If you had told us that at Gen Con we would be rubbing shoulders with the CEO of Gen Con and founder of Wizards of the Coast, or be partying in the presidential suite of Gen Con, or have our game backed by the co-developer of Cards Against Humanity, or dine at a Steak ‘n Shake with the CEO of Cheapass Games at 2AM, we would have had a pretty hearty laugh. If you had told us that all of those things would happen on a single night, we would call you crazy.
Well, guess what? We have a crazy story to tell you.
It was the first night of Gen Con. After dinner, we walked to the adjacent hotel so we could take advantage of the free wifi and get some work done on Shawn’s laptop. We had about two hours to kill until Hogger Logger’s next playtest session, so we decided to print extra copies of our Kickstarter-exclusive Action cards. To best maximize our time, we agreed that Shawn would stay and be our work horse, printing and cutting out the cards in the next two hours, while Charlie and I would return to the convention to network. Pretty straightforward and uninteresting, right?
As Charlie and I walked back towards the convention, we ran into the CEO of Cheapass Games, James Earnest. We had previously met Mr. Earnest at a convention in 2013, and his presentation/lecture at the time deeply influenced us. After exchanging pleasantries with the man, he told us that he was trying to get to a VIP party on the 15th floor, but couldn’t get there because a keycard is needed to access the elevator. “Oh well,” he said. “Maybe I’ll go to a Steak ‘n Shake instead.” We said goodbye and he departed. At that moment, Charlie and I looked at each other and had the same thought.
“What if we showed up to this party?”
We were conflicted. Should we go to the party uninvited? Could we find the room number? What do we do about our playtesters? What about Shawn?
As we pondered crashing this party, a friend of ours spotted us. He approached us with a look on his face as if he was surprised by our presence. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Well, we just ran into James Earnest and he told us about a party, so we were considering going to it,” I said.
“Oh…that party” he replied. “ A lot of VIPs and industry professionals are going to be there. You didn’t hear this from me, but it’s in room 1515 and it’s starting now.” We thanked him for the information as he walked away.
“It would be a crime not to go to this party,” was the thought going through both our heads.
I mean, we knew the room number so we were practically invited, right? But we can’t go now, we scream of bad publicity with these Hogger Logger T-shirts and bright pink hats. Should we return to our hotel? It’s 20 minutes away, we could miss the whole thing! We racked our travel-fatigued brains and came up with a solid game plan: we would drop off all the Hogger Logger supplies to Shawn, drive 20 minutes to our hotel to grab some nice clothes, drive back to Gen Con, and then head up to the party.
We sprung into action.
As we frantically maneuvered to the exit, we bumped into the ever-amazing president of AdMagic, Shari. She looked at us and asked, “are you guys going to the party?”
“Yup! 15th floor. We’ll see you there!”
It was like a sign from the gods. We officially had our unofficial invitation.
Beaming with excitement, we bolted for the car and drove faster than Peyton Manning in a two minute drill. After getting to our hotel and changing into nice button-down shirts, we realized they were incredibly wrinkled and needed to be ironed. Personally, my ironing skills are about as good as my breastfeeding skills, but fortunately, Charlie was able to channel his inner Tony Stark and become iron man. I channeled my inner cheerleader and rooted him on.
With ironed shirts on our backs, the supplies in the car, and all the confidence in the world, we drove back to Gen Con Indianapolis like an Indy race car driver. With 5 minutes to spare, we dropped off the supplies to Shawn and departed for our destination. We weren’t wearing bow ties, but we were mentally fixing them like James Bond before a date with destiny.
As we approached the elevator leading up to the party, we remembered that we needed a keycard to access it. We thought about doing that sly maneuver where you enter the elevator when another guest enters it, but we agreed that we’re not James Bond and it’s actually kind of weird and sketchy. Instead, we gave Shari a call and told her we were at the elevators and were having trouble getting up. Being the awesome person she is, she sent someone down to get us. Within minutes, our guide arrived and brought us up to the 15th floor. When we reached room 1515, there was a fancy, gold-plated placard outside the door that read “Presidential Suite.”
We entered the large Presidential Suite to a crowd of about 30 people socializing. There were plentiful amounts of beverages, tantalizing food spreads, and a lot of people we didn’t know. Luckily, we ran into one person we did know: our friend Jen from Game and a Curry. She began introducing us to various people, including this one very polite gentleman who was promoting a new movie that he produced via Kickstarter. Charlie struck up a conversation with him and brought up the fact that we were running a Kickstarter as well. After pitching the game to him, the man said, “oh, that sounds like fun. Hang on, I’ll be right back.” The man left for another room and a minute later, returned, “I backed your game. Good luck!”
Whoa. Some random dude just backed our game based solely on our pitch. Awesome! We even shared our excitement with Jen.
“Do you know who that was?” Jen asked.
“That was Peter Adkison, the founder of Wizards of the Coast and CEO of Gen Con. This is his party.”
Holy crap. We were just backed by the dude who owns this entire convention. That’s awesome! How could this night get any better?
“Oh, you see that guy in the plaid shirt over there? That’s Max Temkin, the co-creator of Cards Against Humanity.”
We’re huge fans of Cards Against Humanity, much like any other awful person out there. Introducing ourselves to Max was a priority. After mingling with some other guests for about an hour (and meeting some really cool and interesting people), Charlie approached Max and began asking him about his new game, Slap .45 (currently on Kickstarter). After a few minutes of chatting, Max asked about our game and Charlie proceeded, once again, to pitch the game. Max promptly whipped out his phone, pressed a few buttons, and said, “I just backed it. Good luck guys.” He then turned around a disappeared in a cloud of smoke, vanishing before our very eyes like David Copperfield.
Okay, maybe that last part didn’t happen, but holy crap. We were just backed by the dude who co-created one of the best card games in existence. How could this night get any better?
A few moments later, James Earnest walks in the door. With our adrenaline pumping, we gave James an exuberant greeting that in retrospect, probably freaked him out a little bit. Nevertheless, we began chatting and asked him if he wound up going to that Steak ‘n Shake he talked about earlier. He said he hadn’t, but that he still wants to go. So in one of those “why the hell not” moments, we proposed that we take a trip to Steak ‘n Shake and get some burgers. James agreed and we made our way back to the elevator and exited the hotel for Steak ‘n Shake, the Midwest’s finest burger franchise, to end our night on a high.
When we finally got back to the convention and told Shawn the story, he chuckled, then cleverly quipped, “I guess you’ve artfully navigated Gen Con like a genuine con artist.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, but Charlie could: “Best. Con. Ever.” We all laughed.
It’s funny how a series of perfectly-timed events can lead to unexpected evenings. If we had not left the lobby at that exact time we would not have run into James who told us about the party. If we had not run into James we would not have been spotted by our friend who told us where the party was. If we didn’t run into our friend we would not have bumped into Shari who invited us to the party.
Personally, I don’t believe in fate. But that night made a very compelling case. And one hell of a story.