When I first started going to conventions oh so many years ago, they were held in nice hotels and/or convention centers. They were fun and it’s what I liked. Back then, you really didn’t hear about anime cons being held on college campuses, school libraries, or even in a park. If you wanted to start a convention, you needed a lot of capital, a hotel, staff, and guests… That way you had something going for you to get the people to show up.
In recent years, more anime conventions have been popping up on these locations. For some people, it has come as a surprise. Some of today’s biggest conventions, such as Otakon and ConnectiCon, started out on one. Why the sudden uptake in local college conventions? The venue is dirt cheap or free. Now, I am not knocking anime conventions on college campuses just yet… I just feel that when you run them, you have to give it a bit of a feel of being at a hotel for the same thing… Well at least that’s how I look at it. Recently, I decided to attend college anime conventions. They’re local and I do want to support them. Some of them are really good; some are just bad, really bad.
There are two conventions that stand out in my mind for the good aspect… Kotoricon and Castle Point.
These two conventions have a very well informed staff. They understand the needs of the fans. Bonus points for the locations. Kotoricon has all of their events in three buildings. You can walk to all of them in under five minutes. Castle Point has everything in four buildings that you can walk to in under 6 – 7 minutes. Any issues I’ve ever had at these cons have been taken cared of swiftly and promptly. Another good thing is signs. All over Kotoricon there are signs that tell you where the panel rooms are at. And when you get there, you see signs listing what’s going on in that room. Castle Point has signs at the rooms for the events. All they need is to add location signs and it’s perfect. Also at these cons, it feels natural to travel from one building to another. Yes, the layout is a school and not a hotel, but as you walk on the different floors and buildings, seeing these congoers just hanging out and about just gives it that hotel/con center vibe.
And there are two conventions that stand out on the opposite end of the spectrum… Chibicon and Springfest
Springfest is a local convention here in NYC, held at Polytechnic. I’ve been to this convention a few times and it just feels like a glorified anime meetup. With the events that are being held there, you’re better off calling your friends over to hang out at your house for a better time. The staff simply doesn’t care. They have this mindset of “Hey, if other people can run a con, so can we!” I have talked to various staffers and it seems like they don’t know what’s going on at all. If one person changes the rules, no one else usually knows except for one person. When you walk into the con, you’ll find attendees in three locations – Cafeteria, Game Room, or the Fourth Floor (I like to call it Photographer’s Row, read my review of the con, you’ll understand). All the signage around here is written in pen on copy paper or on cardboard. And then there’s Chibicon, a one day, five hour convention… That’s right, five hours. It’s from 5pm to 10pm. The last time I was there, I was a dealer, and we pretty much sat there, with all the tables, selling stuff, without AC. No badges, just buttons. Not as many people I know still go because of the time and travel distance, but y’know.
And don’t get me started on conventions that are being held at a public libraries… That are only for five hours… And people doing photoshoots…
Now, don’t think for a second that I don’t like conventions that are not held at traditional venues. I do like them. I strongly feel that when you are creating a convention at a venue that isn’t the norm, you need to add more flair and personality to the con to give it that originality and feeling that you are not in the non-traditional locations. Hell, if Castle Point and Kotoricon can do it, I don’t see any reason why other cons can’t.