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Video Game Convention Levels Up In Second Year

Ryan smiles and stands in front of a wall.
Sean Newgent
Bloomington-Normal Video Game Convention Organizer Ryan Tauscher

The popularity of Minecraft, mobile games, and Fortnite has proven that gamers are everywhere. The CEO of Netflix told investors at the beginning of the year that the platform faces more competition from Fortnite than HBO. The industry as a whole made around $135 billion last year alone. Gamers are everywhere.

And the Bloomington-Normal Video Game Convention hopes to bring fans of all ages out for a day celebrating their hobby.

“The convention is a place for gamers and game enthusiasts alike to congregate,” said event organizer Ryan Tauscher.

The family friendly convention hosted at the Normal Radisson on May 5 will feature vendors selling gaming paraphernalia, artists, and independent game developers. It will also have costume contests, tournaments, and consoles set up to play including VR headsets.

The convention will also celebrate gaming staple Mortal Kombat with two tournaments and special guest Daniel Pesina, one of the co-creators of the series.

“Mortal Kombat is very martial artist inspired,” explained Tauscher. “Back in the day it was a little bit advanced as far as the bloodshed goes and drew some controversy.”

Those too young for Mortal Kombat can enjoy a Mario Kart competition as well as a virtual reality rhythm game called Beat Saber.

Reflecting on the first year of the convention, Tauscher revealed that he didn’t mean to start one. Tauscher previously ran a video game shop and had amassed such a collection that upon going in a different direction with his career, he had no idea what to do with them.

“I got some buddies together and we talked about maybe having a big sale and I posted something about that online and within a couple of days I went back to check on it and I had hundreds of interested people," he said.

With little room to accommodate such a large crowd, Tauscher scouted a bigger location, found more interested people, and wound up hosting last year’s first Bloomington-Normal Video Game Convention. Five-hundred people attended; it was such a success they wanted to make it an annual event.

For Tauscher, creating the best convention possible is a labor of his love for the gaming community.

“I feel like a lot of gamers are out there feeling like they're by themselves or their only friends live states or countries away because of their online play,” he said. “So to know that you’re surrounded by people with the same interest as you is very important.”

And to see his work bring together gamers of all ages was a powerful moment for him.

“One of my favorite parts of last year’s convention was when you could see different generations introducing the games they grew up with. Like the father introducing his son to the old Mario he used to play or vice-versa with older generations looking at some of the newer games.”

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Sean Newgent is a senior journalism major at Illinois State University. He's an intern for the GLT newsroom.