Momocon 2019

A Japan post is coming, I swear! But for now, I want to talk about the great time I had at Momocon in Atlanta. Despite the brutal heat (Saturday afternoon reached 96 degrees and I literally burned my hand touching my car door), I couldn’t pass up a weekend of beautiful fan art, engaging panels, and the best people watching spot imaginable. I actually went to Momo last year but didn’t review it, mainly because all I did was play arcade games with my boyfriend and met Troy Baker and Nolan North. It didn’t feel like a full experience, but this time, I feel like I have a better understanding of what this con is about.

Momocon is 4 days, but once again, I went Friday and Saturday. Admittedly, this con is still very focused on a younger crowd (I’d say ages 14-22) and most people attending are there to party and cosplay. I’ve never been drawn to that type of con experience, but I can tell Momo is trying to create a better environment for introverts like myself who are more interested in relaxing and meeting some creators I really love. If you’re the type of person who just wants to shop, check out a few panels, and meet a voice actor or two, I would recommend going for just 2 days.

When I arrived Friday morning, my first stop was a panel with two anime YouTubers I really enjoy, Gigguk and Sydsnap. The appeal of streamers is mostly lost on me (a bold statement from someone who is far too obsessed with Critical Role, I know), but I love how personable and honest these two are. Gigguk has been creating anime-related videos for a decade now, and the amount of work that goes into them is truly impressive. Sydsnap, well, she reviews hentai and is utterly hilarious. I ended up going to their signing a few hours later and after sharing a moment of Euphoria survivor solidarity with Sydney, they both signed my badge.

Afterwards, I did my favorite part of any con: shopping in the artist alley! This streetwear-inspired Ranma 1/2 shirt by Jellymomoshop on Etsy was too cute to pass up, and of course, I managed to snag whatever Critical Role fan merchandise I could. The Fjord and “fight me” patch are by Cara McGee and the small Caduceus print is by Inkforwords on Etsy. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the artist’s name who did the bigger poster. I also snagged a few random stickers and enamel pins, plus an adorable Snorlax plush in the vendor hall. More and more I’m running out of room to hang and display art, so I’m getting pickier and pickier these days.

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I swear I’m the happiest person in this picture!

Later on, I ended up going to a Supergiant Games panel, which was honestly a major reason why I attended the con. Darren Korb (Music & Audio) and Logan Cunningham (Voiceover) mainly focused on Transistor, which is arguably in my top 3 video games of all time and helped me through a really weird patch in my life. The game turned 5-years-old this month, so the two of them talked about production and the process they went through to piece together the signature music and narration of the game. Transistor‘s soundtrack is gorgeous and I highly recommend listening if you ever want something like Blade Runner‘s soundtrack infused with Radiohead’s Ok Computer. I ended up meeting Darren and Logan Saturday morning, but…unfortunately I look very annoyed in my photo? Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I kind of just lock my expression so that I don’t look like a mess, but instead I just seem pissed off here. Promise I’m not. I was internally screaming with joy.

Around Saturday afternoon I started to feel a little sick, so I promptly made my way through the comics area of the con. Momocon really stepped it up with their comics guests this year, and it was cool to see people were actually interested in them. Last year was a little rough and even though there were a few artists that I was a fan of, their tables had very little traffic. I’m not sure what changed, but I like that the artists they did feature had heavily-inspired anime styles, which would be more appealing to the demographic at Momo. I first approached color artist Matt Wilson, which was really overwhelming for me. The Wicked + The Divine was the first western comic I got into (I grew up reading manga) and the Black Widow series he worked on with Chris Samnee was the first superhero comic I really connected with. I was a little too nervous to convey this to Matt, but he was super humble and appreciative, which made me fall in love with the WicDiv team even more. Rico Renzi signed by hardcover Spider-Gwen book and even  sketched a little doodle inside, which was a cute surprise. There were a ton of cosplayers for Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, which was a really great surprise to see that level of western animation appreciation bleeding into an anime atmosphere.

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Finally, I met Brenden Fletcher, who writes Motor Crush and Batgirl with an artist I really love, Babs Tarr. I talked to Brenden a little bit about how long it took me to get into western comics because I grew up with an anime and manga background (and the weird difficulties that come with enjoying two totally different comic styles), and to my surprise, he said he was the same way. It’s interesting how I’ve managed to gravitate towards these type of comic book creators, unknowingly, but it’s almost like I’m conditioned at this point to find an anime influence in anything and latch onto it. Even though my interactions with the artists were short, they were the highlight of my weekend because of how grateful, kind, and insightful they were.

Overall, I had some really great moments during the weekend, even if it wasn’t jam-packed with things to do. I may not be your typical Momocon attendee preparing for the midnight rave in My Hero Acadamia cosplay, but I simply love anime and sharing a few, pleasant moments with people who feel the same way. As for the rest of the year, my convention plans include Gen Con, Anime Weekend Atlanta, and Dragoncon. I’ll tell you all about them later!

San Diego Comic Con 2018

Ah yes, opening this once again with an apology for the lack of updates. I’ve tried to chip away at writing things here and there, but life gets in the way. It’s been two weeks since I got back from my vacation and a part of me is still processing everything. The easiest way to explain SDCC is that it’s like a nerdy version of Las Vegas, full of sensory overload, hungover tourists, and way too many things you convinced yourself were doable in 4 days. Did I have fun? Absolutely, but it may have been a one-and-done for me. Not every convention is for every person, and I think this trip made me realize what I value in my con experience. Before you start hurling tomatoes in my general direction, read on and maybe you’ll understand what I mean!

Thursday

I decided this was going to be my exploration day. SDCC is massive and takes up an entire convention center, neighboring hotels, and the Gaslamp Quarter, which is San Diego’s popular nightlife district. I spent a good 4 hours making my way through the massive exhibit hall, which was really well organized, but could’ve benefited from volunteers keeping the flow of traffic going. Since I have way too many prints now, apparently my new thing is buying shirts. I snagged The Last of Us Part II Ellie portrait from the Playstation store ($30), two Snotgirl exclusives through Big Bud Press ($35 each), and the handmade, cropped Black Widow hoodie from Hero Within ($60).

After checking out a game development panel, I decided to wait outside of the Bait store for Joe Manganiello’s new clothing line Death Saves, which is heavily inspired by D&D. I waited 4 hours (I thought it’d take half an hour) and ended up being the last person he did a meet & greet with, so that was pretty overwhelming. Getting him to sign my badge was awesome and I love the shirt I got (it reminds me of Skull Knight from Berserk) but unfortunately the brutal heat and excitement made me look a little crazy eyed in my photo. Nothing a heart eye filter can’t fix, though.

Friday

Day two unintentionally became my Geek & Sundry and Nerdist day. It’s no secret that Critical Role is a major part of my life, but over time I’ve gotten into some other G&S shows like Wednesday Club, Sagas of Sundry, and Fangirling. After a brief panel highlighting what the G&S brand plans on doing next, everyone moved outside of the convention center to the Nerdist house a few blocks away (Marisha signed my Keyleth tarot card before leaving, which was super kind of her). The offsite location felt a little cramped at times, but hey, it’s SDCC and nothing is exactly roomy. A lot of the props from the shows I loved were on display, including the ominous jenga tower that has probably given me a nightmare or two.

After watching an hour long Dread one-shot, I got to meet a lot of the G&S personalities. At one point, both Erika Ishii and I were getting teary eyed because I was telling her how much I loved Selina from the Sagas of Sundry and it tore me apart that we never got proper closure. Little moments like this definitely made the convention experience much greater for me, but overall, I was waiting for that butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling to make the time and money spent worth it. Thankfully, everything Critical Role related was the following day, and I knew this would be the highlight of my trip.

Saturday

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CR panel, ft. Brian W. Foster, Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, and Matthew Mercer.

After sitting through 5 hours of various panels, I found myself front row for the Talks Machina (Critical Role‘s after show) live episode. The feeling I get when I see these nerdy ass voice actors is comparable to seeing my favorite band when I was a teenager or kissing someone I have a crush on. It’s no secret that I’m completely trash for this series, but I think this weekend reminded me of how monumental it is in my life now. A lot of my current friendships are found and nourished through this fandom. It gives me something to look forward to during my exhausting work week. I realized on Saturday that SDCC has mostly become a flashy spectacle, but there are pockets where community and solidarity can be found. Yes, you’re in the same building as A-list celebrities. It’s where all of the big, pop culture news is revealed. But for me, this moderate-sized room full of people who cherish the same thing as much as I do is the reason why I go to conventions and it’s the reason why SDCC personally isn’t for me.

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The room for Critical Role‘s panel, ft. my friend Dan.

That being said, the Critical Role panel was wonderful despite a few cast members missing (Laura and Travis had their baby and Ashley is stuck in Blindspot filming hell forever), but it was so fun bonding with other people around me before and after their hour long panel. You can watch it here, but be aware of some pretty heavy spoilers.

Afterwards I caught a late night panel with some of the minor Twin Peaks actors. I strolled around the downtown area a little bit, soaking in the warmth and bustling midnight energy in San Diego. I will admit, the location for this convention couldn’t be better and they did an amazing job at keeping the energy going no matter what time it was.

Sunday

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Wednesday Club panel, ft. Taliesin Jaffe, Amy Dallen, and Matt Key.

Sunday just feels like this distant, weird blur. I went to the Wednesday Club panel, bought anything from the exhibitor hall that I was feeling torn on, and pretty much aimlessly wondered about, reflecting on the overall trip (I also probably daydreamed about all of the little munchkins I hung out with at The Cat Cafe). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hit up any of the exhibitions, but I heard most of them were underwhelming considering their long waits. I ended up not doing quite a few things just because the line wait wasn’t worth it, or I knew there wouldn’t be enough slots. So it goes.

I don’t want this post to make me sound like I’m being negative, because I certainly did have fun and got to see a couple of dear friends who live far away from me now. But between a $230 badge, $500 flight, and every other cost in-between, I wish I would’ve saved most of that and went to Gen Con in Indianapolis instead. There’s always next year though and I’m really happy that I got to cross this one off my list. I would go to SDCC again if I worked within the industry or had a specific reason to be there, but from now on I think I’ll enjoy the panels, trailers, and other thrills from the comfort of my apartment.

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The most important of merchandise.

CONVENTION CENTER RATING

  • Location: 10/10. I have to say, they really have the layout down to a science and I can’t imagine it being anywhere else at this point. The area is beautiful, well secured, and clean. I wish I would’ve been able to go by the water more!
  • Parking: ?/10. I didn’t park, but I overheard that some lots were charging $60 a day. No thanks.
  • Accessibility: 7/10. I feel like being in a wheelchair here is a disaster. I can’t speak for their actual services for disabled folk, but any time I came across someone with equipment or a stroller, they seemed to have a hard time getting around.
  • Cleanliness: 7/10. Not remarkable, but not disgusting either. A lot of the bathrooms were out of toilet paper and paper towel, though. I found myself putting a lot of trash in my own bag because I couldn’t find trash bins.
  • Bathrooms: 7/10. I touched on this above. On the plus side, they have a lot of bathrooms and sometimes it’d be worth walking an extra few minutes to find a more hidden one. Lines usually weren’t an issue unless a panel had just ended.
  • Staff: ?/10. I don’t think I’ve interacted with any of the actual convention center staff, so I can’t give a proper rating.
  • Food: 8/10. I always pack my own food, but they had Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s, and a few above average vendors.

 

SDCC RATING

  • Guests: 10/10. If you want to see the most popular guests, you go to SDCC. Sometimes it did feel surreal walking by a Supernatural signing or seeing remarkable comic book artists drawing at their booths. This con is basically every pop culture fan’s dream in terms of gawking at people in the industry.
  • Panels: 10/10. If there’s a fandom or interest, there’s a panel. There were a shit ton of panels here, more than I could wrap my brain around. I mainly stuck to ones I knew were unique to SDCC, but even the smaller, industry ones were very engaging.
  • Content: 9/10. Giving them a higher rating just because it’s so nice to walk onto an exhibitor floor and not see walls of Funko Pops staring back at you. Again, there were a lot of things here unique to this specific con, which made the trip more worth it. My only gripe was with how the artist alley was shoved into a small corner. SDCC definitely cares more about big names at this point, but I will always prefer giving my money to small artists with original creations rather than large corporations.
  • Organization: 7/10. SDCC did an online raffle this year for a lot of the more popular booths and autograph sessions, which mostly pissed people off. (Frankly, I preferred it.) Obviously, when you cram 130,000+ people into a convention center, it’s not going to be spacious and I think they mostly did their best. One of my biggest gripes with any convention is that I think more signs would really save people frustration and increase the flow of traffic as well.
  • Affordability: 7/10. My four day badge was $230 and my flight from Atlanta to San Diego was around $500. A friend of mine was awesome enough to let me stay with them for free (I probably would’ve never been able to afford it otherwise) and our shuttle to and from the convention center was free. SDCC definitely isn’t for people on a budget, but I do think you can still have fun without spending *a lot* of money.
  • Staff: 6/10. I ran around like a chicken with my neck cut off for an hour trying to find the Twin Peaks autographs because I kept being told different things. I know the world didn’t revolve around me, but that frustration put a damper on my experience and I felt like nobody really cared if I got the right information or not. Someone also yelled at me for walking up a moving, empty escalator? A lot of the staff were definitely drunk on power, but there were some nice ones sprinkled in as well.

Critical Role at C2E2 2018

Hey everyone! First off, let me apologize for the lack of updates. There’s been a lot of change happening in my life, but I’m finally getting situated and can’t wait to work on latebloomr more. This weekend I flew home for C2E2 in Chicago, IL and it was three days of Critical Role fangirl paradise. I had an incredible time, so let’s dive in.

FRIDAY

Fridays are always my shopping days at conventions because the crowds are way smaller and you won’t feel overwhelmed in the artist alley. C2E2 has a really great line-up of artists and comic creators, but unfortunately, only one person had Critical Role prints. Most were head shots from the newer campaign, but I did score a classy Percy one from her. Since the entire cast was announced only a few weeks before the convention, I wasn’t surprised at the lack of presence in the artist alley.

SATURDAY

Saturday is chaotic at pretty much any con, but man, I somehow underestimated how crazy the turnout would be for the Critical Role cast. This is their first group appearance in the upper midwest (minus Ashley Johnson, currently filming Blindspot) and one of the few times they’ve done individual signings. Matthew Mercer’s line was capped 20 minutes after doors opened, so I decided to meet Marisha Ray first, hoping it would calm my nerves. Now, deciding what I wanted to get signed was a really difficult choice.  The art book was too bulky and I wanted something I could actually display. Laura and Travis signed my tarot cards at Anime Weekend Atlanta, but it was such a rare opportunity to get all of their signatures at once. I ultimately chose the Tal’Dorei map from the campaign book, mainly because it was spacious and perfect to show off on my bedroom wall. Each cast member’s autograph was $20 (Laura’s was $30) and all of them offered table selfies or audio recordings for various costs. I decided to just get their autographs since I pre-purchased a group photo op for Sunday.

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My signed Tal’Dorei map!

Marisha was personable and sweet, and when I admitted that I somehow didn’t think of anything to say to the cast members, she told me not to worry and that they were all a bunch of losers. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a number of talented people throughout my life, but this cast and community really does mean the world to me. It was strange to finally be face-to-face with them; I’ve watched hundreds of hours of their material and each one of their expressions are so vivid and familiar, like an old friend’s. Taliesin Jaffe and I had a brief interaction about how freaking cold it was (25° on Saturday, no thanks, that is literally the reason why I moved south!) and then I decided to meet my favorite cast member, Liam O’Brien.

In a way, I really dreaded meeting Liam. Vax’ildan is my favorite CR character and his arc with the Raven Queen mirrored my own experience with taking care of a disabled parent. I cosplayed as Jayne Merriweather (Liam’s death cleric from the Bar Room Blitz one-shot) and his immediate joy seeing me dressed up triggered a rather awful anxiety attack. I nervously stumbled through our conversation, showing him my Vax ita bag and finally pulled down my shirt sleeve to reveal Vax’s last words, forever inked in Elvish on my bicep. Liam gave me a pretty intense look and I began to nervously ramble, choked up, and hurried off. It was basically the exact opposite of how I wanted our first interaction to go, but hey, there’s crippling anxiety for you. I reluctantly got into Sam’s line afterwards and once he smiled at me with that ginormous grin, my mood was instantly lifted.

Since it was nearing a few hours before their panel time, I decided to wait in line about two hours early for a good spot. You can watch the panel here, which was honestly a lot of fun and full of questions that haven’t really been asked before.

There was also an Alpha party that night that I scored an invite to, but I was far too exhausted to check it out. Some of the cast members usually attend, but none of them showed up for this one.

SUNDAY

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My view of Sunday morning’s panel in the main room.

The cast had their second panel bright and early, this time in C2E2’s main room. Thankfully, this one was also filmed and definitely worth watching! I think the entire room was in tears when Sam took his sweater off.

Matt’s line capped before the panel was over (around 12:45) and I had to mentally accept that I probably won’t meet him until the Overwatch hype dies down. I sulked over to Travis Willingham’s line and despite our interaction being short, he did mumble something in a Grog voice, so my year was made. I learned pretty quickly that it’s best to have a question or something to bring up to keep the conversation going, otherwise you might not get the full experience you hope for. With Laura, I asked her about Chloe and Nadine from Uncharted and whether she shipped them (she’s 100% on board, we’re so close to making it canon, y’all). Upset with how my previous interaction with Liam went, I decided to give his line another shot and got him to sign my ita bag. Unfortunately, he remembered me (I literally blurted out “oh no”) but I felt much, much better about how things went.

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My Vax ita bag (or my Vax’ilbag) signed with one of my favorite quotes.

Finally, it was time for what I was most excited for, my photo op! The group ensemble was $208 after fees and purchasing the additional digital download. While that might seem like a lot, getting a photo op with an individual cast member was about $50, so the group bundle was actually a good deal. For those unfamiliar with the photo op process, you basically move like a conveyor belt and don’t stop. There’s rarely any time to talk and it’s over before you know it. I asked Matt for a hug since I knew I wouldn’t be meeting him at his table and he warmly replied, “oh my gosh, of course!” and Marisha then yelled “GROUP HUG!” What followed was the most pure, wonderful 5 seconds of my life and I will never get over how adorable our picture is. Don’t be afraid to ask for hugs, guys! When I giddily skipped away, Matt yelled “I love your tattoos!” and I think I died right then and there. I don’t know if it’s possible for them to be any sweeter.

Overall, the trip and convention were incredibly worth it. I met and hung out with some incredible Critters and even exchanged contact info with a few. I think a lot of people underestimate this fanbase or undermine it because it’s an internet show, but I’ve never come across a group of people so wonderfully crazy, passionate, and supportive. If you’re thinking about going to a CR event but feel hesitant or doubtful for whatever reason, please go. I feel so overwhelmed by the powerful and inspiring energy that happened over those three days and cannot wait to see them all again at SDCC.

CONVENTION CENTER RATING

  • Location: 10/10. C2E2 takes place at McCormick Place, which is actually the biggest convention center in North America. This is my second year attending the con and I’m consistently blown away at how nice this center is. A lot of “Chicago cons” are actually in Rosemont, which is a half hour drive from here, so it’s cool to have one that is actually in the city.
  • Parking: 9/10. I drove last year and had no problem getting into one of their lots. I think it was $20 per day and the lots were spacious enough where you could easily get out.
  • Accessibility: 10/10. There are elevators and ramps everywhere! I didn’t see too many people with disabilities, but I can’t imagine it would be difficult to navigate the convention floor.
  • Cleanliness: 9/10. This convention center always looks so pristine. There’s never any trash laying around, but a few more trash bins would be nice.
  • Bathrooms: 10/10. Their bathrooms are banging. Really large, full length mirrors, and there’s almost always an attendant making sure nothing gets too gross.
  • Staff: ?/10. I don’t think I’ve interacted with any of the actual convention center staff, so I can’t give a proper rating.
  • Food: 9/10. I pack most of my food at this point, but McCormick is one of the better convention centers when it comes to food. There are multiple Starbucks locations, McDonald’s, and a small food court with normal prices.

 

C2E2 RATING

  • Guests: 9/10. I mean, getting the entire Critical Role cast (minus Ashley) is pretty clutch. C2E2 always has a unique line-up, especially comic creators who don’t make a lot of appearances. The only thing that bummed me out was Pom Klementieff cancelling. I think they booked her too soon which got my hopes up, so in the future I’d like for them to hold off on some of the early announcements.
  • Panels: 9/10. C2E2 has every panel imaginable and they’re always really fun, well-organized, and thought provoking. Both of the Critical Role panels were an absolutely blast, but a lot of people couldn’t make the Saturday one because it was in a smaller room.
  • Content: 9/10. This con seriously has everything. Any fandom you can think of has a presence here, but I love that there will always be an emphasis on comics and original artwork. I just wish there would’ve been a Critical Role booth, like a pop-up Gilmore’s Glorious Goods shop with shirts and other merchandise from the Geek & Sundry store.
  • Organization: 9/10. Better than last year and I appreciate that they added metal detectors. The natural flow of the convention floor is really nice and it’s never too difficult to find anything. More room or some sort of crew guidance around the entry spots would be appreciated.
  • Affordability: 8/10. 3-day tickets were $75 if you bought them in advance. You can buy individual tickets, ranging from $30-$35, but the weekend pass saved you like $15. I believe everything increased by $10 once the con actually started. My flight was $150 and I stayed with my sister for free. Uber and Lyft pools typically cost $10. Definitely one of the more affordable cons that I go to, but still expensive!
  • Staff: 10/10. Consistently awesome, super patient, and will thank you for being considerate. A lot of the crew are volunteers, so you know they’re doing it because they actually care about your experience.

Playstation Experience 2017

Initially, I didn’t plan on writing about this. Video games are a newer passion of mine and there’s still so much I’m learning about the industry and culture surrounding it. I’ve gone to numerous conventions over the years, but PSX has more of an Expo structure. There are booths and set-ups ranging in sizes, but they all offer their own personal, hands-on experience. You won’t see towers of Funko Pops or get smacked by some cosplayer’s Overwatch wings here. Instead, you’ll walk through intricate displays that put you in the center of a game’s location, play exclusive demos for upcoming releases, and maybe take a 3D picture of yourself with Spider-Man. For this post, I’m going to focus on what it was like to actually be there. You can find news or recaps by far more knowledgeable people online, so I’m going to share things from my perspective as a newbie who left with their eyes wider than they were going in.

IMG_3224On Saturday morning, my friend and I lined up when doors opened at 10 AM, but it took a good hour for us to get inside. Thankfully, the Anaheim Convention Center was extremely organized with their line system and there were numerous security lines to keep the flow steady. One of the main reasons why I attended PSX was for The Last of Us and Uncharted presence. Both games are deeply important to me and I’ll be totally honest: I’m Naughty Dog trash. I love everything this company does and I have an endless amount of appreciation for Neil Druckmann. After checking out the Days Gone set-up (featuring hanging corpses, aggressive zombies, and a brown bear covered in barbed wire), my friend and I made our way to the Uncharted 10 year anniversary booth. Neil was checking out the display case with some of Nathan Drake’s props and I managed to snag a minute of his time. He was extremely gracious and kind during our brief exchange and signed my badge. I also somehow managed to make him laugh, so now I can cross that off my bucket list.

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The Uncharted booth was insanely cool and such a treat for the die-hard fans. They recreated Nate’s attic full of goodies from Uncharted 4, and instead of walking through the room aimlessly, the staff had you complete a timed puzzle with 4-5 other people. 5 trivia questions on the sheet correlated with objects in the room, and nearly every prop had a tag attached with a single letter. If the group solved the puzzle (the code word was DRAKE–big surprise, right?) you were rewarded with one of the 35 collectable Playstation cards. The booth also had stations to play each game from the series, a display case featuring iconic treasures, and a green screen photo booth where you could dress up as the Drake brothers.

 

As I circled the entire convention floor (which probably took a good half hour), I ended up watching a lot of gameplay instead of waiting in line. Some of the lines were a bit too long for my patience, but I definitely wanted to experience Night in the Woods and Detroit: Become Human for myself. NitW‘s dreamy visuals caught my eye as I walked around the indie section, but it’s snappy dialogue really pulled me in once I sat down. Detroit‘s set-up, which was probably my favorite from the weekend, featured a Westworld-esque room full of androids against a white background ready to be purchased and taken out like human-sized Barbie dolls. I mainly signed up for the Detroit demo because of my friend’s interest, but I’m officially drinking the hype kool-aid now. During its 20 minute run, you had to navigate a hostage situation, with your success percentage going up or down depending on what choices you made. I feel a little burnt out on those decision based games, but it was cool to visually see how it affected my goal.

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The only major downside to PSX were the autograph opportunities. They were a featured part of the event and the Playstation Twitter, blog, and app made it seem like everyone was able to get at least one. You booked the autograph by going onto their app, and at 1 PM on Saturday, they would be released to everybody. What they didn’t disclose was that only 200 slots were available per session. 200 is really nothing when you consider the thousands of people in attendance, and when I hit the booking button the moment the hour turned, they were already full. I was really disappointed, considering the Uncharted and TLOUII sessions were a huge reason why I went. So my advice for anyone going in the future: don’t go just for the autograph sessions! The difference between you and someone else getting it comes down to a sliver of a second. But I promise there are so many other cool things worth attending for. Luckily for me, I watched the Uncharted signing and Emily Rose, who plays Elena, ran over afterwards and signed a picture for me because she’s an actual sweetheart.

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Which brings me to the best part of my weekend, the panels! All of them are conveniently available to stream live or watch later on YouTube, but you can’t beat the magic of actually being in the room. The Uncharted 10 year anniversary round-up, hosted by Greg Miller from Kinda Funny, featured all of the prominent actors from the series. Greg did a wonderful job keeping the panel balanced, light-hearted, and reflective without losing any focus. Most of the conversation focused on the early creative process, the fun challenges of motion capture, and how the series has affected the actors on a professional and personal level. Admittedly, I started crying towards the end when I realized how massive and influential Uncharted is. I’ll miss it so much, but I’m grateful they were given a platform to have one final discussion and that I got to be a fly on the wall for it.

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The Last of Us Part II discussion followed a half hour later. Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie) opened with a stripped down cover of “The Wayfaring Stranger” in character, its lyrical content adding even more fuel to the speculation fire. Comedian and moderator Hannah Hart got the popular questions out of the way, but as expected, most of them were carefully dodged. The main cast, alongside Neil Druckmann and writer Halley Gross, focused on discussing the grim second trailer recently shown at Paris Games Week. I don’t know why, but I’m seriously obsessed with the siblings. I think they’re escaping a religious cult, which is totally my thing. Hannah did a great job maintaining a conversation about a game that can’t really be talked about, but we at least found out more about the setting and theme for Part II. For now, I’ll be re-watching those trailers on a weekly basis and counting down the days until E3 2018.

Overall, I was impressed with PSX and would definitely attend again. Aside from the booths and panels, there was also an opportunity to collect cards and unlock rewards on the app, some of which included free Playstation themes. The official merchandise area also had a lot to offer and it was refreshing to see feminine and more gender-neutral clothing. The prices were actually decent, too: $25 for most shirts, $50-$60 for sweaters, and there were even some really nice outdoor gear like insulated jackets. Nothing here felt cheesy or forced, and you can tell that Playstation actually cares about what their merchandise looks like. Oh, and I never really felt bored, either. You can sit and watch people play trivia, have your picture taken at countless booths, grab something to eat, or go for a walk outside since re-entry was very easy. There’s always something to do.

 

Hopefully this gives some insight as to what you can expect at PSX, but if any of you have questions, please let me know. I can’t wait to be back in California for SDCC next year!

CONVENTION CENTER RATING

  • Location: 10/10. The Anaheim Convention Center is honestly really beautiful. It’s also surrounded by every type of hotel imaginable and was really easy to find a restaurant or drugstore within walking distance. Getting a shuttle from the hotel back to LAX was also easy and affordable.
  • Parking: ?/10. I didn’t drive, but I also didn’t see a parking ramp or anything next to the convention center, so I’m not sure what the overall situation is like.
  • Accessibility: 10/10. Again, it’s hard for me to give this a confident rating because I only encountered one person in a wheelchair. However, the convention was really spacious and I don’t think anyone with a disability would have an issue getting around.
  • Cleanliness: 10/10. This place was spotless, but most of the booths didn’t allow food or drinks and anyone under 18 wasn’t allowed, which probably helped.
  • Bathrooms: 10/10. Probably the best bathrooms I’ve seen at a convention and majority of the time, a custodian was always in the room to fix up the stalls and counters.
  • Staff: 10/10. Probably the friendliest and knowledgable staff I’ve come across. I don’t know if they were all volunteers or paid, but they all seemed to actually care about making sure you had a good time.
  • Food: 7/10. I ordered a macchiato from inside the venue and got some weird, foamy latte thing instead. There are a lot of food options within the venue, but I recommend going into the hotel connected to the venue. They have chains like Baja Fresh and Starbucks without the convention surcharge. Being vegan usually means I’m packing my own meals, but I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about that here.

 

PLAYSTATION EXPERIENCE RATING

  • Guests: 10/10. Again, from my perspective of being a shameless Uncharted and TLOU fangirl, it was nearly overwhelming sitting in the same room as the directors, writers, and actors who made these games come to life. It would’ve been cool to meet some of them, but I get that direct fan interaction isn’t a part of PSX.
  • Panels: 9/10. The panels were arguably the highlight of my weekend and I like that they were all professionally ran since some fan panels can be a little awkward or underwhelming. It would’ve been cool to see a little more, though. I think there were less than 10 panels altogether.
  • Content: 8/10. It’s hard for me to judge this year’s content since I haven’t really paid attention before this, but I was overall impressed with what I saw. However, a lot of things people were expecting to see here had already been shared overseas at Paris Games Week, so a lot of the suspense was gone.
  • Organization: 8/10. My rating isn’t perfect because of the whole autograph fiasco. However, the rest of the event was ran pretty smoothly, which seems to be a huge upgrade from previous years.
  • Affordability: 8/10. Early bird badges were $65 and my roundtrip flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles was $185. $40 to pay for a roundtrip shuttle to the hotel in Anaheim, but my friend was very awesome and covered the hotel expense. I think the convention was worth it, but you will definitely save a lot more if you pay for everything when it’s first announced.
  • Staff: 10/10. Staff was incredibly nice, patient, and actually knew what they were talking about.

Walker Stalker Atlanta 2017

Hey everyone! I wasn’t planning on having this as my first post, but here we are. Walker Stalker snuck up on me again (per usual) and I wanted to discuss everything while it’s still fresh in my mind. There will be a fancy introductory post later, but until then, I’m going to shamelessly geek out and offer some advice for anyone thinking about attending the convention in the future.


 

Some quick backstory: This is my fourth Walker Stalker. In 2015, I attended my first event in Chicago last minute, unaware that it would eventually become such a staple in my life. I knew absolutely nothing at the time, showed up with $50, and still managed to have an unforgettable weekend. Let me just say this now: I don’t think you need to have a lot of money to have fun at WSC. There are panels happening all day, rows of artists and vendors to sort through, and many of the cast members will do meet-and-greets for free. So many things have changed within the last couple years and it keeps getting bigger, but there’s still a level of intimacy that I don’t find at other conventions. Something about Walker Stalker will always be special, and if you want to go big, you go to Atlanta.

This specific weekend is kind of a big deal. Many refer to it as the Walker Stalker Super Bowl for various reasons. Tucked within Building B of the massive Georgia World Congress Center, the guest line-up is stacked compared to other cities. The Walking Dead cast take up majority of the attendee list, but you can also expect to see talent from Fear the Walking Dead, Lost, Sons of Anarchy, Z Nation, Ash. vs Evil Dead, and more. Aside from London, this is the only WSC Andrew Lincoln attends, and even the busier and more reclusive cast members will sign on for at least one day. There’s something grandiose about the whole thing. People travel from all over the world for this and it’s not unusual to hear passing conversations in French or Chinese. Nobody “looks” like a Walking Dead fan, either. You’ll see all ages, colors, sizes, and backgrounds. People will go through so much to meet a person from a TV show, but that’s when you realize it’s not just a TV show anymore. Crew members and volunteers wear shirts that read “it’s not fandom, it’s family” and there’s a humbling truth to that. This series has begun a movement, and like the mindless zombies on The Walking Dead, we’re all here to feed on something that keeps us alive. It’s why I keep returning, despite telling myself that it’s getting too popular, or that the magic has worn off (it hasn’t), or that I don’t have the money for it (which is usually the actual truth).

Soft feelings aside, I always attend the cons at General Admission level. There are four tiers to this madness: GA, VIP, Gold, and Platinum. Each of them have their own perks, and it usually takes you one or two cons to figure out which one works best for your needs. Personally, I like going the photo op route, in which you get a professional picture with whomever you choose, but the downside is that you don’t get to have a conversation. Usually it’s a “Hi, how are you doing?” type of exchange before the volunteers usher you out of the curtained room. If you’re a nervous wreck like me, you might actually prefer the brief interactions since it gives you minimal room to embarrass yourself. Some cast members are known for being very affectionate and talkative, while others will keep the exchange short and sweet. Thankfully, I haven’t had any negative experiences yet or have caught an actor on a bad day. If you think you’ll lean towards doing mainly photo ops, attending the con with GA or VIP will probably be good enough for you. Gold and Platinum holders will go first in photo op lines, but it really doesn’t make much of a difference since the lines move so quickly.

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My photo op with Melissa McBride, who plays Carol Peletier on The Walking Dead.

Depending on the actor’s popularity, photo ops may range anywhere from $50 to $100. You can pay an additional $10 for a digital download and $5 for a plastic hard case, which I strongly recommend. As for preparing for your photo op, I tell everyone to wear make-up (even if you typically don’t) and apply setting powder to your face right before your op. Nobody wants to look like a sweaty bowling ball next to Lauren Cohan. I also wear neutral colored clothing to not distract from the overall photo and practice my smile. I know that sounds kind of weird, but seriously, you don’t want to pay all that money for a picture and end up hating it.

I got four photo ops this year: Jon Bernthal, Melissa McBride, Danai Gurira, and David Morrissey. I tried to wait and get an autograph with Jon, but this is where my General Admission wasn’t enough. Jon’s line was so busy that they wouldn’t let anyone with GA through, so I ended up getting the photo op. It’s important to be aware of things like this, or else you risk missing out on meeting somebody altogether. Don’t ever be afraid to check in with the volunteers who are monitoring their booths. Majority of the time, they will not tell you what’s going on or bother putting signs up because things can happen and change so quickly. It can be frustrating, but consistently asking for updates (without being a nuisance) is vital if you’re at a lower admission and you’re trying to meet a popular cast member.

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My photo op with David Morrissey, who plays The Governor on The Walking Dead.

If photo ops aren’t your thing or you’d rather have more time to meet the cast member, the other option is to wait in their line for an autograph or selfie. All of them will have their own designated booths with four different lines to wait in. This is when the four tiers of whatever admission you go with will affect you the most. Say, for example, you want to meet Chandler Riggs. Depending on your admission tier, your wait in General Admission could be 2 hours on a Saturday, while someone with a Platinum badge only waits 10 minutes. If you want to meet a lot of people at Walker Stalker, you’re going to have to pay up. I typically only meet a handful of cast members per con since I plan on attending these for a while, so I’m not exactly racing to cross everyone off my list. Go with what’s best for you!

The autograph and selfie prices range per actor. Some of the bigger names, like Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus, won’t do selfies at all because their lines are too busy getting through autographs. Selfies are generally way cheaper than photo ops, but you should also take into consideration that 1) it’s not professional quality and 2) the lighting is usually awful and will probably make you look like garbage. Sometimes you might have an unflattering background, too. These are things to keep in mind, but I highly recommend getting selfies with Josh McDermitt, Michael Cudlitz, and Alanna Masterson because they all take like 8 pictures with you.

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My selfies with Josh McDermitt, who plays Eugene Porter on The Walking Dead.

Most of the actors will offer standalone prices for a selfie or autograph, but most offer a combo package that will shave a few dollars off. For example, Josh’s selfie and autograph were each $50, but getting a combo is $70. Everything adds up quickly and prices change the longer someone’s been on a show, so if you like one of the lesser known or newer characters, I recommend meeting them as soon as possible.

Another nice thing about meeting someone at their booth is that you can give them presents! I gave Josh a couple pins in Chicago earlier this year, one of which had Eugene photoshopped as a Packers fan. I mentioned the pins this past weekend and it helped him remember me. Little things like that can help you stand out amongst the hundreds of people they meet every year. Try to give them something small and unique, like a hand made trinket or fan art. Avoid anything bulky or food-related, because they probably won’t take it home.

In terms of what you should talk about, I recommend keeping it light. Depending on the cast member, you might have anywhere from 3-8 minutes to talk with them. Have a general idea of what you want to talk about, but don’t plan the entire conversation in your head. If it’s a Walking Dead cast member, sometimes I’ll bring up their work outside of the show. It shows that you care about their entire filmography and gives them a break from talking about the same thing all day. Just go with what feels right. It’s okay to be nervous, but don’t be that person who screams or hysterically cries.

If I’m going to be honest, though, the best part about these cons are the other fans you’ll meet. Writing this has made me realize that I spent majority of my time hanging out with people that I met in lines or on social media. That’s the beauty of this thing. You end up having these organic and truly special interactions with everyone, famous or not. My favorite memories from this year were in the presence of new friends, honestly. Don’t ever be afraid to attend the convention alone and talk to a complete stranger.

If any of you have questions or comments, please let me know! I wrote this pretty much off the cuff, so I apologize if it’s hard to follow. I put together a rating system for both the convention center and Walker Stalker to help break down what I think are crucial things to know before attending.

CONVENTION CENTER RATING

  • Location: 10/10. The Georgia World Congress Center is in the heart of downtown and gives you access to a genuine Atlanta experience. There are a lot of hotels close to the venue, but I stayed at an AirBnB 15 minutes away last year and payed $300 for 4 days.
  • Parking: 8/10. There is no free parking, but there are many affordable garages/lots surrounding the venue. I paid $9 per day by booking in advance, but many lots were $20 if you paid the day of.
  • Accessibility: 10/10. GWCC is very spacious and extremely accommodating to everyone’s needs. I’ve heard no complaints from anyone with a disability.
  • Cleanliness: 10/10. Cons can get disgusting really quickly, but in the two years that I’ve attended, nothing has grossed me out.
  • Bathrooms: 9/10. Occasionally the toilet paper will run out, but this is pretty much as good as it gets. There are also a ton of bathrooms, so you don’t wait in line too long. If you can, try using the ones outside of the convention hall, they’re way nicer.
  • Staff: 10/10. Majority of the staff you’ll see are with WSC, but if you ever need help, the actual venue staff are equally as helpful.
  • Food: ?/10. I’ve never eaten here because the prices will make you cry. Walk an extra 5 minutes across the street to the CNN center food court instead.

 

WALKER STALKER CON RATING

  • Guests: 10/10. Atlanta is the pinnacle of the Walker Stalker. There might be one or two notable Walking Dead cast members missing each year, but it’s typically because they are too busy filming something else. It’s not just people who are currently on the show, either. Everybody from the series comes out for it. The con also brings in a consistent amount of actors from other fandoms.
  • Panels: 10/10. Most of the panels will make your stomach hurt from laughing, honestly. I don’t think I’ve ever attended one that felt underwhelming or tedious. Everyone is very interactive with the fans and you can even go up to a mic and ask questions.
  • Photo Ops: 9/10. Getting your photo op can be stressful, but Celeb Photo Ops, the company who run it at Walker Stalker, do a remarkable job. There were a lot of system issues this year, but overall they make everything run smoothly. My only gripe is how badly the photographers rush you.
  • Artists and Vendors: 8/10. Whether you want a life-size cut out of Negan, a homemade cookie telling you to look at the flowers, or want to take a picture with stunning cosplayers, the vendor hall has so much to offer. In the future I would like to see more original artwork and less overpriced shirts.
  • Events/concerts/after parties: 7/10. Walker Stalker Atlanta has plenty of things to offer once the con wraps up. In the past, there have been shows with Emily Kinney and Halloween parties thrown by Norman Reedus and Tom Payne. I personally don’t care for the after shows and most people say they’re boring and overpriced.
  • Organization: 7/10. The convention floor is very well laid out and easy to remember. However, WSC could really benefit from having more signs and maintaining better communication amongst their staff.
  • Affordability: 6/10. This one is tough. On one hand, WSC has made the four tiers of admission to suit different needs and expectations. And as I mentioned before, I don’t think you need to have a lot of money to have fun. The biggest downside about the entire con are the prices to meet the cast members. This is a very, very expensive convention. I’ve met far more established actors and artists who charged half the price of a relatively unknown Walking Dead cast member. I don’t know if there’s a way to fix this, but I worry that the con will become too expensive for my budget.
  • Staff: 8/10. Majority of the staff and volunteers are friendly, personable, and will go above and beyond to help you out. Some of them seem undertrained, though, and it’s not unusual to be given the wrong information.