GenCon: Day 0

Sue dropped me off in Indianapolis at 1 p.m. after deftly navigating around “Janitors for Justice” protest just next to the Indy Hilton. They were protesting someone — not exactly sure who — for higher wages and healthcare benefits. After meeting up with fellow Blackrazors Cory and George, we checked into our rooms, hauling my cache of food to the ninth floor and then waiting for the rest of our group to show up.

When they arrived — Erilar, Jon and Nate — we headed over to the convention center to pick up our swag bags — all of us had our badges mailed to us earlier — and then Nate and I began the 45 minute long dance of doom that was customer service at GenCon.

The Customer Service Dance of Doom

I’m not sure why, after 40 years, GenCon still can’t get customer service right. There were only a handful of customer service windows, which were quickly swamped even though it’s only Wednesday, and the convention doesn’t open until Thursday. Nate and I had ventured to the line in order to get refunds on two events we’d decided not to play in, which would have been a straightforward transaction if a) they hadn’t run out of money at the shift change b) had told people that credit card refund were possible, and which line to join to get them and c) had trained people on how to do refunds prior to Wednesday.

The fact that most people had their badges shipped to them shredded the old “badge pickup line” that used to meander through the convention center in Milwaukee — it was a simple matter of showing your badge and then picking up your swag rather than the previously tedious process of customer service reps finding your name, then giving you’re your badge, your tickets, and your goodies.

Swag, Swag, Swag

And what did we find in our swag bags? There’s an Avalon Hill Axis and Allies miniatures game booster, a con-exclusive Mon Calamari mercenary for Star Wars Miniatures, a starter kit for the World of Warcraft game, a coupon book (which is a very cool idea — thanks GenCon!), a six-sided die that can be traded in for 20% off a GenCon 2007 commemorative dice set (which, if nothing else, has inspired me to at least look at said dice set), a note about the eWireless free wi-fi internet access in Indianapolis, and the ever-useful convention book.

Hilton Means You Pay More for Less!

I’d been hoping for wireless, or at least wired, Internet access at the Hilton hotel we’re staying at, but apparently the hotel is so upscale that they expect you to pay for connectivity. In room rates are $9.95 a day for a wired — yes wired — connection — while wireless access was $2.95 for 15 minutes, and then a certain amount per minute after that.

What a great way to encourage people to leave your hotel in search of connectivity! Which brings me back to the eWireless Hotspot postcard from my swag bag. This is a great service, but unfortunately it has a fatal flaw: they refer people to a web site for a list of wireless access points — better to have simply had a page listing in the con catalog rather than forcing gamers to attempt to hunt around for the right network.

But hey, it’s GENCON!

Ignoring the annoyances, its still freaking GenCon. Today saw six members of our group gather for titan toothpicks, Texas fire steak and copious amounts of beer at the Rockbottom Brewery. After that we hung out in the Hilton bar for a while, getting sufficiently buzzed and debating the finer points of geekdom and 80s music. The game ended with us gathered in one of our rooms to figure out exactly what we were playing on Thursday … and where the hell the games were (since GenCon screwed up the event locations on the tickets they mailed to us).

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