SOUTH PORTLAND — Although Saturday was sunny and warm, a line of mostly young men formed indoors in a dark blue hallway of the Wyndam Hotel.
They each paid a $25 registration fee for a gift bag and information book for Battlefield Convention 2009 – or BattlefieldCon, a one-day, all-day gaming convention. (Gamers lugging a TV set, game console or a game controller to lend, received a $5 discount.)
The organizer, Peter Robishaw of Falmouth, darted around the Lighthouse ballroom checking power cables, Internet issues and answering every question, from the technical to the schedule. “My stomach is jumpy,” he said in a rare free moment.
BattlefieldCon was the first convention Robishaw has produced. “I was tired of hearing about amazing conventions that were too far away, so I started my own,” he said.
He learned about the practical behind-the-scenes organizing after working for PortCon, a similar gaming convention held in June 2009. “My convention is a little bit different from PortCon,” Robishaw said. “It isn’t as much about anime (Japanese animation) or dressing up as characters. It’s more about playing the games and competing.”
Even for a small convention, Robishaw did eight months of preparation: making a Web site, advertising on the radio and on social networks, recruiting friends as staff (including his fiance and his little brother), printing information books, renting the space and negotiating the Internet use
“Yeah, I hope it goes well and people have a good time,” he said. “I definitely want to do it next year and make it bigger.”
The ballroom hummed with voices and a plastic staccato of drumming from the “Rockband 2” drum set. Four long lines of guys hunched over their controllers in front of a hodgepodge of TV sets. More gamers stood behind their chairs watching and commenting on the exploits of the virtual heroes, as explosions reflected off glasses or cast blue hues on participants’ faces. About 200 people were in attendance.
Ryan Janson, of South Portland, played “Streetfighter 4” against Chris Tran from Portland.
“This is an opportunity for people to play different games then they would normally, and play against people that they don’t know … in person instead of just online,” Janson said. “It’s really nice to meet the person you are playing against, and we shake hands after the match, all that stuff.”
Robishaw worked out a variety of cash and game prizes for tournament winners. But most of the participants just wanted bragging rights.
“There’s a lot of pride in how good you are at a certain game,” Janson said. “I want to see how I compare with other people.” He looked over at the other players in the ballroom and added, “I’m proficient with the shooting games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty but some of the people here are on a different level.”
A handful of girls at the convention played “Guitar Hero,” “Rockband 2” or “Dance Dance Revolution” set up along the periphery of the room.
“Most girls aren’t into the shooter games, killing people or taking cars and running people over,” said 17-year-old Abby Juarez of Scarborough, who was registering participants. She said she enjoys all the games, but doesn’t feel skilled enough to compete.
Kal Lavoie, another girl gamer, rapidly punched buttons as she played “Beatmania iiDX,” a game like Simon Says that quickly gives you color coded music. When you correctly hit the corresponding buttons, the music plays accurately.
“I just like to be around other people that play games,” LaVoie said. “There aren’t many other ways to meet people, when you normally do this stuff alone in the basement.”
Jonathan Gene, 18, of Westbrook, and Chuck Han, 21, of Falmouth, practice playing “Streetfighter 4” before the competitions begin at BattlefieldCon on Aug. 8 in South Portland.Emily Boisvert, 16, and Alex Lavergne, 15, both of Brunswick, jump around on the game controller playing “Dance Dance Revolution” at BattlefieldCon on Aug. 8 in South Portland.