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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.

My Experience at Too Many Games

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One month ago marked the beginning of Too Many Games and the first time I’ve attended it. Now, I am excited to tell you all about my first experience there. Of course, I was nervous. Not only was this my first time at this particular con but this is also my first time at any convention as press.

Too Many Games was held in the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA, and ran from Friday, June 24th to Sunday, June 26th. I’d never been to the Expo center and it’s almost a hidden secret, but all I had to do was follow the traffic and I found it fairly easily.

Immediately upon entering, I was greeted by the friendliest con staff that I’d ever met. Ushering me to where I needed to get my badge and then into the gaming room.

This was a magical room. Filled with TV’s, chairs and arcade games, nearly wall to wall. It was a thing of beauty. I saw Nintendo, Super Nintendo, GameCube, Sega and so many more systems hooked up. There were flickering screens with childhood titles inviting me to sit down and relive so many memories.

Of course, I stopped to play a few games, but what caught my interest were the music games towards the back, located just before the entrance to the tournament area of the gaming room. If music met whack-a-mole, this is what you’d have and I loved every second of it. There were several of these, most names I had never heard of and, of course, DDR was there in at least two different spaces.

This was a gamer mecca that I was proud to be a part of. From the sounds of the games to the hum of chatter to the rotating DJ’s in the corner, the noise was a choir of all the things I loved. At the same time, though, nothing was so loud you couldn’t have a conversation. I adored the adorable handheld lounge off to the side, furnished by Yogibo, where players were invited to sit and game in absolute comfort. I knew I’d never get up again if I sat down. I also loved that Save Point was there to fix any games as they malfunctioned or broke. I noticed that some didn’t last the whole weekend, but I knew they were being played constantly since I walked in on Friday.

Next to the game room was the concert hall, complete with stage, chairs, awesome lighting and a tech booth. Several bands played, along with a few DJ’s. They all sounded amazing, but I didn’t stop in for more than a moment at a time. There was so much to see and a lot of people to talk to.

I spent the majority of my time on the merchant floor, which was large and lead into the guest booths, developers area and gaming tables. I didn’t spend a lot of time at the gaming tables, but I did chat with the people running it, Sunmesa Events. I had never stopped in a gaming area at a con, so this was new to me. I love the concept. You pick a game, drop your ID with them and go play. It’s an awesome concept I wish I saw at more places. There were a few games I knew and so many I’d never heard of. I am still sad I didn’t get a chance to play the huge Settlers of Catan they had set up, but alas, I had a job to do. Sunmesa Events also handled all the non-video game tournaments, such as Magic: The Gathering, Love Letter and more.

The vendors were abundant and so very, very tempting. The treasures that I would have bought if I had the money… I’d have room for nothing else. I was interested to see so many of the vendors were selling old school videos games. Of course, this wasn’t shocking, but I am used to seeing one or two at a convention. This being my first gaming convention, though, I was floored. Not only was it beautiful, but it was also inspiring.

I also saw an array of board games. There were some vendors who had the typical or ‘traditional’ board games for sale, but I, of course, ooohed and ahhhed over the new school of board games and names I’d never seen before. The vendor array was simply incredible. I enjoyed each and every table. If I had the time to have talked to every vendor there, I would have, but alas, I did not.

So let’s talk about where I spent the majority of my time: the developers floor. I loved every minute of it. So let me tell you about all the new friends we made there!

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