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4Pi-Con 2009 (August 21st - August 23rd, 2009) Crown Plaza Hotel, Pioneer Valley, MA Part II!
Posted on August 30, 2009 by

Day 2

The standard rule of sleep at conventions is about 5 hours. Having managed that, we now find ourselves at Day 2. Due to the greater timespan of events, I managed to check out the video game room, which I'll detail later. The first panel at 10 am was titled: It Came from the Internet. It was a discussion of memes and other famous things that started on the net, such as LOLCATS and the RickRoll. The website 4chan is responsible for most of this phenomenon, and due to their community's influence through the net, you do not want to get on their bad side, as disagreeable as they may be at times. In many ways, 4-chan is the essence of democracy and perhaps it should be.

11 am was a catch-up session, a kind of quick summary of several of the previous days' panels. This was a great idea that other conventions should really emulate, as it obviously isn't possible to attend panels that happen at the same time. The panel actually managed to do 13 panels in 60 minutes, very impressive.

12 pm was on the future of Star Trek. After the cancellation of Enterprise, things were looking bleak in the Trek universe. The show failed because it didn't accomplish what it was supposedly created to do; tell stories about the early history of the humanity in space. I can attest to its weakness, simply think of how the Romulans had cloaking devices and other powerful technology in the 22nd century, when the official timeline said they had no warp devices and only primitive nuclear weapons as an arsenal before the 24th century. Whoops, geeking out there a bit...

Anyway, due to the Star Trek reboot by J.J Abrahams being so successful, the future of ST is up in the air. Will they do a new Next Generation storyline in 10 years or so? I certainly hope so. We also discussed reboots of famous Trek storylines unaffected by the change in timeline, such as Khan and the Botany Bay. The panelists thought that Javier Bardem or perhaps Antonio Banderas would be great choices to play Khan in a new movie. I have to agree.

1 pm was the 2nd vampire panel, entitled "Not All Vampires Sparkle." After a similarly titled panel at Connecticon 2009, I expected the hosts to tear the Twilight series a new one. Much to my surprise, one of the hosts was actually a fan of it. I tell you, if the audience had been the same as at Connecticon, she would have been booed into submission.

As per the early vampire centered panel, this one delved more into the history of the vampyr, way before the time of Bram Stoker and his famous tale based on Vlad the Impaler (not very accurately, we were told). According to folklore, vampires stole blood and vitality from people, rather than killing them outright. Vampires were by nature secretive creatures that sought to blend in, hence not engaging in serial killings. The most interesting bit was that the person who was rich and most successful in a village was often suspected of vampirism, due to them being full of vitality compared to the weak, sullen nature of many townspeople. It definitely made sense for vampires to hide, as unlike in Twilight apparently, there were ways to kill them... Overall, this panel was not an anti-Twilight rant, but a rather enlightened discussion on the history of folklore. Good stuff.

Afterwards, I didn't attend any panels until the Devo Spice Concert, so I had time to spent in the game room. I only saw the room briefly on Friday, due to the lack of a constant supervisor. Because of this, they were unable to keep the room open due to the security risk. Luckily, some volunteers were nice enough to ensure that it would be open for the rest of the convention.

The room itself was a small room (about half the size of the video game room at Vericon 2009) but made up for the space with a quite the diverse game selection. There was a SNES, Gamecube, Wii, and PS2 hooked up with a good amount of games for each system. The Gamecube spent most of its time with Smash Brothers Melee and F-Zero GX, both of which I played for the first time. As with many of these types of games, the more the merrier. The Wii had Mario Party 8, which was surprisingly popular. Mario Party is a series that started off strong, and has gone downhill in pretty much every sequel. Playing this board game with 3 other people though, the problems are easily forgotten. And since Part VIII is the first on the Wii, the motion controls are used in some pretty creative and fun ways.

This Wii that was at the con had quite a few Virtual Console games that I wish I had tried, including Zelda II - The Adventure of Link and Metroid. These old school classics are always great for some quick fun! The SNES had some surprises, like NBA Jam and Super Metroid. The SNES hasn't been at cons as often as I would like, so definite points to Pi-Con for this choice!

The biggest attraction in the room was the projector set up with Rock Band. I've always been familiar with this game and how it and Guitar Hero have helped to popularize the rhythm genre in the US. But I never actually played it, until today. I think I was most interested in trying it due to the smaller crowd and setting. Kind of like I knew that no matter how bad I was at it, I wouldn't get booed... too much...

There was a dedicated group of people, including the room supervisors Amber and Justin, who were quite helpful in telling me how to play the game. Just because I was familiar with Dance Dance Revolution doesn't mean I could play Rock Band. And given that I only got 3 notes right the first time I tried, I was glad for all the help I could get. Thanks guys!

After playing it for a few hours, I could definitely hold my own on easy difficulty on all the instruments, my favorite being the drums. This is probably because it is most similar to the way DDR plays. The hardest for me were vocals. I thought it was very cool that you don't really have to know the lyrics to do well on vocals, as the game grades you on the pitch and tone of your voice. Definitely helpful for those who only know the words to one or two songs. Like me.

Time passes pretty quick when you get sucked into the world of Rock Band, and before I knew it was time for Devo Spice's concert at 4pm. Spice (Tom Rockwell) is a nerdcore rapper from New Jersey. Nerdcore is a music genre that basically consists of more "nerdier" topics, be it video games, the internet, what have you. The range of the field is one of the greatest in the music industry, with groups made up of pirates, ninjas in full costumes with swords, and other crazy stuff. You can tell that these groups care about having fun just as much as their music.

Devo performed songs on Twitter, Facebook, Atari, and pills among other things. I'm familiar with nerdcore due to the work of MC Chris, so it was fun to see what other genre artists wrote about. The performances were very amusing, with funny visual aids and audience participation. I've put a selection of Spice's performances online for you to check out.

6pm saw the most informative panel of the whole 4Pi-Con weekend, entitled "They Can't Put Me in Jail For That, Can They?" which was a discussion on the true nature of laws throughout the United States. What does being under 18 really mean? Did you know you could own a mortar in Texas? These and other great findings made this my favorite panel of the whole weekend. They really should include this at more conventions, if only to help people who are afraid of interacting with potential underage people; don't worry, you won't get thrown in jail, or WILL you? Guess you'll have to attend to find out!

They did have a dance starting at 8pm, focusing on steampunk, gypsy, cabaret and other types of music. I only managed to pop my head in for a few minutes, but definitely wish I had stayed longer. Most cons feature intelligible trance and very average dance music, so 4Pi-Con's shindig was a welcome change of pace. Anytime one can do an Irish jig with fiddle and violins, you know it will be a good time!

Day 3

The last day of a convention is usually a pretty quiet affair, with a marked decrease in attendance and panels that often feel like filler. I usually use the 3rd day to compile all the footage I shot or contact interviews. I did find some interesting panels to attend as well. 10 Am was Women of Power, a blanket discussion of powerful women in media, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Wonder Women. I'm glad that I was able to mention the Bene Gesserit due to their combination of fighting skill and beauty, which is usually one or the other in genre fiction.

The last panel at Noon was on Science in Science Fiction was disappointing, because it wasn't as the title described. I thought it would be a presentation pointing out what is possible in the confines of a sci-fi plot based on our current understanding of science. Unfortunately it was more about practical applications of science and technology. I didn't care for it and left early.

I ended up playing video games and Rock Band until the end of the convention. We ended up playing Guitar Hero II as well, due to it having a girl's favorite songs. Unfortunately, only one guitar was compatible with the game, so I had to use the controller. With practice, it is probably easier than using the guitar, but definitely a lot less fun. I'm really glad Rock Band came along to make the rhythm genre into a full on party experience, as only playing guitars seems so limiting now.

The con ended at 3:30-4 pm, so I helped clean up the game room until it was time for the feedback panel. It was fun talking to the staff/volunteers as we loaded their cars for the journey home. It turns out that Amber and others were veterans of Arisia in Boston, MA (which I keep pronouncing Arista). I hope to be there this January, I'm sure I'll see you there!

The feedback panel was the last event before I left for home. Such panels are really helpful to gauge the success of a con, and was pleased that it was well attended. Attendance is usually sparse at such panels despite how seriously cons take suggestions (at least I hope they do...) Several people wanted more video game tournaments next year. Rock Band's popularity is definitely proof that tourneys would be competitive and fun. Some also suggested a dedicated room with a PS2/Xbox 360 for non-Rock Band games. Even though there were other games for the PS2, no one was surprised that Rock Band was the choice game. A bigger game room in a small convention is definitely ambitious, and I'll bring whatever consoles/games necessary to make it happen.

The biggest complaints concerned the dealer's room, as it required passing through an isolated hallway to reach. Some vendors set up their wares in this hallway, a Dealer's Row, and it was difficult for some people to just push past them every time they wanted to check out the dealers (such people not being rude, they felt compelled to chat a bit with the sellers) I didn't go into the dealer's room much but I understand the issue. Suggestions included the dealers having all their tables in the center of the room, so one could pass by each in a row without problems. I only bought a few things this weekend, but I definitely favor this setup for next year.

Overall, 4Pi-Con was definitely the best small convention that I've attended this year. The efforts of Mr. Leuchtenburg and his staff are a firm testament that these events are only as good and creative as the people behind them. You don't need attendance in the thousands, lots of cosplayers, or typical panels to attract a crowd. 4Pi-Con had the most unique panels of any convention I've seen in awhile. Hoping to see you next year, guys!

Here's some highlights of Devo's Spice performance on Saturday!

Pills!

Atari 2600!

CGI overuse!

Is crowd funding the way of the future?

Absolutely. It gives power to the gamers by letting them pay for the games they want to see.
Nope. Crowd sourcing will be fine for a year or two until too many developers do not follow through with their games and waste our money.
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