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Autumn Cook, from Baltimore, danced round whereas carrying a “tube man” costume at Gen Con 2019.

IndyStar

Last summer time, Gen Con drew a record-setting variety of individuals to the occasion for a weekend of gaming, cosplay and good occasions.

This summer time, the nation’s largest largest tabletop-game conference is not going to happen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter to supporters printed Tuesday, simply 72 days earlier than the doorways had been slated to open, Team Gen Con introduced the cancellation of the conference citing well being and security considerations. 

All Pop-Up Gen Con occasions have additionally been canceled for 2020.

Organizers wrote that it was not a choice they got here to frivolously, however that they might not “in good conscience host a gathering of thousands while doing so could threaten the health of so many.”

“Like you, we eagerly anticipate Gen Con every summer as a time of fun, connection and celebration of our shared love of tabletop gaming and geek culture,” they wrote. “We hope that the world will look different by August, but after closely following the development of the COVID-19 outbreak, having discussions with our partners in Indianapolis and in keeping with guidance from the CDC, we can’t see a clear picture of how soon it will be safe for all of us to gather again.”

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A meals truck space on Georgia Street on the opening day of Gen Con, on the Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.  (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)

“It’s like canceling Christmas,” mentioned Joan Wendland, proprietor of Virginia-based Blood and Cardstock Games.

This yr’s conference would have been Wendland’s 18th Gen Con, and whereas she believes canceling was the suitable determination, she mentioned it is heartbreaking to know she will not have the ability to see her buddies and colleagues.

“Gamers don’t fit into society as well as the average bear,” she mentioned, “and we look forward to having all of us in the same place at the same time. … It’s like missing a family reunion.”

‘Like canceling Christmas’: Gen Con vendors, fans react to cancellation

It’s not just a cultural loss, she said, but a financial one, too. Wendland said she’ll have to hold on to her extra inventory and is facing sluggish sales for her new book, which was released in early March, just before the outbreak intensified. 

“Every convention that I was going to publicize my new book at,” she said, “was canceled.”

James Mayhew, a Greenfield resident who has attended Gen Con every year for much of the last decade, said illnesses — referred to as “con crud” — are easily spread at any convention. Holding Gen Con this year would be particularly dangerous. 

“I just think this is the best for the city, and it’s best for all of the participants at this event that, unfortunately, we have to kind of break the mold sometimes,” he said. “I think everybody’ll get over it. We just have to do what’s best for the city and for the event.”

Gen Con to return through 2026

Chris Gahl, a senior vice president at Visit Indy, called Tuesday Gen Con news bittersweet. This year’s event is no more, but the announcement came with news that Gen Con has extended its contact with the city through 2026.

“That’s a big deal. That shows that they continue to have confidence in Indianapolis and our city’s ability to host and grow their convention,” Gahl said. “We want what’s best for Gen Con in the long term, and that is evident by being able to work with this to cancel this year’s show while also putting onto our convention and tourism books two additional years that keeps them safe and sound in Indy.”

Gahl said Visit Indy leaders have been working closely with Team Gen Con for the past 10 weeks leading up to Tuesday’s announcement. He said Visit Indy is fully supportive of the decision to cancel and commends them on the thought and analysis that went into it.

In the letter, Team Gen Con said that while the event is the largest and longest-running tabletop gaming convention in North America, it is still just a small business run by a core team of 14 people.

“To be candid, not having a convention is very tough for us, both emotionally and financially,” they wrote. “The show in Indianapolis is our primary focus and source of revenue, and it’s your enthusiasm for gathering around tabletop gaming, as well as the passion and ingenuity of our sponsors, exhibitors, event team and event organizers, that inspires us to make the show bigger and better every year.”

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How to get a refund

Organizers requested that anyone who already purchased a badge for Gen Con 2020 roll it forward to Gen Con 2021 instead of seeking a refund.

Doing so will help Team Gen Con keep staff employed throughout the pandemic, they said. 

Those willing to roll passes forward will have their 2020 badges automatically converted to 2021 badges. Gen Con 2021 will run from Aug. 5 – 8 next year.

Those who want a refund should email customerservice@gencon.com between May 26 and July 29. Include your name and Gen Con ID number, and the refund will be processed a refund minus a $10 per badge return fee.

Badges can also be returned for system credit with no badge return fees. System credit does not expire. Badge holders also have the option of donating the cost of the badge to support Team Gen Con via the same email address.

Refund requests will not be accepted until May 26. After July 29, all 2020 badges will be rolled over to 2021.

Anyone who misses the window or decides later to seek a refund will be able to do so again starting Feb. 1, 2021.

Hotels booked through the con’s Housing Portal will also be canceled without fees. 

Team Gen Con also announced that they will hold an online version of the convention.

More details about Gen Con Online are coming soon, but organizers describe it as “a virtual convention featuring a slate of events and programming you can attend from the safety of your devices and in the comfort of your favorite quarantine sweatpants!”

Gen Con online will run from July 30 – Aug. 3.

“Nothing can replace being at Gen Con in person, but we hope you’ll join us in donning our sweet Gen Con 2020 gear to play games and celebrate the things that bring us together,” they wrote.

In 2019, Gen Con drew a crowd of more than 70,000 unique attendees while selling more four-day and Sunday badges than ever before. The show featured 538 exhibitors and 19,600 ticketed events — two more record highs.

Gen Con’s economic impact pumps about $70 million into the local economy, officials said.

Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at 317-444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.

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