Pokémon characters hung out with Cosplay Heroes. Anime characters wandered the narrow hallway, Young Link of Super Smash Bros. strolled past the newest in gaming technology, and a Street Fighter chatted with fellow gamers Saturday at the 12th annual BeachCon.
Meanwhile, students in t-shirts and jeans, lugging personal gaming systems under their arms, found a seat in the darkened gaming room and settled in for a long day of video games and non-stop virtual battles. War scenes, ring matches and death-to-the-end skirmishes flickered on intense faces as the day wore on.
BeachCon is a two-day gaming tournament at the Pyramid, where area students can test their skills against fellow college students. The festival celebrates all that the gaming community has to offer – competition, characters, fun and energy drinks. A lot of energy drinks.
Cat Tompkins, a graduate student in marketing and president of the CSULB ESports Association, organized the event. She was the go-to person when the crew had trouble with the firewall. She oversaw the set up at The Pointe, making sure there were enough tables, chairs and electrical outlets for the roughly 2,000 gamers who would pass through the doors over the weekend.
She said she began planning the annual affair a year in advance, in conjunction with the office of Housing and Residential Life, which provided the venue and technology staff.
“This is an intercollegiate experience for the students, where they can compete against other people from other schools,” Tompkins said.
Tompkins, 22, is a gamer herself, having pushed her first play button at age 3 in the game “Sonic.” Her father, she said, was “a big gamer” and introduced her to the electronic game world. She, in turn, introduced President Jane Close Conoley to the inner workings of gaming.
Conoley spent nearly an hour Saturday exploring games, checking out the Anime vendors and listened as four students sang along with Wii’s Rock Band. She declined from taking the microphone or trying the virtual reality headset that attracted many.
Brandon Nguyen, an electrical engineering major, was part of the volunteer crew that helped check in players. Participation in the PC games was free, but the tournament play (Super Smash Bros, Street Fighter and Guilty Gear Xrd-Revelator) cost $5.
“This is a great event to expose other singles players to tournament play,” Nguyen said above the shouts and ambient video game sounds.
Hector Salinas, a computer science major, said that while event is competitive, “everyone supports each other.” He said he began playing video games at age 5.
Nguyen, Salinas and fellow volunteer, Keith Anao, said Anime was a big reason they got into playing video games. All three regularly watched the colorful animated shows on television as children, although Anao confessed that “Pokémon was my life” when he was young.