There are a few things that have kept me delayed. But one of the worthwhile ones was this year’s ConnectiCon. Based out of the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. It’s a three day smorgasbord of every facet of geekdom. There are tabletop gamers, video gamers, web show personalities, actors, voice actors, cosplaying, comic book creators, you name it. If you take an interest in something even remotely geeky then you’ll probably enjoy this convention. It’s also a smaller, more intimate convention that favors the actual public attendees. It feels much closer to what I’m told conventions like MAGfest are like rather than something like Comic Con or PAX. That’s not to disparage those cons, as they are great shows. But like a lot of things, sometimes when you get big things get lost in the shuffle.
This year featured two very hyped up guests.
Marina Sirtis of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame (For you non-Trekkies/Trekkers she played Counselor Troi).
Doug Walker (aka: The Nostalgia Critic) who has been an internet sensation for the last 5 years.
Other big names were Team Four Star who are well known for their Dragonball Z riff program. BrentalFloss who has been making gamers everywhere laugh with his clever What if _____ had lyrics? series. Not only did he have a panel, and a booth in the vendor area, but also performed a live concert. Comic Book legend Billy Tucci was there signing autographs, and selling original art. Reps from Overclocked Remix were there. Voice actors Jim Cummings (Disney’s Darkwing Duck), and Jon St. John (Apogee’s Duke Nukem) were there. RKO Army showed up for several shadowcasts of Serenity, and Rocky Horror Picture Show.
But even if you weren’t a big fan of any of those names, or really one to spend an hour at a panel of questions, and answers or discussion there was a lot to do. Movie fans had the opportunity to see the highly acclaimed Pacific Rim on opening weekend for a mere $6. Board game fans had an entire room devoted to all kinds of tabletop gaming. Not just the typical D&D, Warhammer, or Magic: The Gathering either. I saw all kinds of games on display to be played. Zpocalypse was there. Apples to Apples was there. Old stalwarts like Chess, Monopoly, and Stratego were even there. Some of these games actually had tournaments with prizes.
Speaking of tournaments with prizes, there was a video game area too. To be fair it wasn’t as robust as the board game one, but there were still some tournaments there including Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, WWE 13, Black Ops 2, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, and the last two Super Smash Bros. games. There were a number of other non tourney stations including retro titles. I saw Super Mario World, Sonic The Hedgehog, among others. They also had Japanese rhythm arcade cabinets there including Taiko Drum Master, Beatmania ,and Pop ‘n Music.
The developers of Cloudberry Kingdom were also on hand demoing the PS3 version of their upcoming game, and it really did look impressive. I didn’t have the chance to play any of it myself, but for anyone who loves bright, colorful 2D platformers may want to keep an eye on it.
For me the panels were, and are the best reason to go to conventions. I always find myself intrigued or surprised in them. Marina Sirtis’ panel was especially true of this for me. Some of you may not know this (As I didn’t), but Marina is FUNNY. She will seriously make you laugh a lot. She recalled a lot of great times she had not only on the Star Trek projects, but also a lot of moments doing other projects, like Gargoyles, Mass Effect, and even just funny stories from her childhood. We also got to hear a lot about the good, and bad experiences in Hollywood. Which she made everyone promise not to record or repeat because she didn’t want to accidentally burn bridges from misinterpretation so I can’t mention them. But I can say if she shows up at a convention near you, and you can afford to go then go. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. She had a second Q&A that I missed, but I’m sure anyone who missed the first, but caught the second came away impressed.
Doug Walker had three panels this year along with a few guest spots. The first day of the convention he had a panel devoted to discussing being the minority opinion in your circle of friends on a particular movie. In some cases it meant a movie you may have loved, that was critically panned, or everyone hated. Other times it might have been the opposite where you hated it, and couldn’t understand why the film in question got so much love. It was a pretty fun, and interesting panel in the wake of several films that have a split opinion. So fans around the arena were given time to bring up a movie, and stick up for it or question it’s reputation. Even if you disagreed with a position it did make you at least understand why the other party did or didn’t like something.
Day two was a general Q&A session with Doug about TGWTG, Nostalgia Critic, and more. This was a lot of fun, with some pretty interesting questions, a lot of jokes, and pretty interesting answers to boot. One of the funniest moments was near the beginning of the panel where he quickly referenced all of the most common Nostalgia Critic memes. Surprisingly “FUCKING BUBBLES!” got the biggest pop (No pun intended, but we’ll get to that in a minute). I had figured one of the other classics like this would have gotten more laughs. But then comedy is subjective.
Which brings us to his day three panel on the philosophy of comedy. Or at least his philosophy on comedy. This one was probably my favorite of the three because of how it wasn’t a simple lecture, but a discussion. Some of the biggest points he raised in this one were the dictionary definition of comedy “the genre of dramatic literature dealing with the comic or with the serious in a light or satirical manner — compare tragedy“, the timing or delivery of comedy, and the self-policing of comedy. All things one can discuss within themselves when joking around with friends, writing a script, or even being off the cuff. He tied these thoughts together pretty well in that comedy by definition has some level of tragedy to it. It could be miniscule, or rather large. But there’s an element of tragedy there. As such sometimes one has to have an idea of when to deliver a punch line. Sometimes it’s at an unexpected time, other times the entire joke should be put into a drawer until the time is right. Another major theme in his discussion was one of joy. He made a point to tell the fans that ultimately comedy should be about overcoming the tragic aspect, and bringing joy. He implored fans to make a conscious effort to analyze jokes to ensure they weren’t crossing the line between being funny, and being hurtful purposefully. He also acknowledged that all comedy is subjective, so there’s always the chance that someone may get offended. But that also shouldn’t stifle one from doing comedy. Especially since comedy is a lot about getting past tragedy, and is supposed to bring about joy with laughter in the face of that tragedy.
Some other great panels I attended with friends were the Jon St. John panel, and the Cards Against Humanity panel.
Jon’s panel was a pretty informative look at the job of voice acting, as well as a montage of many of the video game characters he has voiced over the last 20 years. Of course every gamer worth his salt knows he’s the go to guy for Duke Nukem, but he’s done countless games including Twisted Metal IV, Conduit 2, Sonic Heroes, and more. There was a really nice teenage girl attending the panel with a distinct voice who was aspiring to become a voice actor one day. So Jon invited her up to do classic lines from Duke Nukem 3D, which really impressed the crowd.
The Cards Against Humanity panel was one of the highlights of the show for me. For those who don’t know already, it’s a game loosely based on Apples to Apples but with R rated humor. One player draws a card with a phrase, and other players have to choose a card from their pile to add to the phrase. The phrase the drawing player chooses grants a point to the submitting player. It’s like adult Mad-Libs. We thought the panel was going to be headed by the game creators . But instead we saw it would be Team Four Star, Doug Walker, and Jon St. John playing the game. Before playing though, the group read excerpts from 50 Shades of grey in various celebrity impressions which had everyone in the room dying of laughter. Then, they played CAH using various celebrity impressions. It was a hilarious panel. I didn’t get any video but I’m sure some will find their way to Youtube eventually.
There were so many panels this year it was impossible to go to all of the good ones. I sadly missed Team Four Star’s main panels, and BrentalFloss’ panel. I did get to meet them again on the con floor, and they were all as cordial as Doug Walker, Marina Sirtis, and Jon St. John were. I also stopped by the Overclocked Remix booth where I got to meet the affable, and pleasant Deia Vengen. She not only deals with the video game music scene on OCR, but she also makes some great gamer themed stuff on her Etsy shop. So check it out. It’s all hand-made.
One of my friends who was at ConnectiCon had a birthday over that same weekend so 25 of us headed two blocks away the second night of the show to City Steam for dinner. It’s grown from being an independent microbrewery to also housing one of the best comedy venues in the Hartford area. On top of that they have a really great restaurant inside. Everybody there is hospitable, friendly, and manage to still be that way after a very large group of people order relatively large meals. If you ever go to ConnectiCon you should definitely check it out. Even if you don’t drink alcohol it’s worth going for the food.
One of the other highlights for me was Cosplay Battleship. This was a special event where a bunch of selected Cosplayers had to act out battles on stage whenever someone’s ship was hit or sunk. A simplistic idea to be sure, but it was actually a lot of fun to watch. I also watched the RKO Army do their shadowcast of Serenity. The concept didn’t grab me personally. But there were many people who loved it, and I have to admit that while I didn’t get into it, I was glad I experienced it. It was something new for me, and if you are interested in shadowcasting as an art form do look them up. It might be something you really enjoy.
I wish I could have seen more, but one can only check out one event at any given time. But there’s something for everyone at this con. Hopefully I’ll get to go again next year as I really do enjoy it a lot. Not only for the events, but for the chance to mingle with other fans.