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Welcome to the Best 50 Years in Gaming! This project aims to explore the evolution of gaming and popular culture by examining the history of scheduled events at the Gen Con gaming convention. Gen Con officially began in 1968 and provides a rich sample of gaming events through its physical and digital programs. By taking the event data from fifty years of programs and putting it into an easily accessible and standardized digital form we vastly increase the usefulness of the data to scholars, enthusiasts, and anyone interested in Gen Con's past.
We at Temple University's Digital Scholarship Center
aim to use the data in statistical and textual analysis to learn about changes in gaming and popular culture over time as reflected by Gen Con. We encourage others to do the same, as well as to simply explore the Gen Con event dataset for any research, historical, or nostalgic purposes. You can access an online version of the data set (hosted via Blacklight
, and you can download your own CSV copy of the dataset here
We have created a companion site for this project In addition to the data set. This site, hosted on the Omeka platform, aims to provide some historical background on Gen Con as well as showcase findings from work with the dataset. If you have any questions about the history of Gen Con or other information you would like to see beyond our timeline of the event and oral histories please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
or tweet us @templedsc
This project is ongoing, with the initial work to digitize and organize the data taking place during 2016-2017. Normalization of the data (doing things like making sure machines understand that "D&D 2nd ed" and "Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition" are really the same thing) is ongoing as of summer of 2017. Analysis and use of the data by Digital Scholarship Center staff, as well as public release of the data set, began in July of 2017.
A special thanks goes to Peter Adkison, Mike Carr, Scott Griffin, Allan Grohe, Jon Peterson, Randall Porter and Paul Stormberg for providing physical and digital copies of several of the programs for our use in this project. Additionally, we would like to thank Gen Con, LLC., without which this project could not have occurred. Staff at the Digital Scholarship Center who worked on this project are:
Program digitization and data clean-up:
Jillian Benedict, Luling Huang, Kaelin Jewell, Emily Logan, Ritomaitree Sarkar, Gary Scales, Matt Shoemaker, Crystal Tatis
Blacklight and Omeka systems work:
Chad Nelson, Steven Ng
Rachel Cox, Chris Doyle, Matt Shoemaker
About the Dataset
The dataset was created from the event sections of the physical and digital versions of official Gen Con programs, pre-registration programs, The Spartan
zine and the International Federation of Wargaming Monthly
zine. Years 2003-2017 were all pulled (with permission) from gencon.com where snapshots of the event database were hosted. Data from 2002 and earlier is from physical programs that were scanned and had their data entered into our database by hand or were OCRed with ABBY Fine Reader software, with the resulting text cleaned by DSC staff.
We have made minimal changes to the data and other than normalization do not plan to further manipulate information from the programs. We conducted minimal correction from OCR, fixing obvious mistakes when found but in general the scan quality was high enough (400dpi) that OCR errors were minimal. There are exceptions for some years that have information in or near the gutter of their physical counterparts. Additionally, virtually every year has events that run multiple times. Some programs listed these events under the same entry and others spread them out based on when they were running. We neither separated these entries out nor did we collapse them, but left them as they were presented in each particular program. This is important as it may skew some text analysis you perform with the data set.
A small number of programs had their digital counterparts created from pre-registration booklets rather than the official program guide. This was done either because the official program book was not available for digitization, or, in one case, the official program had SOLD OUT printed over so many events it made the majority of the event section impossible to read.
We have now acquired a 1973 program and it has been added to the dataset. All 50 years are now accounted for!.
As of July 2017, the process of data normalization is ongoing. Normalization is the process of clarifying what information in specific fields means. For example, programs from 1990 may have games listed under the system "D&D Advanced", while in programs from 2000 the same system may be listed as "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st edition." This information must be normalized to reduce confusion, particularly for machine analysis of the information. When this process is complete this section will be updated.
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