Convention season is upon us now and with it the questions about acceptable behavior have reared their heads again.
Specifically you had Fan Expo Canada, which was March 7th thru March 9th. In an effort to drum up last minute sales, they sent out an email which included the line “escape the deep freeze this weekend – cuddle a cosplayer.”
This obviously caught the attention of several people and eventually was brought to the attention of Jill Pantozzi of the geek news site The Mary Sue. There was concern that the statement could be seen as encouraging the harassment of cosplayers. Pantozzi reached out to Fan Expo Canada to attempt to get a response on their intent with the ad. The response she got was that they had thought about pointing out that consent was implied but felt bringing focus to the rules all the time would hurt the fun of the convention. They did resend the ad but added “with consent” in brackets to the end of the statement. So far, the only official response to this has been to accuse the Mary Sue of being inflammatory and making false statements. As the convention just happened, I expect more news to be coming out about this story, in the coming weeks.
While this was going on, another issue occurred with the Capital City Comic Con in Austin Texas. The convention, which is going to be held this upcoming July, put out several fliers; one of these was a close up of Power Girl’s Breasts with the tag line “Everything is BIGGER in Austin.” When a commenter complained about this on the convention’s Facebook page, the convention replied that the flier was all in fun and questioned if the commenter had ever been to a convention. A couple of days, later the convention responded to the issue as it started going viral. They stated that both the staffer who made the comment and the designer of the flier were no longer with the con staff, and apologized to the fans for what had happened.
Standing in contrast to this is Emerald City Comicon. The same week the two issues above were occurring, ECCC posted an image of the anti-harassment posters that will be going up around their own convention. The title of the posters is “Cosplay is not consent, and it goes on to detail the convention’s anti-harassment policy, including who to go to if you are harassed and the penalties you face if you violate the policy.
The contrast in the above examples illustrates where we stand in geek culture, in regards to dealing with the issues of harassment and making events safe and inclusive.
On one hand, you have people who have not matured in how they deal with these issues but find themselves running conventions. They want to grab people’s attention and fall back on the old adage “sex sells.” Unfortunately, they do not consider the broader message of what they are putting out, nor how it can ultimately promote a hostile environment. It is not from a place of malice, but ignorance. The best way to handle it is to do what was done above and call them out. Make it clear that even if they don’t see the harm in it, harm is still there. The ones that are receptive to the message will thrive, and the ones that aren’t will find their reputation falter and their event suffer. The ones that take steps to make sure their events are promoted as a safe and inclusive space will find more people wanting to go, and can use it as a means to actually promote their event. With all the concerns about hostility in the convention scene, the ones that make sure you know they will do everything in their power to make sure you are safe will be the ones that ultimately thrive.
In the shadow of events like Aki Con, (where we saw the worst case scenario play out),and other ongoing tales of harassment, this is going to continue to be a hot button issue. I think this year is going to be very interesting in this regard, and I for one am interested to see how conventions actually play out.
I’ll keep an eye on things, and let you know what comes from this.
It’s time for San Diego Comic-con again.That time of year. when the title of Geek Capital of the World temporarily moves from Seattle to San Diego.
I’ll admit that I don’t feel as excited aboutSan Diego Comic-con as I use to. Last year I had such great plans about commenting on the news that came out of the convention daily, only for that news to either be rehash of what we already knew, of just hype about upcoming movies and TV shows.
I almost feel I could copy and paste my pre con post from last year and have it be almost as relevant this year.
Once again we will be treated to a focus on Movies and TV shows, many of which have no relationship to geek culture at all. A lot of cos-play will be featured and we will likely get a return of the pictures of guys acting inappropriately at female cos-players. And I am sure there will be plenty of coverage about the Twilight panel since, in theory, this will be the last panel for an upcoming movie.
My biggest cause for apathy however is not due to the content of the convention at all. It is based on the issue of attendance.
When I started going to San Diego Comic-con in the early 90s you could still show up at the convention and buy a membership at the door, or at least get a day pass. Not only are those days long gone, but now it is long odds to get any kind of membership at all. While they have not moved to a lottery system like Burning Man has, you do have to preregister into an online system just to have a shot at registering on line when the registration system goes live. This year they sold out in minutes, not hours, minutes. So basically you have several hurdles to jump to get a badge and if not, you are out of luck.
I understand this is due to a combination of the capacity at the San Diego Convention Center and the popularity of the event, but I still see it as a troubling sign. If people are frustrated in their efforts to go they may start just not bothering. Right now this may not seem like a problem, but if you go back and read my article Food of the Geeks you remember I pointed out that geek themed restaurant the AFK Tavern runs the risk of running off new clients due not having tables available to walk ins. It’s the same theory. After a while people may start saying “Screw it I’m not going to bother, there are other conventions I can go to that aren’t sold out.” And this is what can lead to an event’s decline.
The simple answer that inevitably crops up is move to a site with more capacity. As simple as that sounds there are complications. At this time San Diego Comic-con is signed to stay at the San Diego Convention Center through 2015. Every time the question of moving to a larger venue comes up the city of San Diego fights vigorously to keep the convention. Since last year it brought 162.8 million dollars to the local economy it’s not hard to see why. Part of this effort is a drive to expand the convention center, but as that would cost an estimated 750 million dollars it is far from a sure thing.
Anaheim and Las Vegas both are lobbying hard to try to draw the convention away as they do have venues that could accommodate a larger attendance, but they have a strike against them, and that is that they are not San Diego. The convention organizers are located in San Diego, so they have an interest in staying local.
While the attendance issue is a pressing one, there is another factor at play that could also contribute to a decline. The convention has drifted away from its original core. When news comes out of the convention, it is again the big media stories about those Movies and TV shows. Lost in the shuffle are those pesky comic books. Every year I hear stories about how it is harder and harder for comic book vendors to get booth space due to increased costs and competition for space with other better funded media vendors. The name may be Comic-con, but the focus is clearly on movies and TV.
One thing I have been hearing is that comic industry pros prefer shows like Emerald City Comicon as they still have a primary focus on comic books. And these shows are not lacking in attendance. I learned from a staff member at ECCC that this year’s attendance on Saturday was more than the entire weekends last year, and then they surpassed attendance estimations by several thousand. This has led to them securing the use of more of the Washington State Convention Centers facilities for next year.
What this adds up to is the potential for another convention to challenge San Diego Comic-con for the title of geek convention king. I for one this would be a good thing as it would give the fans more opportunities.
So here I sit waiting to see what will happen. I will of course pay close attention to what news comes out of San Diego Comic-con this year. If it is good information I will certainly write about it. If not, well I have other articles I am working on.
After a few days rest and the prep for another convention I am ready to look back on Emerald City Comicon.
For any convention after it is over there are two central questions to you need to ask to gauge it’s success: Did I enjoy myself and will I be back next year. For me the answer to both is a clear yes. I had a good time and I look forward to attending again.
With that covered there are a few things I would like to go over.
First is the size of the crowd. As I covered in the day two update attendance was so high on Saturday that the fire marshal shut down registration. One rumor I heard was that Saturday’s numbers were greater than all of last year’s. I can’t say for sure as I have not seen any officially numbers yet. ECCC has been a steadily growing convention, and has slowly been using more and more of the Washington State Convention center. Based on this year’s event they will probably need to use even more of the facility next year.
Due to some of the behavior’s I witnessed at the show, after I finish with Norwescon this upcoming weekend I will need to write more on con attending etiquette. Someone suggested I need to write a book on the subject, but let’s start with a couple more articles and see where we go.
The panels still tend to be centered on the comic book industry. Yes you have the media guests and they do get the biggest room, but the majority of the other rooms are used for panels based on the comic book industry. This has certainly given the show a good reputation in the industry and I hope they stay the course on this.
Cosplay was in fine form during the show. The one down side was that the area set aside for cosplay photo ops was right outside the main dealer floor. When the crowding happened on Saturday you could barely move.
And for those who were following my cosplay tally, here are the final numbers for the show.
·Doctor who: 29
·Captain America: 18
·Harley Quinn: 13
·Poison Ivy: 11
·Wonder Woman: 9
·Green Lantern: 7
·Black Canary: 4
·Iron Man: 3
·Death (from Sandman): 3
·Doctor Octopus: 2
·Green Hornet: 2
·Red Ranger: 2
·Doctor Horrible: 2
·Captain Hammer: 2
An Honorable mention goes to Hawkman. Only one person went as him, but his wings moved.
That wraps up this show. I will have a new post mid next week after I recover from Norwescon detailing how that show goes.
I am a proud resident of the Seattle area. I bring this up because I now live in the only state in the union that does not have any form of state sponsored tourism marketing. The State Government is encouraging private business to advertise our state’s virtues instead.
(I want to preface this with the statement that I do not make any income from anything related to tourism.)
I think that we here in the Seattle area have a potential for tourism that could be tapped. Appeal to geek culture.
One week a year the center of geek culture is San Diego California. I say we make a play for the other 51 weeks a year.
We have a head start. In Seattle we have the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of fame. We have Seattle Pioneer Square with the Seattle Underground tour.We have the original Game Works. We have PAX which is becoming, if not has become, the major convention for gaming, electronic or otherwise. We have Emerald City Comic Con, a fast growing comic book convention. We are the home of corporate headquarters for Amazon, Microsoft, Nintendo America, Wizards of the Coast and I Can Haz Cheezburger. The number of gaming companies of all sizes in this area is in triple digits.
So how do we do it?
Well first all those groups I mentioned above? They need to get together and start promoting Seattle as the place where geek culture comes from.
Next someone would need to build something that would be a year-round destination for the geek fans. Anyone remember the Star Trek Experience that used to be featured at the Las Vegas Hilton? Something along those lines that, but where it is the center piece of a whole center, maybe a resort.
Someone is thinking this is a good idea. In 2014 a Star Trek theme resort will be opening in Aqaba, Jordan. Now I don’t know about you, but even though I would love to go to a Star Trek resort, I do not see myself traveling to Jordan to do it.I could see people coming to Seattle to see it however.
Or how about a hotel that had rooms that were rigged to simulate being haunted. As long as I have the ability to turn off the effects when I want to I think that would be awesome, and could be a big draw every October.
However none of this would be a sure bet. In 1997 The Wizards of the Coast Game Center opened in the heart of Seattle’s University district. It was a complex dedicated to gaming and included a game shop, video arcade, a network of computers for LAN gaming, a tournament gaming area, and a twelve pod Battletech combat simulator. A gamer’s dream come true. It closed its doors just four years later. There has been a lot of analysis of what went wrong. Although mismanagement is the likeliest culprit, It stands in people’s minds are a failure of a geek centric venue being able to draw people in.
But does that mean no one should try again? Paul Allen didn’t think so when he opened the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in 2004. Housed in the same building as the Experience Music Project, the Museum is a collection of Memorabilia such as the Original Star Trek captain’s chair, and exhibits like the current Battlestar Galactica and Avatar exhibts. It also hosts the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Science Fiction Fantasy Short Film Festival in association with the Seattle International Film Festival. True it was folded into EMP last March, but it is still effectively a going concern.
Maybe we need to start a meme. “Seattle, Geek capital of the world.”