If you're not a pnp RPG gamer and/or Star Wars nerd, you might as well skip this one

>> Monday, February 18, 2008

So, let me see if I understand this:First, LucasArts is suing GenCon, claiming that GenCon for various problems with Celebration IV, the big Star Wars convention that GenCon apparently was hired to organize. My first thought when I heard this was (naturally), "Oh noes! LucasArts is doing eebil things to the GenCon!" Then I read the actual announcement, and it appears that LucasArt alleges that GenCon stole money from dying children.

Seriously. Paragraph 10 of the complaint:


To quote the most famous line from the prequel trilogy:

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

And then the news just gets worse and worse: GenCon's response was to file for Chapter 11.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Y'know, I've never actually been to GenCon, and I can't really imagine going to Celebration. So in a lot of ways, all this is kinda academic. But there was still something special, something Mecca-like about the idea of GenCon.

A little perspective: this is back in the early 1980s. Technically speaking, yes, there is an internet--if you're a nuclear physicist, computer science major, or home computer enthusiast who has built your own 8086 speed demon from plans in the back of a cheaply-printed magazine. This was before you had the global community of ideas that the internet has created: human interactions, for better or (usually) worse were defined exclusively by who lives in your neighborhood, who goes to your school, who is nearby. And if you were the least bit geeky or weird, you were stuck with the people you could find.

Charlotte, NC was a mid-sized city and so it wasn't as bad as most if you were a nerd--but it wasn't like a big city or a college town. As late as '89 or '90 the big game store downtown that had a weekly game night could get maybe thirty people on a really good night, and it would be a motley gang of roleplayers, minis wargamers (mostly Battletech) and a half-dozen hardcore nerds playing Diplomacy. (How nerdy was I? I worked at that game store for a few months, 'til I quit because the boss was an ass; the place closed a few weeks later. Eventually the downtown mall the store was in became a parking deck.)

At the beginning of the decade, though, you had nothing. Maybe you could get the neighbor kids to attempt a D&D module. Maybe. ("No, it's cool! The numbers represent how tough you are and you roll dice to see if you can beat up monsters! Where are you going?") But there, in the back of the rulebooks, were advertisements for GenCon. A reverent whisper in the wilds of Wisconsin. A distant place where Gygax debuted PC-slaughtering bloodbath of a module after PC-slaughtering bloodbath.

Sigh.

Of course it hasn't been like that in years. Wizards Of The Coast bought GenCon when they bought the rest of TSR's IP, back at the beginning of the '90s. And now, allegedly, they steal from sick and dying kids. Sheesh. But we have the internet now, so who needs them: the lucky geeks today can take for granted that you have an online family, three generations of gamers and counting, from a hundred countries.

Yeah, I know. It's a rambling post. So sue me.




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