INDIANAPOLIS  (August 11, 2011) – Gen Con Indy, the nation’s largest annual consumer fantasy, sci-fi and adventure gaming convention experienced stunning growth this year. Turnstile attendance was over 119,707 with 36,733 unique attendees present for 96 hours of gaming, cosplay, music, shopping and more. This positive spike in turnout represents a greater than 20% increase in a single year. Game event participation grew even more steeply, with over 250,000 event tickets yielding an over 26% expansion throughout the Best Four Days In Gaming!

The exhibition hall moved to a larger section of the expanded Indiana Convention Center this year, just in time for greater crowds.  The hall felt as packed on Thursday of GenCon as it did on Saturday of GenCon last year. A number of games debuted (Magic: the Gathering 2012) or returned (with DriveThruRPG’s partnership with White Wolf Publishing had their booth packed as Vampire:  the Masquerade was brought back into print).

Cryptozoic Entertainment, home of the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, continued its expansion into card game category with the release of a new original game: Food Fight!  With a mix of a cartoonish look with adult humor (Major Weiner, Private Pancake, Mean Burrito, Bad-Ass Bacon), it plays like a game of war with modifiers.  The object of the game is to “make delicious meals” as the meals battle it out.  Different entrees have different power levels (bacon, as it should be, is the yummiest at 11).  Accompanying its launch were cards exclusive to GenCon.  The game play seemed pretty basic, but that was only in demo mode.  Once you get the hang of the various clever combos possible, there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of.  The game will release concurrently with a digital version for the iPhone, iPad and Android.

I was more interested in their Walking Dead board game, but didn’t get a chance to play test that.

The Family Fun Pavilion continues to be popular with the next generation of game players and their parents. Companies with all-ages entertainment products were swarmed with children, grandparents, educators and librarians looking for games for upcoming birthdays, holidays and back-to-school. Between family fun and regular Sunday badges, nearly 3,000 additional people joined Gen Con Sunday – adding considerable traffic to the show and helping exhibitors reach new fans.

Two games in particular were big hit with my sons:  Angry Birds and Mind Flex.  Angry Birds is pretty much what you think it is:  Jenga meets … knocking down Jenga with spongy birds.  With cards dictating the structures to be built, a played launches foamy birds at the construct (the cards also dictate how many tries they get and with which type of birds).

Mind Flex was the most intriguing of the games.  Each player is fitted with headsets that measure brainwave activity.  Then they battle out, via their ability to concentrate, on moving a ball back and forth.  There are five different games, but the mental tug-of-war proved to be the most fun (especially between siblings).  I’m telling you, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Star Trek:  The Next Generation episode where the entire crew is taken down because they were addicted to playing a mind game.

Four days is not enough time to even come close to playing, uh, looking at all of the games at GenCon.