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OrcaCon, an inclusive tabletop game convention, underway in Bellevue

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs is one of the original organizers of the convention, and he still volunteers his time there despite a demanding day job.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — OrcaCon has returned to the Bellevue Hilton this weekend. The event is a place for tabletop game lovers and game developers alike to gather around and play. 

The convention has a focus on diversity, inclusion and accessibility. Director Donna Prior said the convention highlights marginalized voices in tabletop games, including people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities. 

“We are a non-profit that brings people to the table. To me it’s so nice to be able to bring this to people and let people know that they’re welcome," Prior said.

The organization has a board of directors and each time one steps down they are replaced by a person of color to emphasize equity in the event's leadership. The anti-harassment policy is clearly posted. Prior said there’s zero tolerance for discrimination.

The convention is in its eighth year. The three-day event features fun for avid gamers and newcomers alike. Popular favorites like Magic The Gathering empower developers to demo prototype games. 

Playtest Northwest is on hand to connect designers and gamers for real-time feedback on new game concepts. Dozens of prototype games are in rotation every couple of hours and many games, like Food Truck Champion, are examples of games that were “playtested” and are now published tabletop games. 

Attendees can bring their own games, borrow new games or test new concepts.

The convention is volunteer-run by passionate gamers. One of the original organizers is still volunteering despite a rather demanding day job. Steve Hobbs is a big Dungeons & Dragons fan, but most would know him as Washington's Secretary of State. 

"Session is coming up this Monday, so this is a nice vacation, if you will, before I go into the chaos of the legislative session," Hobbs said. 

Hobbs said the inclusive and diversity-focused environment makes OrcaCon unique and welcoming to all. 

"Washington state is the tabletop gaming capital of the world," Hobbs said. He referenced Renton-based Wizards of the Coast as just one example of the local companies that put Seattle at the center of the $12 billion gaming industry.

OrcaCon features workshops and a Merchant Hall and Artist Alley that offers merchandise from locals who rely on conventions like OrcaCon for their living. 

Green Ronin Publishing was founded in Seattle in 2000 and creates original role-playing and card games along with licensing popular titles like The Expanse. Chubsy Dragon Creations is selling handmade ceramic and needle-felted creature creations. Wholehearted Geek has dice and pop art. More than a dozen vendors are on hand through Sunday and visitors can visit and shop without registering.

OrcaCon runs through Sunday, Jan. 8, and online registration is closed. Attendees can register and purchase day passes in person at Bellevue Hilton. Registration opens at 9 a.m. Saturday and OrcaCon wraps up at 6 p.m. on Sunday.


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