A BOARD game festival which began just three years ago with
25 people in a Leeds living room has welcomed 3000 enthusiasts to its latest
event at Harrogate Convention Centre.
Mark Cooke, founder and director of AireCon Analogue Gaming
Festival, also revealed that visitor and player numbers were up more than 100
per cent on last year’s event, following the move to the Convention Centre in
“It started three years ago in 2015 when I was in my house and
25 people came to that,” he said. “We expected it to grow a little bit but not
by as much as it has.
“We’re definitely on the right track. I think we’re the
third biggest event of this kind in the country now. There are bigger ones but
they have been established for longer than we have.”
The phenomenal growth of AireCon reflects the national boom
in so called analogue or table-top gaming which encompasses board and card
games as well as role-playing games.
Reflecting on the success, Mark said: “I would imagine it’s
a little bit of a throwback to the days before digitisation. Gathering to play these games, like those
played at AireCon, is a social pastime; it means you can chat to people and you
all have something in common – the game in front of you.
“In terms of gamers we were up from 638 in 2017 to 1593 this
year, while footfall was up from 1308 to 2944. What people are saying is that
they love the venue and the location because they can bring their family and
explore Harrogate. But not only have we had increase in people, they are
staying longer too.
“The hope is to continue growing while keeping the welcoming
The success of the AireCon in Harrogate is also having a
positive knock-on effect for local traders.
Lisa Dyson, owner of Games Crusade toy shop in Oxford
Street, said: “It’s great because it brings lots of new visitors in to town and
these particular visitors are keen on board games so it’s definitely been good
As well as enthusiasts gathering to play games, AireCon is
also a showcase for independent and larger game designers to show and sell
their latest products. The event is set to return to Harrogate Convention Centre
in March 2019.