Today we’d like to introduce you to Ross Thompson.
Hi Ross , so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Born and raised San Diegan. Went to Patrick Henry High School, played in the SDSU Marching Aztecs and lived and worked in more than a couple of places around San Diego County. It really is one of the best places to live in the world, having traveled around the country a lot for work it is always a fantastic place to come back to.
I’ve always enjoyed bringing people together to have a good time. Which has led for some fantastic adventures and wonderful friends.
Growing up, I played Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer with my friends. We would play games in the garage on the ping pong table until the early hours of the morning. Epic tales of adventure or big battles with miniatures moving around the board, it was always a good time.
When we got to our college years, my friends moved to Irvine and Riverside, which was a bit of a distance for regular game night. To make a fun way to stay in touch, I formed a gaming club called the SoCal BeachThralls in 2007, while I was working at Game Empire San Diego. We were all playing a game called Warmachine from Privateer Press at the time, which we had discovered at their booth at Comic-Con San Diego a couple of years previous. I started running monthly tournaments at local game stores in San Diego, Riverside and Los Angeles, as a way for us to get together and still play games. The club grew to around 30-40 people and we held a regular league on Monday nights at Game Empire San Diego. This really helped form a group of friends that I would have for a long time. In 2008, I went to a convention called TempleCon in Rhode Island which was much smaller than Comic-Con, but based on tabletop gaming and Steampunk.
It was an event that really changed my life for the better and inspired me to want to find a career in tabletop gaming. I was able to meet the people who worked at the company who made the game I had been running events for and meet people who I only knew through an online forum. Along with that, the event itself was just a fun time, with tournaments and opening games in the ballrooms and people dressed up having a blast. I knew I wanted to run something like this back in San Diego. When I got back, I talked with some friends and went to start planning.
In 2009, we ran the first Kingdom-Con. After promoting it at local game stores and online, we had around 200 people show up at the Town & Country for the gaming event. We had tabletop gaming, a Zombie Walk and a room for Rock Band. Looking back on it, I can’t believe it all came together, but it was an epic event. It happened and we had stories that we still talk about now. After that first year, we were probably a bit too rambunctious for the T&C and ended up going over to the Crowne Plaza Mission Valley, where Kingdom-Con ran for another 9 years. The convention grew from 200 people to over 1500 over the course of 10 years. We had clubs and groups from all over San Diego join and bring their events to the show. From the San Diego Historical Miniature Wargamers, The Broadside Bash, Pathfinder Society and RPGA, to multiple board game groups, it was a tabletop gamers kingdom. Every year we would gear up and add something more to the show, new vendors, more gaming rooms, another event or see what more the hotel could offer. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend your 20s.
San Diego is rich in gaming and we were able to bring so much of that together. We have a fantastic amount of tabletop companies, video game companies and passionate people who want to play games and meet new folk. Those 10 years of Kingdom-Con are treasured memories and valued friendships. I ended it in 2019, which was a difficult decision, but with everything else I had going on in my life, it was the right call. Nice to go out on top and not be burnt out. That ended up being a blessing in disguise with COVID-19 right around the corner the next year, so at least we got to go out our own way.
Continuing with the gaming conventions, this last summer I was able to work with San Diego Comic-Con International and put together a tabletop gaming trade show called D4: Tabletop Creative Conference. While initially planning to be down at the Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park, we held it online through the Comic-Con YouTube Channel and brought together tabletop game industry professionals from around the world to share about the gaming industry. Over 30 panels, special guests and game pitch reviews which was a fantastic time and all virtual. Looking forward to seeing what we can do in the future.
While Kingdom-Con was a big part of my life, it was not the main thing I was doing though!
Over the last 10 years, along with the con, I also worked at a handful of tabletop game companies over the years and currently work at USAopoly (The Op Games) as a Marketing Manager. The Op is based in Carlsbad and has been around for 26 years bringing licensed games to life. I am a Marketing Manager, working on our marketing promotions from online content, influencer and review relations, special projects and more. I’ve been there for a few years and it is always exciting to see what new games we are working on.
At The Op and along with the game companies I have worked for, I get to meet so many fantastic tabletop influencers and celebrities. Tabletop gaming is a huge growing market right now, the people who are in sponsored live streams and voice actors and celebrities in tv shows. Along with that, the people who design games are celebrities’ in their own right, bringing new games to the table and working with so many different publishers. Over 5000 tabletop games come out a year, being a part of that industry is an ongoing and exciting part of my life. From running social media, travelling to 20+ conventions a year for 10 years, going to LA for regular live streams and special events, I am very thankful for the experiences and opportunities that gaming has brought to my life.
Along with the gaming work, I also spend my free time in medieval armor hitting friends with sticks and camping in the woods. I am part of the Society for Creative Anachronism and the San Diego Chapter, the Barony of Calafia. One of our big events, Potrero War has been happening in San Diego for many years and the SCA has been a big part of my life as well. Being able to gather regularly with friends, wear armor and have medieval events is so much fun. I also spent the last 7 years as the Social Media Director for the Society Of Creative Anachronism’s Corporate office, which was a very fun and unique look at the medieval organization. The club itself has been around since the 60s and started as a medieval party, which has now grown into a club that spreads internationally with 20 chapters and over 30,000 members. Being able to grow their social media presence and programs for a club that has been around that long was truly a fun time. That was all while I was attending events, getting in armor and traveling around meeting all kinds of people and playing in the game. I was knighted a few years ago which has only deepened my love for the club and community.
Overall, it’s a wonderful time to be passionate about your hobbies and interests, there are communities out there for people to enjoy. I am a big promoter of being happy where you work and collaborating with passionate and driven people. You can move worlds and create memorable experiences. Find those people who share your spark and make it happen.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I don’t know if a smooth road is the way to describe it, but it has certainly been an adventure. I really like where I am now and looking forward to that next chapter. A lot of where I am has been with the rise of tabletop gaming. It’s cool to be a nerd now. Having game nights, watching movies and geeking out over the latest MCU show is something that I’ve always done and now being able to openly share in our hobbies without real shame is cool. I don’t think I ever hid that I was a gamer, but it is nice that more people are excited to hear about the latest geek thing.
In my career, it has been a trip. From freelance work, trying to find the next contract, get to that next show to meet a company and hope to work with them. Watching the growth of Kickstarter with tabletop games and learning how all that works, has been a big part of my career and it’s always changing. Like a lot of people in my age group, moving from job to job helped on our career growth and I definitely followed that path. Always move forward, never burn bridges and make it better than you found it.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I work in marketing and events. It has always been a passion and I never really spend my time doing just one thing. Over the last 10 years, from Kingdom-Con, regular work and the SCA, I have worked on marketing and promotions in my career and hobbies. It’s that weird thing where you turn your hobbies into work, but at the same time, your work is what you enjoy so it’s fun to have that all come together. Being able to bring people together, promote what people are working on and share in those good times is something that drives me.
If I had to say something I was known for, people would probably say “Ross Face”. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but here we are. I take a lot of selfies, so you can always see me smiling or excited to be somewhere with people.
What am I most proud of? There has been a theme already of gaming, conventions and geeky things, but I really enjoy bringing a lot of that forward and showing that people can enjoy their passions. It is a fantastic time to be a gamer and geek right now. Comics and Games have invaded pop culture like no other, the rise of tabletop gaming from Dungeons & Dragons and MCU movies is awesome. That has led to a lot of what I enjoy doing and bringing awareness for those passions.
The convention is something I am incredibly proud of. Being able to be a champion for that, supported by a wonderful group of friends that all helped bring the show together here in San Diego year after year.
Going forward, over the last few years, being able to showcase all the fantastic games that are coming out, the places you can get them and the people behind the games is something I always look to promote and share that anyone can be a part of that magic.
What were you like growing up?
Always had a smile on and still do. I was a band kid, enjoyed sports, being with people and in a group. Having something we could all do together was important.
I was a bit wild though looking back on it, probably not as wild as I thought. Growing up with a wonderful family, brother and sister, we went on family trips, watched movies together, had game night and were always the family that hosted the parties and drove the carpools.
I was the Band President in Highschool, served on the San Diego Youth Commission for a couple years and worked on the Jerry Sanders Campaign the summer going into my senior year of Highschool.
Being able to get together with friends was always a priority, having an event to gather around, movie to see or games to play. Those were important to me and has been something that I still keep on today.
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