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Zenkaikon 2019: Mental Health

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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.

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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.

Zenkaikon 2019: FOOD

Unfortunately, we didn’t do much by way of food this year, but what we did was absolutely amazing.

Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub

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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

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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.

Noodle King

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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.

Zenkaikon 2019: Cosplay Burlesque

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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 AcademiaMario, X-MenGame 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!

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Zenkaikon 2019: The Experience

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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