literally awestruck? Almost as much fun as the VR experience itself.
3. Geek Crafts
Only at a convention like GenghisCon are you going to find such a wide array of crafters putting their skills to use creating nerd-tastic things from yarn and felt and love. Cthulu kittens? Check. Glittering fairy-wings? We have a selection. Cuddly and colorful stuffed beholders? Absolutely. The only thing missing was macramé owlbears.
4. Gamer Music
Harking back to the days when GenghisCon was itself young, members of the band Bards of Greyhawk belt out their first-edition love with a module-design CD cover (featuring art by no less than TSR classic Jeff Dee). The songs are all odes to the original weird and Gygaxian adventures from the ’80s, with tracks like “Keraptis,” “Roghan and Zelligar,” and a three-part tribute to the Slavelords. If you understood any of the references in this entry, you’ll love this album.
There were, as you might expect, more than a few dealers hawking miniatures for both war-gaming and role-playing purposes (as well as just for display: If you haven’t seen the advances in these little figures since the early mud-sculpts of the ’80s, you’re in for a surprise). But Figurephenatix Collectibles had one of the most impressive displays, featuring everything from giants and dragons down to the tiniest kobold and goblin laid out, ready to attack and lend a visual aspect to the theater of the mind. Or, you know, you could just play with them.
Keep reading for more reasons to celebrate GhengisCon.
6. Video Games
Playing video games is an inherently solitary act. Sure, you can play against other pseudo shut-ins online, or even get a friend to sit on the couch with you and either kill each other or team up against a bunch of digital enemies — but in the end, it’s you holding a controller and ignoring the real world. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. At least at a convention like GenghisCon, you can do it in a row of other people, which to paraphrase John Bender from The Breakfast Club, is still a little sad and demented, but social.
7. Nerd Shirts
All things geek are in, as the continued super-success of giant nerd-fantasy The Big Bang Theory attests. GenghisCon not only provides a perfect venue for the wearing of these tees (and community appreciation thereof); it’s also a great place to find and buy some Sheldon-worthy apparel.
As at most of these types of conventions, cosplayers turned out en masse to celebrate both the day and their own personal obsessions. Some cosplayers tend toward the more casual, dressing like whatever character strikes their fancy that season, much in the same way that most people choose a Halloween costume. But some devote an impressive amount of time and energy and working capital to a more long-term cosplay commitment, like the now-legendary 501st Stormtrooper Legion, or Colorado’s own Colorado Ghostbusters, keeping the spirit alive (no pun intended) from the 1984 original, and all the comedic haunting thereafter.
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Arguably the heart of the gaming convention is role-playing, which — along with the war-gaming hobby from which it came — served as the reason for the con's initial creation. RPGs have changed a lot since the early days, and in some ways have come full circle: With 3-D printing more widely available, the physical dungeon walls, sailing ships, even whole towns are able to lay out and bring the game to life. Many of these gamebsettings are works of art unto themselves: medieval cities, dusty Old West streets, the open seas and torch-lit pirate docks. Today it’s a far cry from notebook paper, a pencil, and a small bag of dice.
10. Games, Games, Games
In the end, it’s a gaming convention, and that means all games — not just RPGs, not just video games, but board games and card games and any game you can think of. Everyone remembers Monopoly, Life, Sorry, Risk, Clue, Connect Four, what have you. All great games, sure. But there are so many more. It’s the Rule 43 for gaming: If there is a niche interest, there is a game for that. Something to celebrate? Absolutely. Roll on.