November was a very interesting month for me, not least of which because it was the first full one in the new place. It was also the first time that I was on the staff of an anime convention. And then I did it again a month later– this past weekend. In short, I’ve been busy.
But I’ll say this, never once did I feel like I wasn’t having fun during it.
Let’s start off with Kurokiiro Festival, which was November’s event. It was only the second year that the event was called Kurokiiro, and it was the first in a rather surprising venue: the Boyd Community Center. The BCC is a converted elementary school, which fit the theme we were going for this year: “school festival”. The idea all along was to have Kurokiiro be more of a cultural festival than an anime con, and as a result it was slightly different in terms of content. Instead of a ‘rave’ there was a formal dance. There was a hosted maid cafe. The video game room gave equal emphasis to CCGs and video games. I wish, though, that I could speak more to the panels and videos played, but I was holed up in the game room for the most part. Overall it went well, though the usual complaints happened: too small, not enough, [thing X] wasn’t there. I think, however, that next year I’d like to do a more ‘festival’ themed game room; maybe set up a game to work as a redemption game or something. I mean, it’s not like I can’t code something like that up, right?
The interval period, then, between Kurokiiro and Sangawa Project was spent working on making sure I had learned something from the whole experience of Kurokiiro and trying to make sure that the people who came to Sangawa’s game room were happy. One thing occurred to me as I was bundling up the systems for Kurokiiro: I don’t have a whole ton of multiplayer games. After I graduated from college the opportunity to play with others in the same room decreased dramatically; it wasn’t until I got back to Erie that I could again, and even then that was short-lived. So, when the Reclamation Project was in full swing, I didn’t emphasize multiplayer games all that much, in favor of rarer or more entertaining single-player stuff. Online games became a bit more my style, though, and while those are fun in their own way, they’re not conducive to playing them in a group setting. Well, not short of a LAN party or anything. Unfortunately, I had no idea where to start, and more to the point, moving had drained my reserves to a point where I was wary of spending too much money at one go. Anyway, I set that aside for the time being and tried to make sure that everything was in working order for Sangawa.
I suppose now’s a good a time as any to explain what exactly The Sangawa Project is and what it was intended to be. Its original description of being “an 18+ anime convention” is, sadly, quite misleading. When people start thinking in that sort of a direction, two things come to mind: porn and more porn. Sangawa was not like that at all, and though there was a bit of an uphill battle to emphasize that, I can reasonably say the message got through. What Sangawa was and is, though, is a bit harder to explain in a vacuum.
Anime conventions in general tend to have certain expectations placed on them. A convention is expected to have X, Y, and Z as draws to the attendees. What Sangawa does is turn a lot of those expectations on their heads and basically “reboot” the concept of an anime convention. Certain staples got retired, and certain new things were added. There was a lot more freedom in terms of programming content and stuff to do and see. Our guest, Dan Woren, was just plain awesome. The best part, though, and something that received a lot of commentary, was that Sangawa had a very different general atmosphere than Tekkoshocon or Kurokiiro. Whereas the ‘mainline’ conventions have a lot of the younger crowd around and the general mood is overeager excitement, Sangawa was very relaxed. This was Geek Night writ large, in katakana, on a window in front of a blue neon martini glass. Everyone had fun, nobody misbehaved, and it was just generally a great con. If this had been my first convention, and I went on to, say, Tekko or Otakon, I’d be in abject culture shock. It’s different, yeah, but not in terms of quality: if those other cons are Pepsi, Sangawa is Pepsi Throwback. Different ingredients, same general taste.
So how did Sangawa Project go? Of course, I’m not at liberty to divulge the specifics of the backroom stuff– nor am I really privy to that stuff either– but the general outcome is that it was a success. Not an overwhelming one, but a realistic one. That, I think, is also important to note. Despite the fact that it’s an offshoot of Tekkoshocon and it has its own tempo and style, the fact is that Sangawa was a first-time convention. Because of this, expectations were high. It was probably the benign thought not to over-promise that caused us to under-promote the event, but in all honesty that hurt us more than it would have if people were breaking down the doors to get at us. Still, that’s just my perspective from the enclave of the game room, and worse yet, it’s hindsight. Don’t read too much into it.
Anyway. Part of the end result of the Sangawa Project 2010 was the feeling of a job well done, in that I’m positive (and was told) that everyone had a very good time. It’s easy to forget that that’s why we do it, but there you go. I’m told that the feedback meeting was the most pleasant one that had been attended by the staff in years, and it’s not difficult for me to believe that. This was just such an incredible convention, and I;m really looking forward to doing it again in the summer– or rather, in the spring, when Tekko rolls around.
So that brings me to the end of the 2010 convention season. This year was a refreshing change for a lot of reasons, mostly because of the whole “staffing a con versus attending one” thing, but also because the season was unusually prolonged due to Sangawa’s presence. It’s no secret that I grew up in Western New York, near the infamously snowy city of Buffalo. (For those of you unfamiliar with American geography, let me put it to you this way: You know how in JRPGs there’s always at least one town situated in the frozen north of the map, where the entire village is covered in snow and everyone looks like they’re second cousin to Sasquatch? That’s Buffalo.) Because of that, I tend not to travel too much during the winter. For me, “con season” is the time of year starting with Tekkoshocon in the spring and ending with Kurokiiro Festival in the fall. In years past that just meant Otakon, but lately I’ve had the freedom to travel to a few other conventions or venues here and there. Oh, sure, I know there are other conventions close by during the chill months, but honestly, I love winter too much to spend it indoors. (That’s a story for another post, I think.)
In the past, after a convention, I’ve felt a profound feeling of peace that gradually gives way to a sort of temporary despondency. It doesn’t last more than a day or two, really, and usually by the weekend following my return home I’m back to my normal self. But this year, I haven’t felt that downer. It’s not something I would hang the word “weird” on, but it certainly is unusual. After the conventions of 2010– all of them– I only felt the continued excitement that led to a resolve to make the next con even better. As it turns out, both of these desires are the result of the so-called Hedonistic Treadmill. Basically, after an emotional or psychological high, the brain becomes accustomed to that level of stimulation. Therefore, the next high has to be even greater in order to experience the same amount of joy. Whereas before, I was simply a passive participant and was therefore expecting that greater high to be provided to me, now I’m actively working to make that high even higher: not just for me, but for everyone around me as well.
2010 was a good year for anime conventions, I think; the troubles at Otakon didn’t really do all that much to diminish the enjoyment I felt at being with friends and fellow nerds. So here’s to 2011, and all that it brings. I promise you, it is not to be missed.
(PS: As for the collection’s deficiencies, I managed to snag a list of all the games that were provided for the game room at Sangawa. Say goodbye to the Reclamation Project, and say hello to… the Gamerdex.)