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Gamers, pop culture fans assemble at Charleston’s CharCon

By ALI SCHMITZ

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During years of traveling across the country for gaming conventions, Travis Reynolds always had an idea in the back of his mind — open a comic book and gaming store in Charleston.

Bradley Cook, also known as Ilterendi, takes a photo of Katie Siers, also known as Valora, with the Flatwoods monster during CharCon.
(Photo by Craig Hudson)
He and his friends had discussed it since childhood, but they knew they could never get it off the ground.

“That’s probably a surefire way to go broke,” Reynolds said.

Instead they founded CharCon, a small gaming and pop culture convention that’s been held annually in Charleston since 2006. Somewhere between 600 and 700 people are expected to attend the three-day convention.

Attendees participated in activities like board game competitions, miniatures and role-playing games. They also attended panels, participated in singalongs and competde in costume contests. Reynolds and several other staff members spend months planning ahead to make sure visitors have a good time.

“It’s just a whole buzzing weekend of things to do,” Reynolds said.

It’s the convention’s first year at the Clay Center and first time taking place in the summer. Crowds still braved the heat, traveling from other states and making new friends.

“We’ve got friends we see only here or at other conventions,” Reynolds said.

He said they all spend time together, grabbing meals or celebrating at the convention’s after party. People of all ages attend the event. He said tabletop gaming has practical skills too — it requires players to use problem-solving skills and arithmetic, and it has a social aspect video games don’t.

“One of our big missions is we want to bring gaming back to the table for families, and their children are all playing tabletop games,” Reynolds said.

That includes his family — his children, now teenagers, grew up going to the conventions. Every year they can spend time with other families at the event. People plan work schedules and vacations around it.

Reynolds said CharCon has also grown the gaming community in West Virginia, teaching participants about new games. He said before it was a niche hobby, but as more people attend the event, they find new interests.

“It wasn’t a big hobby here, but now it is,” Reynolds said. “We’re really proud to have helped foster it.”

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