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A celebration of games

November 7, 2022

The theme for Dakota State’s annual Nanocon is “Into the Frozen Wasteland,” but organizers expect anything but barren terrain at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse on Nov. 10-13.

“We have a goal this year of 650 attendees,” said DSU Games Club Events Coordinator Chad Compton. Pre-registrations are indicating they’re on track to meet that goal.

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Attendees at recent Nanocons play video and board games, and paint game pieces. The 2022 con is being held at Dakota Prairie Playhouse on Nov. 10-13.

“We’ve had more people register for this year’s event than we had for a single day’s attendance last year,” he said. Compton is a sophomore Computer Game Design major from California.

He said everyone is welcome to attend, even if they haven’t preregistered, because the goal is to get everyone involved, to be part of the community that celebrates games.

“One aspect of Nanocon that sets it apart from other regional gaming conventions is the entry is free. That is very unique,” said Jason Jenkins, Instructor of Computer Science and Games Club co-advisor. This expands the reach to include current students, faculty and staff, alumni, and community members, along with those who have no affiliation to DSU, he stated. Area high school students also attend, making Nanocon something of a recruiting event.

Compton sees that as well. “This can be a huge thing for outreach beyond DSU. It’s a chance to show off the University and what it’s about.”

With 39 listed events, there will be something for everyone, Compton said, something of “an amusement park of games.” This includes events like the Nanocon Chess Open Tournament, a cosplay contest, Laser Tag, board games, card games, role-playing games, and console gaming, Jenkins said.

Some games fit the theme, like Magic the Gathering Kaldheim draft, Warhammer Tournament for 40k, and Age of Sigmar “Siege of the Frozen Wasteland,” which will make for a rich experience, Compton said.

One new event this year is a mystery game tournament inspired by a similar event at Chicago’s convention, Frosty Faustings. Compton explained that participants in the Madison Mystery Tournament will play random video games they’ve probably never heard of. Trying these games can be a fun experience, he stated.

About 16 vendors from around the state will be at the con, and the popular Paint and Take figures booth is making a comeback this year. A local microbrew start-up from Madison, the MadLads, will be bringing a keg of root beer. “That will be an awesome addition,” Compton said.

Nanocon comes together through the efforts of members of the Games Club, with assistance from other clubs, including esports and the Computer Club. Jenkins said this becomes a learning experience for the students, who gain numerous skills in project management, teamwork, communication, website design and maintenance, social media marketing, budgeting, and fundraising. The city of Madison also benefits from the participants who spend money at the city’s retail businesses.

This is the 20th convention hosted by the University, which started with a trial event in 2004 before settling into the November tradition. Attendance has averaged 275, but in 2020 it was held as an online only fundraising event due to the pandemic. The 2021 con broke all attendance records, with over 400 people attending. Compton said they would like to continue to expand the convention, possibly bringing back panel discussions, which people enjoy.

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