Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thoughts On A Video Game Con (2016)

With fond memories of the previous year, I was more than happy to attend A Video Game Con as a panelist once again. I was also glad to see it getting a second year, as not only did I enjoy the events, but I also reconnected with many friends (as well as gained many new ones) in the process. Did it hold up against its promising first year, especially with even larger special events planned??? Read below to find out!!!

The first thing my friend Willie and I noticed, was that the structure of the con was more or less the same, but with some slight tweaks that we felt made the event even better. For one thing, the hallway to the right of the entrance was no longer cramped with vendor tables. This allowed everyone to easily walk through and not feel as claustrophobic as the previous year. Even more important; the parking was clearly laid out this year with a helpful map, so that no one would have to worry about finding spaces. Two MAJOR plusses!

Unlike the previous year, my Streaming 101 panel was not scheduled until 3:00, so my friend and I had time to look around in the dealer/vendor's room first. Although it wasn't the largest vendor selection ever, I can honestly say that it was by far most comprehensive group of gaming vendors I've ever seen (and I'm including big conventions like New York Comic Con when I say this)! No matter what your preference (NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis, Famicom, Super Famicom, Playstation 1-4, Xbox-Xbox ONE, etc.), just about everything you could imagine was there in some way, shape, or form. I even remember spotting some of the old LCD handheld games that I played as a child.

I made some purchases at the vendors, but tried not to go too nuts (as it's very easy to do over there!). I made out with copies of Tetris, Super Mario Brothers 3, and The Legend of Zelda (gold cartridge) for the NES. I also got a nice used copy of Parasite Eve, which I have played many times before, but never owned previously. I held back on many other things, and decided I'd sleep on a few other items I was thinking about.

After getting lunch from the awesome truck right outside the building, my friend and I went into the arcade/stage room to check out what had been set up. Willie, his friend Brian, and I all teamed up to win The Simpsons Arcade Game together, and even got to enter our initials in the high score column! I also got to meet Pat Contri (known as Pat The NES Punk on YouTube). He was selling copies of his new book, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide To The NES Library. When I say this thing was a giant tome of a book, I mean it was a GIANT TOME of a book! It contains over 450 pages with titles, illustrations, and descriptions of over 750 NES games. It was well worth the price, and Pat was kind enough to sign my copy for me. I lucked out too, as I believe the book sold out not long after.

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After glancing around the freeplay room and signing in to confirm I was still doing a panel (thanks for pointing that out to me before it was too late, Keith!), my friend and I made our way to Panel Room 2 for setting up. Thankfully, unlike last year, we had a laptop that was actually working right (thanks to Willie!). I was also thrilled to see more people come into the panel than last year. For those who don't know, my panel last year was literally one of the first two of the entire convention, starting at 10:00 AM. Almost no one was even in the building yet by that time, and people were still waiting in line to even get inside! On top of that, there were numerous technical issues we had when trying to set up. So to make a long story short again, I was ECSTATIC to have my panel start a bit later, as well as have a bigger audience this time around.

As the name states, the point of my panel was to both introduce the concept of streaming video games to others, and educate them on how they can get started on this fun and exciting hobby. I'm happy to say things seemed to go pretty well! For one thing, there were no laptop issues to speak of, as the one my friend lent me didn't overheat or slow down at any point. The audience also really seemed intrigued and entertained by the things I was saying. It was a great sign that so many wanted to take my business card, including the people who had to leave before the panel had ended. I even recognized a girl who came to my JRPG panel the previous year, which meant I couldn't have performed too badly, right? The highlight of the entire panel for me, was finishing up the first video of one of my funny short clips and asking if they wanted to see more, only to hear cheering of "YEAH!" and clapping in reply. I left things feeling accomplished, and more like I could finally just breathe and enjoy the convention.

The rest of the day was mostly a mix of walking around more, playing more freeplay games, and finding and talking with more friends and staff. I also have to give a shout out to Paul of Retrogames for taking the time to talk with me about the ins and outs of starting a small business. It's all advice I will absolutely take to heart, and appreciate the brutal honesty that I know I needed to hear.

We finished the day by going to two late night (18+) panels, "Anime Parliament" and "AHH! Video Game Cartoons," both of which were extremely funny and entertaining. I even participated in a game during the latter panel, where we had to try and fill in the blanks to sentences with something funny/dirty to win candy. Good stuff! And I definitely slept extremely well that night, since I was so tired from all the chaos.

Despite everything I listed above, it was the second day of the convention where the "real" main events took place! On one hand, we had The Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) as the guest of honor, as well as Bootsy and Kyle Justin. On the other, we had the recently discovered Playstation/Nintendo prototype system that was originally believed to be an old folktale on the Internet. Needless to say, it was quite a lineup!

Since my friend and I had to come extremely early in order to get one of our volunteer friends to the convention before it opened, we were able to get inside pretty quickly once 9:30 hit. Since there was a decent amount of time before lining up for AVGN even began, we went back to the dealer's room once again. I finally made a purchase I had been on the fence about since the day before (partly because I didn't even know the device existed until said day!). The HoneyBee Gold is a converter piece that allows your NES to play original Japanese Famicom games on it. How does this work? Well, it's all in the number of pins! NES cartridges have 72 pins, while Famicom cartridges have 60. This converter is basically a middleman that you plug a Famicom cartridge into (similar to a Game Genie). After that, you're good to go! It's considered the most sought-after type of converter, so I pretty much had to get it. In the process, this has now opened me up to a whole world of gaming from Japan that I never even imagined myself collecting in the past. The good news is that most Famicom games are actually cheaper than their NES counterparts, as well as many of the Japan-only releases.

Following this, I went with my friend to a booth that had all kinds of Famicom games in it. We pretty much picked the entire counter apart. Even the titles in full Japanese, we were usually able to recognize, and kept calling the names of each one out as we realized. We apparently shocked one of the guys behind the counter, because he looked at both of us (almost with his jaw open) and said "Wow... You guys know your stuff!!!" I guess he had a harder time figuring out what he had before putting it up for sale. I ended up getting the first Saint Seiya title for the console, "Saint Seiya: Ougon Densetsu Kanketsu Hen." Whether it's good or not, I always remember the first games I purchase on each system, and this one will be no exception when I finally get to try it.

Once we went to go line up for The Angry Video Game Nerd, we were already pretty far back, as it went all the way out the building! Luckily, we met a lot of new friends in the line and we helped each other pass the time. Finally getting up to the front was a great feeling. Unlike most conventions, where you are rushed out as soon as your autograph or photo op is complete, this was an actual meet and greet. I chatted with him about as much as I could think to mention at the time. I actually got him to laugh pretty hard at one point too, saying something along the lines of "I find it hilarious how you did this as a persona, while it ended up attracting other imitators, who were actually legitimately angry people! They never realized that they were really the punch line all along!" He said he had never heard it described that way before, but said it had a ring of truth to it and thanked me for coming up with it. We also took a picture, making the trademark angry face he's become so known for. He was a very down-to-Earth guy and it was very nice talking with him.

The fun wasn't over yet, however! It was time to check out the Playstation/Nintendo console prototype. As a gamer, I must confess, it was incredible seeing this device up close. There is no way to truly describe seeing a controller with the Super Nintendo setup, and a Sony Playstation logo on the front (while the Nintendo logo was on the back)! I tried to take pictures of the console and its ports (though some pictures came out a bit blurry unfortunately). I am very grateful to everyone who made it possible for us to see this prototype. It added a special kind of experience that I've never quite seen at a convention before (including both big and local events).

The remainder of the consisted of walking around, playing more games in freeplay (such as Mega Man 3, Capcom Vs. SNK 2, and others), and talking with more people. I was also thrilled to see my friend Jeffery win the cosplay contest with a new friend he had literally just met the day before! Since the convention closed earlier on its second day, there wasn't much left to do other than say goodbye to everyone and look forward to next year.

Although brief (even with the second day added), this convention left me with a lot to think about. It's been a dream of mine to start my own business, as well as run a convention, and the things I learned left me with more knowledge on the subjects. Unfortunately, it also left me with a bit of dread. Obviously, not all news regarding these types of ventures are going to be good news. There's a serious amount of sacrifice one has to make in order to make their dreams possible, and it's not hard to be pulled back by it sometimes. Make no mistake, however. I will not give up, and I will not stop trying, ever. That much I can promise.

I'd like to thank all of my friends who helped make this event a possibility for us once again. Paul, Nicole, Coryn, Anthony, Cathryn, Keith (who I always manage to look like an idiot in front of), Elyse, Kathryn, etc., you are wonderful and I wish you all the best. To all my new friends and old, I look forward to connecting with you all again soon as well. It's always a real joy to connect with people over similar passions, and I can't wait to do it all again. See you next year, fellow gamers!