Gottacon plays on
By Michael Calvert
An assembly of nations is coming to BC’s capital, Victoria, February 1st through 3rd. Five fervid subcultures will gather in the Pearkes Recreation Centre, each with its own jargon and essential accoutrements. They will come to fraternize, to glean new strategies, to prove their skills in tournaments, and, of course, to play.
They are coming to GottaCon 2013, one of the largest gaming conventions in Canada.
Now in its fifth year, GottaCon has steadily grown from its 2009 attendance of 600 to an anticipated 1800 for this year’s event. It attracts and unites lovers of role playing games (RPGs), trading card games (TCGs), miniature wargames, board games, and computer/video games. Many of the gamers are from off-island — some from far away. “Last year someone came from New Jersey to play in our Counter Strike [computer game] tournament,” says co-organizer Carson Upton.
GottaCon has adopted the attitude of many of its most hardcore attendees, by opening for gaming around the clock. The convention utilizes 12 staff and over 50 volunteers to ensure the 24-hour-a-day event runs smoothly.
Highlights include the ever-popular forefather of fantasy RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons, as well as its offspring, Pathfinder. One of Upton’s favourite events is Midnight Madness, where this year multiple groups of players must work together to achieve a common goal.
Next to video games, TCGs are probably the second fastest growing gaming platform. Evan Hatch, the event’s other co-organizer, confesses that the classic Magic: The Gathering is still his top pick. “I’ve worked tirelessly over the years to make MTG at GottaCon the biggest and best possible,” he says. Hatch adds that he is “particularly partial to the Victoria vs. Vancouver Grudge Match.”
The gamer demographic is in a significant state of change. Ten to 15 years ago, teenage boys made up a huge percentage of video game players. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), “The average gamer is now 30-years old and has been playing for 12 years.” In fact, ESA’s studies show that “68 percent of gamers are 18 years of age or older.” Another surprising statistic shows that “adult women represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (30%) than boys under the age of 17 (18%),” and that “women over the age of 18 are the industry’s fastest growing demographic.” Not that these stats are reflected across the board on all gaming platforms, but it shows a significant social trend in who the gamers are out there.
Apart from the games themselves, GottaCon will host a number of workshops and panel discussions this year, including “The Influence of D&D,” “So You Want to Become a Published Author,” and “‘Unusual’ Fandoms: Bronies.” Other events include a costume contest and a gamers’ silent auction.
Hatch admits that with all the work that goes into Gottacon, he’s more focussed on creating a successful convention and then enjoying some much-needed down time later, than on getting in his own gaming time. “Running [a convention], you don’t get to take part, but knowing that others get to experience them and enjoy them like I do is why we do it.”
For the nearly 2000 people who will descend on the convention this coming weekend, Gottacon is more than a gathering of like-minded enthusiasts. It’s a chance for gamers – younger and older, male and female, of varied ethnicities – to explore new worlds, to be new people, to learn about new innovations and ideas, and, perhaps most important, to play.