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Even though the basic concept is the same, every iteration of a convention has a different feel to it. If you read my review last year, Otakon went bigger in celebrating its 20th anniversary, pulling out all the stops in terms of special guests and exclusives, as well as taking stock of its history in inviting old friends. This year was a bit more subdued, partly because 2013 was such a hard act to follow, but also because of a major snafu to kick things off.
First, let's go with what went right on Thursday, which is technically the day before Otakon officially begins. The outdoor matsuri in a nearby park by the Inner Harbor of Baltimore was a bigger success this time around, with more acts and booths set up. It's still lacking that traditional Japanese feel to it however with the lack of true festival games and street food, but there was a much bigger crowd this time to see the multiple bands performing live (I caught the Ricecookers in action as well as Peelander-Z) and a highly entertaining sumo wrestling demonstration by the largest Japanese wrestler ever, Yama, his American counterpart Kelly Gneiting, and volunteers from the crowd to boot!
Sadly, part of the reason for the crowd at the matsuri may have been the ridiculously long pre-registration line at the convention center, which wrapped around the building at least a couple times. I tried standing in it with a friend (despite having already obtained my press pass) and it was just too much after a half hour of barely getting anywhere. It turns out that their new registration system was getting gummed up by the convention center's network issues, but attendees really had no idea what was going on, finding the end of the line was hard enough. While Otakorp eventually got the word out on Twitter and in a press release, I feel like a lot of grief could have been avoided if the troubles had been directly communicated to the line sooner, and people turned away earlier so that when things shut down close to midnight there wouldn't been people denied just outside of the door. LineCon 2014 soon became the meme afterwards and you could see some of the enthusiasm subside the next day, though fortunately so did the technical issues.
With the con proper underway, it was time to break out the cameras and catch some cosplay on the way to wherever you're headed! This year did not disappoint, particularly if you were a fan of this year's breakout series: Kill la Kill, but there was plenty for fans of all stripes, including games like Final Fantasy XIV and Borderlands to classics like Dragonball Z . This time around, the Guidebook app on a smartphone was not only recommended, but practically required as the printed schedule of events was immediately out of date and only provided at information booths by request. Attending panels this year was a blast as I couldn't think of one that disappointed, including two panels put on by a friend of ours, TheRobD: Anime Openings Around the World and The Other Way Around: American Comics Localized in Japan, both of which featured other countries' humorous takes on source material we were quite familiar with. New Anime for Older Fans was back this year and fully updated with great suggestions for veterans, A Brief History of Anime: 100 Years in 50 Minutes did an admirable job of identifying the major trends of the medium while planting some seeds for thought. And for all those Kill la Kill fans in attendance, there was even a panel dedicated to piecing together all the references in the show, which gave me an even greater respect for it.
Those are just the events I was able to make, from the reaction online there were several other ones I could regret missing, but that's just the nature of a good con, there's just never enough time to do everything! The key is that when most stuff is worth your time anyway, you can't complain, and this year's Otakon still delivered, at least in my book. I also caught showings of anime like Psycho Pass and Dog & Scissors that were a welcome respite from the crowds, which were thankfully tamed for the most part thanks to the expansion of the one way lanes to the Hilton skybridge. From what I understand, while I wasn't able to attend, the Yoshiki concert also went well thanks to an organized lottery for seating unlike the line of past years. The only real disappointment was the Game Room this year, which was lacking the arcade cabinets of past years and felt considerably bare as a result. Another common complaint was also the laggy TV's used, particularly for fighting games. Hopefully that can be turned around for next year, as while games obviously aren't a focus of Otakon, they can be a great way to pass time between things on your schedule.
All in all, after some early hiccups, Otakon 2014 closed out as another successful chapter in the books. Everyone I knew and attended the con with left happy and we were all only disappointed that it was over so soon. While there is always room for improvement (particularly in getting folks their badges, though in fairness, Anime Expo in LA suffered its registration disaster earlier this year), I feel confident in the direction Otakorp is charting overall. Here's looking forward to next year's edition!
Check out Cat and Fox's Pictures from Otakon 2014!
When I heard about the maid cafe at Otakon 2012, I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to attend. This year, Cat, my husband, and I made it a point to wait in line for the maid cafe’s second year at Otakon. I have to admit that it was certainly worth the wait!
Upon entry into the maid cafe, we were greeted by the maids, who said “Welcome home, Master and Mistress!” in Japanese! This was definitely a delightful surprise. After paying only $10 (maid cafes in Japan are typically more expensive), we were shown to our seats by one of the cute maids. The area only consisted of about five or six tables, which seated eight. This created a more intimate environment for patrons, which I consider important mission of any maid cafe.
After everyone was seated, the maids and butlers (male version of the maid) all gathered in the front to give their introductions. I really enjoyed hearing them give their name and random facts about themselves, each in turn causing the crowd to laugh. Every cast member performed amazingly while taking on a new persona for the benefit of the maid cafe customers.
Next, the maid that was assigned to our table, Umi, took our drink and food orders. While the drink was on the house, we could make a $5 donation to receive a dessert. Honestly, I expected more filling items on the menu. From my experience visiting maid cafes in Japan, the menu was short but more filling. Popular items included omurice, tonkatsu, and one-of-a-kind sundae creations. Instead, I had instant hot chocolate and strawberry shortcake. I would have graciously paid more for a small portion of omurice with a drawing in ketchup on it! Imagine an incredibly cute maid asking what you’d like her to drawn on your meal!
The maids and butlers also created such a comfortable setting that allowed for interaction with the entire table. We were introduced to a game where we could write anything on a sticky note and then paste it on the forehead of the person sitting in the next chair. Each individual then had to guess what that mystery item on their forehead was. Every now and then, a maid or butler would join us to help with the guessing. Unfortunately, our game was interrupted. Well, not too unfortunate, as the suspension was caused by the maids’ captivating performance.
Not only were they dressed perfectly from head to toe, but these maids had energy that went beyond expectations! I loved watching them perform to the songs. Everyone was in perfect sync while dancing. I could tell that they were well practiced and truly enjoyed performing for their masters and mistresses. This was the second showing of the day, but I suspect that the girls kept up this intensity throughout the day.
With the addition of a more cafe-ish menu and cutesy decorations, the maid cafe could truly emulate the maid cafes of Japan. In the originating country, the environment of these cafes creates an illusion of an otaku’s personal tearoom. The feeling one gets stepping into a Japanese maid cafe is almost as if walking into an entirely new dimension where pink frills and anime loving is the norm. In contrast, the Otakon’s walls were, to say the least, bland. My opinion is that even without the maids present, I should have felt as though I was in a maid cafe. I hope that this is taken into consideration for future presentations.
Even with lack of decor and menu items, I’m really ecstatic that I went to the maid cafe at Otakon 2013. The incredibly spirited performances by the maids, fully clad in their skirts, petticoats, and stockings, were definitely worth the wait in line! I sincerely urge a visit to the maid cafe if you plan to attend Otakon 2014.
On April 19th, the most important videogame conference you’ve never heard of was held. While the masses were preparing the descend on Boston’s PAX East later in the week, a few hundred game industry executives gathered in the W Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard to discuss exactly how the next few years in gaming will play out at Digital Media Wire’s L.A. Game Conference.
The DMW L.A. Games conference isn’t your typical gaming convention. You won’t find cosplayers or boothbabes. There are no special game reveals or console announcements. Instead you'll find a series of panel discussions by giants in the industry speaking candidly about very specific topics. This year there were eighteen panels total, with titles ranging from the broad ‘Virtual and Augmented Reality for Games and Entertainment’ to the niche ‘Finding Success in the Chinese Market’. You could listen to the VP of Walt Disney’s game division discuss the best way to manage intellectual properties in one room, or how eSports can be integrated into brand marketing in another. If all of this sounds slightly boring, well, it is at first glance. On it's surface, sitting in a room listening to people break down games and players into metrics and graphs is not as compelling as even the most mundane display at E3 or PAX.
There were no WW2 tanks or dancing animals to be found. But it quickly becomes apparent just how important these panels are. These discussions are a roadmap to how gaming will develop in the near future with no time wasted on pomp and circumstance. For example, it was made clear during the panels that as much as virtual reality is dominating the news, blogs and youtube, it’s not a big concern for major game companies. Large publishing and development houses aren’t planning on spending any significant amount of money on VR Game development. The market simply isn’t big enough and the cost of developing a AAA title could never be recovered. Instead most are happy to simply publish whichever indie titles that seem promising. So if you’re expecting a VR Call of Duty or Final Fantasy anytime soon. It’s not going to happen. It’s information like this which makes the L.A. Games Conference so fascinating. You can see the wide difference between the perception of the game industry and the reality behind it.
A few years ago eSports wasn’t even a topic on the conference agenda but this year there were two separate panels dedicated to it. It’s interesting to note that the people on stage who are be helping to shape competitive gaming weren’t full time gamers or even game developers. They were former bankers and lawyers who are now owners of their own eSport companies or franchises. eSports is a segment of gaming that is growing quickly in the number of both players and spectators and also in the amount of money it’s responsible for. As big as it is now, Bill Mooney (Skillz) expects it to grow 20x over the next decade where it will quickly begin to rival traditional sports in terms or marketshare and marketing revenue. As the audience for traditional sports ‘ages out’, or gets older, they aren’t being replaced by new fans. Instead that new audience is joining the eSports fanbase. So as Soccer, Football and Baseball are seeing their popularity shrink each year, eSports are growing tremendously. This hasn’t been missed by the owners of those traditional sports teams. Many NFL and NBA team owners are in talks to buy, or have already purchased, eSport franchises. There is a looming issue, though. Clinton Foy, from CrossCut Ventures, an investment group and owner of the ‘Immortals’ eSports team addressed the lack of maturity in the behavior of the players in a very matter of fact way. ‘It’s a shit show’ he said. Explaining that the problem lies in a player base that is filled with young kids who grew up playing online on the internet where there are no consequences to bad behaviour. And now that poor behavior has filtered into the professional side of gaming. The solution, according to Mr Foy, lies with the owners of the teams. As owners pour more money into the franchises, they will be the ones to demand that the players adhere to a higher standard to protect the team’s image. He says that as the money grows, players will be forced to ‘Level up’ in their maturity.
The panels are a large part of what makes the LA Games conference special, but no less important is the downtime between the panels. Scheduled networking breaks give attendees times to meet and discuss topics among themselves. While some attendees took test drives of VR apps in the VR lounge, I listened as a former development exec outlined how social media talent can be better utilized in game content. Even though social media has invaded all parts of life, there’s still no substitute in business for meeting and speaking to someone face to face. And that's an opportunity that the LA Games Conference excels at.
The 2016 DMW L.A. Games Conference was again a eye opening experience and a clear look into the behind the scenes machinations of the video game industry. When you’re ready to move beyond simply playing games and aspire to being a part of creating them, then there’s no better way to spend a day (and $500 for a ticket).
Since the latest PAX Prime sprawled out over an extensive four day span, I'll do my best to condense my experience. A couple of years ago I exchanged words with a BioWare employee who compared the convention experience to summer camp. In many ways, we look forward to it, it's a great chance to catch up with some of our friends we don't see the rest of the year. But conventions are also exhausting, and as much as we don't want them to end, we also want to go home. I think the latter part cannot be stressed enough as we rolled into our fourth day.
Four days was good in a lot of ways, though. As a person expected to fit in seeing as many games as possible while also enjoying the other amenities of a convention, four days meant I had way more time and less stress when planning what games I would see. Unfortunately, the convention still only allows one hour of early access for media on only the first day, which is just not enough time to see everything. I unfortunately missed Titanfall during the media hour by about ten minutes. I won't be able to tell you guys about that game, because the wait was four hours long, and they weren't making media appointments or allowing media a chance to get hands on without waiting the four hours. I just had too many other appointments and games to see to wait that long, sorry! I was disappointed at no presence for Rockstar, but given the fast approaching release date for GTA V and the fact that the first three days of release broke entertainment sales records, I'm sure they were more focused on making sure the launch was smooth sailing. One of the biggest draws this year was getting to see the Xbox One and PS4 in person. I guess that was neat, but really, they just looked like consoles. I used to work in a bank, and I'd have tens of thousands of dollars in my drawer every day. It never phased me, though, because I didn't think of it as money. I knew it wasn't mine, so it didn't excite me the way someone handing me ten grand in my home would make me feel. I guess that's how I feel about previewing consoles as opposed to owning one, especially given that the demonstrations and libraries at this point are limited.
Watchdogs also had one of the longest lines there, but playable demos were not available. Instead, we filed in to a theater to see a live presentation of gameplay as two presenters played competitively using a console and mobile device. The goal of the mobile device player was to obstruct and distract the console player from reaching their goal. She did this by sending out helicopters, utilizing police, and even changing parts of the city to create new road blocks. This presentation allowed Ubisoft to not only stress the importance of dynamic gameplay, but also show us how it could be manipulated. One of the features of the game that they mentioned but could not fully demonstrate was the ability of the player to make game affecting choices. The player can choose to escalate or downsize their role in conflicts throughout the game. Each decision and its impact on the citizens within the game influences the perception of the main character, which in turn changes gameplay. I'd really like to see how these consequences play out.
The next booth I managed to hit up was Bethesda. They were showing Wolfenstein: The New Order, which boasts the same brutality and well-aimed aggression of the original, just this time with way more heavy machinery. The Evil Within was not on display, but the trailer was broadcast frequently, and the swag included a pin for it. The main attraction at their booth was the playable demo for Elder Scrolls Online. I have to say I'm really impressed by how much Bethesda promoted the game at many conventions this year. While we didn't get a beer garden at PAX Prime, we did get a free food truck (if you wanted to stand in the line) and free Ben and Jerry pints of ice cream. All of the offerings were done in Nirn style, such as Sweet Cream with Khajiit Sweet Bites and Nirnroot Pickles.
As far as getting my hands on the game, I did! And it helped ease a lot of the fears I previously had, such as the game feeling more like a generic MMO clone. I can state as a fan of the series and also a person who has played way too many MMORPGs, this is not the case. I was fortunate to get a full hour of play time, and this allowed me to get quite far in the quests available to me. First, character customization is brilliant with great attention to detail and allowance for many body sizes and types. No matter what class you are, you can use any type of weapon and armor. Aside from needing to scroll back a bit in how the environment responds to players (meaning you can't knock all the stuff on a table across the room anymore) the scenes are intricately detailed and have all the same feel of playing Elder Scrolls games. Even the way quests pan out feels much like the quests picked up in earlier ES games. Even the beginning area quests were varied and extended beyond simple fetch or kill quests. Another thing that has me excited is the fact that PVP is confined to Cyrodiil. This is probably necessary due to the fact that there are no separate servers for things like RP and PVP.
I also had a chance to play the new Pikmin 3, which reminded me of my advancing age. Given that it has been a good nine years since the release of Pikmin 2 on GameCube, my attempts at playing the game using Wii controls was sobering at best. The preview showed gameplay very similar to previous games, with a seemingly greater focus on developing and implementing some solid Pikmin-corralling strategy. Getting my hands on the 2DS helped break previous conceptions on how huge the contraption appeared online. The system has quite a good feel in the hands, and seems much more ergonomically sound than the previous clamshell bodies. Also, it's much sturdier for the rough and tumble little ones. A playable demo of Pokemon X/Y was right next door, which is still something that can excite me despite my towering height and age over the rest of the players. Enhanced care for Pokemon is a great new feature, allowing the player to interact using treats, petting Pokemon, and even using facial expressions to respond to the game. The Indie Megabooth was filled with exciting and varied games. One of my favorites was the game Foul Play, which showed a lot of creativity and humor. The gameplay is a basic side-scrolling brawler with unlockable combos, but the story pulls in a new type of audience. As in, a real audience. Life in this game is monitored not in hit points, but in audience excitement. You play as a retired adventurer on stage, reenacting some of your most daring feats along with a cast of actors. The better your combos, the happier your audience, and the more points you get to unlock cool bonuses. I even had a chance to attend the Indie After Party and meet the creators of Foul Play and Hotline Miami. And that's really one of the best parts of the convention experience. PAX allows not only media and industry, but regular gamers a chance to meet game creators and hear the enthusiasm and story driving these titles.
I saw a lot of panels, which was hard on my tailbone due to the chairs there being so darn rigid. I'm honestly not sure which was more sore by the end of the convention, my ass or my feet. But there were so many panels dedicated to social issues this year. I didn't even manage to catch all of them, but from what I did see, there is a growing community of people involved in bringing social awareness to game culture. This is fantastic. In previous years at cons, I have given my contact info to people, expressing my desire to delve into these topics. This has always been met with a cautious acceptance. I think we all had this notion that nothing would ever change because people kept reverting to the age-old "but this is just the way gamers are" excuse. This year, however, despite hecklers at the Political Correctness in Gaming panel, and despite Mike from PA still not "getting it" in many ways, I was so fortunate to meet and have a few small jam sessions with some of the most brilliant and innovative gamers I've met. I was also fortunate enough to cry for an hour at the Take This Panel, which focused on the hardships of dealing with mental health issues as gamers. The panelists were all people who worked within the game industry and were brave and open about their histories with anxiety and depression. The Take This Project is all about providing support for gamers who may struggle with these same issues, though it is important to note that this group cannot replace seeking professional assistance. This was one of the best panels I have ever attended, hands down.
That's not to say the other panels were not also excellent and hard-hitting. Panelists for the other panels ranged from military women, tabletop gamers, trans* gamers, gamers of color, and much more. These are people who are not only finally getting to speak about their experiences, but they get to do so in front of an audience that is attending these panels and actually listening. And when I handed my card to these panelists and told them how I want to help advance geek culture, I was met with palpable enthusiasm, acceptance, and encouragement. I feel that the end result of these panels was creating more allies, and at the very least causing some of the audience to reevaluate how they previously viewed these issues. And that is really saying something. That is the true power of a convention like PAX. It's terrible that so many of these amazing people will not be attending next year due to the inability of PA to provide any meaningful understanding of their tenet of inclusion and safe spaces.
I don't want to end this on a down note, so I want to stress again how fun and fulfilling most of my PAX experience was this year. I'll be back at PAX next year, running a panel on these very topics if I'm lucky. I'll be gearing up even more excitement about fun games, an ever-evolving industry, and amazing people who have too long spent the majority of their time on the sidelines. Be sure to check out the gallery below to see some of my amazing action shots.
Since last year’s Otakon maid cafe was an enjoyable and unforgettable experience, Cat and I made a point to attend again. We braved the long wait in line (about one and a half hours) to see what was new this time around. I was looking forward to any improvements or changes the cafe might have introduced this year.
When we were allowed in, the maids gave their greeting of “Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama!” (This phrase, which translates to “Welcome home, Master!”, is definitely authentic to the traditional Japanese maid cafe.) The fee again this year for entry was $10, with a $5 charge for a dessert choice.
Honestly, not much changed this year with the maid cafe as far as decor. There were a few adornments added, such as ribbons on the chairs and balloons above the tables. Cards were placed on each table. The table at the door, where we paid to get in, was the most decorated space. Overall, the atmosphere was a bit of an improvement from the previous year, but seemed to be lacking compared to maid cafes in Akihibara, Tokyo.
Upon being seated, we waited a while for our server to take drink and refreshment orders. I did notice a huge decrease in staff, as seen in the pictures of the maids and butlers. This could definitely explain the wait. I will admit, though, that it was a bit awkward waiting, wondering what to do in the meantime.
The food items this year were an improvement. I ordered caramel coffee with a parfait, and Cat ordered a lemonade with red velvet mini cupcakes. His main complaint were the portion sizes, which actually would have been bigger at a Japanese maid cafe. Being a press representative for Allgames.com, I was able to peek behind the elusive black current in the back of the room and see… that the refreshments were all provided by the hotel! I loved that the hotel supported the maid cafe in this way. One nice touch would be that when the maid or butler brings out the dessert, she or he draws a picture on the food or plates with some chocolate or strawberry syrup, a norm in the country of origin.
All the maids and butlers performed a dance for us in the front of the room. I want to say I was impressed, but our table’s maid seemed to be the only one in practice. I cringe to say this, because I want to be fully supportive of the maid cafe and what they do, but the dance needed a lot of work. This could have been due to scheduling conflicts with getting the staff together, but I would have skipped the performance altogether in that case.
I truly hope that the maid cafe continues, even though it seemed lackluster for Okakon 2014. In my humble opinion, a few changes could be made to bring the cafe further and ensure it’s success. For instance, some sort of ticket system so that patrons aren’t waiting on the floor for such a long time would be a huge improvement. Another suggestion would be to go all out on the decorations, not holding back. I believe the goal would be to make the environment look as great as the maids and butlers! I know I complained about this the previous year, and realize that nothing can be hung from the walls, but I would have loved to see some shelves with some Gundam mobile suits, anime figures, and plushies around the tables.
I highly suggest Otakon goers attempt a visit to the maid cafe at Otakon 2015! It’s definitely a great entry into the world of maid cafes. Interacting with the maids and butlers are worth the visit.
Interested in becoming a maid or butler? Head over to http://otakon.com/events_maid_cafe.asp for a link to the application!
I've been on the fence numerous times about attending Penny Arcade Expo. I attended this year, thrilled at how many panels were discussing issues of inclusion and diversity in gaming. I had a wonderful time becoming involved in these discussions, networking with enthusiastic panelists, and basically carving my own safe space out of the massively populated convention center. There were small things that kept creeping in, though.
A few panels maybe underestimated their audience, sticking to the very basics, framing arguments for those not impacted by these issues, even going so far as to seem apologetic for our actions as pop and game culture critics. There were the people who attended the Political Correctness Panel who were there to start arguments calling "cis" a slur and defending their right as white men to say the n-word (which they did, more than once.) There was the time my friend heard a guy yell at a woman on the escalator, "SHOW ME YOUR BOOBS!" and then run off before she could grab an enforcer. There was the time one female enforcer was made to feel uncomfortable by a fellow male enforcer. Even though there were ways to anonymously report these things (which is wonderful), there was still that overhanging guilt of "creating a big deal" out of behavior that is widely commonplace and accepted still.
And the nail in the coffin, as it were, was the statement given at closing ceremonies this year. I did not attend, so my friend linked me to this tweet made by Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb. Mike states he wishes they had never pulled the Dickwolves shirt from their store, followed by loud cheers in the audience. The basic message here being, no, they didn't learn anything from the exchange, and yes, their audience continues to support every action they make even when it involves behavior that goes completely against their proclaimed mission at PAX.
If you're not familiar with the Dickwolves discussion, here is a very extensive history, and here is a post on why many people feel boycotting PAX is the only way to curb this behavior. And in a way, I agree. But I also realize that PAX has a certain sway that is not going to be undone by those of us who understand how harmful their actions are. GaymerX is brand new, Geek Girl Con is much less reported on, as well as other conventions. So I definitely understand when people who disagree with the actions of the PA owners continue to host panels at PAX which focus on addressing this behavior. We still need a voice. But this year had the highest number of panels focusing on diversity and inclusion and women within gaming. So how could a closing ceremony make such a statement and be PRAISED for it? Because PAX, as much as they claim wanting to be inclusive, does not understand that they are still promoting segregation. You're fine going in this corner and talking about your issues. Sure, have this panel. But if you try to tell US that we are doing something wrong? No, we are telling you that we will ignore you and your concerns. Flat out ignore.
Here is the part where I explain to fellow Americans the difference between censorship and criticism. Bear with me, people who already understand this, I'll keep it brief. First, threats and personal attacks are never okay. You're protected under Freedom of Speech from the government forcing you to stay silent. You are not immune to criticism, as the PA owners seem to believe. In both the case of Dickwolves and of transphobic statements, it would be much easier to dismiss these things as ignorance or being sheltered by privilege. I'd accept this if the response to the criticisms was not to increase disrespect of not only the stance of those who dissented, but those who dared question them, as well. You make art, and that's great, and you're allowed to make statements within that medium. But you are NOT immune to criticism, and you're still expected to realize what sort of social impact you are creating as an artist. You don't get to turn in your social awareness card for an artist card, and if someone has an issue with what you have created, listen to them first maybe before deciding they are only trying to limit you. As a public figure or artist, you're still held to the same standards of respecting others, which includes people who may not agree with your actions or stand to receive harm from what your actions support. People who use the "but it's art" argument remain inconsistent. If they encounter artwork that depicts, say, violence of a sexual nature against men by women, or women debasing men, they certainly will not insist that it shouldn't be criticized due to it being art. They exist within a society that caters to them and their comfort zones, and if you breach those, prepare for everything they've previously told you to be thrown out the window.
The panels I attended discussing inclusivity all mentioned Gone Home, a game that was not at the convention due to the actions of the PA owners making The Fullbright Company feel PAX was not a safe space. These panels elaborated on why these actions are harmful but did not delve into the recent reason many of us nearly followed The Fullbright Company's example. Transphobic statements, made of either ignorance, malice, or both, help contribute to a society where misunderstanding trans* people furthers their endangerment. And yet, only two panels briefly mentioned the recent actions, touching on why they almost did not attend, but still wanted to have a voice. And I agree, having a voice is important. But why can't we discuss the impact of what PA does? They certainly feel that they can, why can't we? Everything PA does impacts gaming and game culture in some fashion, so why is it off limits? I feel that as much as we are saying amazing things to help encourage better representation of everyone in gaming, we are still not hitting with everything we have. We are told to hold our tongues when what we do risks to make those in the socially reinforced position uncomfortable. This is regardless of how many things they do that go even further than infringing on our comfort but also serve to contribute to beliefs which cause us harm. When do we stop saying the stuff everyone already knows, framing it for people who don't care to listen to us in the first place? When do we actually address the silencing tactics of those who claim to want to help us?
Mike went on to say that he has learned things, but only in respect to how he is creating trouble for his employees, not in relation to the toxicity of his statements toward marginalized groups. He even continues to excuse this behavior by saying he "hopes" it doesn't happen again, but it's just "how he is." This is proof that he only cares about the people involved in PA, not the people he might be impacting outside of this by negating their importance. Even in clarifying the statement with Kotaku in the article here, they still try to make the issue about censorship, which it NEVER was. By reframing the issue as "Penny Arcade was being censored" as opposed to, "Penny Arcade unwittingly created triggering content, failed to listen to criticism, and instead generated even more harmful environments by silencing those who respectfully disagreed with them" you are erasing the statements of those who had the courage to speak up against their actions.
How do we let people know this erasure of entire segments of the community needs to stop? As far as I can tell, we need to start letting the media and game companies know how we feel. They only thing that PA responds to is the threat of vendors and exhibitors not attending, so this is the best place to be heard. Let the game companies know what they are supporting and representing by attending. Tell them how it harms us, and we don't agree with it. Let media know that there is another aspect to game culture that impacts a very large portion of the gaming population. Tell them we are marginalized due to bullying and a lack of voice and coverage. And let Penny Arcade know, as well. Tell them that just saying they want to create a safe space for inclusion doesn't DO anything if what they are promoting as artists works to undermine that very cause.
I'm not saying everyone should boycott. We all have varying positions of ability to do so. I'm telling everyone to speak up! SPEAK. UP. Really. Even if you're an ally and not directly impacted by these things. DO IT. Because the more we call out this behavior and refuse to accept it, the less acceptable it becomes on a much larger scale. My goal, along with many others who feel this way, is not to bankrupt PA for a few mistakes or even for those at the top who consistently disregard the safety of others. The goal is for people to LEARN from this and to move past the allowance of these detrimental behaviors by not accepting them. PA is not the perfect model for inclusive communities, but they can be made an example. They can show how refusing to understand those impacted by damaging beliefs has consequences, is not acceptable, and can be addressed without creating further harm. We can make PAX a safe space, but only if everyone, including those at the top, is consistent with this cause.
I have to hand it to Anime Mid-Atlantic. They really know how to throw a party!
Whether you attended the Anime Mid-Atlantic for the cosplay, costumes, dances, video games, guests, contests, workshops , videos, card games or for the other fun activities – you could most likely enjoy doing it at Anime Mid-Atlantic.
Background of Anime Mid-Atlantic
Now in its thirteenth year, the Anime Mid-Atlantic is an annual event where fans of anime and video games come together sometimes to just hang out with new and old friends and have fun. You can dress up as your favorite anime or video game character in any form or fashion you like, of course, in adherence to the rules of the event.
Anime Mid-Atlantic was held on a beautiful weekend, June 14-16, 2013 at 725 Woodlake Dr., in Chesapeake, Virginia at the Marriott Hotel and the Chesapeake Convention Center. Yes, the fun is spread between two buildings including the walking areas between the two.
The Marriott Hotel and the Chesapeake Convention Center are conveniently located adjacent to other hotels – so if you were from out of town, you could stay either at the Marriott Hotel or at the other nearby hotels that were in walking distance.
Arrival at Anime Mid-Atlantic
I arrived at the Anime Mid-Atlantic event towards the end of Friday night, and activities were still in full swing. As I walked to the registration area in the hotel, I was met by one of the event’s security. Still remembering and stinging from the coldness I felt when I attended the Civil War V video game tournament that I covered a few months earlier, I had my guard up and immediately asked him why did he come up to me. He responded that he wanted to know if I had any questions, and decided to approach me. He seemed sincere, so I pushed my reservations about the atmosphere of the event aside and asked him where I could pick up my press badge .
On my way to pick up my badge, I met a young man who was dressed up in a costume that included a feminine looking tank top and shorts. He smiled and literally apologized to me for the costume that he was wearing, stating that he usually does not dress that way. I laughed and told him he was “looking good.”
From that moment on, I knew I would enjoy covering this event for Allgames.com. Not only because of all the interesting events scheduled, but also and more importantly, everyone appeared to be very friendly and out to just have a good time.
Video Game Room at Anime Mid-Atlantic
My plan was to focus mostly on video games the first day of the event. So after receiving my participant badge, I walked the short distance from the Marriott Hotel to the Chesapeake Convention Center where the video game room was located.
On the way to the convention center, I enjoyed watching a dance contest where the participants were dressed up in costumes. I also enjoyed the performance of a hoola hoop dancer, who was dancing with a neon lighted hoop for a small group of admirers who had gathered around him. It was dark outside, so the bright colors of the hoola hoop shone brightly against the night. At one point during his performance, he jokingly said that he was getting tired, but he received a burst of energy and continued to perform when the cameras started flashing – including my own.
When I reached the convention center, I showed my badge to the two ladies seated at the entrance, and I was happy I had registered as a participant, because I was able to show my badge and get in. At that time, I had not picked up my press badge. I also like the fact that there was control as to who went where. I, along with other attendees had to show our badges to gain admittance to several events, which in my opinion was an effective security measure.
When I reached the video game room, the moderator was writing on a white board, changing the closing time for the video game room from 2:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Whew! I was glad that I made it there before they closed.
Once in the room, there were about 14 monitors on tables lining the walls with a Just Dance video game going on in full swing. Just about every type video game system was there, including the WII U.
A couple was dancing to the game, while two fully uniformed male and female police officers watched. Yes – in addition to having staff security personnel, the event also had uniformed policemen there as well. It’s possible that the policemen were there for the convention center security, instead of just for the event. The police officers were smiling as they watched the Just Dance video game couple perform – so it looks like in addition to their security duties, they were having fun as well..
In the far corner of the small video game room was a guitar hero type set up with a standing microphone and large monitor. After one group finished playing the game, a young lady who had just sung, asked if I wanted to play. I complimented her on her singing and declined the offer. If her personna was any indication of the type people attending this event, not only were they overtly friendly, but they were polite and cordial as well.
In addition to the newer games, there were also retro video games to be played. The retro game was centipede/space invaders, which I got the chance to play . I witnessed a high score obtained by a video game player. Interesting enough, within the next few minutes, I also witnessed the high score of the retro video game being broken by a much younger video game player.
Unfortunately, the video game room closed at about 1:00 a.m., and we all had to leave. But not to worry. There was still a crowd of people out in the convention areas as well as back at the Marriott Hotel.
Saturday at Anime Mid-Atlantic
Technically I was at the Anime Mid-Atlantic on Saturday, since it was about 1:30 a.m. when I left. I was prepared to make a late night appearance at the event Saturday night, but looking at the schedule, most of the events I wanted to cover had already happened.
The neat feature about the Anime Mid-Atlantic is that there was a schedule of events to cover just about every hour or so of the three days. You could either wander around and catch some of the happenings in an impromptu manner, or you could follow the schedule and pick and choose which events you wanted to attend.
Interview with Doug Smith, Graphic Artist/Voice Actor
My first order of business on Sunday was to pick up my press badge, which I’m happy to report was ready and waiting for me at the registration desk. When the volunteer staff handed my press badge he suffixed it with “Have fun! – which I’m glad to say -- I did.
Located next to the registration room where I picked up my press badge was another conference room where a group of people seemed enthralled at listening to the presenter. I decided to attend this workshop that was headed by Doug Smith, a graphic artist as well as a guest at the event.
He gave training on graphic art drawing using the software, photoshop. In addition to demonstrating graphic design techniques, he also took interesting questions from the audience. Some of the questions asked and answered included how to show perspectives when drawing figures and objects, as well as how to show texture of items such as brushed metal, etc.
At the end of the workshop, I got the opportunity to interview Doug Smith, and in so doing, I found out that he was not only a graphic artist, but was also a voice actor. He told me the story of how he got into voice acting by accident when a company was looking for someone to play a part in voice acting, and he just happened to be seemingly there, at the right place and at the right time.
Other Anime Events
After leaving the workshop, I got the chance to see part of an anime movie in the video room, which was located next to the rooms where board games were being played.
I perused some of the tables that were located outside the conference rooms in the hallways. Some people were promoting other upcoming Anime events. In fact, I discovered there are several other Anime events that are happening in the near future.
As I continued to walk down the hallways that were bustling with people, most of whom were dressed up in costumes, I met a young lady who was dressed in a cute victorian type outfit and she had black and red ringlets for hair. I asked her if I could touch her hair, as well as take her picture – of which she replied yes to both.
Yaaaa!! I had taken my first of many pictures of creatively dressed anime costumed participants at the Anime Mid-Atlantic.
I decided to leave the Marriott and take a short walk over to the Chesapeake Convention Center to see what was happening over there.
When I reached the convention center, a group of people dressed up as their favorite anime characters were just outside the center playing a game similar to vogue – where you struck a pose when the music stopped and was eventually eliminated from the game. Everyone seemed to be having fun. This is where I took my second picture of an Anime costumed attendee who was dressed in a black suit and tie – which appeared ordinary enough; however there was one big difference. His face and head were completely covered in white cloth. Someone who was also taking a picture of him told me his name was “Slender” when I asked who he was portraying.
Anime Mid-Atlantic Territory
Two nights before, I did not realize the full extent of the Anime event that was going on in the convention center. At the time, I had only visited the video game room.
On Sunday, I found out there was a whole lot more at the convention center than the video game room. Apparently the Anime Mid-Atlantic covered a lot more territory than I thought.
The hallways were crowded with people, as well as vendors and it looked as if each conference room was also filled with people.
There was a large conference room set aside for autograph signing. I decided to stand in line to get my Anime Mid-Atlantic book signed. As I waited in line, I had an interesting conversation with a woman behind the desk leading up to the autograph signing about a topic I would not have correlated with anime. She told me about a website where there is an Anime cookbook. With the increase of cooking reality television shows, I should not have been surprised that cooking had made its way to anime!
I asked the guest who was signing my event book if he did any voice acting for video games. He said he would if he was asked; however, right now he did voice acting mostly for anime characters. I liked the fact that when he autographed my event book, he addressed it to me, Ms. H! – with an exclamation point after my name – very fitting to show just how much fun I was having at the event.
In fact, I was not the only one having fun there. In the autograph conference room, there was a large group of people sitting in the audience who were in amidst of friendly conversations, when I noticed a beach ball being hit back and forth over the crowd. Of course, I could not let this get by me without taking a picture.
A Real Live Anime Character at the Anime Mid-Atlantic
I next walked to the large vendor selling area. If you were in a buying mood, you could purchase items from any of the vendors set up in the hallways and some of the rooms.
In fact, the hallways were filled with tables where people were selling any and everything related to Anime.
Additionally, there was a large room set aside strictly for vendors which appeared to be filled to capacity. As I walked around the vendor area, I came across a booth where there was a young lady where I had to do a double take because she looked so much like a real life anime character. She was Japanese and had very long blue hair styled with bangs and two very long ponytails. I was getting ready to ask her if I could take her picture when her attention was drawn to someone else who was talking to her.
I found out later that she was Yunmao Ayakawa, one of the guests when she appeared at the closing ceremony of the event with an interpreter. I got the chance to take a picture of her at that time.
Art Auction at the Anime Mid-Atlantic
I checked the schedule and decided to make my way back to the Marriott Hotel to cover the art auction. While waiting for the art auction to start, I found a comfortable and convenient sitting area at a table located right next to the front window that faced the front of the hotel. It was here where I took lots of pictures of attendees dressed up in costumes.
In fact, I noticed a young man dressed up in an Assassin’s Creed outfit, which I took a picture of from a distance then, and closer pictures later when he made an appearance at the closing ceremonies.
By this time, it was about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday – almost time for the art auction! I went to the information desk and asked her where was Restaurant A which is where the art auction was held. She checked the schedule and told me the art auction ended at 12:30 p.m. Unfortunately, the schedule I had was not the very latest, or had been changed. Even though the art auction was over, I still had time to take more pictures of all the interesting anime costumed attendees – so all was not lost.
Anime Mid-Atlantic Closing Ceremonies
The closing ceremonies were scheduled to be held at 3:30 p.m. at the Chesapeake Convention Center on Sunday, June 16, 2013. To make sure there were no schedule changes, I verified the place and time – which had not changed.
I made the short trek from the Marriott Hotel back to the convention center. The weather was absolutely beautiful outside, with sunny, blue skies – so the walk was an enjoyable one for me, in and of itself. Plus I met interesting costumed characters along the way.
After reaching the convention center and before going to the closing ceremony, I quickly checked the video game room to see if any changes had been made in the set up, etc.. The video game room was a little crowded than before; however, the set up was the same.
After leaving the video game room, I went to the closing ceremonies.
Everyone entering had to show their badge – which I again thought was a good security measure.
The closing ceremony consisted of the MC, Daniel Taraschke , thanking every body – jokingly, for not tearing the “place” down. He then thanked everyone for coming and hoped that everyone had fun. Next the guests were introduced and took the stage to additionally offer their thanks as well. Most of the guests were there with the exception of a few who had to leave early. The guest who I had interviewed earlier, Doug Smith, was introduced by the MC as their very own Tarzan -- took the stage and thanked every one. Some guests actually ran up to and jumped up on the stage as a way to show their enthusiasm for the event.
After presenting fan favorites awards, the MC ended the show requesting a group picture of the audience, with everyone posed with one arm outstretched with a finger pointing. I moved over to the center audience section to be sure I would be pictured and joined in the fun.
In the midst of taking the group picture, someone asked if there was a beach ball around. Sadly, there was no beach ball to be thrown; however, the audience made up for it afterwards, by some posing for pictures and others doing impromptu dances.
After waiting in line, I was able to interview Daniel Taraschke and obtained his assessment of the overall event. In his words, he dubbed the event, “a success.”
Pros of the Anime Mid-Atlantic
Cons of the Anime Mid-Atlantic
Recommendations for the Anime Mid-Atlantic
Closing Remarks -- Anime Mid-Atlantic
All in all, the Anime Mid-Atlantic looked to be not only a success but a great one at that. It was an event that you can go to and conversate with and be around others who share your interests in anime, and video games and all that goes with these fun venues. You can dress up as your favorite character and in a way, bring to life anime characters who you have probably admired virtually, and can now give them the breath of real life, so to speak, at an event such as the Anime Mid-Atlantic. If you have a competitive spirit, you can participate in the many contests to see how you measure up – or you can enter just to have fun. If you want to learn more about the different facets Anime, there were many workshops available as well.
The saying that would wrap up my personal assessment of the Anime Mid-Atlantic event would be –“ And fun was had by all!” Well done.