I have just returned from my second and last day at Anime Central (ACen) 2013, “the Midwest’s largest anime, manga and Japanese popular culture convention”, which takes place at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, a suburb northwest of my beloved Chicago. ACen is an annual convention that debuted in 1998, has taken place every year since then, and is a very big deal in Chicagoland, with thousands attending each year, and many of its fans being repeat attenders. However, this is the first time that I have made my way to the convention, so the experience was brand new to me. The convention ran from Friday through Sunday, May 17-19, and I attended on both the 18th and the 19th. I’m going to do a couple of features on some of the more specific things that I have to talk about, so this is just going to be my general impressions and a walkthrough of my time at the convention. Think of it as my journal of the show.
If you have never visited Negative World before, you may be wondering what this place is. Negative World is a Nintendo fan forum and we create unique, exclusive content, including news, reviews, features, top ten lists, webcomics, a podcast, and more! “But Andrew”, you may ask, “what does ACen have to do with a Nintendo site?” That is a very good question, and you will have to keep reading to find out!
Saturday - Dawn of my first day: 48 hours remaining
Actually it was significantly less than 48 hours remaining, but come on, let me make my Majora’s Mask references here!
I arrived at the conference on Saturday at around 1 PM. Those of you who know me well know that this was no small task, as I had to break my “don’t wake up before noon on a Saturday” rule to get all the way from the southside of Chicago up to Rosemont, IL.
It should go without saying that there were cosplayers everywhere. Literally everywhere. However, I’m definitely doing a photo feature on that so I won’t fill these impressions with tons of images of cosplay. You’ll see them soon enough. But if you just can’t wait, here is a teaser:
I’m sure that you recognize those guys.
The first thing that I did upon arrival was to pick up what, for the uninitiated, those of us in “the biz” call a “press pass.” And then it was on to the show.
My first events
I first attended three events in rapid succession. The first and third were press interviews with singer / voice actor Yuu Asakawa and voice actor Brad Swaile, respectively. I am going to write about those in more detail in a bit, so at the moment I will just leave you with “they were both enlightening and engaging.” Oh, and perhaps I should also mention that I forgot to bring my notepad and was forced to take notes on my 3DS, learning quickly how terrible the 3DS “Game Notes” feature sucks for serious note taking. The second event was a panel called “Nintendo Power”, at which guests got to ask a panel of real life Nintendo characters (possibly just people in cosplay) well... anything that they wanted to ask. Considering that the word “Nintendo” was in the very name of the panel, I felt that it was my duty as a representative of Negative World to attend this panel. It also sounded pretty fun.
I was not able to stay for very long due to having to rush to my second press event, but while I was there, it was pretty entertaining. I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but these are some of the questions asked and responses given:
Mario, over 7,000 goombas are killed every year, what do you plan to do about that?
Kill some more.
What are you guys going to do with your new Youtube revenue? (It seems that many of the people in attendance were confused by this one, but I don’t think that I need to explain it to anyone here...)
Buy some candy.
Captain Falcon, how do you get your helmet so shiny and red?
With the blood of my enemies.
So yeah, it was basically pure cheese, but I suppose that was the whole point, and it was all in good fun.
The exhibit hall
After these three events I took some time to explore the exhibit hall, where the vendors, artists, etc. had booths set up. There was plenty of neat stuff to look at here, including art, clothing, action figures, and other merchandise for anime, manga, tabletop games, video games and more:
As well as a huge chalk art display by an artist named Eric Maruscak, who apparently does this kind of thing all the time at various conventions:
I also saw um, whatever this is:
So anyway, there I was just enjoying myself walking around, taking in the sights (and taking plenty of pictures), when my eyes fell upon one of the most glorious sights that I have ever seen in my entire life. That might be hyperbole. Well, no I take that back. It’s not hyperbole and when you see what it is that I saw, you will understand.
Full of Mega Man robot masters.
I tell you. It made my heart warm.
Of course I had to purchase one. To do otherwise was simply out of the question. But which one? I spent probably a good 15 minutes at this table trying to make a decision. A passer-by may have seen my eyes light up and my hand slowly move towards a specific robot master, just to pull it back quickly and subtly shake my head “no.” The owners of the booth definitely saw this... several times. How can one possibly make such a monumental decision such as this? Anyway, in the end I had to choose, so choose I did. Can you guess who I chose? I’m sure that some of the members here can guess it, if they think about things that I have said in the past.
And I know that I made the right choice. I... think? Which robot master would you have chosen? Tell me in the comments below!
My purchase made, it was time to leave the exhibit hall.
Lots and lots of gaming
My next stop was... well, maybe I’ll tell you about that one later. Here is a hint: Mr. Mustache would have loved it.
Cue George Takei: Oh myyyyyy.
Moving on. I suppose I must have eaten dinner, although I can’t quite recall when. At this point I met up with a friend / ex-coworker / ACen employee and a couple of his buddies. We decided to hit up the video game room, my friend seeming to be shocked that I had not yet visited it, me being who I am. What can I say, I was a busy bee!
The video game room was pretty awesome, complete with both arcade and console games. I suppose that a part of me was expecting to see the room full of a bunch of popular multiplayer games like Call of Duty and Super Smash Bros. And certainly that kind of stuff was present. But this kind of stuff was also there:
Pretty neat, huh?
However, this room was packed, and I didn’t really feel like standing in line to play stuff that I could just as easily play at home, not to mention I was with a group and not really making the decisions at this point, so we did not stay in the video game room for very long. I should note that there were tons of video gaming tournaments all weekend long, including tournaments for Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but alas, I was busy being a fancy pants press guy and did not have the time to participate in any of them. I’m sure that I would have had my butt handed to me anyway. Probably by a grade school girl, which always seems to happen whenever I join public video game tournaments.
We next visited some tabletop gaming rooms:
In these rooms we did not stay very long. Not that they weren’t interesting, but no one in the group I was with had the time or desire to get into an involving tabletop game that late at night.
At some point the group broke up and it was just my friend and I again. My friend gave me a bit of a tour, we ran into some people that I know from the Internet, and then we decided to call it a night, and I started the long and lonely trip back to the south suburbs of Chicago.
On the trip home I ended up in a train car with what appeared to be some kind of formal wedding party, the men wearing suits and the women wearing dresses. I’m not going to say that there is anything wrong with this, of course, but it did create a stark contrast with the convention that I had just come from, where pretty much anything and everything that you want to wear (or, in some cases, not wear) goes. I won’t get all philosophical on you, but it definitely made me think a bit about what it means to have a space to truly feel free to express yourself without judgment. How many places in the world are there that are like this?
I got home safe, and pretty much went straight to bed. For a whole 4 hours of sleep.
Sunday - Dawn of my last day: 24 hours remaining
Sunday, which is the day that I am writing this. Except... really it was only about 3 hours remaining by the time that I got back to the convention.
This is the end
The first thing that I did upon arriving on Sunday was to visit the exhibit hall again. And I’m sure that you know exactly what that means. Yep, right back to the Mega Man robot masters table I went, because really, how could I not?
So go ahead, guess who I picked up this time?
You know, I don’t actually have too much else to say about day two yet, because the main thing that I did with the rest of my time was to take in two video game-centric panels called “Games as Art: 8-bit” and “Gaming in Hindsight: Retro-Relevance”, both of which I am going to write about in their own feature. I did run into another online friend of mine right as I was leaving the show, and we got to talking a bit. That was fun.
Also I saw this guy:
And then I was out of there. Sunday ended almost as quickly as it started, and I began my journey home, for good this time.
I suppose that I should not have been surprised, but riding on a southside bus an hour away from the convention I ran into a few people who had been there, and we got to talking a bit. I also informed them about Negative World, so if any of you are reading this right now, it takes less than a minute to sign up for an account here, and we’re all good people, so why not join up quick and say hello?
Well, there you have it, my ACen 2013 experience in a nutshell. It flew by so fast, and there was so much that I didn’t even get a chance to partake in (tons of neat sounding panels, live anime showings, music concerts, formal dancing, etc.) but I most definitely enjoyed myself and I would love to get the chance to go and cover the event again next year, and beyond. Keep your eyes peeled for more of my ACen 2013 coverage over the next few days, including a whole bunch of pictures of cosplayers decked out as some of your favorite Nintendo characters. I know you’re all going to love that one.
You can check out the rest of my ACen 2013 coverage right here! And if you're new to the site and it seems like a fun place, why not join us?
I so wanted Air Man! He was there on saturday and was definitely high up on my list of possible choices, but ultimately I chose Crash Man over him. I thought on my way back to the booth on Sunday that I might grab him up, but he was already gone.
Actually though, I like that I spread the love to more games than just Mega Man 2. Not that Mega Man 4 is particularly the best Mega Man game.
Would have loved to see Snake Man. Was MIA. You know who else was MIA, oddly enough? Mega Man himself. Probably sold out on Friday.
That's a great feature Zero! I didn't realize it'd be as big and awesome as it was. I enjoyed the photos that went along with your extensive notes. Lets hope we can get more press passes for other things around the country!
Huh - TWO Napalm Mans? (Men?) On the table, one is purple and the other is blue. What's up with that? Artistic license, or something? Pretty sure his "official" color is purple, but I gotta admit that blue color ain't bad.
Nice pick-up with Crash Man. Dive Man too, though if I was picking from Mega Man 4's set of Robot Masters, I'd go with Pharaoh Man.
They didn't happen to have any of the Gameboy-specific Robot Masters there, did they?
Maybe I'll consider ACen in the future. While I enjoy my time at GenCon, I find myself more interested in anime and video games than the tabletop games. I'll think about it next year.
I'm going to have to say Guts Man and Magnet Man because those are the two I have. I made them as Christmas tree ornaments a few years ago, but Magnet Man was promoted (with the help with some neodymium magnets) to permanent 'fridge duty. I have the nerdiest $20 tree of them all.
I've heard of it. Since we seem to have similar tastes, I'll surely look into it. I ask you to do the same with Carcassonne. It.has tons of great expansions and a separate but similar game in Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers is even better.in some regards.
Hey, Zero, it's your friendly neighborhood ex-coworker/ACen staffer/beardmongering friend. I was glad to see you! I hope you come back next year and you manage to attend all three days.
I was super busy throughout the weekend, and incurred sleep debt on Thursday night from covering others' shifts, so I didn't actually get to see much of the con. It was good to see some stuff outside the Hyatt with you, and I'm glad you got to enjoy some stuff I could vicariously experience through your article.
To clarify for @roykoopa64, most ACen programming requires an ACen badge of some type, and most badges are purchased either on ACen's website or in the registration hall at the convention center. A press badge is, essentially, a badge that is given to a person for free with the expectation that that person publishes something about the experience. Zero knows the distinction in more detail.
A couple of other ways to get a free badge: you can volunteer as staff, promising 24 hours of work (but usually doing more) in exchange for a free badge and a shared room with other staff. You can work odd jobs around the convention under the supervision of our Volunteers department, but this requires you to already have a badge. 6 hours of gofering earns you crash space for that night, and if you total at least 16 hours throughout the convention, your badge for the next year is free.
It's been so long since I had to pay for a badge that I can't even remember what they cost nowadays. I think it's in the area of $50, with discounts for pre-registration and for registering very early.
@GameDadGrant Are there Gameboy-specific robot masters? I thought that they were all just rehashes. Ha ha ha ha... oh sorry um. I don't believe that there were any Gameboy-specific robot masters, no.
@DrFinkelstein@DrFinkelstein To be totally honest I don't know too much about tabletop gaming so I wasn't even sure what I was looking at in most cases. Chant might be able to better tell you what was there. I think that if I had more time and was not at the convention in an "official" capacity I might have sat down with the games (both video and tabletop) a bit more, but I was trying to get around and see everything and get lots of pictures so... didn't happen this time around.
Now that I understand how quickly time can go by though I think that if / when I do this again next year I will just take Friday off of work and try to make it all three days. There were some cool sounding panels that I missed by not going on Friday including "Video Game Punel", "Why Is All Fighting Game Anime So Awful?" (hey I kind of liked the Street Fighter animated movie!), "Castlevania: Crack That Whip", "Name That RPG Tune" (oh man would have loved that), "Politics in Video Games", "Philosophy in Video Games", and... well, tons actually! It kind of seems like Friday might have been the best day for a video gamer to be there, it had so many video gaming panels. Hmm. Well, you live and learn.
I do notice that there were no 18+ "mature" panels for video games (yet tons for anime!) Interesting. That seems like something that could be very popular. Like "Custer's Last Revenge to GTA Hot Coffee: A History of Naughtiness in Video Games" or something? Alright, I'm going to need to do my own panel next year.
@Chant@roykoopa64 I think Chant is right that it is somewhere in the range of $50 a day, although Sunday is cheaper because everything is over by 4 PM on Sunday. Press get in for free. The press badge pass allowed me access to press-only interviews with the special guests that they had present. There were a variety of special guests but I tried to pick the ones that would be most relevant to our site, so I went with some who have done voice acting in video games. There may have been other benefits to the press pass as well, but I didn't really check too much into it because I knew what I wanted to see and most of it (like the various panels, etc.) was open to anyone at the convention. Anyone with a pass, I mean.
Oh! Another thing that I forgot to mention (although you could probably assume) is that StreetPassing was essentially just a constant stream, 10 more as soon as you cleared out the last 10. I probably got over 100, and would have had many, many more except that I didn't want to sit around clearing it out constantly. Filled in a few more puzzles too!