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Three Cheers for the Small Town Gaming Convention!

Phil: ”It’s simple – you describe your character and for $20 I’ll draw him for you.
Gamer:” But I haven’t had a character that’s lived for longer than 2 weeks.
Phil: “Then for five bucks I’ll draw a picture of his tombstone.
~ Phil Foglio (“SHAM-CON” ,What’s New with Phil and Dixie, Dragon Magazine, 1983)

There is no other experience quite like attending a Gaming Convention.

Well, except possibly going to a comic book convention, which bears certain similar qualities to a gaming convention.  But whereas a comic book convention is all about the comic book artists and companies tantalizing fan-boys and fan-girls with their brightly-colored wares, a real Gaming Convention is all about, well… Gamers!

I’ve always found it to be an awe-inspiring experience to walk through a Gaming Convention.  Wandering through an auditorium packed with table after table of my fellow Gamers, and seeing them playing everything from RPGs to Miniature Games, and Board Games to Tactical Simulations using toys.  And the overwhelming sounds of the Conventioneers themselves – laughing, arguing, and rolling dice – and dressed in everything from metal death tee shirts to “geek”-chic shirts, with the occasional costumed jedi or LARP-er thrown in to the mix.  It’s quite a sight to behold!

And whether you’re at GenCon or Origins, or a small town gaming convention, the sights and sounds are pretty much the same.  The only real difference is one of size and location – well that, and maybe who is running the booths selling you stuff at the exhibitors’ hall.

In the early days of Dragon Magazine, there was a real push to make sure that small town gaming conventions got noticed.  Dragon used to run a regular monthly column listing upcoming gaming conventions all over the United States, and even around the world, making sure that even the tiniest one-day game faire got its chance to be noticed.

Even the comic artists in the old Dragons loved to poke gentle fun at gaming conventions – such as “SHAM-CON” from the comic series What’s New with Phil and Dixie by Phil Foglio:

I’m not saying that WotC doesn’t support gaming conventions anymore.  Quite the contrary, the “game days” are like one-day mini-conventions, and the RPGA network is still a-LIVE in many realms, and still kicking.  But I do miss the Convention listing in the old Dragon, and seeing that list of all those gaming conventions scheduled out over the next few months gave me a real feel for how wide spread gaming was.  And I think the most important part of a gaming convention is building a sense of community and shared experience with our fellow Gamers.

And so supporting your local gaming convention is as important as it ever was.  Making sure that your local gaming convention survives and thrives for this year, and years to come, is a big responsibility that we Gamers all share.  Big conventions like GenCon, Origins, and PAX will always be around,  because they draw their attendees from all across the country, and from around the world.  But a small town gaming convention can fail from one year to the next, and might never be replaced.

And why have I been rambling on so, about supporting local small town gaming conventions?  Well mainly, its due to my excitement about attending the 25th Anniversary of BASHCon in Toledo, Ohio this coming weekend!  This small town gaming convention has managed to survive and thrive, perpetuated by a constantly changing staff of convention organizers – college students!

BASHCon is run by the Benevolent Adventurers’ Strategic Headquarters, the student gaming club at my old college, the University of Toledo.  And like the gamer-gals and gamer-guys running the convention in its twenty-fifth year, I also had a hand in organizing a BASHCon or two when I was attending college at UT.  And I’m really happy that the tradition has carried on all this time!

And running a convention is definitely one of those “thankless” jobs, and in all truth, can be hectic beyond all imagining, even a small one on a college campus.  But I do recall that there is a great feeling that comes from organizing and staffing at a gaming convention.  Especially, after everything is said and done, and you realize that you’ve hosted nearly a thousand of your fellow gamers and made sure they had a massively fun weekend of gaming!

Of course, the other reason I’m going to the 25th Anniversary of BASHCon is in the hope that I run into some my old “BASHer” buddies from when I was a university student.  While I may not be much for the whole “rah-rah” alumni crap, the experiences I had as a member of BASH, and the friendships I made there are some of the best gaming times I’ve ever had.

Oh, there was drama and craziness too, and zany politics and what not – it is after all a college campus gaming club.  But the BASH office in the student union was THE PLACE to hang out between classes, where you could grab a pop and some munchies and always find a game of some kind going.  D&D, Cosmic Encounters, Nuclear War, GURPs, Car Wars, Star Fleet Battles – you name it, and I can tell you I probably played it at least once or twice in the University of Toledo BASH office!

It might not have helped my grades, but BASH and BASHCon sure helped make college a lot more fun!

So do yourself a favor, and look up your local small town gaming convention, and make plans to go this year.  And in these hard economic times, it’s especially important to try to attend, and make sure that these conventions are around next year.  Small town gaming conventions offer a lot of fun on an otherwise boring weekend – and usually they’re cheaper than the price of a movie!

And to anyone reading this within a reasonable driving distance of Toledo, Ohio – I hope I’ll see you this weekend at the convention!  And especially to you alumni BASHers, wherever you are… please don’t let me be the only “old-timer” there!!!

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

To see more of Phil Foglio’s work, visit his Live Journal Page, Studio Foglio News, or What’s New with Phil and Dixie Online.

Reference: Foglio, Phil, “SHAM-CON”, What’s New with Phil and Dixie, Dragon Magazine, 1983.

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


4 Responses to “Three Cheers for the Small Town Gaming Convention!”

  1. Swordgleam says:

    Nicely timed. I head off to Noncon at Vassar tonight! I went last year and it was a complete blast, even if I did spend most of the weekend losing at magic.

    By the way, bought my Pax ticket last night. I’ll be there on Sunday; see you there! (Captcha code: Pakz. Coincidence? I think not!)

  2. Haha… I wish I could lay claim to both of those coincidences, but I’ll just chalk it up to “Gamer-geek Synchronicity”!

  3. Michael says:

    Thanks for this. I’m gearing up for the yearly con with my old college group as well in March… go SFFG! I worked with the con in my undergraduate days and really loved what we did. As I was reading this, it really reminded me of the love I bear these local cons… Felt like I was reading about us, even though it was BASH not SFFG.

    Thanks for a great post.

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Michael, and I have a funny feeling that there are a lot of people out there that have had our shared experience of working for the local college Con. It’s almost like a right-of-passage for some gamers, and I’m happy to have been a part of mine back in the day. And I’m pleased to report that BASHCon is still going strong, with over 650 passes sold by the Saturday mid-morning count, according to this year’s Con coordinator. It was awesome to be back on campus and see a whole new set college students running it! Had a great time yesterday, although I spent far too much time in the Auction Room!

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