INDY POPCON 2017: A Little Convention with a Big Spirit!

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After 6 weeks of absolute joy being at home in Maryland, I had to leave to start my series of adventures. My first adventure began as soon as I arrived at the Indianapolis International airport. A friend of mine from Maryland joined me to attend Indy PopCon 2017. I had not heard of Indy PopCon until around mid-Fall of 2016. I told two of my friends about it and one of them agreed in attending. It would be my friend’s first time in Indiana and my first time in Indianapolis, so this was more of an excursion than I thought.

We arrived a day before the convention, which gave us enough time to settle into our hotel room and relax. Our relaxation was short lived for my friend and I did not have anything substantial to eat for most of the day. We left the room to wander around the bustling Indianapolis area in search of food. After acquiring (cheap) food, walking around the mall, and seeing SpiderMan: Homecoming, we called it a night to prepare for nerd mecha!

Indy PopCon was celebrating it’s 5th annual convention. Though that is fairly young compared to others, this convention was riddled with people without ever feeling overcrowded. The last convention I attended was Otakon 2015 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Otakon has a massive fan appeal, so one must get use to being bumped into at every turn; Indy PopCon was a nice change of pace for me.

At this convention there is more of a focus on popular culture then simply anime culture. 20170708_192210This was reflected in the cosplay which ranged from Master Chief from Halo to Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  I brought a camera with me to record the festivities and most importantly, the cosplay. There was pure craziness at the sheer detail in a lot of the cosplays with a few that appeared to have come from a movie set!

There were a variety of booths in the convention hall as well. Selling body pillows with anime characters on them are a mainstay in anime conventions, but having a fully functioning Lego droid factory was new to me. As a new card game is being played in the gamer’s area, there was a 7ft Wookie with a walking stick posing for every camera aimed at him. Further in the corner of the room were two snake handlers with pythons for people to touch. There was even a tortoise there!

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Adi Shankar, Producer of Netflix’s Castlevania

There was so much life at this convention. 20170708_182404The event staff were awesome, the panels were cool and the attendees all appeared to enjoy themselves as well. I know my friend and I sure did. I wish the convention was a day longer because I had a great time, but I would be dead broke from buying to many reflective anime bookmarks.

As I mentioned before, I created a montage video of Indy PopCon. It was so much fun being behind the camera again and filming some of the most creative displays of the human imagination. Special thanks to my friend Davon for travelling out to Indiana, as well as asking cosplayers to be in the video. Another special thanks to my friend Khaleed. He agreed to help edit the video and very thankful that he did. I can not thank Khaleed enough which is why you can help me thank him in subscribing to his channel at SecondBestProductions. He has several wonderfully done montage videos of anime conventions that he has attended. Seriously, check him out!

20170708_222339Indy PopCon 2017 was definitely a small convention with lots of spirit and heart, looking forward to attending again in the future!

EVO 2017: A Spectacle Worth Seeing!

That’s right! I attended the annual Evolution Championship Series this past weekend! I traveled from Indianapolis, Indiana to Las Vegas, Nevada; my adventure actually started with me sleeping at the Indianapolis International Airport in order to board my 6am flight on time and save money. It would have been a $60 Uber for me at 4:30am in the morning if my friend did not take me, so I must thank my friend and colleague for the help!

Anywho, I attended EVO 2017 not just as a fan and lover of fighting videogames, but as a researcher. I am working on a research project related to the fighting game community. I cannot divulge too many details, but it involved me attending EVO and interviewing several attendees and/or competitors. I was accompanied by two of my friends – both gamers and avid players of fighting videogames.

After my friends and I checked into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort, we grabbed something to eat at the (expensive) food court, and proceeded to the convention hall. Once we entered, almost on cue, my friend and I both uttered, “Holy shit!” Immediately we were thrust into nerd mecha with EVO-related merchandise being sold at the very front entrance. Deeper into the convention I passed the Pokken Tournament for Nintendo Switch play area. The Dragon Ball FighterZ play area was adjacent to the Capcom booth with 100 people already gathered around to play this upcoming title. Once you get through the merchandising, one may stop and gaze at all the pools  that were around. For those who are unaware, ‘pools’ are matches that players need to win to be in the semi-finals. This means that some people could be playing against 10+ opponents in a single day.

As mentioned before, I was at EVO 2017 to observe and conduct interviews.

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I have several pages of hand written notes ranging from topics related to the diverse population within the space to the way players hold and use their joy stick on their fighting sticks. Fighting sticks are portable arcade cabinet controllers that rest on one’s lap. Most competitors use fight sticks, but do not necessarily have to use one to compete. I spent an hour just observing how players gripped their joy stick on the fighting sticks. That in it of itself could be a study since I noted at least five different ways to handle them.

Throughout EVO, I got to see some of my favorite players, both old and new. I saw Kitana Prime walking around quite bit, as well as commentating on a few matches. I also met SonicFox thanks to my friend pointing him out to me. Unfortunately, I did not converse with him because he look exhausted from pools. I almost got a picture with competitor Hayatei, but just before I got the picture Kitana Prime told him he was up next to play. Hayatei apologized and went to play. Again, this is a tournament so anyone who is competing needs to be in the area ready to play at any moment. IMG_20170714_2201101 Some matches end earlier than others, so I understood that he had to rush and leave. Maybe next time. I also got to take a picture with the legendary Justin Wong again. The list goes on who else I saw there, but it was exciting just to be in the same room as them.

 

Attending the Grand Finals at the Mandalay Bay convention center on Sunday was exhilarating. Once you walk inside to take a seat, the gigantic monitors live streaming the event immediately captures your attention. The competitors also play on a LCD platform in the shape of the EVO logo that have several smaller monitors displayed on the sides for people in court side seating to watch. I enjoyed watching all the matches in each game, but seeing the top 8 competitors fight in Street Fighter V was definitely the highlight of the event for me. It was Punk and Tokido in the Street Fighter V Grand Finals and the pressure was on. Most of the crowd was rooting for Punk, with his mother cheering him on every minute. The crowd was in an uproar whenever Punk took a round, but gasped everytime Tokido took a match. Tokido won 3-0 against Punk. You know Punk was devastated, since you could see the look of disappointment consume him. However, he kept his head high and received his medal while the crowd uncontrollably praised him for his valiant fight against Tokido.

EVO and the fighting game community (FGC) is special, at least that is feeling that was communicated to me via the interviews. I left EVO with the impression that people thoroughly love being a part of this community.  The FGC spans the entire globe with fighters coming from Mexico, Japan, Canada, Europe, etc.

 

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If you can go to EVO one day, then please go! If you can go with friends, then even better. I feel even more a part of the FGC since attending EVO. Definitely an event worth seeing in person and maybe one day competing in person as well!

Also, the after-party was lit! Seeing people go from beating each other in-game to the dance floor is a worthwhile sight!