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Sunday, September 9, 2012

San Diego Comic-Con & Gam3rCon 2012

My trip to San Diego, and more specifically to Comic-con, almost didn't happen this year.

San Diego Comic-con is notorious. Not only for the convention itself but also for the inability to get tickets. Awhile back I was given the possibility of going to Comic-con for free. How might you ask since all the tickets had been sold out for months? Well, I work for a wonderful organization called The D20 Girls Project. We put out a monthly newspaper and quarterly magazine, as such, members can qualify for press badges. And with the help of my awesome assistant manager, Cryshayn, we were able to attain press badges. However, I struggled to actually get my badge from Comic-con despite the approval. For awhile it looked as though I wouldn't be getting a badge at all, and so, I began making secondary plans. I already had a hotel to stay at and knew that several happenings occur around downtown San Diego during comic con from a previous trip. One of these happenings is Gam3rCon.

So I contacted Gam3rCon to see if they needed/wanted any help. Luckily they did. However, shortly after I agreed to help out Gam3rCon, I finally recieved my badge for SDCC. So now I had two cons to attend. Woohoo!

Day Zero: Thursday

We left NorCal on Thursday late morning and decided to stop by Disneyland, because we can. Of course, this meant missing out on all of Thursday's panels at SDCC AND missing out on Nerdcore nights at Gam3rCon. Luckily we were planning on going to the Nerdcore show later that weekend. Disneyland was great, as usual, but not being used to SoCal, I didn't realize leaving the park at 11pm would mean we wouldn't get into San Diego until after 1am - oops. Luckily our host we so generous and nice, as well as our other roommates. Yes, we were those people, and stuffed seven bodies into our hotel room at the Hilton Bayfront. Being that it was so late we just literally threw sleeping bags on the some available floor space and passed out in our clothes.

Official Day One: Friday

My Gam3rCon staff shirt (photo courtesy of  T1nk the C0n Fairy)
Awoke at a decent hour, but not early enough to grab my SDCC badge, and got dressed and then headed directly to Gam3rCon. We met the awesome Robin, our volunteer co-ordinator, and got settled in. Even H4773r decided to join in on the volunteerism. I was set up to do street team work, which meant heading down the Gaslamp district near SDCC and promoting Gam3rCon. We headed out with our beautiful mascot, Fallen Flyte (aka Olivia) and spent a couple of hours promoting the heck out of Gam3rCon.

Fallen Flyte (photo courtesy of T1nk the C0n Fairy)
As soon as I was able, I ran down to SDCC and grabbed my badge and then spent what little time I had left wandering around the con. I had missed most of the panels already so I decided to check out the vendor hall and see if I could meet any of my D20 Girls in person. I found Cryshayn in the "gaming room". I use the verbiage "gaming room" very loosely. The gaming room is located on the Mezzanine section of the main convention center, which in of itself is hard to find (I actually had to look it up on the FAQ section to just find it). And then you make a turn and wander down a hall. Seeing as how I'd just come from Gam3rCon earlier that day, with 3 floors of gaming, I wasn't impressed. I also found Leah Rose from our Arizona location on the main floor.

Ermahgerd! Cermic Cern! (photo courtesy of T1nk the C0n Fairy)

After I enjoyed the wonders of the vendor hall and met a few other D20 Girls by just wandering around I headed back to Gam3rCon. I decided to walk back and enjoy all the sights of the Gaslamp district, but I could have taken the free shuttle that was being offered by Gam3rCon. There are so many restaurants in the Gaslamp. I was really disappointed that I wouldn't be able to eat at most of them because we were trying to save money on this trip. Although I did enjoy a delicious veggie burger at Hodad's earlier in the day.

Every evening Gam3rCon hosts some type of rooftop event/party. This night was the showing of Video Game High School, which also had a few of the stars making an appearance. I had actually caught this YouTube series earlier in the year in one of my random, geeky news feeds and was familiar with the opening episode. H4773r and I are big fans of Harley Morenstein from Epic Mealtime. I was a bit disappointed he wasn't able to make an appearance. Overall the cast was super nice and I enjoyed watching some more of this hilarious series before I decided to call it a night.

Day Two: Saturday

Saturday's outfit (photo courtesy of T1nk the C0n Fairy)
I woke up at a fairly decent but still not early enough to get to anything at SDCC. Instead I made sure to get breakfast and stop by a Starbucks on the way (not the one at the Hilton though because the line was out of the door). I made my way back to Gam3rCon and made swag bags until it was time to start my next shift doing street team work again. I had debated on wearing a costume that day, but overall decided that since it would be a long day I probably wouldn't have the stamina to tolerate a costume.

Fun story that happened while working for street team: A guy with a microphone and camera man approached our street team and asked Olivia if he could interview her for a segment. I only glanced at him and couldn't quite see his shirt to identify what company he was with, but I did notice he had what looked like a Fleshlight in his other hand. She immediately said yes and then he asked her what she thought about Fleshlights. (So it was a flesh light!) Her face drew a blank as she asked aloud, "What's a Fleshlight?" I immediately made some kind of face at Olivia who took one look at me and then told the interviewer that she changed her mind. I piped in with, "So that is a Fleshlight you're holding?" To which he responded yes, and then asked if I would be interviewed. To which I said, "Yes!" I was asked which superhero I'd have sex with (answer: Tony Stark), which superheroes I'd have a 3-way with (answer: Catwoman and Batman), do I own a Fleshlight (answer: no), would I consider buying one (answer: no, but if someone gave me one that'd be cool). He then mentioned Fleshlight/Hustler Magazine would be having a party that night and I should stop by. I said maybe, but I knew I wasn't going since I had a concert to go to that night.

I trekked back to the Cryptozic store with everyone to get picked up and then stopped in to check with H4773r and another friend to see how they were doing at Gam3rCon. I knew I had missed all the panels, again, but decided to head back to SDCC and into the vendor hall to pick up swag and maybe meet some more people. I did manage to find Adrianne Curry getting interviewed on the street and snag a photo, thanks to her awesome manager/friend.

Could I have more of derp face? (photo courtesy of  T1nk the C0n Fairy)
Honestly, I kind of forgot that getting swag at SDCC is it's own thing to do. You have to wait in line and run around from place to place hoping you'll make it before the line is either cut off or they run out of stuff. I managed to pick up a few things and make a couple of purchases for some friends who missed out on joining us. I also ran into/met Lili for the first time. She's one of my new hire for the California D20 Girls and has a great girls gaming group that she works for, The Mos Eisley Girls.

After running around all day I barely managed to pull myself away from SDCC to meet up with H4773r so we could attend "Nerdcore Nights." This was an event I wanted to attend for a few reasons. One, I absolutely love any chance I get to see MC Frontalot or MC Lars live. They're great performers and the concerts are fun. Also, I knew that Devil's Playground Burlesque would be performing and I wanted to network with people from The Gamer Girls. I had a great time for the time I actually spent there. Please check out this blog for my review on the show.

Sunday: Last day in San Diego

I decided to wear my costume, Alice from American McGee's Alice, on this day since I knew it would be a short day as far as work. I checked in with Gam3rCon and did my final day of street team work. There weren't any panels of interest on Sunday so I didn't feel horrible missing out on anything. And I did spend my last day back in the vendor hall picking up more swag, because really, that's all I could afford.

H4773r and friend playing Starcraft II (photo courtesy of T1nk the C0n Fairy)
After SDCC shut down I had planned a D20 Girl dinner meet up at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was a very small, but great event. I love when I get to meet other D20 Girls in person and just chat about geeky things.
The D20 Girls (Cryshayn, Leah Rose, and JC) at Hard Rock Cafe (photo courtesy of T1nk the C0n Fairy)

I ended the night back at Gam3rCon for their "Deconpression" event. It was a great day to end a long weekend.
At Deconpression as Alice (photo courtesy of T1nk the C0n Fairy)
Where we stayed
View from our room (photo courtesy of T1nk th C0n Fairy)
H4773r and I, in our old age, prefer to stay in hotels connected to the convention center. In this case it was the Hilton Bayfront. However, I honestly had no idea what price we'd be paying even splitting the cost amongst 6 people. In the future, I think we'll look into staying somewhere farther away and using the shuttle buses or the trolley to commute to and from the San Diego convention center. This year SDCC helped those out by extending the trolley running hours as well.

What we ate
H4773r and I usually try to be thrifty when it comes to food. We often bring our own snacks and items to make meals out of. H4773r has a huge preference to using MRE's. But we did eat out a bit. In general, the Gaslamp district offers a huge variety and pricing scale for places to eat. I enjoyed meals at Hodad's and the Hard Rock Cafe. H4773r ate at Cremolose. And then I did have an emergency meal at Papa John's pizza. There are also a few Starbucks around if you're in need of caffeine.

Veggie foods: I always bring vegetarian/vegan snacks with me. I also usually break my no dairy rule on vacations just because I have such a hard time finding decent protein sources. At Hodad's I enjoyed their veggie burger and fries (no cheese). At Hard Rock I had the Veggie Leggie (sooo good!) and enjoyed my side salad with a vinaigrette.

H4773r and I didn't have any problems with parking this year since we were hotel guests. We opted to pay the $27 per day to park at the Hilton Bayfront parking lot.

Overall trip
This trip was a wash for me. While I did get assistance in get my SDCC tickets and got a share a room (albeit, very expensive room), this trip was highly expensive. In general a trip to SDCC is expensive. I had quite a few of my roommates spend hundreds, almost a couple of thousand on purchasing SDCC exclusives. And this is in addition to hotel costs, travel costs, food costs, and cosplay costs (if you're into that sort of thing). Also, because of my  obligations I really feel like I didn't get to enjoy either con as much as I wanted. I didn't game at Gam3rCon and I didn't catch a single panel at SDCC.

I honestly don't know if we'll be heading back to SDCC next year. We've already missed out on purchasing the passes and since my article was never submitted to D20 I don't know if I'll be eligible for a press badge next year. If we do go next year, I plan on making the most of it by spending my day at SDCC and then joining Gam3rCon in the evening as an attendee.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fanime 2012

Fanime has been and probably always will be one of my favorite cons to attend, and not just because it’s in my hometown. Fanime is known as the con by the fans for the fans and pretty much runs on just volunteer help. Yet it still pulls in thousands of attendees year after year and just keeps getting bigger.

T1nk & H4773r (aka Red Bird and Kotetsu) Photos belong to T1nkC0nFairy
Fanime started out as a small, free convention in 1994 at Cal State Hayward. As Fanime continued to grow in popularity it changed venues several times before finally coming to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, where it still continues to reside today. There is no official documentation for overall attendance but it's estimated around 20,000 people attended this past year. (Info taken from Wikipedia.)

One of my favorite parts about this con is you can still "attend" without having a badge. There are several areas in the "concourse" that are free to the public. Here you can see some events at "Stage Zero" or just people watch.

Hotel accommodations: Fanime works with both hotels connected directly to the McEnery Convention Center, The Marriott and The Hilton. They also partner with the Sainte Claire and the very posh Fairmont. Of course favorites are the The Marriott and Hilton because they have direct opening right into the con center, but the St. Claire and Fairmont are within very short walking distance. There is also the DoubleTree which is farther away but runs a shuttle to and from the con. Of course, book early! I believe announcements for reservations went up in early February on both the Fanime twitter site and Facebook page and rooms were booked within hours. The hotels are very used to being invaded by Fanime and while it’s frowned upon I have known people to shove upwards of 6+ guests to a room.

Parking: If you’re staying at one of the hotels listed above there will be valet parking offered. I honestly don’t know what the rates per days are, but it certainly isn’t cheap. There is also parking at the McHenry Convention Center, but again, not cheap. For “cheaper” parking there are a couple of options. First are two lots on the west side of the con center. Both lots are available for about $7 a day and the lot on Almaden Boulevard also offers overnight parking. I ended up parking at a lot off of Azuerais Avenue near the Children's Discovery Museum. It was within walking distance and only $5 a day with in and out privileges. There are a lots on 3rd and San Carlos and 4th and San Fernando that have pay by the hour parking until 6pm and then it becomes a flat rate, but they are not overnight. And of course many parking lots for various prices in-between these streets.

Food: There is plenty to eat at very reasonable prices around the con center. I never recommend buying food at the con itself, but there are a few exceptions I make. One, Psycho Donuts! There is a location on 2nd and E. San Carlos but this year they actually set up a booth to sell Psycho Psushi and drinks. Within the con there was also Tengu Sushi (I think), which sold bento boxes, and Sweet Breams, which sold taiyaki. Within reasonable walking distance you can find plenty of fast food, favorites beings McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, and Pizza My Heart.  If you’re willing to walk a bit further not only will you find more great restaurants, such as Gordon Biersch, but also the local downtown Safeway. I can cannot tell you how thrilled I was that the Peet's Coffee within the convention center stayed open 24/7 all weekend long; it was such a life saver.
(Notes to my veg foodies: my favorite recommendations are Psycho Donuts, which serves vegan donuts, and  the Pita Pit, which has late hours.)

Psycho Psushi (photo belongs to T1nkC0nFairy)

What I did at Fanime this year: Fanime offers a wide variety of panels and I had promised myself I would try to attend more of them this year, alas my personal life didn’t allow me to. So I only ended up at three panels this year.

Viz Media: presented by Viz Media to discuss upcoming Viz Media releases. A very informative panel on upcoming manga and video releases and where to buy them as well as some nice prizes offered for answering some very simple trivia questions.

Is It Real?: presented by Armor-Geddon and the Twilight Knights. An informative panel, that I actually assisted in, hosted by my fiancĂ©, Tony “H4773r” Elfson Sales. He discussed what makes a knife/sword practical vs. non-practical, how to maintain your weaponry, and different styles of weaponry.

H4773r educates (photo belongs to T1nkC0nFairy)

Geeky Networking 101: presented by Venus De Coy of Goddess Productions. Again, another informative panel, complete with handout, on approaching fellow geeks for networking purposes. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stick around for the entire panel so I don’t know whether or not her techniques were put to practical use at the end of the panel.

Costume Masquerade: I did not wait in the uber long line that went around 3 blocks this year. Instead I waited until about an hour after it started and then was able to just walk in and get seats, albeit in the nosebleed section of the auditorium, but seats nonetheless. I caught the end of the walk-on costume parade and the first 15 skits before I realized I need to leave and catch a panel. The masquerade is full of hits and misses as one would expect. Some skits are hilarious even if you've never seen the anime and others are just lacking. But I still enjoy trying to catch it for the amazing gems that show up. Also our MC was great at keeping the audience fairly occupied.

New Anime I Caught

Avatar the Last Airbender: Abridged
I've seen the entire Airbender series, which makes watching the abridged version that much more enjoyable.
 It's just absolutely hilarious, even if you've never watched the anime before. In general, I think the abridged series does well to summarize the episodes.

Space Battleship Yamato 2199
Fanime presented the first four episodes of this new series. I'd love to see the rest. I'm not the biggest space anime person, but I really got into the characters and storyline.

Revolutionary Girl Utena
I keep catching the first few episodes and really need to find the rest of the series. I find the plot intriguing and the implications of a relationship between Utena and Anthy so dreamy.

Things I missed out on that I hope to catch up on next year

Black and White Ball
The Black and White Ball is considered a formal, dress-up event. There are several dance classes held throughout the day that teach you the basics of such styles as the Waltz and Salsa, etc. I had heard from different resources that the enforcement for attire was hit and miss with con staff. Some staff members got super picky about certain outfit aspects and let other aspects slide. While the guidelines were very clear the consensus was that Fanime staff wasn't. Last year there were no in/out privileges; if you left the ball you had to wait in a very long line to get back in. I'm not sure if they had this same rule this year. Perhaps next year I'll actually be able to attend and enjoy a few dances. The ball was also scheduled the same time as Cosplay Spectacular. I'm not sure if this was done to prevents both events from being overcrowded, but since I usually attend the Spectacular I decided to pass on the Ball.

The Raves aka Fanimecon Dance
Fanime brought back their raves with a vengeance. In the last few years the raves had fallen to the wayside with very light attendance. This year Fanime brought in several D.J.'s and rotated them throughout the weekend so there was something new every night. Again, long lines to get in and I heard staff was being strict on things like bag checks. I haven't been to the rave since my first Fanimecon, and back then it was quite so-so. If Fanime continues to bring in the rave D.J. rotation I'm going to try and make time to go next year.

Gaming Room
I didn't stop in at all this year. Fanime does a great job of offering several different gaming platforms and the room is staffed 24/7 throughout the weekend. As well as offering a few tournaments. I just didn't have the time or desire to go in. But I will hopefully be learning Magic: The Gathering soon and be able to join in the fun next year.

Every year I tell myself I'm going to at least stop in and maybe one year convince myself to participate and yet never get around to it. Although I can usually hear them as I wander the video rooms area. The great thing about the Karoake contest winners is they get to perform during the Masquerade. I caught this year's winner, a sister duo (Astro Ninja Fruits) that did an excellent job.

Here they are performing at the Masquerade.

Fanime association with Clockwork Alchemy
This was something very new for Fanime this year. San Jose normally has a small steampunk convention hosted through Nova Albion. Nova Albion was cancelled this year and I heard that Fanime had agreed to host Clockwork Alchemy as a way to still celebrate a steampunk con. It was an interesting sort of setup. Clockwork setup at the DoubleTree Hotel and a shuttle ran between the two cons to transport attendees. If you bought a pass to one con you were able to get into the other con with your pass. I was unable to attend the Steampunk con for various reasons. I heard that it was fun and everyone I talked to who attended seemed to have a good time, but there was an overall complaint on the lack of organization. Fanime puts out a convention guide with summaries of all the panels and main events as well as a pocket guide with all the times of events. The Fanime Guide also doubled for Clockwork Alchemy. However the Clockwork side seemed terribly lacking in panel descriptions and the pocket guide was very late to upload onto the Clockwork site. I'm very curious to see whether this partnership continues.

Of course despite the fact I missed out on much of the con due to being a theatregeek I still had a great weekend, and as always, plan on attending next year. In fact, my goal next year is to not be a theatreg33k during Fanime and actually enjoy the entire con. Look for me and H4773r panel hosting next year.