Having started in 2017, PAX Unplugged is the first PAX convention to center entirely around tabletop gaming. This year, we have the privilege of being flies on the wall at the Philadelphia Convention Center (AKA press).
Lines for registration were long at the start of the day, according to some fellow con-goers. We arrived around noon, however, so we had no issues getting in and getting registered quickly.
Everyone was very helpful and knowledgeable from the second we walked in. Lena at registration welcomed us warmly to our first PAX Unplugged, let us know what the Enforcer uniform looked like should we need to find someone, and directed us on where to go.
The Philadelphia Convention Center is huge and can be difficult to navigate, which got a little overwhelming at times. Thankfully, the convention set up “World Maps” throughout the buildings to let you know where you are so you can get around easier.
We met several new people and saw some familiar faces. We had the pleasure of speaking with Tanya from I Need Diverse Games, Jeff from Tabletop Gaymers, and the wonderful folks at Take This, a charity devoted to mental health in gaming.
I was happy to make it to a couple of panels. The first was World Building for Lazy Dungeon Masters, which focused on different ways you could build a campaign without preparing every single detail before Session Zero. This included borrowing from existing stories and asking players for their input.
We also made it to the Girls’ Game Shelf live show, where they played a game called Were Word. This is like Werewolf and Mafia, but you have to guess a special word in order to save yourself from the werewolf. It was hilarious and looks like a lot of fun. This panel also included AnnaMaria, who is a former writer for Real Women of Gaming!
We had an action-packed first day at PAX Unplugged, and I honestly loved all of it! Now, on to day two!
While I am an avid gamer, I haven’t had the chance to go to a lot of gaming conventions in my life. I’ve been to PAX South twice and on, August 11th, I had the opportunity to go to Game On Expo here in Phoenix, Arizona. Thanks to Real Women of Gaming, I got to get a media pass for this 3-day event. I was unable to attend all three days, but luckily that didn’t stop me from seeing a lot of great things at this Expo. This is the first expo where I didn’t go with friends, but instead with my niece, nephew, and a friend of theirs. Three kids in an expo hall by myself? Was I nuts? Turns out they behaved really well. And it gave me a different perspective of the event.
This is Game On Expo’s 5th year, so they are still establishing themselves and building their own community. And I have to say, they are doing a great job. Everyone we talked to was incredibly nice and the crowd was fairly polite. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a number of parents with their kids there. Much more so than at bigger conventions. I think this has to do with the sheer amount of games they had available for people to play while they were there.
The theme this year was Mario and they had voice actors from some of the games available for photos and signatures. There was the voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, plus Jen Taylor and Kenny James. There were Pokemon voice actors Tara Sands, Eric Stuart, Rachel Lillis, Megan Hollingshead and Veronica Taylor. There was also Mary Gibbs, the voice of Boo from Monsters, Inc, Hellena Taylor, the voice of Bayonetta, Tim Kitrow from NBA Jams and E-Sports personality Chris Tang.
There was a section for old-school arcade games! There was Ms. Pac-Man, Paperboy, Pinball, Tekken and so many more! I have to tell you that I’ve never laughed harder at a kid playing a video game as I did at two of those that were with me when they tried to play Paperboy. They kept getting hit by cars, people, and even RC cars and they were like, “this is so hard!” Like kids, arcade games were supposed to be hard! They wanted us to sit there and spend more quarters!
Then there was a section for older consoles. They had Ataris, Nintendos, N64s, Segas and more! They were available to be played by anyone when they weren’t being used for the Retro World Championships.
Of course, we can’t forget about having an e-sports area with the ability to play Fortnite, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mortal Kombat 11 and others. There were tournaments for these games as well, but mostly I saw a lot of families having a great time playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I know we went and played it a few different times. I have to say, my 10-year-old nephew is better at it than I am. I had to go old-school and smash buttons because I had no idea what I was doing. I did randomly do some great combos, but mostly he kicked my butt 2 outta 3 rounds!
There was a small Virtual Reality booth that had two set-ups for people to try. They were only usable by those over age 12, so only my niece got to try it. It was really amusing to see her trying to move around in the game while sitting in a chair with that giant headset on. While we were watching her, some guy came up and played Beat Saber on expert! He was really good too; it was fun to watch.
There were rows upon rows of merchants at Game On Expo. There were merchants I expected to see like The Army recruiters and local businesses looking for extra exposure, even though they have nothing to do with games. This particular expo also had tons of merchants selling used games for every console you can imagine. And then there was also the jewelry, cosplay props, art, knitted plushes, bookmarks, decorations and other handcrafted items.
Smitty Tut Designs was one cosplay prop purveyor that I had to stop and stare at. This is a husband and wife duo where he makes metal shields, pendants, swords, etc in the garage and she sells it all. The items were beautifully crafted and when I went home to look at their website, I was even more blown away.
Another booth I was blown away by was Amber Skies. She is a cosplayer that also does art and her dad was the one that was there when we first stopped at the booth. The kinds and I thought the artwork was beautiful, but the best part was her father showing us her cosplay books. He was so proud and loved helping her get it all together. I was amazed to hear she did a Nebula cosplay (from Guardians of the Galaxy) and that Marvel saw it and asked her to do another. She got to do a whole photo shoot and meet some of the cast. Every geeks dream!
I totally cannot forget to mention Rocket A Go-Go and Stormy the owner. She was the first booth we stopped at that Sunday and she was so welcoming and excited to be there. She had a booth that promoted multiple businesses – Electric Bat Arcade, Yucca Taproom, Rocket A Go-Go and That Rocket Gal. She told me about the awesome artists she supported and was selling for. They had handmade geek purses, custom sunglasses, accessories and jewelry for sale. I bought my sister an adorable Star Wars clutch for Christmas this year – of course, I wasn’t able to actually wait that long and gave it to her when I took the kids home!
One of my other favorite booths was the Non-Profit Cosplay for Charity booth – Umbrella Corporation: Arizona Hive. They raise money for the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA. Having cats myself, I always like to help less fortunate animals when I can. We got some cool syringe pens and a zombie cupcake pin for donating. Plus these props they had were really creepy and awesome.
I may not have a lot of experience with expos and conventions, but this one was fun. It was way more family oriented than the big ones and I think that having cons like that is important for the younger generation. The kids pooped out early and we didn’t make it to the Kid’s Fortnite Dance-Off or the Puzzle competition, but I think they would have been a lot of fun. They did have a blast playing tons of video games, some that I hadn’t even heard of, and looking at all the great cosplays. I would definitely recommend Game On Expo to anyone who likes to shop geek culture, meet great people, play video games and meet actors from their favorite games.
If you want a full list of guests, vendors, etc you can find that on their website.
Last year, we had the pleasure of meeting Nicole Spickerman of Corgi Cosplay. Nicole is a huge mental health advocate who dresses up her service dog, Kiba, in cosplay. This year, we were ecstatic to hear that she was coming back to Zenkaikon 2019.
This year, Nicole did a panel called Fandom Saved my Life with Sam Sawyer, AKA Sincerely Sam. In this panel, they talked about their respective battles with mental illness and how they deal with it at conventions.
This type of panel is amazing in many ways. Not only is it creating a safe space for con-goers who struggle with their mental health, but it is also creating a dialogue about mental health issues within the geek/nerd community.
Opening up this dialogue in these settings helps to normalize mental illness, which makes it easier for those suffering to come forward and seek help. If we as a community can start to actually talk about mental health issues, then not only are we making it comfortable for more people to talk about it, but we’re also helping mental health professionals get a better understanding what helps us.
This panel also brought up a very important point about living with mental health issues at a convention. They gave wonderful advice about quickly identifying a safe space. Both Nicole and Sam made it clear that their booths are safe spaces. If someone is overwhelmed, panicking, scared, they can go to either of them and sit behind their booth until they feel more comfortable.
We at Real Women of Gaming want to emphasize this as well. If you see myself, CrymsonPleasure or any other member of RWOG at a convention, we will help you find a safe space. If you are overwhelmed, lost, scared, panicking, we will help you get to a safe space and we will make sure that you are okay.
Please pay attention to your mental health at conventions. They are large and loud and can be very scary. Drink lots of water, take your medication, and – above all – take care of yourself by being prepared, avoiding your triggers as much as possible, identifying safe spaces, and having someone you trust with you.
We hope to see Nicole back next year with another Fandom Saved my Life panel, and we hope to see more mental health panels pop up in years to come.
Unfortunately, we didn’t do much by way of food this year, but what we did was absolutely amazing.
Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub
On day one, we had dinner at Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub. Our experience here last year was phenomenal, so we decided to go back with Corgi Cosplay. This year, we waited over an hour for a table (they told us 30 minutes) before we decided to order our food to go. After a 2 hour wait in total, we were back in Nicole’s hotel room, scarfing down Irish goodness.
Despite the wait (it was Friday at a pub, what did we expect?), the food was spectacular. I ordered Fish and Chips, which was seasoned perfectly. Crymson had Bangers and Mash. I don’t think we spoke at all while we ate. We were starving and the food was just that good. The Dark Side of the Moon desert was to die for, as well, as the chocolate mousse just melted into your tongue.
The Rabbit & The Dragonfly
On day two, we visited The Rabbit & The Dragonfly, my favorite place in Lancaster, PA. It’s a Tolkien and CS Lewis themed cafe which just screams Vanri. I’m drawn to it like a moth to flame. They have a new pastry, too. A coffee scone. It’s soft and melts in your mouth, with hints of cinnamon and pure deliciousness. I highly recommend it.
We had lunch on day two at Noodle King. We all ordered the Combination Pho, which has sliced meatballs, rare beef and pork. It was cooked to perfection. I couldn’t get enough of it. I actually ended up finishing Crymson’s since it was too much for her to eat. They also make a hot sauce in house that is to die for. The flavor is fantastic and it doesn’t make your lips burn – perfect combination. I’m getting a craving just thinking about it.
I’ll drive an hour plus to get good pho, not gonna lie.
If you ever find yourself hungry in Lancaster, PA, be sure to check these amazing restaurants out. You can also find a few more great places here.
For the second year in a row, I’ve had the absolute pleasure to attend Cosplay Burlesque’s show at Zenkaikon in Lancaster, PA. I had first heard about Cosplay Burlesque three years ago, after Crymson went to their show and interviewed them at Zenkaikon 2017. I was excited to hear they were coming back so that I could finally see what all the fuss was about.
Last year, Thia the Bard wrote about her experience at their show, being asexual. I want to give a little background on myself before moving forward with my review. I am demisexual. This means that I don’t feel sexual attraction to a person unless I’ve established an emotional connection with them first.
That being said, I absolutely love burlesque. To me, it’s not so much sexual, but rather an art form. It’s an art that promotes and celebrates body positivity, confidence and sexuality. It’s an art that allows the dancer to utilize their creativity and express themselves using physical methods.
Cosplay Burlesque specifically uses pop culture and turns it into something even more exciting. We see characters from shows and movies we know and love.. then we see them dance and take their clothes off.
This year, we were excited by characters from My Hero Academia, Mario, X-Men, Game of Thrones, and… The Human Centipede? Yes, Oliver Swisskey did a The Human Centipede act. It’s awesome, though, I promise!
The dancers were all amazing, as usual. The show came together extremely well. Clothes were flying everywhere, laughter and cat calls filled the air, and there was so much T&A that I didn’t know whether I should look away and blush or lean into it and cheer (spoiler alert, it’s the latter).
The MC was witty and really knew how to keep the momentum of the show going. The most memorable acts, for me, were the following (in no particular order): Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones, The Juggernaut from X-Men, Lady Bowser from Mario, Mrs White from Clue, and the doctor from The Human Centipede. Each act brought something new to the stage that could be exciting or concerning, depending on the context.
Though, I must say, the picture of Oberyn Martell’s dead body directly after the act was unnecessary. (I know, Oliver, it’s a palette cleanser, but still!)
What makes this company so intriguing to me is that you have people of all genders, orientations, shapes and sizes exuding so much confidence that I start to feel as though I could do anything. As an overweight woman, my self-esteem is often down in the dumps. I have insecurities out the wazoo. If faced with the option to burlesque, I would run home and put more clothes on. But after a Cosplay Burlesque show, where I see a woman who is my size flaunting her sexiness to a room full of con-goers, my confidence in myself is soaring. I’m inspired. I feel good about myself because she feels good about herself.
Burlesque is so much more than dancers taking their clothes off. It’s a form of expression that can not only make the dancer feel amazing, but also inspire people in the audience. It’s an art that screams out, “You are sexy!” to a room full of people who may have come in believing that they’re not good enough.
Cosplay Burlesque has introduced me to the world of burlesque and I would love to see more. If you have any suggestions for burlesque companies to look out for, please leave them in the comments below!
Those of you who know me know that I’m fairly new to the convention scene. My first convention was just two years ago. It was TooManyGames 2017, a small gaming convention in Oaks, PA. After that, I went big at PAX East 2018 and completely overwhelmed myself. Zenkaikon 2018 was my 3rd convention and it seemed to be just the right size for me.
My experience at Zenkaikon 2019 was a bit different than 2018. Last year, I had more mobility. I was able to go to more panels and peruse more vendor wares. This year, I was the camera person, so I was able to join Crymson for the guest interviews. Both experiences definitely helped me develop a big picture view of all aspects of the con, from the perspective of the press.
This was probably our best year at Zenkaikon. The weekend went by smoothly. With one exception, the communication between the convention staff and us was impeccable. We had some technology hiccups (it wouldn’t be RWOG if we didn’t), but we were able to quickly assess and adapt. Crymson and I make a great team (and actually had our 7 year friend-anniversary on the Saturday of Zenkaikon!)
We tried to rush to the con on Friday to see the Anti-Bullying panel, but we unfortunately missed it because we got pulled over on the way. No matter, though! We were still there in plenty of time for our interview with Michaela Dietz. We walked around the vendor hall, spoke to quite a few people, waited 2 hours for dinner with Corgi Cosplay, and then ended our night with the amazing Cosplay Burlesque show (review coming soon!).
On Saturday, we rushed again. It’s definitely a pain commuting over an hour each day to the convention center. We ran to our interview with Charles Dunbar, only to find out that he was missing! His handler, Timothy, couldn’t find him anywhere! A few more con staff come in, only to let us know that the schedule that we have is incorrect. Charles wasn’t late, we were all just early. We had the pleasure of not only interviewing him, but also getting coffee with him at the Rabbit & The Dragonfly.
We went on to interview our friend Nicole, founder of Corgi Cosplay, and get a ton of footage of Kiba doing super cute and amazing things. Crymson then fangirled over Monica Rial, who did her Mey Rin voice from Black Butler. Crymson about fell off the couch, she was so excited.
We ended that night with Night Time Stories with Todd Haberkorn, then Guests Against Humanity where we laughed so hard that we actually disrupted the panel.
Finally, Sunday. Day three. The day that sleep deprivation caught up to us and we giggle at the mere mention of Brendan Urie (long story). We spent the majority of this day in the press room as we interview Laura from the Carolina Manga Library, Oliver from Cosplay Burlesque, Austin Tindle of Attack on Titan, and the amazingly talented artist, Sincerely Sam. We finished the con with Closing Ceremonies, a fun panel where we got to meet everyone behind Zenkaikon and give feedback.
Overall, this Zenkaikon was fun, informative, and exhausting. We saw a ton of amazing cosplays, ran into some old friends, ate amazing food, and met some wonderful new people. If you’re already planning your 2020 cons, make sure Zenkaikon is on your list!
This year, we had the pleasure of attending TooManyGames again!
I am excited for this convention every year for one big reason…. Indie Games Showcase!
Unfortunately, we had zero time to prepare for this event. We didn’t talk to guests this year, but we were very excited to see Charles Martinet, the Voice of Mario, and Kenny James, the voice of Bowser. Again, we weren’t able to talk with them, which was disappointing, but it was fun to see new guests with such an amazing background. I had several friends who were thrilled to get the chance to meet them.
However, I was sad to see that Keith Apicary wasn’t there. He had became a weird and hilarious part of my TooManyGames experiences.
The gaming hall was a bit smaller this year, making room for more competitive gaming. The food was in a different section all together, making for much more seating and faster food lines. It also created a much calmer area, if you were overwhelmed by the noise.
The vendors room was full and I was happy to see new vendors this year. My little horror heart was hovering around Death Couture and chatting with Megg Morbid about custom orders.
But let’s talk about the best part: the games! There were video games, card games, board games. So many to play, never enough time. Let’s go over a few favorites.
Wither Studios is working on Immure. This is a game we played a little last year and more of this year. Their game looks amazing and has come far in the past year. We are excited to play the final product. Here is a little bit about Immure…
Immure is a 2.5D psychological horror video game currently in development. Throughout this dark, twisted story, the protagonist Will Wicker traverses through a mysterious mansion that contains many strange realities to uncover the horrible truths behind each locked door. Will is desperate to escape this house of hells and discover the secrets of his past. Will soon realizes he has the ability to wield the Shining Trapezohedron, a supernatural crystal with strange powers. How far into the depths of hell must Will venture before finding solace? …
ParaLily is another amazing horror game. This is our first year seeing it and love how absolutely passionate Nate and Jeff are about their game. We watched two women striving to play as far as they could and the pure anger and devotion with each time they died and refused to quit… well, it was a thing of beauty to watch.
ParaLily is one little girl’s adventure to retrieve her dear stuffed dinosaur Patches, who in the middle of the night sprung to life and took off through a mysterious door. This strange journey will take Lily through a set of dangerous and terrifying parallel universes, as she attempts to retrieve her little stuffed runaway. Lily can shift between the parallel universes at will; which will help her avoid danger, and solve puzzles while traversing the paranormal universes.
Super 80’s World is a mobile game that is all about the 80’s, mullet included. It’s a bright neon world all about saving this decade, from big hair to cassette tapes, it was a trip down memory lane for me and I’m interested to see this finished product.
Dr. Noid Wormser hates the ’80s and has vowed to erase the decade. Armed with his power glove of doom, he’s finally able to realize his evil plan.
Only one man can stop him. That man is Dan Camaro.
In this mobile platform-runner, you collect old-school memorabilia to save the decade. Every year is a new world to explore, from coin operated arcades to the neon streets of South Beach, you’re sure to get your ’80s fix.
So pop your collar, fluff your mullet and lace your kicks… It’s time for Super 80s World.
I run into people I know often, especially at cons. I didn’t expect to run into someone I knew working on a game I knew NOTHING ABOUT! Red Essence Games is working on Mask of Semblance. Nik Hagialas is the lead artist and writer which explains why I love the artwork. I loved listening to the game concept and can’t wait to get my hands on the full release!
Red Essence Games is currently working on its flagship title, Mask of Semblance! A boy wakes up in a mysterious place to find a sentient Mask artifact. With the mask as your companion you will travel through a mysterious world encountering themes of the self and the mind, nature vs. technology, and the cyclical nature of life.
One Day West Games was also there showing off their successful Monster Highway, which we’ve talked about before. I was excited to see them still going strong with their unique board game and working on something new that I can’t wait to play!
After a nuclear power plant melts down, a tiny alligator transforms into a gigantic beast – and it’s a little cranky!
Build roads, move your car and be the first to get back to your HOME BASE!
Hyper Galaxy Studios I had the pleasure of seeing my first TMG. Back this year they showed off a more polished game, still hard but amazingly well done. This side scrolling sci-fi game will surprise you!
Horizon’s End is going for those nostalgia feels with The Great Gaias. An epic RPG is in the make and we are looking forward to what tales this title has to tell.
I had to pleasure of purchasing Risky Arcade. I haven’t played it yet and will be giving a review once I do. I have no doubt this board game will do amazing things. Not only is it an interesting concept but Dominique is driven and passionate about her game. Can’t wait to open it up.
There were so many games, you may say too many games… and I know I missed some amazing ones here and I am sorry. I hope to be giving you details on each game as they come to Kickstarter or full release.
Thank you to all of the Indie Developers. Keep making amazing games for us to play!