During the weekend above, I had the pleasure of attending Connecticon as a member of the press. Described as one of New England's largest anime/game conventions, a lot of industry guests and other fun stuff was sure to make this weekend a great time! Was this the case?
I arrived around 12:30 pm on Friday to avoid the long lines. I wasn't sure how they would handle press registration so I brought all the requirements in case of any problems. It went off without a hitch and got that shiny press badge easily! The funny thing was that I didn't see a single other press member during the whole weekend, which was odd given the 6,000 plus attendance and plenty of interesting guests. Oh well, read this and you'll want to go next year!
I checked out the gaming situation first (natch) and I found an interesting setup. The video games didn't have a dedicated room this year (much to vets' dismay) and was in the central ballroom squished in between the dealers' room and tabletop gaming. The bad thing about this was the setup. This was most likely due to the sudden change of venue. They had this long line of interconnected tables with mostly Xbox 360's and PS3's on both sides, making it impossible to jump from one table to another. You had to walk all the way around the back end to reach the consoles on the other side. This was evidence of the quick setup. Stephen Comeau ([email protected]) later suggested that they should have just pushed all the tables against the far curtains, which would have made navigation a lot easier.
The event was sponsored by GPX gaming again, and it was the most blatant I've ever seen, mostly due to the lack of retro consoles. One of the volunteers (wrongly) claimed that they had tried to get SNES and other retro consoles but were not able to get any working ones off Ebay. That is nonsense, as there are dozens available every day. And if they don't work, there is a little thing called "Reporting a fraudulent sale". No one should have to deal with shit like that on Ebay.
I think that he was just using that as an excuse to cater what is popular in gaming right now, as the setup indicated. The big games were Rock Band, Guitar Heros, Smash Brothers Brawl. Pretty standard con fare, but I was peeved by this generational bias due to the lack of older consoles. I wasn't alone on this observation either, as most of the people I talked to wondered the same thing. Don't be so oblivious next year, GPX! There is excellence in video games from all consoles! There is much more to say about video games, so we'll take a breather and return after Carlos Ferro's panel.
As above, Mr. Ferro of Gears of War fame hosted a panel on the upper floor of the convention center. I didn't notice a line forming, so I took the opportunity to step right into the room. After Carlos entered, I nodded to him and he admired my directness in avoiding the line that DID end up forming. I didn't intend it but it worked out well, and actually served me well with a question in a voice actor panel that Carlos was involved in the next day.
The panel was well attended. Despite not having played GOW 2 yet, I knew enough about the character to detail the event. Or so I thought...
The first thing he told the audience was that he was not capable of keeping it PG-13 with language, and since no one cared, profanities abounded. Awesome! Parents might flinch at his language, but Gears is hardly for kids! He began with a through history of the game from its 2005 development to all the trials and tribulations of having it made (The Lancer was not a favorite idea of Microsoft). He mentioned working with John DiMaggio (Marcus) and what goes into voice recording production. Anyone who might dismiss VA as much easier than film acting would do well to listen to Carlos Ferro, who takes the medium as serious as one person probably can!
Carlos is a big fan of the game, Horde most of all, he plays it every day. He mentioned only trying Normal difficulty, because he likes playing the game, not DYING all the time! I'm definitely with him on that. Higher difficulties are rarely harder, just more frustrating. Speaking of that, a fan asked about the absence of Kryll in GOW 2. Carlos simply said that they were gone because they SUCK (negative feedback from fans)
The discussion that simultaneously kept my attention and upset me was about Dom's wife Maria. Having not played the 2nd Gears, her fate was spoiled. I am a good sport, so it just makes me want to check out the game more. I am really a fan of the emoting that voice actors often have to do for their roles, so I was moved to hear that John and Carlos were moved to tears in the recording booths during the filming of Maria's death. Hearing a story like that should be enough to convince any naysayers that VA's work just as hard and diligently as any actor, but at a fraction of the salary.
The last big topic of discussion was on the Gears of War movie, which Mr. Ferro articulately in a very precise matter: DUH!! He really thinks that the filmmakers have what it takes to avoid the video game movie curse. Also, he is a big fan of Len Wisemen, even praising Live Free or Die Hard (to an annoying fan's chagrin). More accurately, he is a fan of Wiseman's wife, Kate Beckinsale, and wants her to play Anya in the movie.
In case it isn't obvious yet, Carlos' favorite role so far is Dominic Santiago because he created him from the ground, having input on everything from his mannerisms to his coloring. Ever the salesmen, he pimped the forthcoming C.O.G 360 avatar additions as being the first piece of clothing worth buying. Probably.
Lastly, Carlos Ferro says the Lancer is the greatest video game weapon ever! You heard it here, folks. When I make a top ten, forward all hate mail to Carlos Ferro!
I spent the next several hours in the gaming room, trying Street Fighter IV for the first time. It is kind of disgraceful that as a big a fan of fighting game that I am, I've never played one of the best ones there is, SF IV! I really like how they made Zangief a lot more powerful in this game. He hasn't been this strong since the original with his repeatable SPD! I also plan to master Abel due to his equally good pressure game and fun grappling skills. I've heard about Rufus (mostly his jiggle physics) but playing him, he is probably the most unique character with his mix of surprising speed and technique. Several people had fighting sticks, including some custom wood builds and the $150 Capcom/Agetec custom. The best part of playing Street Fighter IV was shouting FINAL ATOMIC ZANGIEF BUSTTAA!! with several huge fans of the Red Cyclone! This game features the best depiction of his classic ultimate move since SSFII Turbo, in which it debuted.
The worst part was that the $150 stick was stolen sometime during the convention. That thing was so awesome/great to use that I really wish that security had been able to get that scum. MAKE THEM PAY!! (Resident Evil 2 reference).
The best panel of the day was Vampires Don't Sparkle, an anti-Twilight gathering of the fervent defenders of the vile creatures of the night. Being 18+, colorful metaphors abounded! Highlights include an English B.A. telling us how vampires have repeatedly changed through their history and how Twilight is just the latest iteration got a chorus of booes (he took it in stride though, saying THAT's what a B.A. is for!) I started a discussion about Elisabeth Bathory and her penchant for blood. Overall, this panel was a total gas and completely tore down one of the most manipulative best selling book series ever. You don't have to be faithful to source material to write a book, but you should at least be aware of it. Stephanie Meyer is a bad writer who relishes her ignorance of the vampyr history. For shame. Let's hope the subsequent panel at 4Pi-Con in August 2009 is just as enlightening!
A common thing with anime conventions is the late night rave. This was the worst one I've EVER been to. The music was completely generic, as if the DJ's were either poorly skilled or just apathetic. It got so bad, that I could swear they were just repeating the same tunes, like a bunch of artists who don't care about those who can tell the difference. I know a lot of people in the States aren't too familiar with trance music (techno is a completely made up word! There's no such thing as techno music!!) but that is no excuse to play on the stereotypes that raves are just about jumping around and gyrating. True Eurodance/hardcore is just as versatile and smoothing to listen to as any jazz piece. Get it right!
I didn't want to make assumptions so I listened to the generic beats for a long while on both nights. It was confirmed on the second night. They were REPEATING the same songs! What idiots do they take us for? And, furthermore (though this was no surprise to me) there was NO video game or anime music played during the total 8-hour length. Why do conventions always CLAIM that their dances have this if they aren't going to play them? Do they think people are so inane that they will not notice? Well, maybe...
Here's a link for Part II, chronicling Days 2 and 3!
Montage courtesy of Effrem Adams of myspace/badgonegood!