JONESBORO — NEA Game Fest is back at the Hilton Garden Inn Convention Center in Jonesboro, but this year’s proceeds will go to a new charity.
NEA Game Fest co-founder Sarah Brown said Thursday that a lot has changed over the years as they’ve grown, but it’s still all for charity and loads of fun.
Brown, who is also the event’s board game coordinator, is one of three founding organizers and six event coordinators, which also include RPG coordinator Jim Essman, miniature game coordinator Kier Heyl, sponsorship coordinator Megan Heyl, general operations coordinator Krystle McClung, and volunteer coordinator Rachel Simpson.
“We all do a little bit of everything and there have been a lot of changes this year,” Brown laughed, noting that one of the big changes was the selection of a new organization to support after the event’s previous charity closed this year.
“It was The Children’s Shelter and they were closing their doors this spring so we had to start looking for a new charity partner,” she said, noting that The Children’s Shelter in Walnut Ridge has been the event’s charity partner from the start .
“Since they closed in May, we had little time to find a new charity and we are really happy with our new charity, Friends of the Craighead County Library,” she continued. “I am proud of our library. I think they’re doing a good job,” Brown said. “And you know, with the funding cuts and all that, we just thought it was a really good way to support them.”
Brown also noted that the library not only supports the Jonesboro and Craighead County area, but also provides a resource for those living in surrounding counties.
“The library is an asset,” Brown continued. “As the NEA Gamers Guild, we host Library Game Days there and they have supported us since the guild was formed in 2015.”
She then recalled starting library play days in the summer of 2015.
“And they support us financially,” she said. “They buy things for the play and win gifts, just like we have play and wins here. So, yeah, it was really important to us because the Friends of the Library help with programming library events and things like that.”
Brown shared that the event actually started in Hoxie in 2017 before moving to the Hilton in Jonesboro in 2019.
She said the event took place entirely online during the pandemic in 2020 and then resumed at the Hilton in 2021.
Another change this year is that the event has moved from fall to summer, Brown said.
“We originally started in October, but October just became more of a conflict,” she said.
“This is our first year doing it in the summer. It’s also the first year that there are four days,” she said, noting that it has always been three days in the past.
Brown said the event, which started on Thursday, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to midnight for the first three days of the event and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“We support tabletop games, RPGs (role playing games), miniature games, board games and some card games, although we won’t be doing Magic the Gathering this year. We have had events in the past but this year it will be Key Forge which I think is the only CCG (Collectible Card Game) game.”
She said there are over 118 games, plus lots of kid-friendly games.
Also, she said there will be a silent auction with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Friends of the Library, freebies, door prizes and more.
According to Brown, they had already sold 156 badges online, including the 11 vendors, plus more at the door.
Badges are another big change, she noted.
“Every event is free this year,” Brown said. “We’ve had some events in the past that cost extra money, but this year it’s all free.”
“We introduced day passes for the first time, so people pay half price and can only come for one day,” Brown said. “So instead of $50.00 at the door, there’s $25 at the door for just one day (with limited availability) and then we also have the option for them to pay $50 at the door for all four days.”
She also pointed out that they are family friendly as all ages are welcome. Tickets are $10 for ages 11-15 and free for children under 10 with parental supervision.