Curious for other people's perspective on this one. This weekend I was at a convention where I was excited to try Vampire 5th Ed for the first time… but the GM hadn't made pre-gen characters. There were seven players at the table — most had never played 5th Ed, some had never played tabletop Vampire, and had only LARPed, and one had never played a Vampire game before. So the learning curve was STEEP. And the GM only had two copies of the book handy, so at any given moment, a bunch of people were sitting around with nothing to do while other people looked through Backgrounds and Merits and Disciplines. Obviously character creation for the game took quite a while — more than 90 minutes, more than half our available playtime.
I understand that for some GMs, demoing a game at a con also means demoing the character creation system, even if that takes up half the slot. (Or more — I've seen it happen with two-hour play sessions.) But I personally try new games at cons to see what the setting and gameplay and rules are like, and spending an hour-plus on the tiny trivia of an in-depth character that I'm then going to play for an hour feels like a frustrating waste of time.
I don't mind PbtA-style character creation, where you're personalizing a character by selecting from a small, specific list of options. Or games like Fall of Magic, where character-building is handled through story and is part of moving the narrative forward. It's just the more fiddly, detail-intensive systems where I feel like the GM really needs to bring pre-gens to the table — or call the session a character-building demo, not a play demo.
Do other people feel differently? When you're encountering a game you've never played before, how important is it to you to see how the chargen system works, vs. experiencing a story, or trying out the conflict mechanics, or achieving some kind of closure at the end, or some other specific aspect of gameplay?