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GottaCon: 'Geeks' invade Pearkes this weekend

Evan Hatch is the organizer of GottaCon, a weekend-long conference featuring games of all sorts. He poses with various gaming figures at Yellowjacket Comics on Johnson Street. - Don Denton/News staff
Evan Hatch is the organizer of GottaCon, a weekend-long conference featuring games of all sorts. He poses with various gaming figures at Yellowjacket Comics on Johnson Street.
— image credit: Don Denton/News staff

In 2006, two professional geeks were on the verge of something great: Vancouver Island’s first broad-spectrum gaming convention.

Over beer and chicken wings at the Saanich restaurant 1550’s, Evan Hatch and Carson Upton hit on a name for their grandiose celebration of gaming culture: GottaCon, as in I’ve got to go to this convention.

“It represents the feeling that gamers get as the event grows near, the need to go to the convention and the anticipation of the approaching date,” Hatch, co-organizer says.

Now in it’s third year, GottaCon is an all-day and all-night gaming convention celebrating science fiction and fantasy genres, taking over the Pearkes Recreation Centre field house this weekend.

“Everybody’s there,” Hatch says, long-time gamer and aficionado of the card game Magic: the Gathering.

GottaCon features trading card games, role-playing games, video games, miniatures, workshops and board games of all varieties.

“There is the typical quote, unquote ‘gamer’ that comes in. We’ll get the guy who comes in, non-stop all weekend and doesn’t get a shower, but for the most part it’s everybody. We’ll get  families with children as young as five and six, all the way up to retired people.”

Hatch co-founded the Toronto Role-Players Association gamers community, and spent years as a demonstrator at conventions before joining forces with fellow gamers in Victoria. Founder of the Vancouver Island Gaming Guild, Carson Upton and Michael Lum, owner of Skyhaven Games in Saanich, launched GottaCon with Hatch. Upton, now based out of Vancouver continues his role as co-organizer, while Lum now only participates as a vendor.

Hatch is a former delegate for Wizards of the Coast (the company that publishes Magic cards, Dungeons & Dragons and Pokémon).

GottaCon follows in the success of the Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, a broad-spectrum gaming convention founded in Seattle in 2004. It grew from 3,300 visitors its inaugural year to 67,600 in 2010.

Hatch hopes the Victoria event also attracts new attendees.

“There will be tons of casual games and demonstrations as well, so it’s a great place for people to come and learn how to play games, to explore different options or maybe go back and play games they used to love, board games or whatnot,” Hatch said.

Registration begins at 5 p.m., Feb. 4 and the convention wraps up at 6 p.m. Feb. 6.

Among the expected highlights are high stakes tournaments throughout the weekend, including a Vancouver versus Victoria Magic Card Grudge Match, slated for Sunday morning.

“There is some etiquette,” Hatch says. “Some tournaments are more serious than others. The major events are where the hardcore, if you will, gamers will take part and the rules will be enforced to a stricter level.” 

Highlights from years past include a costume contest, inspired by everything from Avatar to World of Warcraft and Warhammer. Demos, contests, and give-aways are also planned.

“It’s good to prepare, so you can focus on the things that you want to do,” Hatch says of the potentially overwhelming scope of the event, expected to draw 1,500 visitors this year.

Attendance has improved as video games have helped bring some of what was geek culture into the mainstream. The weekend includes competitive tournaments of popular titles Halo and Modern Warfare.

The full GottaCon program, available online at www.gottacon.com, showcases gamers of all stripes discussing popular games, the evolution of gaming, and an exploration of geek pride and community from self-described “professional geek,” Jules Sherred.

Sherred’s options for fitting in as a child were limited and included being the “lone geek” in her social circle or spending her days “geeking out” alone.

“Then the wonders of the Internet came into being,” she writes. “Now, I have a circle of nerdy and geeky friends/acquaintances that I never imagined

possible. I have a world of geeky wonders at my fingertips, waiting

for me to discover and devour, whenever I want.”

Tickets are $15 for Friday and Sunday, $20 for Saturday, or $40 for a weekend pass, available at the door. 

nnorth@saanichnews.com

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