Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A-Kon 25: The Review!

Convention review, as required by law! Or my law.

I spent the weekend at Project: A-Kon 25 and it was full of ups and downs. Most of it not to do with the convention itself, but rather personal health reasons. Huzzah for that. -_- But it was a good convention, A-Kon is continuing to grow and expand it's grasp, and I have plenty of things to cover in the name of CosPod so let's get to it!

Day 0 of conventions is becoming a more common occurrence. Thursday evening we arrived to do badge pick-up for press and panels and were amazed to see the number of people already out in costume. That evening there was the reemergence of the masquerade, going for a more formal feel and requiring a mask to get in, and the Artists Alley opened a day early! Crazy. But it was good to see convention-goers get into the experience as early as Day 0. More and more conventions are getting on board with this offering evening parties, events, and panels. I'd like to see A-Kon continue this tradition, and with the turn-out for the masquerade, I wouldn't be surprised to see it expand next year.

Day 1 was a typical send-off. The morning was about as quiet as Sunday afternoons. People were there, some costumes, but mostly getting accustomed to the layout changes and looking over the schedule. I took this as a good time to take photos of cosplayers that I could stop and pull aside from the walkway, and get personal photo shoots in myself. Thursday/Friday morning, Sunday night are the best times for private shoots. So few people make it easier to get around and into the nooks and crannies of the con without much hassle. Friday was also our big panel day. In the morning I helped co-host the How to Convention Like A Pro, which focused more on cosplay, but gave some great tips on how to prep for a con, hotels, and check out day even when you're not a cosplayer. We didn't get video of the panel, but I hope it was informative for those who attended. And the rest of the day went about in a similar manner. We photographed. We recorded panels. And I had another presentation that evening for Mythos and Mythology of Final Fantasy. I'll have a link to the video, the panel outline, and PowerPoint up as soon as possible.

Saturday fits into the "worse day ever" category. Woke up with digestive issues, something I had been dealing with all week, but they went into full blown mode by that point and I was choking down medicine to keep on my feet. My podcast partner and I were running back and forth a lot for the cosplay contest as competitors, so there was little down time to relax and take photos. Most of my photos for the day were from the Final Fantasy gathering...which dissipated in less then 15 minutes. Something I'm still ticked off at myself about for letting it fall apart. But lots of lessons learned on Saturday:

- Don't let A-Kon press push to have things their way. It was OUR photo gathering, not theirs. They can work with our schedule, or move to another group.

- No more cosplay contests that require dedication for my entire Saturday. If it's going to take up more then 3 hours of my time, it's not worth it. I want to ENJOY my convention, and spending 7 hours (yes, it really was 7 hours-1 hour for pre-judging lines, and 6 hours backstage) is not worth it. I was still a paying attendee. I bought a badge out of courtesy though I didn't really need to. So no more of that. Lots of cons at 3 times A-Kon's attendance can do it. I don't know why they still can't.

- F the world if I'm feeling stick. I need to stop being stubborn and lie down if I feel that sick again while I'm at a con. If I didn't have a partner for the contest, I would have left. But she was depending on me, so I stayed. It's not her fault, but my stubbornness sure is.

- 1pm is always a bad time to hold a photo gathering. We're moving back to AM next year.

On the plus, the green room was fun this year. I like being able to talk to fellow cosplayers during the contest. You meet new people, hang out with friends, and learn so many new things that I would love to have more conventions do this. Next year, if we are press again for CosPod, I will do both the stage photography and work the green room. I got a few fun photos from that and loved every minute of it. :D

Sunday was the other quiet day because everyone was checking out! Took photos when I could, had a panel to host, and then we interviewed the illustrious Yaya Han, who really is friendly. I promise. I'll link to the interview as soon as it's posted. As well as my Acting Out panel.

As a whole, A-Kon did improve this year over the past. They are still working out the kinks with the new location, and helped with their congestion. More people attended then usual, and over 8,000 badges were handed out Thursday night, about 1/3 of A-Kon's attendance rate. Some staff members were rude and weapons patrol were being inconsistent, per usual. Confusing and flustering convention goers, but as a whole, it was a good con. I know some people are walking away next year because it's getting bigger and crowded. The cosplay contest, at the rate it is growing and the level of craftsmanship, NEEDS to add better prizes and more awards. There are too many great costumes being entered and leaving with nothing, which is crazy. And Dealer's Room leftovers is not worth the 400 hours spent making a costume. I'd much rather have stayed outside, taken photos, and been able to get more video work into the mix.

And while some people complained again about parking and food options, the hotel is in the Design District of Dallas. It's not known for "food" but for artist galleries and furniture warehouses. There are a number of hotels, and not so many parking slots. Lots are going to be enforced, and you should plan ahead. I was getting a bit annoyed to see so many people complain about the lack of free parking. My response is: "Since when has A-Kon ever had free parking?" It's Dallas. Parking is NEVER free here. And if you find it for free, you are risking it because there is a good chance you will be towed. $20 a day parking seems much cheaper when you consider a $500 towing fee. And while A-Kon at the Sheraton did have more parking options available, there were still long walks from cheaper lots. The hotel was still tiny and could not contain 25,000 people. The move was needed and welcomed. Embrace it people. Over time the change with the convention will settle and we will find a good balance between what the con needs and what attendees want. And food options were still plentiful. There are 2 restaurants on site, a couple within walking distance, a snack shop, and they block off an area for made-to-order. In the evening, food trucks were out to take care of late night dinners, which I actually preferred. Last year, there was nothing open after 9pm which made getting food incredibly difficult after evening panels and the cosplay contest. Having at least SOMETHING to eat so late at night was fantastic.

As I said, the con itself was good, but personal issues made it difficult to enjoy. I'd like a re-do on the weekend...at least for Saturday. Friday and Sunday were great! A-Kon has turned into a hang-out time again...I miss that.

And as always, a thank you to everyone who allowed me to take their photo this weekend. Our gallery can be found on FaceBook or Flickr.


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