“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…” J.R.R. Tolkien
That’s the inspiration behind the name for Gamehole Con. In its third year, it has already graduated from a small hotel to a the Alliant Energy Convention Center. And since Gary Gygax himself started Dungeons & Dragons in March of 1974 in Lake Geneva, WI, it seemed appropriate that Madison has a convention dedicated to the origins of the Gamer culture to fill the void that was left when GenCon moved out of Wisconsin. (GenCon…Geneva Convention…not a coincidence) If you don’t know the name Gygax, in a nutshell, he’s the man behind the iconic D20.
This is a convention solely dedicated to table top gaming, i.e. pen and paper, miniature based, collectible card games, and board games. There are special events, seminars, Q&A sessions, parties, scheduled and pick up games going for 3 days straight. As you attend subsequent years, you get it noted on your name badge. I’m a Level 3 as this was my 3rd year. This first year at the convention center, attendees enjoyed free parking all weekend (a $21 value). Cosplay does happen though it is not the norm. While they have different levels of tickets, some that offer free soda all weekend, others that offer t-shirts and an owl-bear plushie with your ticket and pre-registration for the games, I went cheap at $45 for the weekend pass and there were plenty of events for me to choose from.
Unlike other Cons, you can chat with the special guests without paying a “spendy” fee for the opportunity because they’re found running the actual games that they’d developed and can easily be found wandering around between events, happy to sign your rule books, give hugs and pose for photos free of charge. Some will sit down for a chat while others hand you random cool stuff. My daughter was given a purple tentacle plushie from Steve Jackson.
The thing that stands out about a convention such as Gamehole Con compared to other cons I have attended is that everyone is friendly and helpful. Age and gender don’t matter. At no point did I get treated as anything other than an equal as a gamer due to my gender. And at 41 years old, I’m not the oldest there by a long shot and not the youngest but we all had common ground. Those who run the event want you to have fun. As a GM, I ran 14 hours worth of games and got my ticket fee refunded and enjoyed free snacks, bottled water, and coffee the entire weekend. Those who sat at my games cleaned up after themselves so that I didn’t have to do it for them. I lost one of my game tickets, they looked my name up wrote up a “Totally Real Ticket” (That’s exactly what was written LOL) for my 5E D&D Adventurers League game while smiling the entire time. At the game tables, people are willing to help you with rules, loan you books, help you add up dice rolls and are generally fun to be around. You like being around each other, meeting up with old friends, and making new ones. And when you leave, you can’t wait until next year.