SOUTH BEND — All things gaming are being offered this weekend as the first-ever convention featuring the Bendix Esports Arena and LAN center.
The gathering — called Pwr Up South Bend — involves appearances by gaming personalities and developers, merchants with “gadgets” for video game playing, virtual reality (VR) areas and retro and current cutting-edge gaming for both amateurs and pros.
This evolution of having an esports arena inside Century Center for such a convention is what both Century Center leaders and the local founder of a gaming organization had expected — having the ability to draw in gaming enthusiasts from Michiana and beyond.
Brian Exner, founder of Power Up GG, says his vision of the convention bringing game developers, players, enthusiasts and merchants together was augmented by the creation of the Century Center gaming facilities.
Exner, who took up video gaming after college and participated in online competition in such games as Rocket League, said it was the tournaments where the people gathered where he said he enjoyed the camaraderie. He said he had vowed to try and bring that feeling to gaming in South Bend with this convention.
“This is a gathering to celebrate the Bendix Arena, but video gaming is so much more than just esports,” Exner said. “You build relationships, you learn ways to solve problems, and it also has shown to improve cognitive ability,” Exner said prior to the start of the gathering. “My hope for this (convention) is that it shines a light on this community.”
Related: South Bend rewired: Bendix Esports Arena draws tournaments and picks up Xfinity as sponsor
For Katrinna Simbaku and Jeriah Richardson, taking part in a South Bend-based gaming convention was enticing.
Both came to the Century Center Friday night from Berrien Springs. They have attended gaming conventions in Atlanta, Grand Rapids and other places, but both said they were happy to hear about one in South Bend and were taking part Friday night in the LAN center.
Just a couple of years after it was first conceived, the new esports arena and LAN center inside Century Center is showing its ability to draw in gaming enthusiasts from Michiana and beyond.
Already serving as the home of esports teams from Bethel University and South Bend Lions FC, the former Bendix Theater already has hosted several esports tournaments, including one that drew 16 teams from 12 different colleges and universities in the Midwest a couple of weeks ago.
The Century Center board’s decision to invest $1.5 million into the Bendix Esports Arena “has exceeded expectations,” according to Jeff Jarnecke, Century Center’s executive director of the city’s venues.
Jarnecke said the re-imagining of the Bendix Theater space for esports tourism is only enhanced with such a convention where people come to South Bend for more than just playing the sport.
For example, the Friday night developers’ showcase highlighted people designing and creating video games.
Alan Gabbard and Joseph Duke spoke about their creation and development of “Shrine’s Legacy,” a Super-Nintendo-style action-adventure role-playing game for Windows PC they created and received funding earlier this year through Kickstarter.
Both game designers spoke of the dialogue, planning, graphics and storylines they have worked on, yet both are intent on finishing the game that currently has a demo version for people to try.
“This is just us, trying to make this overly ambitious project,” Gabbard said.
Speaking at the duo’s first convention about the game, Duke encouraged others to explore video game development. “Do make games,” he told the audience. “It’s fun and worth it. And it’s cool.”
The weekend conference continues at noon Sunday at Century Center with a variety of activities. Several well-known speakers will discuss how to make mods and will talk on the history of virtual reality.
Also featured is an invitation-only Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament and open game play in a retro area, VR and in the LAN center.
For information on registration and the convention, go to https://pwrupsb.com.
Email South Bend Tribune reporter Greg Swiercz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: South Bend gaming convention Bendix Esports Arena Century Center