Genghis Con Celebrates 45 Years With Four Days of Gaming | Westword

Genghis Con Celebrates 45 Years With Four Days of Gaming

“The gaming community has always been awesome."
Andre'a Arnold and her beholder Beasley.
Andre'a Arnold and her beholder Beasley. Andre'a Arnold
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Genghis Con has been one of Colorado’s preeminent gaming conventions for 45 years now. Current owner and organizer Andre’a Arnold first encountered the event back in 2000, when she and her husband moved to Colorado.

It was the first gaming convention she’d ever attended. “I was so incredibly nervous,” Arnold laughs. “Oh, my God. I was freaked.”

But despite her reaction, she was no newbie to the community. “I painted my first miniature in 1979, when I was five years old. I got my first Player’s Handbook at nine. I grew up with Dungeons & Dragons. I knew the rules, I had the dice, I’d put in my time — I was a gamer," Arnold says. "But still, back then, it was not unusual for me to be the only woman playing at the table. I’m proud to say that gaming is incredibly diverse now, and in all ways.”

That diverse and collegial company will be on full display from Thursday, February 23, through Sunday, February 26, for Genghis Con 45 at the Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center, 13200 East 14th Place in Aurora. The con begins daily at 9 a.m., and events run through 2 a.m. every day except Sunday, when everything wraps by midnight. Vendor Hall hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, and parking is free, as is admision to the Vendor Hall; badges start at $40 for a single day of gaming, $100 for the full event.

“The gaming community has always been awesome,” Arnold says. “We’ve basically always been a bunch of neurodivergent nerds who just want to get together and play.” She says that once the Genghis Con team began to overtly focus on making sure everyone felt absolutely welcome — that they belonged and had a seat at the gaming table like everyone else — “it all fell into place. It’s one of the most safe havens of a community that there is.”

That community was something Arnold sought through gaming for a long time. She met her husband in the early ’90s, when she was getting her education degree from the University of New Mexico. He was a gamer, too — she calls him her “forever GM” (Game Master). They married and started a family, then moved out of Albuquerque as soon as Arnold graduated. They came to Denver because, as Arnold puts it, “it had everything we could have imagined: colleges, arts, sports, strong schools. It was everything Albuquerque wasn’t.

“The house we lived in [in Albuquerque] was across the street from the place in Breaking Bad where they steal the RV,” Arnold continues, and laughs. “I’m not exaggerating. I joke that we left because that show is a true story.”

They found a place in Lakewood to call home, and also found themselves spending a lot of time (and money) at the indie shop Black and Read in Arvada. “We still go and check things out,” Arnold says. “Love that place. I love the clutter and the mess of it.”

Arnold taught social studies, first at Wheat Ridge High and for a long while at Deer Creek Middle School. She transitioned into alternative high schools, and later became a dean and then an assistant principal. She stopped that line of work completely when it became untenable: “It absolutely required twelve-hour days, and my kids were still young. They needed me.” She left teaching and went to motorcycle mechanic school for a year, “mainly to work on my own bikes,” she says.

It was in 2017 that she bought and started running Genghis Con and its partner event, Tacticon, which usually runs in late summer. Last year’s Genghis Con was the first one back after taking a year off because of the pandemic.
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Genghis Con 44 from 2022.
Teague Bohlen
“This year is going to be even bigger,” Arnold promises. “It’s insane. It’s going to be insane.” She ticks off a list of some of the things she’s most excited about: special guest Luke Gygax, son of Gary Gygax, one of the progenitors of tabletop role-playing, and a game designer himself; multiple panels, which were tougher to do during the time of social distancing; a game designers' meet-and-greet; miniatures-painting workshops; and pretty much every game you can imagine. A complete list of events is available on the Genghis Con website.

One of the things Arnold is most animated about is what they’re calling “Side Quests,” which are activities for the supportive non-gamers in attendance — the romantic partners there with a gamer in their life, the parents with a gamer kid. “I take for granted that I have a partner who’s also a gaming nerd,” Arnold says. “That’s not the case for so many people.” So on Friday, there will be a couple of Sip-and-Paint classes, some gamer-themed crocheting lessons — things to do for attendees who possess neither a bag of funny-shaped dice nor a yearning to toss them.

Ticket sales are booming this year: As of mid-February, the event had sold as many badges as 2022’s event did by its conclusion, including walk-ins. With more than a week left and at-the-door sales still pending inclusion, the crowds this year are guaranteed to be impressive.

“It’s all about each individual experience within the gamer community,” Arnold says, “and making sure that everyone, no matter who they are, has a good time and a good game.”

Genghis Con 45, Thursday, February 23, through Sunday, February 26, Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center, 13200 East 14th Place, Aurora. For badges and more event information, see the Genghis Con website.
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