FanExpo is always a strange experience for me. Unlike Anime North's social bravado, Fan Expo always seems to be a far more timid event. With over 60,000 attendees in one weekend, the convention seemed completely overwhelmed and unable to attain any level of workable organization. Can you blame them, with the likes of Stan Lee, Yoshitaka Amano, Summer Glau, David Cronenberg or the diva, William Shatner? It's hard not to get excited over the convention's extensive guest list. Too bad it was handled so poorly that people were thrown into pandemonium, and left with disappointment.
I wish I could speak positively about the experience, but in terms of what events actually happened, there were barely any. Yoshitaka Amano's autograph required being one of fifty lucky people who won a raffle at his Q and A panel, while Stan Lee was supposed to have dinner with his fans, and instead walked into Fionn McCool's on The Esplanade, waved to his fans and immediately walked out. Or how about the millions of fans who went out to lunch and were locked out by the building staff because the convention staff didn't anticipate the numbers?
While I sound soured, it's because the event could have gone far smoother than it did. However, it wasn't all bad, as there were a few saving graces, such as Artist's Alley, which showcased plenty of unique talent, from artists to crafters. I am the lucky owner of one of two gold slimes made, and the proud holder of a doodle of Bulbasaur in crayon. Becky, on the other hand, got an adorable crayon picture of her cats. See? Crayon art — it sells! Or how about clay Kirby cellphone straps? Or fan–made Dragon Age: Origin buttons? The artists and crafters of this year's FanExpo went above and beyond to bring a unique spin on all things geek-related.
Another area that excelled at Fan Expo was from the group Toronto Area Boardgames Society (TABS), host of a massive room filled with board games all weekend. People were free to come in, pull a game out from the gaming library and just hang out, make friends, and play some board games. Becky, her husband and I had the chance to try out a game called Mad Zeppelin! which involved trying to throw cargo overboard on a zeppelin, but the only way the action could be done was if players rolled the coloured dice and if their traitor had the same matching colour presented on the dice. The game wasn't entirely explained in the rules, but we made our own fun. We also played Burn in Hell! which if you've never played before, you almost certainly should.
Although Fan Expo didn't have a ton to offer, once I found a place where I could let loose, the convention because a far better experience. There were also lots of chocolate milkshakes to devour, and T.O. JAM Indie Games to play. Toronto has a fantastic culture, and while the event wasn't perfect, I saw far too many interesting things to simply let this sentiment be unexpressed. I love my city, and while some of the geeks could stand putting on some deodorant, I did have fun.
Senior News Editor
The Toronto FanExpo was my first-ever con, and by and large I had a good time. Seems like the organizers dropped the ball a bit in the planning; the large space in the Convention Centre was already booked, so the con was crammed into a smaller space than it usually occupies. Because of this, the gaming area was pretty small this year, and unfortunately no companies brought any RPGs for us to look at. I was particularly disappointed in Nintendo, who failed to bring any unreleased games to the show, instead setting up a booth full of Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Brothers Wii, Sin and Punishment, and Dragon Quest IX machines. They didn't even bring any 3DS units, which the con's promotional material had promised.
Lacking any RPGs to test out, we decided to take a look at the Sony Move, via a demo of the action adventure game Aragorn's Quest, and Microsoft Kinect, via a demo of Kinect Adventures. Our impressions of the two systems and my musings on how motion control could affect future RPGs can be found here.
The disappointing gaming section and crowding issues aside, the con was pretty nifty. I especially enjoyed people-watching. The Toronto FanExpo, encompassing gaming, sci-fi, horror, comics, and anime, draws a very diverse crowd of people. There were folks of all ages wandering about, dressed in everything from Starfleet uniforms to a full Dalek costume. Due to the presence of High Highness Shatner, Starfleet was particularly popular, but Dr. Who and Torchlight also had strong showings in the costume department. Representing the gaming world were a ton of Marios, Luigis, and Princess Peaches (and Daisy!), several versions of the cast of Final Fantasy XIII, and 8-9 Squalls for some odd reason. We also saw a number of Persona 3 and 4 cast members, including a Naoto who was very pleased when we recognised who she was.
I'm hoping that FanExpo's co-ordinators will get their act together for next year and reserve a large enough space for the show. Hopefully, that will lure back more game companies, especially RPG developers such as BioWare. If they can manage to do so, I'll be back and ready to do some gaming that doesn't involve flailing myself about. Or perhaps I'll be flailing myself about in the new Zelda Wii game? Yes, that's a hint, Nintendo.
Saving Throw Curator
My feelings on this year's FanEx are mixed. This may be because I was going through the weekend from hell. I'm no stranger to convention related sleep deprivation, but not in the context of waking up at 6am, working for 3 hours, then dashing off to the con for a whole day of fun and then going home and trying to pack for my big move to the desolate wastes of suburbia. The hall was overcrowded, it was disorganized, some people smelled funny, and the teenagers were obnoxious. But then I would talk to an individual and I'd remember how much fun it can be to spend time with a group of like-minded nerdy types.
While my video gamer compatriots may have been disappointed by the con's offerings, I as a cantankerous old man with my pencils and graph paper and funny dice was more than pleased with with what the con had to offer. My hectic schedule kept me from joining any of the scheduled gaming blocks, which is a shame because the Saga Edition Mass Effect game and Sky Pirates of Dinosaur Island sounded absolutely awesome. But the folks from Steve Jackson Games were there demoing all their card games at the con and it was great fun playing Burn in Hell with my coworkers. I'd also like to give a big shout-out to James and Jamie, the volounteers running the weekend Warmachine tournament for teaching me how to play Hordes. I'm new to wargaming and they made me feel very welcome at the table. Also, a sub-shout-out to the 8 year old clone trooper who was observing the demo for reminding me of the kind of imagination and excitement that brought me into the hobby.
In terms of actual journalist work I did at the con; I will say that the Sony's new stick waggling controller is a functional stick waggling controller with HD shiny-ness. I got to have a nice chat with some folks from Polymancer and Polygraff magazines, who then gave me some free copies of their work. I also got to conduct an interview with Robin D. Laws, my absolute favourite game designer, which you can look forward to reading in my next column.
Just a comment on trends in costumes at conventions: Thanks to every deity, demon, and spiritual entity of sufficient power for the fact that the cosplay crowd has caught up with where I was 3 years ago by getting over Bleach, Naruto, and Final Fantasy VII. Seeing a lot of Doctor Who costumes was really neat, but it reminds me of my nostalgia for when The Doctor was a cool old guy and not just estrogen bait. To the rest of the costuming community, keep up all the awesome stuff.
If you have any questions or would like your picture removed, send me an e-mail. See you all at Fan Expo 2011!