GenCon 2008: Wrap-Up and Notes from the Booth

The past week has been a blur of faces, pitches and products flying past me so fast and furious that I’ve been trying to answer that mundane question: How was the show?

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the answer to that, because there was a lot going on. As a contributing author for four of the products at the Abstract Nova booth we were running, I was focused on the business side of things to make it a success. Was it? For a first year at GenCon, absolutely!

Selling books or RPGs is not like selling a Hello Kitty doll or a cute, stuffed Ninja. It’s a longer sales cycle that has to really reach out and grab people–they either will like the concept and the setting (and invite you to tell them more) or they won’t. If they’re on the fence, then the customers will read reviews and other online tidbits to see if other people like the game. Often, this market has a lot of careful shoppers, dedicated fans and collectors so the sales focus is different. Since I wrote for a lot of the things on the table, I could really talk about the design aspects if needed. ‘Course, it helped that we had good products to sell and that other people were excited about what we had to offer. Other Abstract Nova freelancers like Werner Hager, Anita Hager and Todd Cash stopped by to pitch in and help out, too.

Thankfully, we also had an awesome booth mate whose credits include a “little” game called Legend of the Five Rings. Fresh off the presses, John Wick brought Houses of the Blooded an anti-D&D game he dubbed “Atlantean Blood Opera” (you plan your own demise). Working with John was a lot of fun; he had a lot of stories to share and he knows pretty much everybody. After reading our new horror game Exquisite Replicas, he came up with the pitch, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Fight Club” which grabbed a lot of people’s attention. If you’re going to share a booth with someone–this is a great guy to do it with.

We were exceptionally busy this year and didn’t get much gaming in. On my break working the booth, I was circulating the hall, touching base with some of my friends and/or causing trouble. (Joe Carriker, you ROCK!) Long nights, helping out as much as I could and knee-deep in animated discussions, this year’s show was a lot of things for me. Frankly, the kind words and the support for my work (and Flames Rising) has bolstered my enthusiasm for moving forward not only for my writing–but also in the spirit of community to continue promoting other people’s work and passion about what they do.

The highlight for me this year wasn’t running the booth, the awards ceremonies, the games (although there were a “few” new ones out) or the costumes—it was the people. Irreplaceable, fun-loving, talented people from all over the world who share a passion for writing, art, game design and having fun. One of the most memorable moments was when Dave Arneson (one of the founding fathers of gamers) accepted the lifetime achievement award at the ENnies. Truly, his speech was in the spirit of community because he explained how so many other people were involved to make the hobby happen–to have fun.

Already planning for next year, I’m taking things easy today to unpack, unwind and look for work. Hope everyone who went made it home safe; if you’ve never been to the show and you even remotely like to play games–GenCon is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll definitely never forget.



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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