“I’m here to have fun!” Arianna Williams, a resident of Bonanza, said this past weekend.
Williams was one of more than 500 people who TechCon 2023, held Saturday, Jan. 14 and Sunday, Jan. 15 on the Oregon Tech campus. Organizers of the event said more than a third of attendees were not associated with the school.
The two-day convention, open for both students and the public, offered many attractions ranging from futuristic virtual reality and driving simulators to old school board games and cornhole.
“It’s the [most fun] weekend every year,” said returning attendee Dante Melville.
Originally available only to students as a way to curb boredom during the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend, OIT’s administration decided in 2015 to allow anyone of the community who wished to participate to join in on the fun. After taking some years off due to the pandemic, TechCon 2023 was promised to be the biggest and best one yet.
“[TechCon’s] awesome,” said Aron Aldridge, a senior mechanical engineering student at OIT. “I’m really glad the school is back to doing big events.”
Featuring Southern Oregon’s largest interactive video game museum consisting of 60-plus consoles and gear, attendees could play old-school classics such as Atari games or the original Nintendo collection up to the current generation’s PS5, XBOX and Switch. The museum’s oldest machine for play was the first-ever home console, Magnavox’s Odyssey, which was released more than 51 years ago in 1972.
The museum’s curator, Kurt Liedtke, stated his collection began in 1985 when he and his brother pooled their allowance together to purchase the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
“I was hooked ever since,” Liedtke said. “My favorite part of sharing the collection is seeing others enjoy it. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not still fun.”
Liedtke’s words were proven true by Tianna Roa and LeAria Sewall, two freshmen attending OIT who were playing Guitar Hero.
“I’ve never played [Guitar Hero] before,” Roa laughed. “I’ve been doing this for hours.”
Also showcased at the event was a competitive video game tournament of Smash Bros., a foam sword fighting competition and a costume contest. TechCon 2023’s main attraction was the event’s implementation of contracts.
Attendees were given a bubble sheet and referred to the event’s contract station. Once at the station they’d receive a “contract” worth a varied amount of points called credits which was the event’s in-house currency. A few such contract examples were “play two rounds of ping pong,” “sing at least one song at the karaoke station,” “tryout at least one trading card game” and “find the cyberpunk by the name of Red hidden in the College Union.” If an attendee completed their bubble sheet they received a credit bonus and a new contract list to start again. Credits earned could be used during an auction taking place at different points throughout each day.
Until the auction, those with enough courage could gamble their credits at the event’s casino on games such as poker, roulette or dice. Many people lost it all playing those games, but one lucky participant, 11-year-old Joey Thumma, doubled his take.
“This is my favorite station,” Joey exclaimed before rushing off to gather more credits by playing Mario Kart.
Just before the auction, a few of the items were announced. Those items included a TV, gaming equipment, onesies, lava lamps and other such merchandise including an extremely sought-after XBOX Series X with a copy of Cyberpunk 2077.
During the auction bids for the XBOX continued to soar until a group of engineering students under the name Pringles wisely decided to pool their credits and won the bidding war purchasing it for 403,800 credits.
Though many were disappointed at not winning the XBOX Series X, Pringles declared they would be donating the game system to OIT and would keep it available to play in the Residence Hall’s TV Lounge.
“It’s about friendship and togetherness,” Pringles said.
To cap off the event, TechCon 2023 concluded with a silent rave dance where dancers wore headphones and listened to electronic synth music.
“This is cool. It’s awesome being in your own headspace while interacting with others,” said Travis Asgood while head bobbing.
Keegan Dentiger, a volunteer of the event and a sophomore in the nursing program, spoke of the event happily.
“I think it’s really cool they let the community come join us,” Dentiger said. “Many of our out-of-state students live in this small bubble and only engage with other students. Seeing all the different people from Klamath Falls join in was great.”
Event coordinator Bowen Browder said TechCon is about providing opportunities for students to come together in a stress-free environment and engage with the public.
“My goal of this was to allow everyone to have fun, showcase a little of what OIT has to offer and overall give the students some of what they’ve been missing [since the pandemic],” Browder said.