It’s one of two Saturdays each year when teenagers don’t mind one bit about being at school.
And Katherine Price didn’t seem overly concerned that her older brother, Alexander, had the end goal of death and destruction in mind for the Lewis-Palmer Middle School student.
“You kill the other team before they kill you,” said Alexander, a junior at Lewis-Palmer High School. “It’s a different way to take out frustration on your siblings. Of course, it’s only fantasy.”
The two joined nearly 500 gaming enthusiasts at GameCon, held Saturday at Rampart High School. The 12th edition of the biannual tabletop gaming convention for teens in the Pikes Peak region offered role-playing games, board games, card games, miniature war games in addition to cosplay, artists, vendors and special guests.
For only $10, teens received lunch, a full day of games, and plenty of giveaways and brought groups of people together, without smartphones or video to provide entertainment.
“Tabletop games teach and reinforce a lot of skills that electronic games don’t,” said Dustin Flesher, who co-founded the event with former Rampart librarian Carolyn Payne in 2013. “There’s taking turns and conflict resolution and more social pieces of gaming that screens tend to hide. There’s also just the effort of participating in a community. The kids love it. They’re constantly super engaged.”
The students weren’t the only ones having fun. Some 100 adult volunteers took part in the daylong event as well, some as mentors and others, like Payne — who returned for the weekend from her new retirement home in the Tampa, Fla., area — to reconnect and help the event continue to flourish.
“I came back because this is huge,” said Payne, who retired in 2018 after 11 years at Rampart. “The first year, we had around 100, and it keeps getting bigger and better. Some of the adults who started as parents of students who have graduated now volunteer. All we want to do is promote gaming in the Pikes Peak region.”
Flesher figured the concept would work but never imagined the event’s exponential growth in such a short time.
“I had been to big tabletop conventions for adults, and I knew this model was great and would totally work for kids,” Flesher said. “But this wouldn’t be possible without several pieces of support all working together. We have the school administration supporting us, the volunteer support and the number of teachers in the Pikes Peak region who support the effort.”
It’s certainly a difference pace than other activities partaken by teenagers, though.
“It’s very time consuming,” Alexander Price said. “It takes time and patience. It usually takes a couple of hours to play certain games. But the time seems to fly by.”
For those who missed out on GameCon XII, it’s only six months until Rampart plays host to the next one.
By then, the younger Price hopes to introduce a few of her friends to tabletop games.
“My brother got me hooked into games like this,” said Katherine while pondering her next move during Warhammer 40,000, one of the many miniature wargames being played on this day. “Now, I’ll try to get my friends hooked on it, too.”