Gaming at Gen Con

This past weekend, I attended Gen Con for the first time. Gen Con is a four day gaming convention located in downtown Indianapolis. This convention encompasses several facets of gaming including: board games, PC gaming, trading card games, RPG’s, LARP (Live Action Role Play) and more. Detailing my experience attending Gen Con is more difficult than I imagined. It’s challenging to put into words how much this convention meant to me as a gaming geek. I’m starting to get teary eyed as I type this post because I had such a fantastic time gaming for four days straight. For those who are looking to attend Gen Con, I would highly recommend it. 

My journey to Gen Con started in February of this year. I applied for a press badge on a whim because why not? I was approved for a press badge for C2E2 in Chicago, so why not try it for Gen Con. My press badge was approved within a couple of weeks after I submitted my first application. Within a month before the convention, my email was flooded with board game developers wanting to set up a time for demos and interviews. I settled on two demo’s with Goliath Games and Games by Bicycle. To prevent this post from being incredibly long, I’m going to write a separate post on the games I did “demo” from both of these developers.

After realizing I was actually going to Gen Con, I recruited my brother to come with me. I was already planning on driving down to Indianapolis, but I didn’t want to go by myself. Having my brother with me throughout the drive made it more bearable. We listened to Not Another DnD Podcast as we drove to get us hyped up for the convention.

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My friend, Me and My Brother waiting to go into the Vendor Hall at Gen Con 2019. 

Me and my brother chose to stay in an Air BnB versus a hotel downtown. Part of this decision resulted because I couldn’t find any hotel on Gen Con’s website with a room available. As soon as passes go on sale in January, hotel rooms are reserved as well. This meant by the time I was looking for a room, I was coming up with nothing. Our Air BnB was about 25-30 minutes away from Downtown Indianapolis. One of my regrets was not staying right in the heart of downtown. I wanted the full Gen Con experience, but I felt that was stunted because of knowing we needed to take a Lyft every single day. We also had to bring almost everything we needed for the full day because we didn’t have anywhere to store our stuff. This didn’t take away from the convention, but it made me realize what I want to do for next year’s convention.

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LOOK AT THIS CROWD! Waiting to enter the vendor hall. 

When I first approached the Indianapolis Convention Center on Thursday, I was in awe of how big the vendor hall is. There are 30 ROWS OF GAMES. 30 ROWS!? I was overwhelmed. How could I look at all the games where there are that many developers who appear at Gen Con? It wasn’t until after the third day of attending that I felt I had seen every vendor. I brought $300 of spending cash with me and even though it was enough cash for me, I could have easily saved more.

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I lost the game.. playing Lander at Gen Con 2019. 

As far as the gaming, it’s extremely organized. On the Gen Con website, I signed up for a couple gaming demo’s before the convention began. However, I discovered I could also buy generic gaming tickets if I found a game I wanted to demo, but didn’t have it in my schedule. I demoed an intergalactic strategy game titled Lander which doesn’t launch on Kickstarter until March of 2020. Again, to prevent this post from being gigantic, I will write a separate post of my game testing of Lander. I do plan on “kicking” the game once it launches because I enjoyed the strategy of what the game had to offer.

Another reason I loved being at Gen Con was I felt I was at the center of board game news. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I played Lander which hasn’t even been released yet. It felt like I was getting a “sneak peak” of a game that hasn’t launched.

To end my post, I wanted to sum up the turn out of Gen Con 2019. Gen Con had a record breaking year with 70,000 attendees. There were 19,600 ticketed gaming events, over 2,000 of these tickets were electronic tickets found on the Gen Con app. Finally, Gen Con took measures to cut down on waste that the convention produces. For their efforts, they prevented 24,000 cups from ending up in Indiana’s landfills.

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Gen Con was super cool. 

Gen Con was a life changing experience for me. I never felt more proud to be a gamer and to be in a place where I fit in. This convention is one I hope to attend again in 2020. Hopefully I will see some of you there 😉

 

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Convergence & New Beginnings

I will be honest, this week kicked my ass. I was working extremely long days which led to me coming home and passing out on my couch. The break from writing was much needed as I feel rejuvenated to bring content to BizarreBrunette. I wanted to recap my sixth Convergence convention which happened during the Fourth of July weekend. This year was different because Convergence moved hotels from the Doubletree in Bloomington to the Downtown Minneapolis Hyatt. This Convergence was one of my favorite years I attended due to the change in hotel.

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Daddy’s Little Monster, Convergence 2019 

The Downtown Minneapolis Hyatt Hotel was a perfect location for Convergence. Since the hotel is located in the heart of Minneapolis, it’s easier to drive to. I ended up staying with a friend who lives slightly south of the cities, but we ended up taking an Uber each way which was convenient. It’s freeing to not have to worry about the status of my vehicle and whether or not I’m parked in an illegal space. This was the first Convergence where I didn’t have my car on site and it was worth it.

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Convergence 2019 

One of the highlights of Convergence besides the hotel was the accessibility to the gaming floor. In Doubletree hotel, the gaming floor was on the 22nd floor. In order to play a game, you had to leave the festivities on the main level, wait for an elevator only to get to the 22nd floor with all gaming slots being filled. Instead, this year, there was more empty tables to play games with friends. Additionally, since the gaming room was on the fifth floor, it was easier to play a game here and then there while being able to return to the con at any given moment.

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Wonder Woman cosplay! 

Finally, being in Downtown Minneapolis meant there was access to great food. There were many restaurants, breweries and taverns located within walking distance. We visited the local brewery, Lakes and Legends, quite a few times. I may have been the only one in cosplay at the brewery, but I had no shame. I was able to limit my food intake to one meal out to eat which allowed me to save money while exploring the Downtown area.

This Convergence was one to remember. Severe con depression sank in the Monday I returned to work because of how great my weekend was. Convergence is always a highlight of my summer and I always count down the days till next year.

Why Diversity is Needed Among Panelists: Convergence 2019

This past weekend, I was attending Convergence at the Minneapolis Downtown Hyatt Regency hotel. This will have been my sixth year attending the con as I always have a fun time hanging out with friends, wandering around in cosplay and taking lots of pictures. Whenever I attend Convergence, I try to choose a couple panels to see that peak my interest. This is what inspired me to write this post because it’s crucial to have diversity among the panelists.

Me and my friend’s husband sat down for a panel regarding antagonists we sympathize with in pop culture. The white panelists immediately dived into discussing Killmonger from Black Panther which led to a discussion about race. It’s not that white people can’t talk about race, but it looks really bad especially when there’s no person of color on the panel. There were a couple audience members who chimed in regarding race who were part of a minority group and their points were thought provoking and educated. The fact is being white eliminates us from understanding racial bias since it’s something we don’t experience. This racial bias is what contributes to Killmonger’s story and why he wants Wakanda’s resources. Diversity among panelists would have avoided this issue entirely along with providing the audience a well rounded discussion.

Besides the problematic discussion of race, there was another instance in the panel that left me feeling irritated. A female panelist was discussing a book series she liked, but had given a content warning for the sexual assault in the book. The discussion went as follows:

Female Panelist: This is a book series I really enjoy and the female villain is put through tremendous trauma, so I’d like to give a content warning regarding sexual assault for any female audience members.

Male Moderator: I didn’t think the book was that bad.

EXCUSE ME?! Of course you wouldn’t think the book was bad. As a white male in our society, you may never understand the concept of using rape as a means to hold power over women. Reading the passage in the book may not be harmful to you, but as a woman whenever I read a rape sequence in a book, a content warning is rather useful to me. I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to this male panelist because he did seem to backtrack after she made a response back to him. However, it goes to show how some men don’t necessarily understand our struggle with sexual violence especially when it’s specifically isolated to our sex.

Overall I had a great experience at Convergence, but I will say this panel left a bad taste in my mouth. This could have been avoided if more persons of color and women were added to this panel. If you happen to be on a panel where the panelists are one dimensional, I would involve more audience participation to retain an adequate discussion among certain topics in society. Let me know in the comments section if you have ever had an experience like this with attending a panel at a convention, I’d like to hear about it.

 

On the Road to Gen Con 2019

This August I will be attending Gen Con for the first time with a press badge! Instead of attending under Bizarre Brunette, I will be attending on behalf of Twin Cities Geek. As a board game and DnD player, I cannot wait to see what Gen Con has to offer. I have already started putting money aside to spend at the con because I want to purchase all the board games. This will be the first road trip me and my brother take together because I invited him to attend Gen Con this year. I’m already counting down the days until Gen Con begins.

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My Gen Con Profile! Screenshot taken by me. 

The road to attending Gen Con began in January 2019. I have a friend from college who used to own a game store. He has been attending every Gen Con for years. I had always wanted to go, but being in college made that extremely difficult to afford. He reached out to me inquiring about whether I would want to go this year. For shits and giggles, I decided to fill out a press badge with full intention of paying full price for a badge in case it didn’t work. In February, I received confirmation from Gen Con that I would be receiving a press badge. I was elated and immediately began to research where me and my brother would lodge for the convention.

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It’s the final countdown. Image screenshot taken by me. 

Speaking of hotels, I started looking way too late for a hotel room. Hotel rooms usually sell out when Gen Con badges go on sale in January. Virtually every hotel I had checked was full. This is where I decided to look for air BnB’s. I found an affordable air BnB northeast of downtown Indianapolis. I’m slightly worried that it’s a little too far from the convention center, but that’s what uber is for. My lesson was learned if I want to attend Gen Con and have a hotel downtown, I need to book it in January.

Last month, the event lists were released. These include various DnD campaigns, MTG 2020 Core Drafts and even a group fitness class titled Buff Barbarian. You better believe I signed up for the Buff Barbarian because that’s the best name for a group fitness class I have ever seen. Besides the Buff Barbarian, I also put down a couple DnD campaigns I wanted to be apart of. However, when I clicked register for events, I was in 6,119 in the queue line. 6119!!!!! It was safe to say I didn’t get many of the events I pre-registered for, however, I am playing in a Harry Potter themed board game, so that’s a win for me. I also didn’t realize events were paid. Each event costs anywhere between $2-$12 dollars. I wonder if that’s to pay for the DM hosting the event? I’m not quite sure. This certainly limited the events I wanted to do because of a cost per each event.

As far as cosplays, I haven’t quite established which cosplays I will bring. I’m thinking for sure my viking Wonder Woman inspired cosplay along with a Harry Potter Gryffindor student cosplay. I’m not sure how many people cosplay at Gen Con or if it’s more of a gaming convention meaning less people cosplay. No matter what I will wear a cosplay because cosplaying is fun.

I cannot believe I’m attending Gen Con as press this year. This is an amazing achievement for me and I hope to spread word about Bizarre Brunette while I’m there as well. If you’re going to Gen Con as well, I’d love to meet up! Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Pre-Engagement Photos

It’s been more than a month since my fiance popped the question on May the 4th 2019. We really haven’t been doing any wedding planning, but instead basking in the fact that we are engaged. Our intended goal is to have our wedding sometime in Fall of 2020 and to hopefully budget our wedding, so we aren’t spending thousands of dollars. I have already been thinking a maroon, burgundy and orange color scheme though that’s subject to change. When me and my fiance visited his parents over Memorial Day, his aunt brought her camera and took some amazing pictures of us. I’m going to share a couple of them because it’s rare that we are both this photogenic all the time.

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I was never the girl who had her dream wedding planned with a Pinterest board. Now that I’m actively planning this wedding, I’m discovering I’m more opinionated than I realize. I’m really excited to get married, so that me and my fiance will truly be united together.

Why I’m Getting My Harry Potter Tattoo

I’m excited to share with you all that I will be getting my first tattoo in September of this year. My artist is still finishing the sketch, but it will be a Jame’s Potter’s stag patronus in that ethereal blue and white fading down into a Deathly Hallows symbol. Since high school, I had been talking about how if I were to get a tattoo, it would be a Harry Potter themed one. After going to Universal Studios in February, I realized why shouldn’t I get a tattoo now instead of holding off and waiting years to get something I have always wanted. This will be my first tattoo and I wanted to share the process of finding the artist along with the reasons why I want this tattoo.

Once I decided I was going forward with my Harry Potter tattoo, I started researching different shops. My first requirement was to find a shop that supports women, but also the LGBTQIA+ community. As a consumer, it’s my due diligence to ensure my money wasn’t going to someone who was actively trying to degrade the rights of an entire group of people. I settled on Jackalope Tattoo which is one of the few shops in the Twin Cities owned by women or non-binary individuals. The shop itself was beautiful with a variety of different plants everywhere and privacy between the different booths. The artist I picked specializes in water color work. My tattoo will have this blue / white look to it and I had a specific image in my mind of how I wanted this tattoo to look.

Now I will go into my reasons why I have always wanted a tattoo:

Harry Potter Made Me Love To Read

Reading has been a huge hobby of mine which started from reading the Harry Potter books as a family. My dad’s side of the family has a cottage in Minnesota that we would travel to in summer. As we read the Harry Potter books late in the evening, we would hear the lapping sounds of the waves hitting the shore. My dad used to work in radio, so he would have this soothing, calming voice whenever he read the books. He also used to do sound effects like if he was reading Hagrid’s lines versus Harry’s. My love of reading grew from Harry Potter. 

To Remember My Father

Part of this, is to remember my dad. This is however, not the sole reason I want a tattoo. The permanence of a tattoo is a great way to remember my father forever. I think it’s incredibly meaningful to have an artist draw up a memory based on a person and blend it with a childhood story.

To Remind Me To Love Everyone & Judge Less

The Harry Potter book series has many adult themes as I’m seeing when I’m doing my re-read this year. One theme is how bigotry can ruin a society. The bigotry is seen with “mud-bloods” and “pure-blood” wizards. In the height of the Second Wizarding War, “mud-bloods.” were being put on trial or executed based on their magical family history. The Harry Potter series teaches how if we are more accepting and open to everyone, it leads to a more peaceful way of life.

September cannot come fast enough. I’m proud of myself for going through this instead of backing out or putting it off. If you have any first time tattoo tips, please them in the comments!

 

The Insecurity of Not Doing Enough

One bucket list item I haven’t achieved yet is leaving the United States. I have always wanted to travel to Europe, Australia, Japan and more. Travel is a huge passion of mine as I like to experience new places and go on mini adventures. The most difficult part for me to accept is the expense of travel and not being able to financially support the trips I want to do. The reason why I bring this up is I constantly think about how I’m not doing enough meaningful things in my life. When I think about this, it send me down a really dark hole.

Speaking of “dark holes” last night, I was researching buying a new smart phone because my current phone has screen issues. Looking at how much that would cost me was slightly disheartening. I would rather put that money to airfare or to an air B&B somewhere than spend it on a new phone. I also need new pairs of workout shoes as my other pair has holes in them. Workout shoes are also quite an expensive purchase. It’s thinking about all of these things I need at once and recognizing how I need to spend money on them instead of travel ideas.

When I reflect on my travel, I need to keep a couple things in mind. The first would be that all my trips have been self funded. I never got a “2,000” payment to go to Mexico for Spring Break while I was in college. I’m not trying to shame anyone; I’m happy you had that experience, however I’m proud to say I was able to travel all on my own. Another thing I have to be thankful for is that I’m here. Every day I hear of another school shooting or violent outburst. People are ripped from this planet at younger ages than I am. I’m sure they would want to be here going to work and spending time with loved ones while I’m over here complaining about my situation. I’m attempting to improve on this attitude I have that I’m not living a meaningful life.

The definition of meaningful is having a serious, important or useful quality or purpose. Even though I want to travel more, I could argue my life is meaningful every day. The impact I have with people I see week to week at my day job or continuing to support my mom by driving her to her dentist appointment. These are all important facets in my life. I’m sure I have an impact on many people I interact with, but I suddenly forget about that when I think of my travel plans.

I wanted to write this personal post because I figured I can’t be alone in this. I wanted to say, you’re enough. Every day is a blessing to have you on this planet. I need to remind myself of this more often as I want to remind my readers now. To anyone who took the time to read this whole post, I thank you. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be able to express my thoughts or feelings. Hopefully this post serves as a reminder, but also to say that if this is something you have been feeling too, you’re not alone.

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A year ago, I was celebrating Mother’s Day in Boston. A year later, I’m engaged and went to Harry Potter World.