Gen Con News

September Gen Con Community Update

In Which Gen Con Community Manager Kelsey Desrosiers Interviews Our Senior Operations Manager and Updates Us on Year-Round Gen Con Community

Hey, fam! It’s time for another update. This month, we’re highlighting some of the cool things our community has been up to and looking forward to community planning for the future.

But first, we have an interview with a member of the Gen Con team. I’d like you to meet Cyra, our Senior Operations Manager, and learn all about how joy and event planning intertwine.

Cyra Valenzuela Benedict, Gen Con Senior Operations Manager

Meet Cyra.

Cyra knew she wanted to be an event planner when she was organizing a trip to Disney World for her mother. Her father had just passed away, and her mother wanted to vacation at Disney to make some new family memories together with the rest of the kids, but didn’t have the energy to plan out the trip. That’s how a then 27-year-old Cyra and her husband ended up at their favorite pub in Seattle to plan it out.

“I had maps and guidebooks all spread out around me,” she explained. “And I was making this chart of what the hours were, and what the crowd forecasts were for different days — like, this is the day that this park will be the most crowded, but this park has extended hours this day and when you’re in this park you want to use your fast passes in this order… I was mapping it all out.” 

When she started getting stares from both her server and her husband, they explained to her that this wasn’t how people normally do things. “I was like — what you mean, how else would you plan a trip?” After that, she started to think that event planning might be the career path for her. 

Anyone who works at Gen Con likely knows about her love of Disney World. Disney does an excellent job of making trips effortless and joyful, like a swan floating above the water while its feet are paddling hard underneath the surface.

“We went to Disney one time when I was fourteen and I distinctly remember walking down Main Street in Magic Kingdom. I saw this woman dressed in a suit and heels and wearing an earpiece duck behind a wall and disappear. I remember thinking ‘I don’t know what her job is, but I want that job.’” Years later, as she was waiting to open the Exhibit Hall at the beginning of Gen Con, it struck her: she has that job now. 

Cyra is the Senior Operations Manager for Gen Con. She’s in charge of the layouts and floor plans for the convention, managing all of the vendors like decorators, general contractors, and the security team, and she is the keeper of the production schedule for the entire company — something she’s working on right now for 2021. But Cyra’s favorite part of Gen Con is the moment right before the convention opens its doors to thousands of waiting fans.

“I get to stand on the inside of the Exhibit Hall and I have my little radio on and all of the Captains have their earpieces on. I count them down, open the doors, and then I get to see all the people come inside from my spot ten feet inside the hall. I watch this wave of people who are so excited to be where they are; thousands of them stream past me, in all their excitement and joy.”

Creating joyful experiences is a big reason why Cyra does what she does. It’s the same joy that comes from planning a trip to Disney World for the people you love: she’s helping create a moment in time that leaves lasting memories and brings people together for a few days where all the chaos of the process that leads up to it — and during it — lies unseen. With the growth of online footprints for digital conventions, I asked her if she’s been able to feel a similar joy in creating Gen Con Online.

“I was really having a hard time getting excited about the idea of Gen Con Online,” Cyra admitted. “But then when it actually happened and I was in the Discord or on our Twitch chat, taking part in so many conversations and feeling the same joy that people have to just be together and be in this community that means so much to them — my little Grinch heart grew three sizes bigger. I was very excited and proud I got to be a part of making that happen.” 

The idea of being able to continue giving “the Gen Con joy” — no matter what the experience or venue — is something that’s been incredibly empowering for Cyra after Gen Con Online. The next time you come to Gen Con and see someone slipping through a wall with an earpiece on, or see her pop in the Discord to answer a question with effortless ease, you can rest assured that whatever she’s up to, it’s focused on bringing our community the joy that they are feeling.

This year, Cyra challenged herself to take a risk doing something new that scared her: stand-up comedy! Check out this video of her first-ever live set at Tacoma Comedy Club!

Community Highlights

One of my favorite parts of my job is seeing all the creativity we have in our community. Gen Con is tabletops and LARP and board games, but it’s also about learning, art, and creativity. For example, @Jodyanna83 used what she learned about buttercream transfer from a Gen Con event to make this awesome decoration:

Naka#1701 on our Discord server has been working on this amazing chain and scale mail necklace:

And our pal Diana M. has been sharing some of her fan art from Chris Spivey’s Harlem Unbound live play: 

Have you created something with what you’ve learned at Gen Con? I’d love to see it. You can share it on social media and tag us, or swing by the #arts-and-crafts channel on the Gen Con Community Discord to share your progress.

Community Events, Twitch Streams, and More

Last month we had our first ever Community Gaming Weekend, where members from our community put up games that they wanted to run or play together. It’s super easy to schedule games, sign up, and get reminded of them in our Discord and we’re planning our next event weekend for October — and a very special event to go along with it!

In the meantime, our Community Gaming area is open full time for you to schedule games or ask if anyone is interested in playing something. You can check out the #community-gaming-faq for more details on how to do it, or check out #community-schedule to see if there’s anything coming up! 

In addition to our Community Events, we have a lot happening on our Twitch Channel on Gen Con TV. Our weekly tabletop gaming news show, TableTakes, has a new host, Isabella von Ghoul! (@IzzyVonGhoul). You can watch TableTakes every Friday at 2 pm Pacific / 5 pm Eastern for all the latest news. 

Fireside with Peter Adkison has started its third season with a great theme: new voices in D&D. These creators are changing the landscape of what D&D is and the interviews are a fantastic exploration of what’s coming next for TTRPGs. So far he’s interviewed Celeste Conowitch, Joshua Mendenhall, Hannah Rose, and Jacky Leung — you can catch up on all the previous episodes on our YouTube channel, or watch the latest episode every week on Wednesdays, 4 pm Pacific / 7 pm Eastern.

And if you’re just in the mood for some good ol’ actual plays, we’ve got two more streams for you — Board Games with the Brothers Murph on Mondays at 6 pm Pacific / 9 pm Eastern on Mondays, and This Game Gets Dicey on Wednesdays at 1:30 pm Pacific / 4:30 pm Eastern. Each week they play different games, chat with our Twitch streams, and take polls from their audiences on what’s coming next.

That’s a wrap for September! We have a lot of cool stuff scheduled for October that we’ll be announcing on social media or posting on the blog. If you haven’t done it yet, now’s a great time to sign up for our newsletter where this (and lots of other cool updates) show up in your inbox whenever we have something cool to share. I’ll see you in two weeks with another round of community updates and our next interview where we’ll meet Derek, the manager of Events at Gen Con, lover of vampires, and owner of strangely named cats.

Kelsey Desrosiers (they/them)
Kelsey Desrosiers (they/them)

Community Manager at Gen Con

*icon credit: @omoulo