Gamers looking for a way to escape the heat and partake in some gaming may be excited to discover that Arizona’s Game On Expo is happening August 28-30 at the Mesa Convention Center. Featuring open video and tabletop gaming areas, tournaments, and panels, the three day event is sure to draw some crowds. Guests and panelists will consist of industry professionals and gaming personalities like: Mark Soderwall President of Indie Game University, Brenda Huff Owner of Wisdom Tree Games, Jirard Khalil and Greg Wilmot of the YouTube series The Completionist, and many others.
Conventions are no easy undertaking. With this event being right around the corner we wanted to get a better sense of what attendees could expect from the three day weekend. Owner Jason Heine offered to sit down and answer a few questions about how this convention got started, and how they have prepared to meet the demands ok Arizona’s gamers.
Jesse Tannous: What does this convention have to offer for fans of the local tabletop gaming community?
Jason Heine: Game On Expo will feature large “open gaming” areas where players may come in with their tabletop games and cards and play with friends. Also we will have a specific room for open gaming sponsored by local business Critical Threat!
JT: What experiences do you and your team draw on to help organize and operate this event?
JH: Our team of 4 has a long history in the retro gaming and toy community, both locally and online. We have been attending gaming conventions since the early 2000’s and taking notes as to what works, and what doesn’t gives us a big leg up for Game On. Giving attendees an experience unlike other shows is our main goal. The price of admission grants you hours of free play arcade and console gaming, informative panels from video gaming’s industry leaders, cosplay contests, and epic video game tournaments!
JT: Why did you decide to build an event that combines tabletop and video gaming?
JH: We are gamers, plain and simple. Unlike a bunch of suits that have no clue, Game On is built by pure gamers for gamers. Game On Expo is being built out of pure passion and the love of games. We grew up in the golden age of gaming, and playing board games, cards, Arcade and video games were how WE spent our days with friends and family. For this weekend, we have created a place where hardcore and casual gamers can come out, bring friends and have a memorable time!
JT: How much planning and preparation went into this event before it could even be officially announced and given a scheduled time and place?
JH: My business partner John and I have been planning a gaming convention here in Arizona for many years. I remember talking with him about it originally in 2010 on our way to a local game store. Through the years, we kept the idea alive by revisiting the discussions and brainstorming ideas. We take part in other conventions around the West Coast and South West, so being friends with others who produce shows, we have great mentors. Once we had enough content and enough planning to move forward, we went ahead and launched the expo November 2014!
JT: Tell me about your experience with gaming. Why is gaming important to you? Why decide to put in all the work required to get an event like this up and running?
JH: I have been gaming since 1985, I remember my first game console…An Atari Pong system, with the 2 analog paddles and a big speaker in the middle. I still have it and play it from time to time. Then in 1986 I got my second video game system the Nintendo Entertainment System! That console changed my life, and I was hooked on making Mario jump on my TV screen. Gaming has always given me an outlet to dream, create and let go of the world around me for just a moment. It allows me to venture into worlds not possible in reality, and for that, gaming will always be special to me. We created Game On to educate, relive, and share this wonderful world of gaming to everyone!
JT: What will it take for this year’s Game On Expo to be a “success,” and allow for another in the future?
JH: If people come out and have a good time. If I see smiles on the faces of gamers new and old, I will consider this a success. Life is so stressful, it’s time for all of us to take a weekend off and enjoy the world of gaming, with your friends and family.
JT: If you could have the opportunity to sit down with any of your favorite gaming icons, who would it be and why?
JH: Aside from producing Game On, I am an Audio Engineer who produces music and audio for video games. For me, I would love to sit down with David Wise. Mr. Wise is the person behind some of the Super Nintendo’s most cherished music. Mr. Wise worked for Rareware Games in the 90’s composing soundtracks to games like the Donkey Kong Country series! I would love to just sit with him and jam out in my studio!
JT: What are some of the realities of starting and managing a convention like this?
JH: Well, there are so many fine details that need to be addressed for everything to function properly. Game On, for our first showing, is quite large. We are occupying the entire Mesa Convention Center. The scheduling, programming and events taking place need to be planned correctly. We have huge tournaments happening and those need to be hosted and executed properly. These fine details and attention to detail will set us apart. Of course we couldn’t have done it without the generous help from all of the local game stores, businesses and volunteers who have helped make this a huge success! We hope to see you all there GAME ON!!
For a more detailed list of programming, guests, and tournament announcements, visit the Game On Expo official website, Twitter page, or Facebook.