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Game On Expo 2019: Fun and Games!

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.

Zenkaikon 2018: Thia’s First Con Experience

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I recently got to have one of the best experiences of my life thus far. That was my first time at a convention. I am so glad my first con was Zenkaikon in Lancaster, PA. Lancaster is a great town with lots to offer con goers, so it was the perfect place for Zenkaikon.

To be honest, I was anxious going into Zenkaikon. I am not fond of crowds. I had never done press at a large event before. I just wasn’t really sure what to expect when I walked through the doors. I was grateful to know that I had friends with me in Vanri and Crymson. I also was lucky enough to have some friends waiting inside.

I was greeted by the truly awesome staff right off the bat. These volunteers really made this convention experience for me. They were always patient. They looked out for guests and patrons alike.

me conMy first panel was called; “Overcoming Con Anxiety.” I attended it with Vanri, who wrote a more in-depth look at the panel but I can tell you that it was full of helpful tips. This panel was a great way to start off my first convention.

There were a lot of firsts during the convention. I had my first bowl of real Ramen, which was amazing. I went to my first burlesque show with Cosplay Burlesque. I got to help with press interviews. I met new friends and got to see old ones. I stepped outside my comfort zone and opened up to new experiences.

I had a wonderful time and cannot wait for next year. I was in a place where I got to share my love of anime with some really cool people. If you have never been to a convention please do yourself a favor and go.

I do have some tips for you, though. Bring water and stay hydrated, friends. Make sure you have some healthy food with you, too, as food can get expensive and too much sugar will just make you crash. Have friends with you. A huge help for me was knowing where my friends where and if I got nervous they were there. Take a breath. Find a place where you can take some time away if you need it. There are plenty of corners to take a few moments if you need to.

Take some chances. I am glad I did. Have fun. Enjoy the chaos. Remember why you are there; to enjoy the things you love.

Zenkaikon was a wonderful experience. I am so grateful to the staff for making me feel so welcome. I am also happy that I went to Zenkaikon. It was probably the best first convention experience I could have had! Hope to see you there next year.

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Always keep sparkling!

 

Zenkaikon 2018: Bullying in Fandom Panel

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The Knights of Fandom are a Tumblr-based group that fights bullying in fandom groups online. It was started by Lady Norbert, who found that a lot of her Tumblr community was experiencing bullying. Naturally, she got mad about it and decided to do something about it.

I discovered The Knights of Fandom at Zenkaikon 2018. They gave a panel on Bullying in Fandom that I just had to attend, given our own work in anti-bullying. The panel outlined what cyberbullying looks like in fandom groups, the difference between bullying and constructive criticism, and what we as fandom members can do to prevent bullying, stop bullying, and show support to the person being bullied.

It was a short panel, but full of insightful information. Lady Norbert was funny and entertaining, touching and knowledgeable. She wanted nothing more than to unite the various fandoms of Tumblr against bullying. Her tips included:

  • Spread kindness. Reach out to those who are bullied and show them love.
  • If you’re going to criticize, make sure it’s constructive and not destructive.
  • Defend others, speak up – stick together!
  • Remove yourself from toxic online situations.
  • Make friends with other members in your fandom, especially those who are bullied.

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You can find the Knights of Fandom valiantly protecting the Tumblr fandoms here. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Zenkaikon 2018: Overcoming Con Anxiety Panel

IMG_2836The lovely Aniyah Lyszt and Levy Cross of Pleasant Nightmare Entertainment gave a wonderfully insightful panel on overcoming con anxiety. It’s no secret that I have a decent amount of anxiety. This anxiety is a big factor in why I became a part of the gaming/nerd communities. I rarely have to go outside or be around people to enjoy my hobby. Fewer people equals less anxiety. Perfect.

While Zenkaikon is not the biggest con I’ve been to, it still produces a crowd bigger than my anxiety can handle. When I saw that there was going to be a panel called Overcoming Con Anxiety on the very first day, I jumped at it.

Aniyah and Levy had a wealth of knowledge on the subject. They turned the panel into a discussion, which helped those anxiety-ridden panel audience members to participate. They were funny and had relevant stories that made me laugh. And to speak to their experience, they carried on despite the extremely loud Steven Universe sing-a-long next door.

A highlight was definitely Aniyah Lyszt asking the staff member if they were sacrificing a baby next door and to see if they could wait until she got over there so she could join the party.

Reminds me of someone…

ANYWAY!

The panel was full of tips and tricks to help yourself handle a lot of the anxiety that comes along with conventions. The majority of their advice was to basically stay on top of the things you can control, which will make the things you can’t control far less overwhelming. Some of their advice included:

  • Give yourself plenty of time, don’t rush!
  • Don’t set high expectations – be realistic!
  • Stop thinking of the worst case scenario.
  • Research the con prior to going (ie. size, location, reviews, etc.)
  • DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!

 

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The panel helped me to get through the rest of the con simply because I felt more prepared for it. Yes, the constant droves of people still produced a bit of anxiety, but I took a few minutes to sit down and plan out my con. I circled the panels I wanted to go to, figured out which times I would be in the Exhibit Hall and which times I would be meeting up with Crymson and/or Thia. We planned when we would give ourselves meal breaks and figured out where we wanted to go. We were more prepared than usual, which did wonders for my anxiety levels.

If you ever have the chance to go to one of Aniyah Lyszt’s panels, do it! With boob jokes, cursing and sex talk mixed in with some serious advice, I promise you won’t regret it.

You can check out Pleasant Nightmare Entertainment here.

10 Things That Happened at Too Many Games 2017

Vanri and Crymson went to TooManyGames 2017! Here are some of what they experienced:

10) Vanri went to her first convention! She loved it, we got her a shirt.

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9) So many amazing cosplays!

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8) After forever, we finally ACTUALLY interviewed +2 Comedy… those nerds!

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7) ALL THE GAMES! So many amazing indie games to see and love.

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6) I played a game I’ve been waiting a year to play and didn’t suck.

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5) Got my hands on a board game I’ve been waiting a year for! For FREE!

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4) Cosplay Pro Wrestling!

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3) The most amazing Pyramid Head Cosplay, I’ve ever seen.

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2) Keith Apicary made me nearly pee myself.

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1) MrCreepyPasta was amazing to interview and we want to talk to him for hours.

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Uncle Yo

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Stand Up Zenkaikon

I’ve known of Uncle Yo for several years now. He’s been at nearly every convention I’ve been to and the first time I sat in on one of his shows, I was newish to anime and I didn’t understand every reference made and that was fine, I laughed at the ones I understood and sometimes just laughed with everyone else. It was infectious. A crowd of people sat around me, laughing till they cried, huge fans of the man on stage. At that time, he was just a comedian at a convention (my first ever) and a fun part of a hugely overwhelming experience that I was terrified to dip my toe into. Never did I realize I would later do a cannonball screaming like a lunatic later, into that very same nerd pool.

At Too Many Games 2016, I made a new friend and was talking excitedly about my first press pass. How scary it was, how exciting it was but deep down I was so self conscious about what I was doing, who was I talking to. Hell, Doug Walker was there and I’m a big fan of the Nostalgia Critic, I was even too nervous to show that man how much his work meant to me. Instead, I made a stalking joke (like I do). He laughed genuinely and went on his way.

Anyway, I had seen Uncle Yo the night before, like I had many times by now (even watching him online) and my new friend Sean says, “You should interview him! Let’s go find him!” I’m not sure I even agreed to this but off we were to find Uncle Yo, who was playing some retro game in the game room. Sean interrupts his play and says I want to interview him, he says of course and off we go.

Now I’m in full blown panic, I’ve not prepped for an interview… I’ve only done one, ONE IN MY WHOLE LIFE and THAT I was only mostly prepared for. One quiet(ish) room later and I’m sitting there giving the most awkward interview of, I assume, both our lives. My questions are random, not connected and I’m swallowing that panic attack like a champ. After the interview, I must have apologized a dozen times (I even apologized later in the evening) but he never said a negative thing. ‘NOOOO, it was fine!’ I can still hear it in his voice. I sucked it up, put the article up there and moved on.

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Cosplay Masquerade Ball, Zenkaikon 2017

Can you imagine my shock when we became friends on various social platforms? I don’t just mean through Real Women of Gaming, he has seen pictures of my life and I his, we’ve commented back and forth, I’ve seen/read much. He gets married, goes on a honeymoon to make anyone jealous, he creates new characters, goes to many more cons, meets many new people, brings more people to tears of laughter and joy. I’ve even started watching My Little Pony, on his suggestion, with my daughter and we both love it.

Zenkaikon 2017 comes up and we are asked who we want to interview. Of course, I mark down that I want to talk to him again among many other guests that are attending. HA HA, this time I will be prepared. One tweet however, keeps crossing the back of my mind and it’s one I know I will have to ask. I dive into his tweets, google search him and yet on the screen where I am typing up questions to ask, it’s still blank and it stayed blank. I only had one planned question.

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Karl & his wife Catherine

I see him at the opening ceremonies and he gives a loving pinky swear that makes me a bit emotional and he recognizes me as he’s leaving the room, a hug and a few happy words and he is off again to his next thing. I saw him running around throughout the weekend, he did so much you’d swear there was more than one of him running around. Saturday morning, I had a chance to sit down and interview him. This time a bit more properly, but unfortunately somber.  He explains that this is his last year in the convention circuit and this is his last Zenkaikon. He speaks so passionately about Zenkaikon, the community, his fans… it spills out of each laugh, every smile and all of his words. Our interview finishes, I thank him, give him a hug and he is on his way.

I see the second half of his show and at the end he tells everyone that this will be his last Zenkaikon. He expresses his emotions about it and even breaks a little at the end, sending me into waves of tears. However, he said something important that could have been easily missed. He tells people to take his absence in running panels and run their own. Step forward, be all that you are, show it to the whole community. I saw him at least once more before the convention ended. It won’t be the last time I see him, however.

I have to thank Karl ‘Uncle Yo’ Custer. He will always mean a great deal to me.

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Stand Up, Zenkaikon 2017

I, like many others, suffer from a great deal of things, disabilities, disorders, diagnoses, whatever you want to call them. The positive push he gave me after out first interview was everything to me. It helped me not be as hard on myself. Every time I’ve talked to him he always comes across as genuinely interested in anything I have to say and anything I want to ask. He’s caring and helpful. He’s proud of people he doesn’t even know for stepping out of their comfort zone. He believes they can do it and he doesn’t care what size you are. I’ve watched him tell entire rooms of people that it’s okay to be themselves and do it for themselves.

From kids to adults, sometimes we just need to hear that from someone else. I see faces light up when they see him, even if only because he makes them laugh or because he gets it. Karl is a treasure and I am so happy that I was lucky enough to cross paths with him. I hope to take his encouragement with me and I pray I can pass it on to other people.

Most of all, I hope people take all he has given them and pay it forward. I hope they step out of their comfort zone, host a panel, do that cosplay no matter your size. Embrace that new person at their first con and show them how awesome it really can be.

As for Karl, thank you so much. Now, you go get a drink and we will continue this conversation later. We will be right here.

Uncle Yo’s Convention Schedule: AnimeNEXT, ConnectiCON, DekuCon in Denver, Derpycon and AnimeNYC.

Zenkaikon 2017: Impressions

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Hi gang! I’m no stranger to anime. In high school, in the mid ‘80s, my friend had quite the talent for drawing and introduced me to BattleTech, The Macross Saga, and Project A-ko, to drop a few names. When Crymson asked me to assist her in covering the convention, I had no problem saying yes, though taking time off from work to attend was a different matter

I felt vastly out of my element, though. I don’t really know current anime. There were a few exceptions to everything being anime, however. There are plenty of Poison Ivys, Harley Quinns, the occasional Deadpool, Halo warriors, and the rather stifling looking fur-suiter or two as well. When I’d spot one of them, my isolation would fade a teensy bit.

I am confused with the liberal use of white face on the anime cosplayers. Why? Is it an integral part of the character to be ghostly white, or artistic license using contrast to make your colors “pop”? It didn’t seem to fit within the context of the costume, I just don’t get it.

The convention center has some curious points of interest. First, down by registration, behind glass windows sits an archaeological dig. This water cistern seems to have been converted to house runaway slaves. In 2011, the residence, law offices, and Kleiss Tavern of Thaddeus Stevens were named as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site by the National Park Service.

From there, the hall rises in several tiers of stairs, escalators, and elevators as the side streets are uphill. The second curiosity is the historical site about midway through the tiers: Montgomery House. This renovated mansion dates back to 1804 and is currently used for catering and special events, having been surrounded by the convention center itself and preserved. It was in these rooms that we had the pleasure of hosting our interviews.

My most comfortable moments, both physically and socially, were when I sat in the upper lounge near Marriott entrance. The “Café” was a string of kiosks one might see exiting a big box store full of hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn and other convenient food. This is where I parked myself to take notes and jot down my impressions before I forgot them. Several tables and a multitude of chairs allow for relaxed people watching. As Moon sailors mingled with monsters, X-men, and Ricks (sans Morty), I found myself identifying with the forgotten odd parent or two. Yes, here waited the guardians of the non-adult cos-players with pretzel and soda in hand, probably thinking the same thing I did.

I am so out of place.