Blue Shoes and I walked into the convention hall and it became abundantly clear. This was not our scene. We plain clothes nerds were grossly outnumbered by Pokemons, Japanese school girls, and Sebastian‘s. My previous experience with anime is a few hours of Final Fantasy XIII and commercials on adultswim. Sure, I knew OMGcon was anime friendly but a gathering of nerds in my new home town of Paducah, Ky.? How could I refuse?
It’s not that I hate anime. What little I know about it seems over dramatic and hard to follow, but I respect it as a subculture. OMGcon was my chance to broaden my horizons, plus I assumed there would be a significant representation of the manga comic scene and so I hoped a few webcomic guys might slip in as well.
What we found was a ton of amazing cosplay and cosplay related activities, a large collection of videogames, and a vendor area small enough to give you that authentic “crowds of Akihabara Tokyo” feel. Unlike the Cincinnati Comic Expo last year, I decided to try out a few panels and get that real “convention” feel, so Blue Shoes and I studied the schedule the night before.
It became apparent that OMGcon is community based at a level I’d not seen since I stumbled upon an anachronism meeting at the suggestion of my college roommate senior year. Everyone was very aware of the people around them in such a comfortable, familiar way and this feeling led straight into an extensive list of events focused on cosplay. But far from being claws-out competitions to see who had the best contest, these events focused on interacting with fellows cosplayers.
Something college buddy Blues Shoes and I learned first hand at the cosplay wedding Friday night. Seeing the event on the schedule, I assumed some girl in a steampunk white dress would be marrying some guy with a bionic arm for real. The event was a lot more chaotic than that. Basically a pirate stood at the front of a dimly lit room, in fact the entire convention hall was dimly lit intentionally I can only assume to provide the atmosphere of the Dungeon Master’s basement, and asked for volunteers to participate in a series of fake weddings. The reward for this spectacle? A cupcake and a marriage certificate signed by the good captain Robbins himself. Well, not some much Dread Pirate Robbins as Captain Jack Sparrow, but still. First up was a wedding between a demon and a girl dressed all in red, not sure what she was supposed to be because the pirate kept calling her dude. Then came a marriage between a girl called Catherine and the Diva of Hell.
Blue Shoes and I figured we couldn’t top a lesbian wedding whose groom was a spawn of hell so Blue Shoes and I went to check out the Super Smash Brothers Brawl tournament. I played my share of SSB Melee in my day so I put my name down and gave it a go. I was, of course, never any good so I thought I’d go for style and play to the crowd. Yep. I played as Jigglypuff. With the green hat, of course. For those of you not familiar, Jigglypuff, he’s a slow moving pink puffball that is all but useless on the ground for amateurs like me. He can be devastating in the air, but I didn’t know that. I recognized him as the worst and fruitiest character in the game. I was the first one out, but I lasted a lot longer than I thought I would and enjoyed myself thoroughly.
The exciting end of our Friday evening was the cosplay date auction. After the wedding we assumed the auction will also be a mockery, but sure enough money changed hands. Some deals were to be had, but one guy got really into it. I’m pretty sure he was bidding on his girlfriend and a few people knew this so they intentionally bid up the girl to aggravate him. The best was when the gavel dropped and the crowd emphatically pointed out that another bidder had not been recognized so bidding was reopened at $45. I thought for sure the guy was gonna start a fight. It was all in good fun and everyone was smiling when he got his girl for $50. So instead of buying a new game, or two if he takes her to a nice restaurant, he has to go on a date with his is girlfriend who was willing to dress up in revealing costume for him all day.
Saturday my long time friend Venice joined us for the cosplay madness. First up was Iron Cosplay, OMGcon’s take on Iron Chef. Two teams had to build a costume using a lot of multi-colored duct tape and the secret ingredient FOAM! The winner? A robot from Full Metal Alchemist. Venice said he wasn’t a huge anime fan, but he could identify a lot more characters than we could. Including the robot. After the robot was crowned we headed to another, decidedly disappointing, cosplay event.
We arrived at the cosplay chess match half our late just as a new game was about to begin. The pieces were all in cosplay, at the rather rude and facilitator’s insistence. Not that she shouldn’t be a stickler for including only cosplayers, but she had a number of rules and enforced them in a rather rude manner. It was clear the event was designed for the participants and not the audience. The board wasn’t actually marked out and the players stood way too close together. The chess masters played with a real board on a stage and the facilitators directed the players’ movements, which was fine. But when two “pieces” met a la Battle Chess, they fought between the cosplay board and the stage, which meant the audience’s view of the slow-mo battle royale was blocked by the players.
The emphasis on cosplay was obvious. Many of the panels focused on how to cosplay, including an informative if poorly planned panel we attended on how to cosplay on a “college budget, an out of college budget, or just a budget really.” Sum it up in one word? Hardware stores.
We didn’t have as much luck at panels on Saturday though. I missed meeting the non-digitally altered voice of G.I.R., Rikki Simons, because our waitress at a Mexican restaurant in town had to take a siesta before bringing our check. But lunch did allow us to chicabonita to the con. I thought I’d console my lack of Zim fandom by completely nerding out at panel called “Your favorite Joss Whedon Show sucks.” As a fan of Firefly who has never seen a Buffy episode I was expecting a good old fashion Trek vs. Wars, Picard vs. Kirk nerd fight and that’s pretty much what I got. While it never quite degraded into mom jokes there was a disappointing lack of logical arguments, and at points it was little more than a series of contradictions. “I came here for a good argument. No you didn’t. Yes I did.” But regardless, at the end of the panel, after my wife was sufficiently annoyed at the lack of coherent arguments and Twighlight bashing, the panel host announced she was in fact a big fan of Firefly and had a Serenity cover for her Macbook. She then uttered the words “troll face” which prompted the main contradictors to march out mumbling something about not feeding the troll. Now, if you ask me playing devil’s advocate for the sake of a good discussion is a far cry from trolling activities. I did however come to the realization that I had in fact witnessed a forum discussion IRL. It’s a bit unsettling reflecting back.
To call the panel disappointing is one thing, but poor is another matter entirely. A matter easily associated with the last panel we attended Saturday, “Steam Anachronism.” I’ve been mildly interested in steampunk since I first saw photos of different steampunk machines. I’ve always been annoyed by these inventions lack of functionality, but that’s another discussion. The trouble here was, I entered the room expecting a discussion on ways to participate in the steampunk society and maybe even a forum for my complaint that most steampunk “inventions” are little more than gears and brass buttons glued on to modern technology and painted to look like more brass. In the 10 or 15 minutes we stayed for panel it was nothing more than a power point collection of Wikipedia articles and the results of a 30 minute Google image search. I didn’t need to know what castes make up steampunk society or what Goth Victorian styles are not included in steampunk. I could figure that out on my own some wintry Saturday afternoon in front of my computer.
We bailed for the cosplay judging but in a weird fit of Cinci Comic Expo flashback we got distracted by a board game. Specifically Zombie Survival: The Board Game. Emphasis on bored. I mean board. Three hours later we learned the game is little more than a screw your neighbor, roll the dice move your mice game that is all but decided during the setup phase. There is little to no strategy involved and there is no Charlton Heston. No one actually survives the zombie apocalypse. They just live longer than their neighbors by hording supplies and sending zombies across the fence. This activity did attract the most attention we got from strangers all weekend, however. Several passersby were quick to give us strategies, which ranged from the cruel tips of get all the cars so no one else can have one and stock up on people, which determine the number of actions per round, so you can send the most zombies to your neighbors, to the logical tip of stocking up on lumber and a saw so you can barricade more windows and doors faster.
In all the excitement I never made it to a showing of one of the anime films. They showed two at a time all day every day too. I did find out I love Pocky and I had a blast and talked to some cool people in very creative costumes. Plus I rekindled my love of Mortal Kombat and played an amazing Gran Turismo 5 with the GT wheel and pedals. Most importantly, I convinced two of my friends to drive 6 plus hours to Paducah. Tophat would have been here too but he got royally hosed at work the week before hand and had to play catch up over the weekend. Turns out he’s the Omega Man at his newspaper. Hope he’s got plenty of cars and lumber.
But did I find any webcomic artists? One. But it was a cutesy girl and her penguin who want to take over the world. I proabably should have checked it out, but I got distracted by a Minecraft tshirt with a leather tunic recipe on it. Sorry.
Also, I’ve uploaded more pics to our flikr account, and Blue Shoes has promised video later in the week. Including video of me dancing in a Kinect game. On a side note, Kinect has lost any and all chance it had to gain my respect. It’s worse than the powerglove. Not only does it not work, it doesn’t even look cool.