SDCC vs. Gen Con: Who Wins?

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Gen_Con_logo.svg
Logo copyright Gen Con.

It’s the week after San Diego Comic-Con and, like many of you who couldn’t go, I’m watching all the newly released trailers online and wishing I’d been there.

Well, not quite like the people who couldn’t make it to SoCal.

You see, this year I was there. But, just like every other year, I’m watching highlights online. With an attendance of over 150,000 and events spread out over multiple venues, throughout the hotels, convention center, and Gaslight district (most with their own endless lines), SDCC reminded me of Disney before the invention of the Fastpass. What I’d hoped would be geek heaven was a lot like being permanently trapped in the queue for Space Mountain.

Logo via Comic Con International at San Diego
Logo via Comic Con International at San Diego

Maybe time has turned me into a cranky old fan. I went to my first con in 1980, at the urging of my college roommate (Thanks, Neva). Thirty years ago, I’d have been in the thick of the tent village that was the line for the infamous Hall H. Twenty years ago, I’d have been pushing a stroller past it with another kid in tow, seething at the impossibility of getting to the cool stuff.

Now, the kids are on their own, and I’d rather not spend my remaining years standing in a line. That’s why I headed towards the playback room in the Marriott, where they had video of the most popular panels.

It was a fun convention, but I left it feeling that the best of it was beyond the reach of the average fan.

That doesn’t mean I’m swearing off big conventions. I just want to get the most for my time and money when I go to one. That’s why next week, August 4th-7th, I’ll be at Gen Con in Indianapolis.

What started in 1968 as a small war gamers’ convention has become one of the biggest cons in the country. Activities have grown from the original tabletop warfare, to include D&D, Magic, any imaginable board game, Larping, scavenger hunts, and computer games.

Along with the usual con standards: the art show, the dealer’s room, movies, and anime; there are also multiple program tracks to interest non-gamers. While my husband and sons disappeared into the railroad games and playtesting rooms, I’ve learned drop spindle spinning, seen a raptor exhibit with a great horned owl, and hung out in the jigsaw puzzle room.

If you’re on the fence for next year, or have time and money to get to Indianapolis next week, here’s a brief breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of the two:

Cost:

Comic-Con: 4 day plus preview night $245
(No onsite reg. and badges sell out in about an hour.)

Gen Con: 4-day pre-registration $90, standard $120; additional fees for gameplay and arts and crafts panels.
(One-day badges available on site.)

Attendance (2015, approx.)

Comic-Con: 150,000
Gen Con: 61,000

Hotels

Comic-Con: Reservation by lottery. Good shuttle system to outer hotels. Parking is expensive.

Gen Con: First come first serve, but with a queuing system so the server doesn’t crash. Limited shuttles to outer hotels. Parking is cheap if you don’t mind a walk. Try the Circle Center Mall ramps, after Friday. They are close and connected by skywalk to the convention center.

Facilities

Comic-Con: Convention center is not connected to hotels. Events are spread out. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and walking shoes.

Gen Con: Convention center is connected to multiple hotels and a mall by skywalk. Vampires and basement dwellers can go 5 days without direct sunlight.

Exhibit Halls

Comic-Con: Crowded enough to make you throat punch a Wookie. Better artist’s alley.
Major flashy studio booths.
No chairs. Or benches. Anywhere. No seating against the wall, and the space is huge! If you get tired, go to the bathroom and hog a stall.

Gen Con: More kid-friendly.
Lots of board game demos.
Couches and benches throughout convention center. Chairs and tables at concession stands in hall and most game demo booths. If you get tired, sit down and play a game.

Shopping

Comic-Con: Lots of comics, action figures, and t-shirts

Gen Con: Lots of games. Plus comics, action figures, t-shirts, jewelry, tea, fannish Christmas ornaments, armor, fountain pens, furniture… (I saved my souvenir money for Gen Con.)

Cosplay

SDCC wins on numbers, but as I keep saying, it’s spread out. You might not see a lot of the good ones.

Number of Harley Quinns

Too many in both places.

Christine Merrill has attended numerous SF/F cons over the years, including Gen Con and World Con. In her fiction life, she writes historical romances with Harlequin Historicals. You can find her at @doublecheese on Twitter, as Chris Merrill on Facebook, and at her website.