Nope, I’m not talking about the UK Games Expo. Next week marks the launch of AireCon 8!
Though less than ten-years-old, AireCon is making impressive gains and closing in on Games Expo, the convention that inspired it. While it hasn’t quite overtaken the UK’s premiere convention, AireCon is making quite the name for itself with an impressive program and finely tuned apparatus.
This convention, named for the Aire River, has come a long way since its inception in 2016. What started as a show with just over a hundred guests now attracts closer to 6,000 attendees to Harrogate Convention Center. That’s just enough to feel like a proper con without the hassles of a giant crowd. Especially when you consider that the crowds are spread out over four days, from March 9 – 12. Tickets are also quite affordable. Daily passes start as low as £7 and all four days will only set you back £54. Plus, kids are free every day.
Once you’re in, there is a lot to see and do. AireCon bills itself first and foremost as a convention built around the gaming experience, and it really is at the core of their organization. Game sessions and tournaments can be easily accessed in several ways. Their site features the G.A.M.E. System which allows you to find and sign up for game slots digitally. But being an analog games festival, there are simpler ways as well. A flag raised at a table indicates that a group still has slots available, or you can slap a sticker on your jacket to let everyone know you’re looking for a game. Some gaming events, tournaments, RPGs, and the like, also require a special registration through the website. These are usually free, though some have a small fee.
But conventions are all about spectacle, and AireCon is bringing it! First off, it is currently the host to the only European unveiling of GeeknSon’s latest fancy-shmancy gaming table, the Gwen! If you’ve never seen a GeeknSon table, they are a thing of beauty. For example, the Gwen is crafted from century oak hardwood, comes standard with 360° LED lighting, cupholders, card holders, component holders, everything you could possibly want from a gaming table.
Oh, and in case you’re worried about space, they convert into standard dining and coffee tables with a Keep Dry system to make sure that your game underneath is safe and sound. Tables like these are the ultimate gamer flex, and they usually come with a price tag to match. But like previous GeeknSon tables, the Gwen is launching first as a Kickstarter. In their previous Kickstarters, that meant a 25% – 40% discount off the retail price plus all of the free Early Bird goodies like power banks and wireless chargers. Be sure to check this beauty out, caress it, maybe smell it a little. Believe me, I get it, no judgement.
There are also going to be some celebrity hosts leading a few of the festivities. Rodney Smith and the cast of Watch It Played will be there engaging with fans throughout the event. One of AireCon’s hallmarks are their Mega Games which get entire audiences into the action. Watch It Played will be hosting Mega Games of Just One, a co-op party game of word guessing, and Wheels vs Doors, a game where players are given two very random groups of things and must wager on which they think is bigger. They’ll also be doing a Q&A with fans as well as a live taping for their YouTube channel.
While these are two of the biggest, they’re far from the only events on the schedule. There are plenty more Mega Games, as well as their close cousin, the Giant Game. These board games of enormous proportions are simply larger versions of popular games. How large? Big enough that you’re the pieces, meaning your fantasy of living through that chess scene in Harry Potter can finally come true. Afterwards, you can join a crew in the Starship Simulator, working together to guide your starship safely to port. While the kids hang out in the Family Zone, grownups can take part in the Board Game Pub Quiz or enjoy a guided beer tasting from Brew York. You can then run off all those liquid carbs in the Gamers Go a Parkrunning 5K the next morning, then reload at the Meeple Syrup: Morning Mixer!
Oh, and if you’re feeling charitable, there will be a raffle benefitting survivors of the Turkish and Syrian earthquakes. I’m not going to lecture you about the importance of giving, though. Instead, I’m going to bombard you with pictures of some of the amazing prizes your philanthropic donations can earn you. Though this is only the tip of the iceberg. Check out the AireCon Facebook page to see more.
This, ladies and gentleman, is what a convention schedule should look like. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out for me. And tell Gwen I said “Hello.”
By Zane Messina