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Gamers unite at IMU

BY JOSEPH BELK | FEBRUARY 15, 2010 7:30 AM

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A scroll and game pieces covered the table before Chris Mortika, as he described to the others role playing how he would get past an obstacle.

“I have a magical necklace that allows me to breathe underwater for as long as I like,” Mortika explained. “Days, even.”

On Sunday, the Coralville-native was at Gamicon, a three-day event held every year at the IMU.
Attendees rolled dice, bought merchandise, and had their role-playing personas drawn by an in-house artist. A shelf containing numerous board games served as the convention’s library.

In another part of the room, players sat around a map of the United States, attacking cities with giant monster play pieces.

Gamicon is Iowa’s longest-running gaming convention.

This year was the first time the event was held in the IMU Main Ballroom; in previous years, attendees gathered at local hotels and in the upper floors of the IMU. The new accommodations allowed for more walking traffic through the event, said Lindsay Elliott, a Gamicon staff member.

Approximately 200 people attended this weekend, she said. The turnout was lower than previous years, partly because of the recent weather, she said.

Area merchants set up tables and shelves in the ballroom with their wares. Jeffrey Lunsford, the owner of Spud’s Emporium in Ottumwa, Iowa, had board games and comic books for sale.

He said he started his business in 1990 because he didn’t have the patience for a teaching career.
“I got tired of working for the man,” he said. “Now, I am the man.”

Lunsford offered numerous imported board games. The games carried higher price tags, but he said they also remain interesting after repeated play — a better investment. The emphasis on more intellectual leisure time in Europe accounts for the difference between American and European board games, he said.

Shawn Beatty, a UI alumnus, had a table set up showcasing goods from his online store, King Zombie.

He showed off the zombie T-shirts hanging on the wall behind him and zombified figurines and board games on a table.

Though Lunsford and Beatty don’t sell most of their merchandise at Gamicon, Lunsford said it’s a chance to advertise his business.

Beatty said he sees the event as an opportunity to network.

Despite lower attendance, convention organizers said they’re looking to attract more guests to next year’s event.

“We’re hoping to market more as a family event,” said Elliott, and the convention is considering the addition of more video gaming options and interactive events.

The nonprofit group responsible for Gamicon, the Mindbridge Foundation, also organizes an annual Anime convention, AnimeIowa.

Mortika, who played as a hobbit, is also involved in an online competition, RPG Superstar 2010, in which he and other role players draw up descriptions for monsters. The online community votes for the monsters they like best.

“It’s kind of like ‘American Idol,’ ” he said.


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