Gamehole Con returns to Madison this November

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Jennifer Reinfried, Business Director

Have you ever driven past groups of people that suddenly seem to appear out of nowhere, dressed like handfuls of different characters from different fandoms and wondered what exciting event could bring out such passionate creativity?

Or are you someone who has a love of tabletop gaming but can’t seem to find anyone to group together for a single session? Maybe you can but are interested in discovering new games to play.

When I was a kid, I was relentlessly mocked for loving things others deemed “nerdy,” especially because I was female. I enjoyed anime, loved playing video and board games, and felt strong connections with fictional characters in books, movies, and television shows. For years I felt quite alone, but once I started college that began to change.

A few years ago, I was introduced to Gen Con, the largest tabletop-gaming convention in North America. Currently held in Indianapolis, Gen Con features multiple types of gaming, tournaments, publishers, artists, authors, celebrities, and a live action role playing event that sells out almost immediately called True Dungeon. And that’s all it took. I had found a place where my nerdiness was accepted, embraced, and never questioned. I tried new games and authors and bought more art than I could hang on my walls. I got into excited discussions with other fans of Star Trek, Firefly, Harry Potter, Daredevil, Batman, The Flash … you name it, it’s at Gen Con.

This first convention inspired me to become an even bigger part of this community, and I started writing my first book, a superhero crime thriller, which was published a couple years later. My goal was to create something I loved that I could share at conventions such as Gen Con. That’s how fascinating this first convention was for me.

When I got home from the trip to Indiana and returned to work, I remember sitting at my desk wondering why I had to wait an entire year to get that experience again. Thankfully, a quick search online showed me I had nothing to fear, as there are gaming conventions all over the world I could attend if I should choose.

While attending a gaming convention can become a bit expensive, you can save money by going to local ones, which is how I discovered Gamehole Con. Unsure of what I was getting into with a name like Gamehole Con, I purchased my badge and eagerly awaited the November event at The Alliant Energy Center.

Boy, was I disappointed that first year. After coming down from such a high from Gen Con, which reported 223,326 turnstile visits in 2018, it was difficult attending something so small with barely any fans in the vicinity. The games were few, and the cosplayers were non-existent. The vendor hall, which had been expansive and jaw-dropping at Gen Con, was only two aisles. I left that year thinking I wouldn’t be back.

But I was. The following year, a few friends wanted to attend, and there I was, back at Gamehole Con for year two – and what an improvement! Food trucks were added outside, the list of games doubled, and the number of vendors and authors to mingle with grew. And it only got better from there.

True Dungeon, something that can only be described as playing a session of Dungeons and Dragons live, came to Gamehole Con. I was pleasantly shocked, as in previous years it was known it was only available to play at Gen Con, and even then, it sold out so fast that you were never guaranteed a ticket. But suddenly here it was, in my hometown. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

For those of you who haven’t heard of True Dungeon, it is definitely an experience to be had. Volunteers work year-round to set up an immersive, live dungeon that you and handful of others walk through, fighting monsters and solving puzzles to get to the end boss. The journey isn’t easy, and many fall as they traverse through the dimly lit rooms, but oh, is it fantastic fun, even for those who don’t game often.

Over the years, I’ve attended Gamehole Con often, and I have to say how impressed I am at its growth and reach. It is clear that those running the convention have worked hard, pouring their passion into the event to ensure its success continues.

If you’ve never been, do yourself a favor: go. Tickets are cheap, and it’s local.

The event will be held Nov. 8-11.  In addition, your attendance supports many local artists, authors, and game developers, and it ensures Gamehole Con can continue to expand. Plus, you get to enjoy a weekend of new, exciting experiences. What more could you want?