Coming to Second Life: Gen Con “the best four days in gaming”

The VRazeTheBar Gen Con Experience pre-event Welcome Centre

Gen Con is the largest tabletop-game convention in North America, by both attendance and number of events. Covering everything from traditional pen-and-paper games to computer games by way of role-playing games, miniature war games, strategy games, board and card games, live-action role-play and more.

Founded in 1968 as the “Lake Geneva Wargames Convention”, since 2003 Gen Con has taken place annually in Indianapolis, Indiana, where in 2019 it attracted almost 70,000 attendees.  However, as with a lot of physical world events, Gen Con in 2020 has been hit by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic; but rather than being abandoned, the event is switching to offering itself on-line through a number of services and platforms – and as a part of this, solution provider VRazeTheBar is creating a special venue in Second Life.

Courtesy of Gen Con OnLine

VRazeTheBar is an organisation dedicated to providing virtual experiences to complement both physical world events and other on-line activities, including conferences, seminars, conventions and trade shows. They have partnered with Gen Con to provide a multi-region environment within Second Life that will offer those wishing to capture the atmosphere of the convention the opportunity to do so virtually, through VRazeTheBar Virtual Gen Con Experience.

Taking place alongside the rest of Gen Con Online over the four days of Thursday, July 30th through Sunday August 2nd, VRazeTheBar Virtual Gen Con Experience features four regions in Second Life that will host a full schedule of activities for gamers and attendees, which might be summarised as:

  • Tabletop Role Playing sessions run by experienced in-world game masters.
  • Panel and group discussions – such as the Game Designers Fireside Chat, featuring game designers and experts in the field.
  • In-world game creation sessions and tournaments.
  • Open gaming sessions that you and your friends can explore and discover new experiences.
  • Social events and activities – such as the Virtual Dragon Riding Rave, featuring a live mix DJ playing fantasy and sci-fi based electronic dance music.
  • A chance to meet the creators and designers of the virtual world.
The VRazeTheBar Gen Con Experience pre-event Welcome Centre

To help make full use of the available space, the event’s regions have been collectively divided into themed areas defined by altitude:

  • Ground level (Sierra level): presentation area and historical.
  • 500m (Lima level): modern / present day – down-town Indianapolis.
  • 1000m (Echo level): apocalyptic.
  • 1500m (Golf level): game play environments.
We’re building this over four private regions; [it’s] fairly small scale … But it allows us to do things well in terms of performance and offering an awesome social experience, which are important to us. So is the idea of recreating, as closely as possible, the actual venues that gamers feel comfortable as familiar hang-outs and social spaces when spending time in-world.

– Ron Clifton (RCArchitect in-world), VRazeTheBar’s Technology Lead

Each level will have specific features and attractions. For example, the ground level will include the main landing point and Welcome Centre. As the first location those attending the event will encounter, this serves a number of purposes:

Courtesy of VRazeTheBar
  • It provides general information on the event itself, such as the schedule of activities.
  • For those who are not familiar with Second Life, it provides basic tutorial on using the viewer to move, communicate, and sit (and which is supported by additional introductory info on the VRazeTheBar website), together with general information on SL.
  • For those unfamiliar with table-top gaming in Second Life, it provides simple introductory games visitors can play to understand the essentials – such as using a game HUD.

Above this, on the Lima level is a photo-realistic reproduction of down-town Indianapolis that features the venues that host Gen Con in the physical world, intended to give gamers familiar with those venues a sense of recognition and comfort in where they are in-world.

Attendance at the event is largely free (although there is a nominal US $2.00 fee for some special events, mandated as a part of Gen Con Online’s registration requirements) – however, attendees must all register via the Gen Con website.

We’re really excited to have this opportunity with Gen Con. It’s very much a proof of concept to show what we can do in Second Life to recreate some of the Gen Con social experience.

– Alesia Clardy (AleisaPM in-world), VRRazeTheBar’s Creative Director

I’ll be covering more on the event over the course of the next couple of weeks in the run-up to doors opening, including some sneak peeks at the various event levels and what they’ll be offering.

In the meantime, Second Life users interested in finding out more about VRazeTheBar Virtual Gen Con Experience can do so by dropping into the pre-event Welcome Centre currently open on the Mainland. This will remain available to visitors through until the event kicks-off on July 30th, and as well as providing the introductory information outlined above, this version of the Welcome Centre also provides details on how to register for the event and offers links to join the in-world group where updates and information can also be obtained.

My thanks to Ron and Alesia at VRazeTheBar for their time in the preparation of this article.

Links and SLurl