This year I decided to try the Origins Game Fair. For years I’d contemplated going, as it is actually a bit closer to me than GenCon (although almost negligible flight-wise) and I’ve heard great things about it. Conversely, I’d also heard it was in decline, so in any event I was eager to compare it to GenCon.

A few caveats up front: Origins runs from Wednesday through Sunday, and I was only there for two days. Also, I primarily played “booth dude” for Cubicle 7, meaning that I didn’t pre-register nor play in any games while I was there. From what I’ve heard, it’s much easier to get into events at Origins than GenCon, and I’d heard nothing to contradict that assessment from any gamer I met there.

At first glance, Origins is “GenCon Lite.” There are many things that seemed familiar to me as a GenCon regular, but a bit cozier and more intimate. Origins is smaller and everything is pretty much contained within the convention center and the neighboring Hyatt. I booked the Hilton across the street, which is a pretty new hotel; both are connected via skyways. The Columbus convention center is smaller than Indianapolis’, making it easier to get from one event to another (conversely, GenCon events tend to be scattered throughout multiple hotels in downtown Indianapolis, making it difficult for someone who’s scheduled back-to-back events to get from one to the other in time).

While Indianapolis has far more options, I found it easy to eat just outside the convention center without having to wait in long lines. Columbus lacks Indianapolis’ food truck scene, but makes up for it somewhat with several vendors inside the nearby North Market. Overall, it was easy to find food and restaurants without having to walk more than a block away. This is a huge benefit if you don’t want to live on convention center fare between events.

It’s also a breeze to walk through the Dealer Hall, as there were hardly any crowds on Friday; it was definitely busier on Saturday, but it was still easy to walk around (conversely, there have been times at GenCon where just walking down an aisle can be a chore). If you like chatting up industry people, Origins is definitely the way to go. Unfortunately, there just aren’t a lot of them there – many of them offer their wares through third parties. Also, little new product gets released at Origins as most publishers wait for GenCon.

As I said earlier I didn’t play any games, but anecdotally I heard that people that wanted to game or attend seminars could easily find seats.

Overall, my admittedly brief impression is that Origins is a great con if you’re looking to play games, but not so much if you’re looking to meet industry insiders or find new products. It’s certainly well worth attending, although if you can only make one con a year I’d probably still steer you towards GenCon.

Have any of you been to both GenCon and Origins? If so, how would you compare the two? Have you stopped going to one for any reason? What do you enjoy most about one over the other?