After the gamemaster was finished explaining the rules for March of the Ants I was ready to build my colony. As a young kid I couldn’t get enough of SimAnt so it seemed like March of the Ants was something i’d enjoy. Created by Portland locals Ryan Swisher and Tim Eisner, March of the Ants was successfully Kickstarted to it’s currently released state of strategic game goodness. The joy of playing a locally crafted board game run by the people that had a hand in developing it is one of the reasons why attending GameStorm is a unique experience. Plus it doesn’t hurt if you can take down a rogue centipede or uncouth spider. If you are looking to play new games in early stages or buy something new to take home and play GameStorm is for you. I was asked to attend this year and had some time so I stopped by to hang out and play.

For the weekend it runs GameStorm offers around the clock access to LARPs, RPGs, board games, CCGs, panels, tournaments and more. I was able to sit down with GameStorm Chair Debra Stansbury to talk about this years convention and our mutual love for games.

jdodson: What are one of your favorite parts of GameStorm?

Debra Stansbury: For me what I like the best about GameStorm is that we contacted Kamarion and they now run our gaming with LAN and console games. Upstairs we have the CCG’s and have 5 different kinds of RPGs, which I love. I play RPGs at home but not at the convention. Every year people have an idea for things to try and we just try something new and it becomes part of the convention. Like the giant Jenga board and the kids and their little hard hats. This year we had the garage level G which were not expecting.

jdodson: Right so I had a question about the garage. Due to space issues and some scheduling you had to use a garage level and I am curious how that is going?

Debra Stansbury: It’s been amazing actually. Alot of people thought it would be dark and not fun so we put in carpeting and drapes. We bought lights and put in spotlights. We got the hotel to put in air blowers to help circulate the air a bit as we discovered that was an issue. We originally thought it would be a bit chilly but as it turns out it’s not. The sound baffling there is amazing compared to other rooms. In other places we have games the noise level ramps up and there isn’t that noise ramp in the basement. That said the Call of Cthulhu guys were like, “it’s pretty bright down here can it be a little more moody” so you can’t make everyone happy.

jdodson: How long have you been involved with Gamestorm?

Debra Stansbury: My first Gamestorm was Gamestorm 6 and that was in I think 2004 or 2005. I was the person in charge of hospitality and we didn’t have a hospitality suite before then. The chair wanted hospitality and asked me and I was insufficiently reluctant and said yes. Since then I have been hotel liaison, event co-ordinator and ran hospitality for several years. I am also involved in OryCon and chaired one year and also helped out with Kamarion. OryCon is a totally different animal i’ll tell ya it is completely different than Gamestorm.

jdodson: With that OryCon is the sister convention of Gamestorm and I am wondering how that relationship works?

Debra Stansbury: I am on the board for OSFCI and have helium hand-itus and have a really hard time saying no. Oregon Science Fiction Conventions Incorporated is a non-profit organization that does business as OryCon, Gamestorm and several funds such as the the Susan Petrey scholarship, the Clayton medical fund for authors and the Endeavor award awarded at OryCon. There is also a WorldCon scholarship for people that volunteer and learn things to bring back to us. This years scholarship winner was the person running swag this year Heather McLaughlin.

jdodson: What do you want people to know about Gamestorm that might consider attending next year?

Debra Stansbury: Since you can sit down and play games at home in your basement some people might wonder why they should sit in some other basement to play games. When you come to GameStorm you can try new games and meet new people. You can play the same game with the same people and you may think you know how it works but when you go to a convention and play a game you might discover you interpreted the rules wrong. You can also teach your favorite game to new people and realize how much fun that is. There is an Assassins game running this weekend and they are given tasks in the game and one of the tasks is to challenge the Chair to a game of her choice and if you beat me you get extra points. So I taught three young ladies earlier today how to play Escalation which is a quick card game where you try and screw your neighbor. So what I really want people to know is that they can come to GameStorm to see and play something new and different. We like to have a little bit for everyone.

jdodson: What’s one game that you really enjoy playing?

Debra Stansbury: I really enjoy playing a game we call Crayon Rails which are a bunch of games like North America Rails, Nippon Rails, Russia Rails and I have a friend that has the entire set. We keep going through them from Australia to Russia and rotate them every Friday night. I also play D&D and I am in three different games and like to play Clerics a lot because I like healing and battle magics. I really enjoy smiting the enemy to take them down.

jdodson: GameStorm is the premier Portland game convention. Why is it held in Washington?

Debra Stansbury: We were at the Double Tree across the river until it burned down and they closed it. Then we were drifting from hotel to hotel trying to find the right combination of rooms and space. OryCon had the same issue as well and they found a hotel and settled in. When we were looking around the Hilton here in Vancouver liked us and when we had the issue this year they bent over backwards to help us find a solution which is how we ended up with the garage. The Vancouver Hilton is in the Portland metro area even though it is in Washington. One thing we don’t like to do at any OSFCI event is exclude people so the fact that it is in Washington means we are reaching out to our Washington friends. It’s also not too far out of reach from Portland. We have people on my team that come up from Cottage Grove and people coming down from Seattle. What’s really fun is when we see people that come and play with others they see once a year that have games that keep going through the years.

jdodson: Do you know about how many people you have on staff this year?

Debra Stansbury: It’s well over a hundred and nowhere near as many as we need.

jdodson: So you are in need of people to help out with the con?

Debra Stansbury: We are always short staffed. We have three different levels of staff starting with Con Com which are your department heads which are in charge of areas and they have staff to help fill in the gaps. The staff are the people that before the con have agreed to work at least twelve hours. Some of them work that amount in a day and we don’t encourage that but people do. At the convention we also have more casual volunteers that might have an hour before their next game to see if someone needs some help. People can volunteer from washing dishes, washing doors, restocking hospitality, working the games, security and registration.

jdodson: What has been one of your more memorable moments at GameStorm?

Debra Stansbury: One of my early memories was when Richard Garfield came and we ran a live action RoboRally for the first time. That was really fun because he was MCing his game and we laid out the grid on the carpet with blue painters tape and put in the obstacles and we had people standing there as the robots and at the table we had the programmers. You know things are not going well when you have the robot standing there at what is supposed to be a pit and it looks down and the pit, looks at the table at the programmer and the programmer can’t look at them in the eye because the robot is about to die. That was a lot of fun watching them get involved in that.

GameStorm is a game convention held in Vancouver Washington and you can pre-register for next years con right now.

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