Ronin Round Table: Steve Kenson on Con Life

This past GenCon in Indianapolis was my 23rd consecutive GenCon (I’ve attended every year since in 1990) and my 24th total; my first GenCon was GenCon/Origins 1988 in Milwaukee when I was 19 years old. This past year at GenCon I was an Industry Insider Guest of Honor for the first time, after more than 15 years of working in the industry. Quite the transition! (Next year will be my Silver Anniversary with GenCon…I should start making plans…)

As a Guest of Honor, much of my GenCon experience this year was all about the seminar tracks, which was fine by me as the seminars were always one of the things I loved about GenCon. I liked shopping, talking with my industry idols, and trying out new games, but attending seminars has always been one of my favorite parts. I looked forward to the "Superhero Summit" seminar during the years they held it, and made it a point to attend all the seminars for my favorite games and publishers.

So being able to present seminars at GenCon felt like giving back to me, an opportunity to provide some of what I enjoyed when I first began attending the con. Out of my various seminars, two stand out in particular:

The first is technically a couple different seminars: "Cons for Pros" and "Freelancing" both different looks at how to break into the game industry as a professional. I relied on some expert advice from industry professionals in my early days (still do, in many regards), so it was good to talk to other freelancers and would-be freelancers about the opportunities and pitfalls before them. Never before has it been both so exciting and scary to embark on a career as a creative professional in our field. The opportunities for self-publishing and self-promotion abound, but the hobby (and therefore the industry) has changed, and some of the "farm teams" publishers relied upon, like periodicals and the boom in third-party publishing following the Open Game License revolution, are not as available.

My favorite seminar, though, was "Queer as a Three-Sided Die" (which you can watch on YouTube, thanks to the effort of a couple of the attendees): a panel discussion on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered visibility, inclusion, and awareness in the RPG hobby and RPG publishing. I was thrilled at how well-attended the seminar was and how enthusiastic both the panelists and the attendees were about being there. Having first attended GenCon as a shy, closeted geek who didn’t even know any other gay people, to organizing an event like this was a very special moment for me, one I hope to remember for my next 25 years of attending the con!

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