Pirates vs. ninjas at BASHConWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The battle lines are drawn. On one side, there are anarchic buccaneers with peg legs and eye patches, ready to battle for your booty. On the other, stealthy assassins at home in the night, whose fighting skills are legendary.
Yes. Pirates vs. ninjas. The war is about to begin and the conflict will take place in the least likely of places — the University of Toledo Student Union.
On Feb. 17, the 27th annual BASHCon — the largest gaming convention in the area — will begin at 5 p.m. in the Union. Registration begins at 4 p.m.; as attendees enter, they will choose sides.
“Once you register to the event, you name yourself a ‘pirate’ or ‘ninja,’ and the entire convention will basically be a big battle of pirates vs. ninjas. And whenever a ninja or a pirate wins a game, we tally up the results and see which faction is winning,” said Qusai Al Shidi, this year’s BASHCon coordinator.
Costumes are optional, but probably inevitable. The theme gives BASHCon’s events an added level of depth and fun, as players from around the area (and, indeed, the country) gather to face off in role-playing games (RPGs), video games, table-top games and more.
Al Shidi said that the motif was decided on early in the planning. “BASHCon every year has a theme, and the committee this year, we were thinking about a theme,” he said. “And I guess pirates vs. ninjas was a good theme, and something to actually apply to BASHCon, and do the whole battle thing.”
This year’s event has been a labor of love for Al Shidi, who has been involved with BASHCon for the past four years — as long as he’s attended UT as a physics major.
“BASH, which is the student organization which runs BASHCon, is a big organization,” Al Shidi said. “We have over a hundred members, and usually a couple of them start taking up leadership positions throughout the year, especially if you stay with the organization. And that’s, I guess, what happened with me.
“I was co-coordinator last year, but this is my first year of being coordinator, yes. And my last,” he added with a smile in his voice.
Gaming has been a part of Al Shidi’s life since childhood in his home country of Oman. He fondly recalls being taken to arcades by his brother, who taught him how to play classics like “Street Fighter.” Other kinds of gaming didn’t come into his life until much later.
“I did have an interest [in role-playing games], but I grew up in another country where it’s virtually hard to find, or non-existent,” Al Shidi said. “So RPG’s and table-top games really came into my life when I came to the U.S.”
The universal appeal of playing with (or against) friends is one of the great appeals of an event like BASHCon, he said. “Really, everybody loves games. So if you go there, you’ll definitely find something to play, whether it’s board games or video games.
“And if you don’t know how to play a board game, people are very nice over there, and are willing to teach. So, going there unequipped or without knowledge shouldn’t stop you from going to BASHCon. You’ll have fun anyway,” Al Shidi said.
In addition to the wide variety of traditional games on display during the event, there will be other, less traditional items. Have you ever wanted to control a giant robot? BASHCon has the next best thing.
“We’re gonna have Battletech Pods — they’re virtual reality machines in which you enter this big pod and start piloting a giant robot, and it’s going to be very fun,” Al Shidi said.
There’ll also be large tournaments for a wide variety of titles, from board and card contests to a number of different video games, though Al Shidi is quick to point out there will be plenty of gaming for those who don’t want to commit to a full tournament.
“You can come in and just play,” Al Shidi said, but added that “There’s gonna be a ‘Call of Duty’ tournament and a ‘Halo’ tournament and a ‘Smash Bros.’ tournament.”
The event will also feature appearances from several guests with clout in the gaming world, from Bryan Pope, the CEO of gaming company Arcane Wonders, to the cast members of the irreverent gaming podcast “THACO.”
“They talk about RPGs on that podcast, and we were able to invite them to BASHCon, too, so that they could possibly record a podcast during the convention,” Al Shidi said.
In the end, though, Al Shidi said that the real appeal of an event as expansive as BASHCon is experiencing the whole of the community fans belong to, concentrated in one annual gathering.
“That’s what convention culture is like. It’s a once-in-a-year thing,” Al Shidi said. “What seems unique to this event is the people you can see there and meet, that it’s an experience. It’s something memorable that you can do there every year.
“And it’s in the gaming culture to go to conventions in the state, or around the country, actually,” he added. “It’s just a thing we do, and it’s definitely something you go to to learn more about the culture, and the events. And play games.”
BASHCon runs Feb. 17-19 in the UT Student Union on the main campus, 2801. W. Bancroft St. UT students get in free with ID. General admission is $10 for one day, $15 for the weekend. Visit www.bashcon.com for information.