Moose Jaw - - Front Page - Matthew Gourlie

Ev­ery six months, the Moose Jaw Gamer’s As­so­ci­a­tion’s bian­nual GAX (gamer’s expo) gets big­ger.

The MJGA is an­tic­i­pat­ing their Win­ter GAX in Fe­bru­ary will be their big­gest yet, but a month from the start of the week­end event, they still have no way of know­ing for sure.

For the first time they’ve of­fered pre-reg­is­tra­tion and de­spite of­fer­ing a draw for a $50 gift card mul­ti­ple out­lets of the win­ner’s choice -- depend­ing on their in­ter­ests -- the pre-reg­is­tra­tion has failed to take off.

“It just makes it so hard to plan when you have no idea how many peo­ple are com­ing,” said Kris­tian Sjoberg from the Moose Jaw Gamer’s As­so­ci­a­tion. “We don’t ex­pect 100 per cent of peo­ple to pre-regis­ter, but if we could get 50 or 75 per cent to pre-regis­ter it gives you a ball­park.”

Win­ter GAX runs Feb. 1-3 at St. Joseph’s Church and par­tic­i­pants can regis­ter to play ei­ther in­ter­net-con­nected LAN (lo­cal area net­work) games or board games. The event runs from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. on the Fri­day, from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Satur­day and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sun­day. “It’s ba­si­cally 48 hours with a lit­tle nap in be­tween,” Sjoberg said.

The Win­ter GAX has al­ways out-drawn the Sum­mer GAX, but the 2018 sum­mer event drew a record crowd of 83 peo­ple, which has or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect­ing a big crowd for Win­ter GAX. To help gauge num­bers they of­fered a re­duced price of $25 for the LAN games and $15 for board games for any­one who reg­is­tered by Jan. 18. The price for the LAN games goes back up to $30 after the early dead­line. “Board games are pick­ing up in pop­u­lar­ity,” Sjoberg said. “We used to be about 75-25 for in­ter­net games to board games. Now we’re prob­a­bly closer to 60 board games and 40 per cent in­ter­net games.” Sjoberg said that Over­watch and Play­erUn­known’s Bat­tle­grounds are both pop­u­lar ti­tles with the LAN crowd, while GAX of­fers a great chance for board game afi­ciona­dos to try some­thing new. “We’ve got a cou­ple of guys, Ja­cob Hart and Kevin Acorn, who have a few hun­dred board games, and they have a list and they post it on our Face­book page for peo­ple to look at and if there are any of them that they want to try, th­ese guys will bring it down and teach them how to play it. There’s hun­dreds and hun­dreds of board games that we have ac­cess to,” said Sjoberg who added that group games like One Night Ul­ti­mate Were­wolf have been pop­u­lar in the past.

“Usu­ally there is some­one who will put on a Dun­geons & Dragons or a Pathfinder cam­paign for the week­end.”

As the crowds grow, Sjoberg would love to see the event ex­pand and branch out while still stay­ing true to its man­date to be a week­end about gam­ing.

“We’re hop­ing to ex­pand a lit­tle more this year and get a lit­tle more into the cos­play,” he said. “Last year Kevin came down with a Rein­hardt cos­tume from Over­watch. It was a big, huge blue war­rior with a gi­ant ham­mer and took pic­tures with peo­ple. It was pretty cool.

“We’re try­ing to get into that a lit­tle bit to try to get more peo­ple into it.”

One thing that will never change is the GAX com­mit­ment to char­ity. Ev­ery year the pro­ceeds from the event are do­nated to a lo­cal char­ity. Sjoberg is also the pres­i­dent of the lo­cal branch of the Sask­Tel Pi­o­neers. The Pi­o­neers and Sask­Tel head of­fice both spon­sor one GAX a year -- Sjoberg points out that they ap­plied to Sask­Tel the same as any other char­ity would -- and Sask­Tel is go­ing to match the dona­tions that they make from the pro­ceeds of this Win­ter GAX. Sask­Tel Pi­o­neers have a lit­er­acy ini­tia­tive and Sjoberg is hop­ing that each school divi­sion will get a healthy do­na­tion later this year from the event.

“Last year we gave $1,250 to Hunger in Moose Jaw,” Sjoberg said. “This isn’t a profit gam­ing expo, this is en­tirely non-profit. We cover our costs for the in­ter­net and the hall. Fam­ily Pizza is now a ma­jor spon­sor and they do­nate all of the piz­zas and Moosenet Com­puter Ser­vices do all of the net­work­ing for us for free. “With­out those two spon­sors, we wouldn’t be able to (make the do­na­tion). It’s a free pizza party on Satur­day, it’s $600-700 worth of pizza he do­nates.”

He said that the char­ity com­po­nent is im­por­tant to the gamers and gives them an out­let to en­joy a hobby in a way that they’re com­fort­able.

“They want to give back, but they don’t want to talk to peo­ple,” Sjoberg said of some of the in­tro­verted gamers. “We want ev­ery sin­gle dol­lar from th­ese gam­ing ex­pos to go back to Moose Jaw. That’s our prime man­date.”

The first GAX was held in 2010 and while it con­tin­ues to grow, Sjoberg has a far grander vi­sion of what it could be as the pop­u­lar­ity of gam­ing con­tin­ues to grow. “Ba­si­cally, our dream is for it to be the Comic-Con of the north and have 20,000 peo­ple de­scend on Moose Jaw and play board games, video games and cos­play,” Sjoberg said. “That’s our dream -- mine and Jess Hallswoth, who is our pres­i­dent -- to take over the Ex­hi­bi­tion Grounds and Mo­saic Place and it’s just gam­ing for three days straight. And ev­ery penny that goes above our costs goes back to char­i­ties in Moose Jaw.”

“We want ev­ery sin­gle dol­lar from th­ese gam­ing ex­pos to go back to Moose Jaw. That’s our prime man­date.” -Kris­tian Sjoberg

The Moose Jaw Gamer’s As­so­ci­a­tion will host their Win­ter GAX from Feb. 1-3 at St. Joseph’s Church.

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