Columbus Game Fair Draws Thousands From Around The Country

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A gamer carries different types of games at the The Origins Game Fair at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.(Photo: Thomas Bradley / WOSU)

For the next few days, thousands of people will go downtown to play games: board games, card games, role-playing games. It’s a convention called The Origins Game Fair which runs now through Sunday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Sponsors say it’s the second largest event of its kind in the US. And it features all sorts of games except those that are electronic.

In a parking area near the convention center, Valerie Martindale and her family are unloading pieces for a game that dates back to the 1600s.

“Part of what we’re unloading right now is something called Agricola, which is a 17th century farming game,” Martindale said. “It’s a resource management game so the problem you have to solve is keeping track of all your resources and trying to build the best farm in the time allotted which is not easy. It’s a challenging game.”

Some of the games being played at the convention focus on a mystical past, others depict a horrific future. At one table, four people play a card game with oddly shaped dice. Clifford Grimm came to the Origins convention from Rhode Island. “This is a game from Wizards of the Coast called Magic: The Gathering,” Grimm said. “It’s a game that’s been around since the mid 90s, I want to say, and is a game that simulates a number of powerful wizards using monsters and magic spells to try and kill each other.”

The Origins Game Fair is run by the Columbus-based Game Manufacturers Association or GAMA. John Ward is the group’s executive director.

“We’re the nonprofit association that supports the social gaming industry, so our job is to support the manufacturers who create non-electronic games,” Ward said.

Ward says he expects about 12,000 people to attend the game fair that began Wednesday and runs through Sunday. Board games are only part of the event. Ward said more sophisticated games known as live action role playing – or LARPs – will also be available.

“We’ve got over 4,000 individual events by tabletop games, role playing games, and larps which are like live action, interactive things,” Ward said.

One of those LARPs is called Terror Works. It’s a game where players take on different roles and then work their way through a maze-like setting. Emily Brown is a Terror Works set designer.

“Terror Works usually mirrors popular science fiction plot lines like Alien, Predator. This year it’s like The Terminator, it’s the rise of the machines,” Brown said.

That description does not conjure up images of games like Scrabble or Monopoly.

“They’re androids that have been instilled with a holy code, that has warped their processors, and now they have turned on their human masters, and are going to take over everything ,” Brown said.

GAMA’s John Ward says there are games at the fair that will appeal to almost anyone. He says board games and other types of gaming are more popular than ever.

“Actually right now in the economy our industry is doing very well. There’s a real nostalgic feeling of staying home as a family more. You can buy a board game for about $40 and play it 10 times during the course of the summer. You take your family of four to a movie; you’re going to drop over a hundred dollars,” Ward says.

“I’m a board game player but here I play Dungeons and Dragons.”

That’s Bill Narotski who’s standing in line to buy his ticket to the game fair convention.

“It’s a game convention; I mean everyone here is a gamer, mostly,” Narotski said.

Narotski says he’s pleased that game manufacturers continue to produce new gaming experiences.

“There’s always new games; I mean there’s a constant flow of new games that are coming in.” Narotski said. “So there seems to be a good selection.”

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