By Zachary Parker
In 1990, University at Buffalo students hosted the very first UBcon, a gathering of tabletop gamers at the UB North Campus. Now in its 25th year, UBcon has expanded to cover much more. According to the event's official Facebook page: "UBcon is a tradition started 25 years ago by UB SARPA to have tons of fun playing role-playing and table-top games of all sorts. Since then it has expanded to include many other interests, including Comic Books, Anime, Web Comics, TV Shows, Dagorhir, Artists of every sort and more. It occurs every spring around early-April."
University at Buffalo students and other attendees are already excited for this weekend's event.
"Artist Alley is always a blast, and there's so many other cool events around," said Alex Betschen, a junior at the University at Buffalo. Many conventiongoers attend every year, and the excitement for this year's events is at a high point. "I expect this year's experience to be even more enjoyable (than last year's)."
The three-day convention brings a lot of positive attention to the north campus. "People from all over Western New York and beyond get to travel and see much of what the north campus has to offer. I'm sure people are very pleased with the facilities and the community of UB," Betschen said.
In addition to the regular attendees, the convention will also have a large selection of official guests who have brought their talents to the university for the weekend.
Voice actors are often a staple of these conventions, and this year is no exception. Four voice actors will be visiting UBcon XXVI. Famed voice actress Ellen McLain will be a guest at this year's UBcon. McLain is famous for voicing the character of GLaDOS in the award-winning game "Portal" and its sequel, "Portal 2." She has worked in other video games and in the film "Pacific Rim." McLain also is an opera singer.
McLain will be accompanied by her husband, John Patrick Lowrie. He is famous for playing The Sniper in the video game "Team Fortress 2" and several characters in the video game "Dota 2."
Quinton Flynn, a prolific voice actor known best as Raiden in the "Metal Gear Solid" series, will also be at this year's UBcon. Flynn has appeared in countless video games and animated series, and is famously known as "Q-Man."
Chris Cason will be in attendance as well. Cason is most well known for voicing characters in the English dubs of many Japanese anime. Cason is famous for his voice work in shows such as "Dragon Ball Z" and "Fullmetal Alchemist." He has also appeared in video games such as "Borderlands 2."
Super Best Friends Play, an Internet Let's Play group, will visit this year's UBcon. A Let's Play is a video in which one or more persons plays a video game and gives commentary during it. Super Best Friends Play are one of the most popular Let's Play groups on YouTube and have a strong fan base.
Artist Zack Stella is also scheduled to appear at the convention. Stella's artwork has appeared on "Magic: The Gathering" trading cards, a game played by many who attend UBcon. Stella will be hosting a live "Doodle Time" where attendees may suggest drawings live while he answers questions the audience may have.
UBcon will also be visited by DJ HJ and DJ Ru, who will host a rave the first night of the convention. The rave will have cosplayers and other attendings dancing to music remixed by the DJs playing from 8 p.m. until midnight inside the Student Union Fishbowl Theater.
In addition to the guests, UBcon has a large number of events run by convention attendees. The schedule for this year's convention has been posted to the official website and contains many diverse activities across the convention's three-day span.
The first night of the convention, Friday, April 17, has several events where fans can meet up to play video games together, including several contests where convention attendees can participate to win prizes.
Friday night also is host to UBcon's NERF war. Participants bring their NERF guns to engage in organized, large-scale combat. They bring their own NERF weapons and separate into teams, battling on the campus for hours at a time. Participants often bring modified NERF guns, with customized paint jobs giving their toy weapons a new, more personal style.
Saturday conventiongoers are welcome to participate in a qualifier for the "Magic: The Gathering" Standard Pro Tour, which allows fans of the game a chance to play in an international competition.
Saturday attendees also will be able to participate in live action role-playing with Dagorhir. Dagorhir is taken from Tolkien Elvish and means "Lord of War." Those who play the game use weapons made of foam to fight each other in a medieval-style combat. The event is hosted by Tartarus Invictus, Buffalo's Dagorhir group, which practices weekly at the University at Buffalo campus.
Saturday will also have a Cosplay contest. Cosplay is when fans dress up as characters from popular media, trying their best to replicate their looks and styles.
Sunday will include a meet-up of Quidditch players, recreating the fictional sport from the "Harry Potter" book series in which players ride on broomsticks and attempt to throw balls past a goaltender.
UBcon will also include many tabletop and role-playing games every day that the convention takes place as well as many discussion panels, scavenger hunts, fan meet-ups and other events.
UBcon invites many artists and vendors to set up shop in the convention. Selling everything from plushies to 20-sided dice, the shopping is one of the most popular aspects of the convention. Many artists at the convention will take commission work, allowing for convention attendees to leave with their own personalized art.
UBcon begins Friday at 6 p.m. at the University at Buffalo North Campus in Amherst. The convention runs nonstop until 2 p.m. Sunday