Friends of Gen Con,
As summer approaches, more and more of us are starting to look ahead to the fall. We are hearing many questions about what Gen Con 2021 will look like, and our hope here is to answer with the best information we have at this time. We’re going to begin with the most important information — health and safety — and then take some time to talk about what the Gen Con experience might look like beyond that, too.
While we are no better at predicting the trends of a pandemic than anyone else, I want to share our current knowledge, plans, and considerations. I will start by outlining what we know, then lay out what we are planning (based on what we know and expect), and then cover what is still uncertain. My hope is that by being transparent about our thought process, we’ll enable you to make informed decisions for yourself and we hope that includes joining us at Gen Con 2021!
The key detail to keep in mind as you read ahead is this: we are planning for something that is months ahead while the reality of our world is still changing on a daily basis. Our guidance for these plans come from a combination of county, state, and federal guidelines — both where things currently stand and where they may be in a few months’ time. These plans can — and probably will — change as we get closer to the fall.
What we know
- Vaccines are rolling out now at an unprecedented rate. Our full-time, year-round staff is almost fully vaccinated and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
- Similarly, the state of Indiana is rolling out vaccinations on par with the rest of the country. All Indiana residents over the age of 16 are now eligible to get vaccinated. We believe every attendee who wants to arrive at Gen Con fully vaccinated will have the ability to do so.
- The Indiana Convention Center, where we host the majority of Gen Con events, has added $7 million dollars in safety upgrades, has instituted new protocols for cleaning and sanitization, installed new hospital-grade air filtration, and is currently enforcing one-way traffic lanes in all hallways and common areas. In addition, there is currently a mask requirement for all indoor spaces.
- Because of our move to September, we will likely not have Lucas Oil Stadium as part of our venue, which will shrink our current footprint, and we will limit total attendance accordingly (more on that in a bit).
- There have already been, and will continue to be, many events hosted in Indianapolis for us to learn from, including JAMFest Cheer Super Nationals (an 18,000-person convention in ICC this last January) and the NCAA this past March. Over the coming months, the city will be hosting over a hundred different conventions and events, some with attendees ranging in the tens of thousands, and we will be working hand in hand with the city to make sure we take the best practices as we approach September.
What we’re planning, today
- As of this date (mid-April) we are planning for an attendance cap of 30,000 to 40,000 for Gen Con Indy, which is roughly half of our normal convention size. We are expanding the allotment of square footage per attendee in order to provide more overall space for everyone as well. Of course, it will be incumbent upon all attendees to avoid clustering and maintaining a reasonable social distance from each other but we’re committed to enabling as many people as possible to find room to enjoy Gen Con safely.
- We are planning to close the convention center each night to allow for thorough cleaning and disinfection protocols. This means there will be no 24-hour gaming and we will be clearing all of the halls each night to facilitate the necessary work.
- We are planning on timed entry and other crowd control measures for the Exhibit Hall, which is typically the most crowded area in our venue. We are working closely with our exhibiting partners on ways to avoid crowds including no first-come, first-served exclusives. Running, crowding, or excessive lines will not be tolerated.
- We are planning to spread gaming tables apart more than usual and provide more open gaming opportunities so that you can make choices about how close you want to play with other attendees.
- Masks are currently required in the Indianapolis Convention Center and surrounding hotels. We plan to require masks at all times at Gen Con as well unless conditions change dramatically. The city is committed to ensuring the mask mandate is enforced.
- We are planning on providing dedicated areas, including some outdoors, for eating, where masks will not be required. We are also planning on expanding the footprint of Gen Con Block Party, to allow more room for enjoying the great food and drink available from our food truck vendors as safely as possible.
What is still uncertain
There are things that we simply don’t know at this still-early date. We will keep everyone informed as we continue to gather new information and receive updates on federal, state, and Indianapolis requirements, convention best-practices, and other regulations. That being said, here’s some key questions that you’ve been asking that we are still unsure about.
- Proof of vaccination requirements (aka “vaccine passports”): At this time it is unclear whether proof of vaccination will be commonly required in large-scale events like Gen Con. As best practices emerge we plan to embrace them fully, but time will tell and we will communicate our plans broadly.
- Required social distancing: We are building in extra room for attendees on a per capita basis but it is unknown at this time whether there will be strict social distancing restrictions in place that could impact game play and other Gen Con activities.
This will be a unique Gen Con experience, different from any convention we’ve planned or attended before. The circumstances require altering the format and capping in-person attendance, but also the opportunity to experiment with unique offerings and new ideas.
Keeping everyone as comfortable and safe as possible is our highest priority. Each one of us will have our own definition of what is “safe” and what makes us comfortable, and we will do our best to provide the best for the most. Please understand that not everyone will agree with our choices and people will have to make their own decisions. We hope that by providing different experiences — Gen Con Indy, Gen Con Online, and Pop-Up Gen Con — you’ll still be able to attend Gen Con in a way that works best for you.
Not all of our usual exhibitors and partners will be able to join us in Indianapolis, but some will expand their virtual presence through Gen Con Online, and we will see new faces set up in the Exhibit Hall for the first time. There won’t be as many of us in the Indiana Convention Center, but more people than ever will have the opportunity to participate in the Gen Con experience, gathering remotely and at local Pop-Up Gen Con locations.
Those of you who do gather with us in the convention center will find many things different, from a flexible scale to new exhibitors and careful restrictions, but what won’t change is the spirit of celebration and the joy of seeing each other after so long apart.
We know you probably still have many questions, and we will continue to update you with the best information we have on a regular basis. For now, we plan another update in a month, and our updates will become more frequent as we approach the convention.
Please send questions to email@example.com, or join us on any of our social media channels. We are here to try and help make your Gen Con 2021 a predictable experience, but bear in mind that many things are unpredictable so far in advance.
We look forward to seeing you in September!