Six flights of stairs down through the Interfaith Chapel emerge into a noticeably different river-level room. Where on a Sunday morning this area might be warm, bright and inviting, tonight it lies softly lit and generally dark – the perfect dungeon for those who would wish to dwell within it.

Tonight there are roughly a dozen occupants gathered around three different tables. At the largest of these tables, eight people gaze down at a checkered mat plotting out various strategies for adventure and battle.

At the moment, the group is trying to find its bearings during one of the (perhaps) less interesting, yet pivotal moments in the king of role-playing games, “Dungeons & Dragons.”

While one player wastes his turn to cast a spell illuminating a dark tunnel (the response from the Dungeon Master: “You can see about five feet in front of your face”), the others think of what to do next.

This game represents a mere fraction of activities offered up to area-wide gamers over the past weekend as SIMCON XXX spread through Douglass Dining Center, Wilson Commons and, on Saturday evening, the Interfaith Chapel. SIMCON XXX, run by the UR Simulated Gaming Association, stands as the groups annual hallmark event. The 30th anniversary expanded upon previous years with more events and a higher attendance. Over 70 activities and games spread out from Thursday to Sunday morning, from the popular miniature-figure games “Warhammer” and “Heroclix” to tournaments featuring the incredibly popular trading card game “Magic: The Gathering.”

SIMCON XXX also brought what URSGA hopes to be a new tradition: a pentathlon of games for registered groups of three to six people, including “Dungeons & Dragons” and bouts of Nintendo’s new fighting game, “Super Smash Bros. Brawl.”

But despite the “Warhammer”t tables taking up half of Douglass, the anime room set up in the Gowen Room of Wilson Commons and the puzzles being sold at the “Merchant’s Bazaar,” the game taking place 100 feet below ground in the chapel symbolizes just about everything that is SIMCON. There is no mistaking the attitude of many on campus toward SIMCON, to either the casual observer or members of URSGA. Young, old, big, small, whatever they’re geeks. Yet they are in the same vein as those obsessed with the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle or with choose-your-own-adventure books or with your average “Final Fantasy” game. They thrive off of thought-driven fun, enveloped by nothing more than imagination (and perhaps a satchel of dice).

Gary Gygax, the co-creator of “Dungeons & Dragons,” who passed away March 6, envisioned a game of cooperative play where, as he expressed to the New York Times, “There is no winning or losing, but rather the value is in the experience of imagining yourself as a character in whatever genre you’re involved in.”

Gygax disapproved of the move to video games and the massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) such as “World of Warcraft” because they took the imagination out of the game. Here at SIMCON, participants are upholding his vision, getting together in person, laughing, eating and doing a good amount of friendly smack talk. For at least a few hours, between studying for that upcoming organic chemistry test or taking the dog for a walk, a person can be a warlord or a mage. What’s not to love about that?



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