04/10/2009

ICON 28: “You’ve just been caught… in a mock turtleneck.”

by Matthew Hawkins

So yeah, ICON 28. It’s been a full week since I headed off to Long Island with the crew, and I guess a full rundown of all the hijinks that ensued is finally in order. But first, here’s what Katie had to say over at the forums, which bears repeating…

Just returned from ICON. A few (of many) highlights:

1. Some guy dressed as “V” (from V for Vendetta) having a nervous breakdown while leading a panel about anime because his classroom didn’t have a projector
2. An enormously fat woman cosplaying as something that looked like the chicken lady from Kids in the Hall crying and wailing into her cell phone saying things like “MOMMY I DIDN’T KNOW MY FRIENDS WERE GONNA LEAVE ME!! I NEED A RIDE!!”
3. Some dork running up to me and proclaiming himself the GAME MASTA (??)
4. A kid obsessed with two things: Pokemon, and a mall in Palisades, NY who rattled off every store they had for an hour
5. A boy in a girl’s sailor uniform who started talking to Hilary about anime, then later mistook me for Hilary and tried getting into another conversation to which I replied I “don’t know the animu”
6. A clan of people dressed as characters from Brawl, including the Ice Climbers who were twin sisters with completely dead eyes who were seen crying in the arms of two different characters from Earthbound

I am so exhausted and I have seen so much retardation that I feel I may never see things the same way again. I may or may not have post-traumatic stress disorder. Holy shit.

… Mostly because, honestly, there’s really not too much else to state. For a while, I was debating if I should even file a report at all and simply try to forget the whole thing even happened. Yes, ICON 28 was just that bad.

Though I should first and foremost thank all the people that came out to see me last weekend and lend their support, which was sincerely appreciated. Most especially to Katie and Hilary, whom I’ve already expressed my gratitude quite profusely, but seriously, without them I would have totally flipped out and probably strangled a few individuals. I also want to thank all my fellow guest speakers, each one of whom really stepped up to the plate and provided the right balance of education and entertainment when it came to video games related dialogue, especially given the circumstances. Speaking thanks should be given to this year’s track leader Sandra Dumas, who was literally thrown into the role at the last possible minute, yet did a phenomenal job, again considering how heavily the deck was stacked against us.

Now going in, I knew the show would be a trainwreck. But holy fucking shit (I know I have a tendency too curse to much, and in recent months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to lessen the foul language around here, but for this particular entry, I hope everyone won’t mind giving me a pass), I could have never anticipated how much of a truly epic fail ICON 28 would turn out to be.

As expected, the change in location proved to be a complete nightmare. The entire affair was spread across three separate locations, one college campus and two different hotels, each about twenty minutes from one another at best. To accommodate this situation, a bus service hired by the convention, and man did they ever screw up big time; they were super slow, super inconsistent, and flat out horrible throughout the entire weekend. Much of Katie’s, Hilary’s, and my time at the show was spent either waiting for or being on a bus, as it took it’s sweet time going from one location to the next, whatever that might be (one really had no clue). There was a schedule, but in the end, it hardly mattered. I would later learn that the bus drivers basically did whatever the hell they wanted; because they were supposedly “bored” of their designated path, the drivers opted to create their own route, something more “scenic”. Which, naturally, screwed everything else up like the schedule. Furthermore, there were also reports of them charging passengers to go outside their route per request. Also, one crucial stop, that being Dave & Busters, who was a major sponsor of the show, was never heeded. Yet one really can’t blame the convention’s organizers for this particular issue. They had no idea such nonsense would go down, and I would like to believe that they tried their best they could to get that situation under control (which still sadly did little good in the end).

But outside of the buses, pretty much every other issue was the direct result of the ICON committee’s poor planning and execution from top to the bottom. Back to the new venues: despite the show spreading apart physically, there was actually far less available space. Meaning, far less programming in general, and one of the definite highlights of ICONs past has always been aimlessly floating, from either one panel to the next, or one screening room to the next, to discover some batshit insane thing after another. Instead, what was offered appeared to be really out there compared to shows past, almost like a “best of” assortment, which actually made quite a bit of sense. And that there was pretty much the only sensible part of the whole show. For starters, the utilization of said limited space was beyond abysmal; I’m guessing the idea was to offer a little bit of everything across three locations, but instead, it would have made far more sense to designate certain locations as the primary hub for this and that. Take my Gamer’s Court session for example. For whatever stupid reason, it along with only one other e-gaming related panel took place at one of the two hotels while everything else went down at the campus. Now, I was later explained that none of the classrooms would accommodate the large number of people that my presentations traditionally bring out (a number which I knew would be severely diminished by the change in venue, and this was before shitty buses were part of the equation). Fine. But in the end, I was assigned a space that was actually far smaller than said classrooms. In fact, all the programming that evening in that exact location had the same issue, that being totally cast aside in lieu of some wedding that had taken up the large rooms.

Like I said, the thing to do at ICON is simply hop from one crappy panel to the next, mostly because there’s like 300 of them going all on at once, so it’s hard to grow bored. Yet when you’re stuck in a location that only has 3 going at once, and all of them fill up super quick, you end up having absolutely nothing to do but get drunk at the hotel bar.

Oh, and of course, there ended up being a lecture hall on campus that would have totally worked, but which most of us knew nothing about; a few panels took place there, though none of them seemed to warrant the extra room. Making matters worse was how there was usually something else going on at the same exact time that was forced to make do with ultra tight quarters elsewhere, which basically translated to certain programming directors being greedy and not sharing information or resources with everyone else. lol

There’s plenty to elaborate on when it comes to the quality of the programming itslef, but now might be a good time to mention the absolutely absurd cost of admission. A weekend pass went for $67… that’s even more expensive that the already pricey weekend pass at the New York Comic Con. You know, a real convention. Which only made the total lack of organization and logic behind the entire proceedings all the more frustrating, since it was literally ripping people off. The lowest point was perhaps the evening of day two, in which everything was falling apart at the seems, with stuff canceling left and right, and confused attendees asking those who should be in the know not just getting shrugged shoulders, but in the most rudest and annoying manner possible (I remember back in the day when all the teenage volunteers, aside from being super helpful, would all so friendly, but I guess that other rumbling, that kids these days simply sign up to get a free pass and then vanish, is apparently more than true), which made that hour and half wait for the bus all the more bitter. Then you had the completely underwhelming line-up of guests. I know it’s foolish to expect a Star Trek captain each year, and even though I think the guy is pretty decent, seriously, Sean Astin and that’s it? Okay, also a dude from Mythbuster. Wow. To be honest, I can’t say much about each individual track’s offerings, but I did hear that there was hardly any on the author side of things. Plus I also noticed a total lack of Peter David at the comics end of the show. Which is another wow, because that dude is at ICON literally every single year.

Once again, hardly any of these issues were at all a surprise; without going into too many details, I’ve actually been privy to the behind the scenes action for some time now and was expecting a massive clusterfuck of epic proportions. Still sucked to be get caught in the middle of it. And while I have no reason to choose my words wisely, due to fear of repercussions, since I am SO done with ICON and the people that run it, I also don’t want to totally embarrass certain people needlessly (everything I’ve mentioned could have been observed by an attendee, or simply checking out the ICON website/message board), though I will state that whenever certain people have tried to defend the show by explaining how all cons are this mind-meltingly disorganized, I have to scream bullshit. Because I know a few folks who happen to run shows and conventions, and while they are hectic, it’s never as bad as what went down. One response was been to mention how no one running the show is getting paid for what they do, and that it’s a labor of love, and blah, blah, blah. Whatever. It only validates what they say, how you get what you paid for. Have I mentioned yet the totally laughable website? I recall Angelfire and Geocities sites circa 1998 that were better put together. But before going any further, maybe it’s time for that rundown…

- Day one started pretty ominously. After Katie, Hilary, and myself checked into our hotel, Sandra drove us to the Suffolk County Community College, and with the thick fog in the air, it totally felt like Silent Hill country. Once we got our badges via the tent (all ticket purchases and pick-ups took place in tents set up outside, which meant a very long line of kids in the cold, windy rain, which apparently moved at a snail’s pace), we hung out inside and waited for the dealer’s room, which took forever to open up. Soon it was time for me to talk, and I had my first two panels of the weekend: one was on sequels that people want/don’t want and the other was on the Wii and why it rocks/blows. Both went as well as could be expected. Because none of the programming on campus later that evening seemed particularly compelling, the three of us decided to move onto the Marriott, so we waited for the bus. And waited. And waited. For almost an hour. When it finally arrived, the trip itself almost took another hour.

This is also when Hilary made her first friend, some gooney dude dressed in a Japanese schoolgirl outfit. He was apparently cosplaying as some character in some obscure anime. Which is fine and all. Anyhow, the dude had just purchased a box set of Full Metal Alchemist, which was the initial basis of the conversation. Then a funny thing happened: the conversation stopped, and then Hilary decided to sit behind me, I’m guessing to avoid any further dialogue with said dork. I must admit, one endlessly entertaining thing the entire weekend was witnessing both Hilary and Katie interact with assorted weirdoes that you’ll only find at ICON, mostly how they’ll try their best to be friendly at first, but then they have this look on their face where it’s clear that they’ve mentally thrown in the towel. Anyhow, back to the scenario: for whatever reason, Katie next decided to sit where Hilary was at originally, and then the dork decided to resume the conversation, and went on and on and on, assuming Katie was Hilary. Yet at the same time, he kept looking right at Hilary. But still thought Katie was Hilary. Katie was not able to follow along, hence the “I don’t know the animu” but it didn’t stop him from continuing to rattle on. The bottom-line is that many folks who go to the show are socially awkward (obviously) and the show provides many of them the sole opportunity to interact with others with similar interests. Though unfortunately, many are not so much interested in engaging in dialogue, they just want the chance to get on their soapbox and rattle on.

- After finally making it to the Marriott, both girls went to AMV (that’s anime music videos for you noobs out there) competition, while I decided to check out some of the other panels going on. Spent a grand total of three seconds at one simply entitled Human Experimentation. It was just…. too much for me. Instead I checked out Superhero S&M, hosted by this soft-spoken Southern gentleman (who reminded me of Richard Christy, legendary metal drummer and personality for the Howard Stern Show) that was also a tad bit on the creepy side. I know. The dude tried to explain the connection between costumed heroes and assorted sexual fetishes from over the years. Most of it was pretty obvious to your average super hero fan, though I did learn a few interesting tidbits, like how Professor X once gave a member of the New Mutants a spontaneous orgasm (granted he was supposedly evil at the time, but I still need to see that for myself). The best part was when these two girls dressed up as the original Silk Spectre came into the room, and all of a sudden the speaker became very excited, who then explained: “Welcome ladies, I was just about to talk about your daughters and how kinky she is.” They stuck around for a grand total of two minutes, which broke the heart of our pervy southern host: “But I really needed a picture of those two… oh well.” At about the time the dude pulled out his own box of costume paraphernalia, to help illustrate what you can do at home to live out your super sexual hero fantasizes, I finally had to bolt. I then rejoined Katie and Hilary in the AMV room, catching the final part of the final vid, which combined Dragonball Z and the Curly Shuffle. Apparently they were all just as wretched. But we figured that the night would soon redeem itself, because it was time for what was certain to be a rocking good time, the panel entitled Tentacles Don’t Know When No Means No.

Now, one of the main selling points of the show to Hilary and Katie has always been the wacky panels, hence why this year’s offering seemed especially promising (again, it definitely felt especially insane, which is a good thing). But most importantly, how in the hell does one fuck up a panel on tentacle rape? I asked that once before, and yet again, that’s precisely what happened. Whereas two years ago it was due to poor planning, this particular session succumbed to a common problem at ICON: they get some nerd up there, who might know a lot about something, enough to run a panel, but instead of offering insight or dialogue pertaining to the topic on hand, he or she develops a swelled head due to all the attention finally being centered on them. And make no mistake, ICON is mostly an ego trip for certain individuals, myself included, but at least I try to keep things somewhat professional. First off, it took almost forever to get the A/V set-up (that was another minor issue throughout the weekend, but in this instance, people including the host were taking their sweet fucking time and for no reason… actually, I believe I just explained why, and there’s a pretty clear distinction between building up anticipation and just being a retard). Next a clip was shown of some wacky hentai from the 80s called Wounded Man, by the same writer and artist duo that gave the world Crying Freeman; aside from the hilariously bad mistranslation (from Hong Kong I believe), it featured a naked dude that just goes around tackling women as if he was playing football, and then rapes them. That alone was enough to forgive the total lack of tentacles, but when you have something so utterly captivating, why the hell not just let the damn thing play and speak for itself? Because everything thinks they Joel fucking Hodgson and that they’re the host of Mystery Science Theater. Though the bigger issue is how when people think they’re funny, 99% of the time they most certainly am not. Also, the “LOL Japan!” sentiment works in a number of contexts, but at a goofy convention filled to the gill with animu dorks, you’re just proving to everyone that you have absolutely nothing to bring to the table. About five minutes into the bullshit, Katie declared, ““I need a drink.” as did the rest of us, hence our prompt exit.

- The remainder of night was spent at the Marriott lobby, waiting for the next bus, which he had no real idea was going to arrive (all around, everyone kept talking about how the schedule was not be heeded). Here’s another stupid thing that blew my mind: you’d think at of all places, some ritzy hotel bar would know how to mix booze. Not here. Hilary’s assumption is that they simply severely watered down everything, which I believe. The most enjoyable part here was when we all spotted this large gaggle of kids dressed up as assorted Smash Bros characters, and I simply had to get a pic of the two girls dressed up as the Ice Climbers (among other things, their hammers were really friggin’ nice). But when I approached them about taking a pic, I realized that they in the midst of a heating argument amongst one another, aka Katie’s highlight #6 from above.

Once the bus finally showed up, we all witnessed yet another massive screw-up on the part of the ICON committee. So all the kids on the bus (the Smash Bros crew mostly, save for ONE guy, who I’ll get to in just a minute) were expecting to get back on campus since that’s where their cars were parked. But then the driver informed us that it was not possible, the campus was closed at this point of the evening (it was fairly late), and that all the kids were effectively stranded. I believe the driver pointed out that they should have known about the closing of the campus, but none of that was mentioned anywhere on the con’s schedules and the like. When one of the kids asked if the driver could simply let them off anywhere near the campus, like the 7-11, which truth be told was not even that close to the school, the driver said no, it’s on his route and that would be breaking some sort of agreement (obviously, this guy wasn’t one of the others who would go sightseeing later in the weekend). The only option was for them to call campus security to arrange something, but thankfully, an ICON representative made the arrangements for the gate to be open. Now here’s what upsets me, and this also pertains to the weekend as a whole: I haven’t even scratched the surface as to why the entire show was such a dismal failure, but rest assured, it will be just as bad next year. Why? For whatever reason, everyone who goes to ICON are just way too laid back and take everything in stride. I personally would have lost my shit on the bus if I were told that I wad denied access to my vehicle, but everyone was so calm and relaxed about it. Which is normally the right thing to do, but I just wished more people would take and stand and let the powers that be know how totally fucked up everything was. Anyhow, the entire scene was just so sad, as well as ridiculously frustrating; at least the three of us were able to find solace via the YouTube application on my iPhone, mostly by reciting the lyrics from this video over and over again (nerd rap and rock gives me douche chills, but that shit is the real deal motherfuckers).

Back to that non-Smash Bros cosplaying kid, otherwise known as #4 on Katie’s list; for whatever reason, she decided to make chit-chat with this person, who was playing Pok?mon Platinum. Which went okay at first, but much like Hilary earlier that same evening, there was a point where Katie realized that she had gone too far, hence the decision to withdraw from the conversation. And the kid simply continued on by speaking with himself. Again, once you get some shy, withdrawn people started, it’s instant diarrhea of the mouth. Now, I can’t remember how he jumped onto the topic, but next thing you know, Pok?fan began to expound on the virtues of the Palisades Center with such passion (the fact that we all live in the city, nor Hilary’s blanket statement of “I just hate malls” would not deter the guy). Too bad the three of us were so annoyed and exhausted, otherwise we would have found the kid entertaining. Once we finally rolled into the Holiday Inn, our home base, the three of us totally passed on the Open Filk and simply made a beeline for our room to crash. Though not before Katie called some kid a virgin for getting in her face and proclaiming himself “the Game Masta”. See: #3.

- I totally missed out on breakfast the following morning, along with Katie and Hilary’s trek into the console gaming room afterward, where both girls where given the evil eye by one of the chicks manning the room. Like I said, the volunteers they got this year were just a bunch of fucking assholes. Anyway, it was time to get back on that bus; with us was Rorschach, drinking coffee…

Also along for the ride was that annoying Pok?mon/Palisades Center superfan who literally tried poking me to get his attention. There was also this car in the Holiday Inn parking lot next to us, which both Katie and Hilary found pretty entertaining, though it’s interesting what becomes old hat if you’ve been to ICON enough times…

Soon we were back on campus for day two. And at last, a good amount of cosplayers were finally floating around, like Naked Snake here…

… And hey, it’s Duke Nukem…

… Both girls were both amazed and horrified that the dude was utilizing real shot gun shells. Anyhow, it was off to the dealer’s room, to kill some time before my next panel. So how was it this year? Pretty lame. I mean, it’s been mostly useless for a couple of years now, thanks to the advent of the internet, but it was especially bad this year. Many of the sellers that one have come to expect were noticeably absent, like the sword sellers (in their case, Suffolk County Community College didn’t want any selling of weapons, even fake ones, on their grounds). I have no idea why Zenbock, my fave Vulcan that hosts of a sci-fi cable access show/plays in rhythm and blues cover bands across Long Island/usually has a table selling crappy Egyptian art was also nowhere to be seen (yet another spectacle I promised Hilary and Katie that did not come through).

Still, a few interesting finds were to be had, like this stack of Dazzler #1s for just a buck…

Man, does Gainax love milking the Evangelion franchise or what…

… Too bad my pic of the Eva girls as traffic cops didn’t turn out so hot, but more on the franchise’s supposed bastardization a bit later. Anyway, here we have some kid playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fighting game on a multicolored Super Famiclone…

… Sucks that the Genesis version is much better, imho. Though the thing to get at ICON is forgotten sci-fi books…

… There’s literally stacks and stacks of this stuff. One can also find plenty of cosplaying accouterments, like cat ears, which Katie actually tried on! And pictures were taken, but since she insists that I not share any that she feels might be “stupid” I will instead only pass this one of Nurse Florido…

This trio from Resident Evil 4 sure did impress…

And here we have our quarreling Ice Climbers from the night before. I’m guessing their costumes were too good to allow a rift to get in the way…

… Man, those hammers they created was simply awesome. Oh, and here’s a girl dressed as one of the evil Decepticon jets…

… The fact that I can’t remember his name either proves that I’m really getting old or how I truly do not give a shit about Transformers anymore. Anyhow, here’s two dudes as pirates that I found especially entertaining…

… As an aside, my birthday is coming up, and for those of you wanting to know what to get me, all I can say is that I have all the video games and creepy little figures of half naked girls from Japan that I really want already, so a new camera that would prevent pictures like above would be awesome. One that could also be used to film my impending cable access show would be great as well.

Moving on, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this guy/taken his pic before, but who cares, NiGHTS just flat out rules…

Creepy dudes and girls with FREE HUGS signs are dime a dozen at such shows, but at least this dude was a tad bit more original and entertaining…

- My first panel of the day was The Best Games You’ve Never Head Of, which as hoped, provided both the audience as well as the panelists a long list of games that no one knew existed. Which naturally provided me with the chance to talk about Love Love 2, which Dave Gilbert actually first brought up, because he’s actually played it (I brought it into class one day), and who loves to tell everyone that I’ve played pretty much every single game that’s under the sun (not quite, but close to it). Afterwards was Careers In The E-Gaming Industry, which went fairly well, though hardly anyone was interested in a career in video game journalism. I wonder why! Also, when I explained that video game schools in generally were somewhat unnecessary, I ruined at least one kid’s hopes and dreams, whose accompanying parent then gave the “see, I told you they’re a stupid idea” dirty look.

Due to my schedule, I had to miss a bunch of other panels that I really wanted to catch parts of, like Yo Mama Anime Fight and Man Bits Insect. And instead of further boring me, Katie and Hilary decided to check out the Explanation of Evangelion topic, which I they would explain to me afterwards was a mind-blowing affair. I’ve actually been meaning to ask Hilary to file a mini-report on the show, mostly from an anime fan’s point of view, but mostly to expound upon that hour, since she is after-all my animu correspondent for this blog, but simply haven’t had the chance, so I’ll just repeat the basic gist as I understand it: some dork dressed as V from V from Vendetta trying to provide a lecture on Neon Genesis Evangelion, and having a complete mental breakdown in the process. Mostly because he had this whole gigantic PowerPoint presentation set-up, but the projector wasn’t working, so he had to freestyle it. Which meant him “explaining” the entire show and its accompanying movies, mostly to people who know a whole lot more about than him, and getting loads of stuff wrong, as well as insulting everyone’s intelligence. Hilary noted that he’s analysis of it’s use of symbolism was particularly douchey, as well as how he went into the extremely trite and tirade path of how such an such American distributor of such and such Japanese product (in this case, ADV) doesn’t fully understand and appreciate what they’re peddling, which is such utter bullshit to anyone who knows anything. Oh, and apparently, this guy tried to touch Hilary’s hand at one point, but was scared away by Katie’s “whatthefuckdoyouthinkyouaredoing” look.

Anyhow, this guy was doing his presentation all over again, this time with all the A/V elements in place, and Hilary and Katie insisted that I check it out. Which is what I did. And granted, seeing someone totally have a meltdown in front of an audience and while in costume is nothing new to me (I still have fond memories of the vampire pirate Lockane many years ago, who aside from yelling at his computer for going to sleep, and spoke of a perfect universe in which women that while fucking you can hack your bank account with their minds plus shoot you with tits that have guns at the end, tried to convince use that he had the ability to fly and shoot fireballs, but could no due to everyone in the room being “non-believers”), it’s still endlessly fascinating. So V had two laptops set-up, one to record himself (dear God, I need to see this ASAP) and the other with the PowerPoint itself, manned by some fat goth girl who didn’t know how to use PowerPoint, so she kept screwing up his spiel, and that the three of us would determine after the fact was not a friend like you’d think but just some random stranger roped into it. The entire thing was given while wearing his goofy mask, which made it very heard for him to speak, plus he was hyperventilating anyway, so at points he had to take a break by downing some water. But because he couldn’t take the mask off, he had to use a straw, which was fine until he put the bottle down on a table, not realizing that it was also resting on his cape, so when we went to move, the bottle began to tumble and V had to make a comical save. In the end, he caught it, but the straw went inside, and we all could read his “oh great, what the hell do I do know” expression, despite the goofy garb getting in the way. I guess you just have to see this all to understand how much of a spectacle it all was.

So this fucker spoke for a solid hour plus about Evangelion, which was supposed to serve as a primer to those unfamiliar with the series, but around the 40% mark just started going on all these tangents and tirades, like how his mom strongly disapproved of his liking of the show, by providing this super long and practically implausible quote, mostly because when my dad didn’t like the shit I was into, he simply kept it nice and short: “I think that shit is gay.” The best part is how he disclosed how he became a fan of the show after being first exposed to it on Cartoon Network (yeah, I know, lulz) which was like in 2005, and how after the fact he disclosed to us he was 23. So you’re telling me that his mom had such a problem with him watching Eva at the age of 20, 21?!?! I can think of a few other reasons for her to be pissed at him at such an age. Though the best parts was his assumptions of various things, like his completely nonsensical conclusion that the latest Eva movies, which are remakes and reboots of the original television series, actually takes place afterwards. Oh boy…

… Then there was the so-called raping of the franchise, the condemning of people of buying all the Eva related fan service-ish stuff, who clearly do not appreciate the source material. Never-mind that all that stuff is also produced by Gainax themselves! I could go on. And so did this guy; I especially loved how he began talking about the still in the works live action movie, and how Emma Watson would have been perfect in the movie as Asuka, which is quite true…

… At least talk about a live action Eva movie made sense. Past the hour mark he began fantasy film casting for a bunch of other anime to live action translations, which was also when some dude who was with the panel afterward barged in and wondered what the fuck was taking so long. So V rushed through his remaining 20 left over slides and then it was finally over. No time for question and answer, which really pissed me off. I still can’t believe Katie and Hilary sat through two hours of this idiot’s ramblings. Afterwards, he had to talk to this guy, and found ourselves sharing the elevator down. The guy was steadfast about not revealing any personal info, but as soon as Katie asked for his age, he immediately supplied it. I then asked him a general question, to ease into the kill, but we immediately became bored and all of a sudden ditched the guy.

- Back to the dealer’s room: here’s some Gurren Lagann guy that Hilary found particularly hilarious…

I have zero clue what this dude is about…

This guy, as Old Snake, was easily one of the best damn things about the weekend…

On our way to the Marriott, we spotted this totally sweet ride in the SCCC parking lot…

Once there, we immediately ran into Master Chief! Or at least his kid sister…

… I forgot to mention how there was a Master Chief helmet in the dealer’s room that Katie spotted on Friday night, and for a really good price I’d like to think, which unfortunately got snatched up immediately, which led to quiet heartbreak. Oh well. Well here she is with an amusing drawing of a cat…

Hilary absolutely loves old books, and not surprisingly she had a ball going the large assortment of stuff that was simply there to be given away. My fave cover there had to be…

… I myself ended up getting an old Alf comic from the late 80s, as well as an old Street Fighter comic from the early 90s, published by Malibu. Scans will be forthcoming. Anyhow, we still had some time to kill, which meant even more drinks, plus more fun with the iPhone, this time rocking out to assorted donk remixes

Soon it was finally showtime. I had a lot of anxiety going in, since the Game’s Court concept heavily depended on audience participation, and I figured that no one would be around. In that sense, the painfully small room helped make things seem bigger than what it really was, especially when it became crowded near the end. Yet not helping was the total lack of air conditioning and the funk from the panel before; Hilary went in to investigate beforehand, and came back to whisper in my ear, “It smells like snatch in there.” But once things got started, all was fine, though it didn’t quite turnout how I had envisioned. How it worked, or was supposed to work, was like this: someone from the audience has a viewpoint, or a beef mainly, related to video games, and they would come up to state their case. Then hopefully, someone else who feels differently would then also come up, the two would debate, and at the end, I would ask the audience, aka the jury, their thoughts on who was the winner. Maybe again it was due to the lack of potential participants (another notable absence that entire weekend was my groupies, who I was really banking on being present that particular hour), but I was really hoping for people to come up to air grievances along the lines of “FINAL FANTASY SUX!!” Instead, a lot of it was pretty technical, which along with the shot of whiskey immediate beforehand, was a bad combination, because I totally began to space halfway through a debate regarding real-time strategy games. Hence why the final two arguments I mistakenly award the wrong person the winner. But at least I was able to make my jokes, plus the games I gave away were a real big hit, including Retro Game Master, Avalon Code, and Sonic and the Black Knight… Thanks XSEED and Sega!

- Afterwards was a bunch of panels that I figured would provide the most laughs of the entire weekend, and therefore justify the entire trip for Katie and Hilary. First up was the NC-17 Fanficition Panel, which is where Gamer’s Court took place, or the room that smelled like snatch. It was by far the most annoying and insulting hour the three of us spent that entire weekend, which is saying a lot. It was basically hosted by these two “hot chicks” going over the do’s and do not’s of erotic fanfiction. Which was retarded because it was more or less entirely based upon their personal tastes, and I’m sorry, but when you’re writing stories featuring intellectual properties that you have no ownership (already I see somewhat of an issue, but I’ve already said my peace about such things plenty of times) sticking objects up their asses, the last thing you need to heed are some completely arbitrary and ridiculous rules. If some people get off on one creatures with three legs getting it on, as opposed to those with four legs, who the fuck are these idiots to pass judgment. But it was mostly a chance for said nitwits to “demonstrate” all these sexual positions for the entire audience. So you two have an active sex life, we fucking get it, and even those of us who get some on a regular basis still finds such showboating insulting. Best part was how this crazy person from another fanfaction panel from years ago, who if I’m not mistaken wrote some 100 chapter fanfic based on Final Fantasy X that she refuses to allow anyone to read, had to chime in to get a piece of the spotlight. What annoying narcissists.

Next was how to Pick Up Chicks. But instead of it being two wiccans explaining to 100+ virgin males that soap is a good thing in a completely serious, non-ironic tone, and all of them scribble said info down furiously, also quite seriously, it was just some married couple giving advice in a very Burns and Allen-type fashion to those that, from my vantage point, had no trouble with the opposite sex, or outwardly shouldn’t. And while I had no problems hearing why this particular couple talk about how they came to be (they weren’t nearly as annoying as the , it just wasn’t the trainwreck that I was anticipating (nor promised). Though the biggest problem here was how this same couple was also going to host Gamer Sex 101 and 201, which I was also banking on being comedy gold (you know, the “parody panel” for dorks who like to pretend that they have sexoholic girlfriends that won’t leave their cocks alone long enough to finish their D&D game), so the three of us once again had to hit the bar, mostly because NOTHING else was going on. Jesus Christ. There was one final beacon of hope, a panel on furries and tattoos. Which naturally, didn’t happen. I tried gathering information, and no one who should know why did, nor could they be bothered. Just splendid. At least we got to witness some girl, who vaguely looked like the chicken lady from The Kids In The Hall, crying into her cellphone to mom, about how her friends had abandoned her. Oh, then there was this other dude, one of the A/V guys, who showed us his own furry art.

I also at least got to run into the twin Silk Spectres. They were SO cute and easily one of the biggest hits at the show…

- By the time we got back to the Holiday, Katie had enough. It was her first show of this kind, and it was giving her a massive headache. That left just Hilary and myself to hit the masquerade. Which, like years past, was a chance for everyone, regardless of who they were, or whoever the hell they were supposed to be, to shut up and dance. Or at least try to. The biggest hit here being Old Snake once again…

… The music was what you would expect from a Long Island DJ’s iPod who traditionally does guideo weddings, but this weekend, has to make Jedis and InuYashas bust a move. Including the Cotton Eye Joe song, which everyone knew the moves to. Well, you know, Long Island.

Another superstar of the dance floor was “Tuxedo Matt” as Hilary and Katie dubbed him. Apparently there was some dude on the show floor dressed like Tuxedo Mask, who vaguely looked like me. So of course I had to dance with the guy…

Oh my God, it’s the Undertaker!!! I naturally wished him well in his big Wrestlemania 25 match the very next day…

The night ended up with a fire alarm that woke everyone up around 4 in the morning. It was, needless to say, annoying as hell. Mostly because it took us forever to fall asleep in the first place. I’ve never had problems with beds at the Holiday Inn near ICON, but that weekend had quite a few firsts. After trudging out into the cold for no real reason (but hey, better safe than sorry I guess), Katie and I struggled to fall back asleep by zoning out on a combination of Animal Planet and assorted infomercials. It was basically the night that wouldn’t end.

- The morning of day three, Katie wasn’t feeling so hot, so she decided to head home early, as did Hilary. A wise move indeed. The final day of ICON is always somewhat quiet and depressing, the “party’s over” atmosphere is pervasive throughout, but more so this time. I tried my best to find something interesting, anything, in the dealer’s room and all I could really dig up were these commemorative Star Trek and Star Wars plates…

… I at least found my favorite dealer, who specializes in assorted little plastic figures from Japan of mostly nude girls, but new this year were various scenes of people being scared to death of ghosts (I purchased a bunch, but don’t have pictures handy, maybe next time). I actually spent much of that day asking various people what they thought of the show as a whole, the dealers in particular. The average dip in sales across the board was at least 50%, though I heard as low as 70% from some, enough to put doubt on whether they’d come back. The reasons were fairly obviously and everything I’ve already mentioned: the high-ticket prices, the fact that most of the programming is nowhere nearby (the dealer’s room was always a great chance for those wanting to kill time between panels, and do a little impulse shopping). Yeah, it was a real ghost town, though there was still some cosplayers to found, like Lil’ Master Chief!

… Who for whatever reason was hanging out with the Silk Spectres! And here’s a duo from Eva…

… That jackass from behind, or at least his ilk, were actually all over the place. It was practically come point and laugh day at ICON. This is when I began to grow especially depressed; I’ve always had a soft spot for the show, warts and all, but it was practically seeing your once favorite uncle make a complete ass of himself at a holiday function. Or perhaps a more appropriate analogy, though less people will probably grasp, was seeing your once big-time professional wrestler in some shit down, trying to relive the glory days that have clearly passed.

It was noted in one of the panels I spoke at that afternoon, by Steven Glicker, how ICON was always this little thing that not too many knew about, but always got the same people coming out for, year after year. Which is true, the thing has its diehards, who have been there since day one, twenty-eight years ago, and who will perhaps continue to return for another twenty eight. But then all of a sudden, just a few years ago, it became really popular and all these people began flooding in. But now, perhaps due to the change in venue, the dropping of the ball from various people behind the scenes…. as well as other circumstances, such as the shit economy… perhaps ICONs heyday has finally come to its end. I forget if I mentioned it before, but the main reason why I got involved in the behind the scenes last year in the first place was because of the rumor how, due to the impending loss of their Stony Brook home, it was going to possibly move to the Jacob Javits Center to New York City. Perhaps it for the best that such a bold move was not taken, but then again, I can’t help wonder what could have been. Maybe it was ICON’s one big grand opportunity to make it big, forever lost?

Time for one last pic, of one of the numerous aforementioned ICON diehards: it’s Filthy Pierre…

… Hey Mike, FYI, the dude’s a Libertarian.

- My final three topics are all a blur. mostly conjecture of what is yet to come in the world of video games (in-between was one on sandbox games, which I knew nothing about, but kicking things off with “Grand Theft Auto is the worst thing to happen to vide games, ever” did the job of getting people worked up, and then talking for the next hour). Myself and Dave Gilbert had to jet halfway through my final topic in order to make the last train out of Brentwood, unless we wanted to stay another three hours in town waiting for the next one. Again, it was fun while it lasted, but all good things, yada yada. And I know everyone keeps pointing out how I basically said the same thing last year, but I really meant it. I swear!

It’s also been stated numerous times by assorted people from behind the scenes, how video games is really the red-headed step child of the show, and it especially evident at ICON 28. And because I have decided to completely walk away from the organization, I’m curious to see what will become of electronic gaming at the northeast’s largest fantasy, science fiction, and science fact spectacular. At this point, I could honestly care less. Perhaps now is the time to finally do something that folks like Jason and Joe Simko have been clamoring for… fort90con anyone?

One last ICON related note: for additional pics, please refer to this set from my personal furry photographer, “EarlMadness” (apologizes if me constantly pointing that out annoys you… and thanks for the recommendations regarding which furry panels to check out; unfortunately, due to the shitty buses, we missed all of them). The best of the rest of my pics should be on Flickr sometime soon, maybe with the aforementioned Katie wearing cat ears pic!

I suppose it also bears mentioning that shortly after exposing her to so much soul cancer, Katie has been trying to learn the Haruhi Dance. Perhaps the legacy of ICON shall live on more so than anticipated?
________________________________________________________________________________

Not too much to speak off regarding the week that followed. So draining was ICON, along with all the other things I had been working on the weeks leading up to it, that I’ve basically been “on vacation” mode. Though one thing of note: my follow-up interview with Rodney Greenblat was just published at Gamasutra, regarding his return to video games. Check it out! Next time I’ll be back with plenty of video game talk, and maybe even a review of The Fast & The Furious 4.

And don’t forget, there’s now only a week till the deadline of the Persona 4 fan art contest. Time to start drawing if you’ve been meaning to, but just haven’t had the time!

  • Shawn.I

    It was a bit depressing that ICON 28 was my first ICON despite living so close to the con for most of my life. From that point of view, the con was quite disorganized and far too spread out.

    That being said, I caught you’re panel on “Games You’ve Never heard Of,” (which is how I found your site) and really enjoyed it. i was surprised that there actually were quite a few games I hadn’t played before like Love Love 2. I missed the “Careers in the E-gaming Industry,” and wish I could have. I’ve been looking into getting into video game journalism, even if only for an internship, though I know it’s quite difficult at times.

    Perhaps the closest thing for a large video game convention in the Northeast area, will be when PAX goes to Boston next March. Not exactly New York or Long Island, but only a few hours’ drive.

  • http://www.fort90.com/journal/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=1 Matt

    Hey there Shawn. First off, always good hearing from someone via the show. Honestly, it’s the main reason why I always made the trek, year after year; it’s been a blast meeting and interacting with new folks. Which will also be the number one thing I’ll miss from moving on.

    And yeah, it really does kill me that the powers that be can’t seem to take video games seriously. SO many gamers are present each and every year, and not just those that like to cosplay as their favorite characters. Not addressing such an audience is such a shame, as well as flat-out idiotic on so many levels. For one, having the largest show in NYC to cater to gamers would seem to be, I dunno, a great chance to make lots of money. But I guess that’s why I’ve decided to walk away… there comes a point in which stating the obvious, over and over again, just becomes tireseome.

    Anyhow, glad you enjoyed the Games You’ve Never Heard Of topic. For everyone else out there who couldn’t make it, Scott Price actually wrote down every single game that was mentioned and compiled the list, along with handy links, over at this blog: http://www.textuality.org/2009/04/the-best-games-youve-never-heard-of.html

    As for the Careers panel, as noted, not a single person was interested in hearing about a possible career in game journalism. Too bad you weren’t there! It’s an awesome gig, provided you can get your foot in the door. Then again, perhaps everyone knows that the opportunity these days are far and few between.

    Regarding PAX coming to the East Coast, I had heard about it, but nothing definite. If it really does become a definite, even if it’s Boston, that would be super swell. I personally have always felt weird for not checking it out already, given that I’m originally from Washington State. Though one should also consider VGXPO in Philly, which keeps getting bigger each year. And too bad Mag Fest is way down in Virginia…

  • tiesto

    Hey Matt, nice writeup! Was looking forward to this… and once again it was cool getting to see you, and finally meet Katie and Hillary. Anyways, I just wanted to say, the girl dressed up in the Decepticon costume is a friend of mine, she’s a cool girl.

  • http://www.fort90.com/journal/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=1 Matt

    Sup Luke. Yeah, glad you could finally make it out this year! And as always, it was great seeing your buddy Dan. I forget, is on the forums?

    Anyway, since I won’t be running into you at ICON (I feel the need to say this over and over again because no one believes me that I’m not coming back!), next time either of you are in town, drop me a line! We should definitely hang.

  • ryan

    I cannot get enough of the video you linked.

    Big Red in the back with so much soul
    Make snacks and operate the remote control

  • http://www.fort90.com/journal/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=1 Matt

    Yeah, it pretty much is one of the best things ever.

  • Sandra Dumais

    Hey Matt,

    Read your review…lol!.

    Yea some things were pretty stupid, what can I say.

    Did you read my email to the board?

    Thanks again to all of you that came and made the E-Gaming track run so smoothly with your professionalism and genuine interest in making it happen.

  • Sandra Dumais

    OH and I want to add a potential category to your cable show: midget porn.

  • http://www.fort90.com Matthew Hawkins

    Sandra! Good hearing from you. And yes, I did catch your goodbye and good luck email.

    As stated numerous times, I am so done and over with ICON (a sentiment that I must repeat over and over again, since some still remain unconvinced). Yet, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a tiny part of me is morbidly curious as to what the future holds for ICON in regards to e-gaming, as well as the show as a whole. Basically, I too was gonna ask to be removed from their internal email list, but that would mean missing out on some potential comedy gold.

    i just know that sooner or later, someone is going to email me from the con, and you know who, asking me to once again lend assistance. Hopefully by then I will have figured out the perfect type size that will make my response of “LOL” feel just right.

    And as for midget porn? YES.

  • http://powstudios.com/ Betson Thomas

    Damn Matt! Didn’t realize things went down like this. But I guess having the ability to commute back to your own cozy place makes things nicer :) Meant to drop you a line earlier, but got lost in dev.

    Sorry to hear that you won’t be back at ICON anytime soon. You were the driving force behind our panels and it was much appreciated! Anyway bro, it was great meeting you and I will check back in with you soon :)

  • Elizabeth

    i was one of the silk spectres, the deathly pale one to be exact hah
    yea we didnt stay in that lecture long
    we kinda got the heebyjeebys from that guy
    but he, at the last second of icon got to snap a picture of us..
    i really dont want to know what hes doing with it *shudders*
    oh and mini masterchief was our brother btw :)

  • Chuck Rozakis

    “it was just some married couple giving advice in a very Burns and Allen-type fashion to those that, from my vantage point, had no trouble with the opposite sex, or outwardly shouldn?t. And while I had no problems hearing why this particular couple talk about how they came to be (they weren?t nearly as annoying as the , it just wasn?t the trainwreck that I was anticipating (nor promised).”

    Given your reaction to the rest of the con, this is apparently high praise, and as the male half of “some married couple”, I’m flattered. Thing is, I’ve been to panels that were trainwrecks like you were expecting, and I found them cringe-inducing, not fun. So I strive to be entertaining in a way more likely to make the audience laugh with me, not at me after the fact. You know how it is.

    I-Con was back at Stony Brook this year and _significantly_ better, I thought..

  • Pingback: Fort90 Journal » ICON 31: “this has convinced me you can make a voltron out of hot dogs”

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