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Sandy Journal

Gaming transcends boundaries

Jul 25, 2017 04:11PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

James Truitt and Jeremy Hardman play the tabletop game Yamatai. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected]
Gamers from all over Utah, and some from beyond, gathered at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy July 7–8 to partake in some of their favorite activities, from tournaments to shopping to panels and special guests, all themed around tabletop and video game play.
“I’m a gamer nerd,” said Heather Steele. “Just kinda seeing what it’s about and immerse myself in gamer nerdiness.”
Steele and her husband are first-time Gaming Con attendees, but, Steele said, she has volunteered at every other Salt lake Comic Con event save one.
“I saw that Fantasy Flight is gonna be here and that’s my husband’s game. I’m a Diablo girl but going back, the game we met through was Super Mario RPG on Super Nintendo System,” she said.
In 2016, Salt Lake Gaming Con became a subsidiary of the Salt Lake Comic Con brand, which hosts the Fan Xperience in the spring and will have their signature convention the weekend of September 21–23 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. According to their website, the Salt Lake Gaming Con is the sixth biggest gaming convention in the country with over 15,000 attendees the first year, earning it the distinction of being one of the largest first-year gaming conventions.
Spring Pederson is a first-time Gaming Con attendee who has enjoyed taking her children to the other Salt Lake Comic Con events and had considered going to Gaming Con. When she got free tickets at a “Wonder Woman” screening, she was excited to check out the convention.
“We’re liking what we’re seeing,” said Pederson. “I have an older son who’s really into gaming so this is something to do with him. I like having something to do with my older kids that we can bond with — we like playing games together so this could be really cool.”
Gaming Con attendees were treated to many sights, sounds, and opportunities to immerse themselves in whatever type of gaming that interested them the most. Video game and PC consoles, both classic and state of the art, were set up for tournaments for games such as Pokémon, Super Smash Bros and League of Legends, as well as arcade tournaments in Pinball Alley, where other guests could sit down for some singular or group free play. Tournaments were also held in tabletop gaming with the classic battle of the dice in group play at Warhammer, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Destiny among other titles.
“I’m basically here for the tournaments,” said Todd Avens. “I’m a big Super Smash Bros player — I’m a sponsored player with Outcry Gaming.”
Avens was also at Gaming Con to commentate for the tournaments which he’s been doing for a year and half, and loves the atmosphere.
“Competing, you always feel that rush, and when you have people around you it’s even better because you’ve got people cheering for you, you’ve got people cheering against you, and all that anxiety.”
Avens says he likes going to conventions because of the opportunity to meet people with the same interests.
“You have so many opportunities to push your own agenda and push your own dreams and find out how to get more involved in the community,” said Avens.
Tables were also set up for game test play where creators could have amateurs and serious gamers screen their games for cohesiveness and judge the interest in their subject.
Kids were treated to life-sized Jenga games, foam bat battles and real-life Mario Kart races around Bowser’s Castle and through an inflatable brick tunnel.
Panels were also scheduled with industry notables like Ed Fries, who was part of the original team that created Microsoft Excel and Word, before taking over Microsoft Games as vice president of game publishing and going on to lead the team that created the Xbox system.
One of the delights for many is watching for the people cosplaying as favorite characters.
Lindsey Spiker and her boyfriend Bobby Prieto came down from Boise dressed up as Sora and Kairi, the famous couple from popular video game Kingdom Hearts.
“Kingdom Hearts is kind of a big thing for us because it’s like how our relationship started,” said Prieto. “We always do Sora/Kairi or Sailor Moon/Tuxedo Mask.”
The couple had seen each other at other comic conventions but really met and got together when they both attended the Salt Lake Comic Con.
“We’re just huge Con nerds,” said Spiker, who began going to conventions in Seattle before coming down to Salt Lake.
Half of the proceeds from Saturday Gaming Con ticket sales were donated to the Humane Society of Utah, named Salt Lake Comic Con’s official charity for 2017.
“It’s about people. It’s the community that makes this so great. That’s what I love about it,” said Avens.
For more information about upcoming Salt Lake Comic Con events, visit