The following is an interview with Brian Bielawski, co-founder of Gam3rCon, a week-long convention of gaming and gaming-related entertainment in downtown San Diego that runs concurrently with Comic-Con. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Bielawski about what gamers can expect from the third year of the convention, how fans can get involved with the geek art show, and why Saint’s Row brought inspiration for Gam3rCon.
This interview was conducted on May 31, 2012.
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Gam3rCon, the Mecca for gamers of all kinds, will be celebrating its third year in downtown San Diego during the week of Comic-Con. As a co-founder of Gam3rCon, what was your inspiration for the event and how did it come to fruition?
Brian Bielawski: First off, thank you for giving us Mecca status! I like that. We’ll take it. Gam3rCon began with me and my writing partner trying to figure out how to get more gamers to see my one-man show, GAM3RS, during Comic-Con. We thought, “What if people could come play games before and after the show. That might get more people interested.” Jeff Cotta, who owned the theatre we wanted to rent, said his nephew had just created a zombie RPG, and they might be willing to run demos before and after the show. Gam3rCon was conceived. While gesticulating, we saw that we were really on to something: a place for the games and the people that couldn’t get into Comic-Con. A SAFE event for kids at night. A place for game creators to play with and interact with fans. And, my favorite, a place to bring high art and popular art together.
BD: For those who may not have had a chance to attend last year’s festivities, what kind of competitions, panels, or other activities can attendees expect to enjoy this year?
BB: Best to go floor by floor. On the first floor, attendees will find the video game hall. Consoles and PCs for both free-play and cash-prize tournaments. Final battles in tournaments will be projected on a movie-size screen. Better to read the complete list of games on the website. We also have our Retrocade featuring video game systems of the past, including Atari.
Second floor – the tabletop lounge – featuring every game that doesn’t plug in. Card games, board games, RPGs, miniatures. A huge collection of new and old games to choose from. Free-play and tournaments being run by game masters from all over San Diego county. Again, games will be listed on the website.
Third floor – the theatre – featuring panels during the day and geek theatre at night. This year’s headlining shows: GAM3RS: the Play and Spider Baby the Musical (based on a cult horror classic). The panel schedule will firm up as we confirm speakers closer to the con, but expect some video game and tabletop game creators to lead discussions about the industry.
Also on the third floor (and, indeed, throughout the entire building), a geek art show featuring high quality, game-themed paintings, drawings, and sculptures. All the works will be on sale for the attendees.
Then, the rooftop – an open-air venue overlooking San Diego. Every night will be a different party starting around 7:00 p.m. Live music and other entertainment. These gatherings are one of my favorite parts of Gam3rCon. The vibe is cool and the view is incredible.
And, we’re still in beta testing, but this year might be the first year that we make Gam3rCon, itself, into a game, where attendees level up by participating in different events and winning game duels. Our goal is to launch that this year, and if we don’t, we’ll roll it out at our quarterly Gam3 Days over the course of the year.
BD: When SDCC attendees want to get away from the convention hall for a bit, where and when will fans be able to participate in Gam3rCon?
BB: Gam3rCon is open from 12-12 (noon to midnight) from July 11th-15th. Some parties and late-night horror film screenings may go to 2:00 a.m.
Gam3rCon takes place at the 10th Avenue Theatre, about a 10-minute walk from Comic-Con. The Orange Trolley line also stops about a block away.
930 10th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
BD: In addition to your work as a co-founder of the event, you are also a star in GAM3RS, a one man gaming play featured at Gam3rCon. What can you tell us about the play and the creative process behind its development?
BB: One reviewer called it “…a pitch-perfect comedic performance that captures the essence of gaming geeks around the globe.” – nytheatre.com
It began as an ode to my family and friends (all gamers). With so much negative stuff in the media about gamers in 2005, I wanted to do something that accurately portrayed the lifestyle of gamers AND that celebrated the culture. With my background in acting, I asked a writer friend of mine, Walt Meyer, if he would help me flesh out the story. Together, we created a truly unique piece of theatre in that, throughout the play, all the audience sees is ONE character reacting to everything and everyone around him. It’s a wild ride, with too many pop-culture references to count.
Every year we update the play to reflect current trends in games and pop-culture.
BD: Are there other chances for gamers and fans to create their own performances for Gam3rCon?
BB: Absolutely! We’d be totally open to fitting in short works of geek-theatre created by fans. Anyone interested in submitting a piece should get in touch with me right away!
Also, artists can submit works for the geek art show through our website.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite video games, RPGs, or MMOs?
BB: I just got my first iPhone, and right now I’m loving playing Hero Academy with my brothers and father back in Illinois. It’s a turn-based combination of chess, Stratego, and Magic the Gathering. I know, crazy.
And, I’m a HUGE fan of that zombie RPG that started the tabletop lounge at Gam3rCon – Outbreak Undead. In it you create YOURSELF as a character, out to survive a zombie invasion by taking an online psych evaluation. I was shocked to find out just how little willpower RPG-me had.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to gamers of all ages who aspire to work in the gaming industry?
BB: Play well with others. No, really: all of the people I know working in the industry at some point were brought in by friends. The more genuine relationships you build amongst your fellow gamers, the more likely someone along the line will introduce you to their neighbor who works at Blizzard. When your friend goes on about how cool you are and how passionate you are about gaming, that person at Blizzard will call you first when there’s a job opening.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
BB: Steve Jaros, the writer behind the Saint’s Row series for Volition/THQ, is one such friend who got me my first job doing voice over work in the VG industry. Steve pays so much attention to every single line that goes into his games. I took that on for GAM3RS.
Also, on the theatre front, Steven Fales, who wrote and performed Confessions of a Mormon Boy, was my inspiration for producing GAM3RS around the country.
Apparently, I’m only inspired by Steves.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Gam3rCon and the events that they can look forward to this year?
Or, just buy your ticket and come play with us.