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Messages - Hat_Guy

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I remember them!  The stones were being sold at the Songbird Ocarina booth, which unfortunately wasn't there this year.  You can still find them on their website here:

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General Convention Discussion / Missed Connections - 2017
« on: June 02, 2017, 12:19:09 AM »
Because apparently this is a thing.  I didn't see any mods post one for this year yet, so I guess it's up to us now.

Anyone trying to reach anyone: post it here!

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General Convention Discussion / A quick review
« on: June 02, 2017, 12:10:42 AM »
Frequent Fanime attendee and volunteer here.  I've been attending this con for about 5-6 years and loving it; after some folk in the volunteer room started asking staff and volunteers alike for their opinions and suggestions for the con, I decided to make a list to post here concerning the Areas, Events, and General convention issues.


Areas:
Registration:
Registration was wonderful this year - no Line-Cons from Thursday through Monday.  The machines they brought in had a incredible effect on speeding up the process, and are definitely something that should become a mainstay of the con.  I did notice however that the lines for pre-reg and special reg had become merged this year, which was throwing many people off.  Going back the the previous three-line rule of at-con, pre-reg, and special reg would help.
Also, it would be better to have all relevant material sorted and ready for the bags at the main stuffing station, rather than having them stuff everything but the orange slips, then sending the bags halfway across the room to be stuffed a second time.  While the bags are beings stuffed, the room maps for the Artist Alley and Dealers hall that you find being given away in those rooms would be useful to include as well.
One final thing I've noticed at the con and here afterwards, are people who believe the single-days to be too expensive, as they want to go for more than one day, but not for the entire weekend.  Personally, I think that's what the weekend badge is for in the first place, but if Fanime could make it work, then having two-day or three-day passes for sale would definitely boost attendance and the funding for next year.

Artist Alley:
Artist Alley is one of the main reasons I keep coming back year after year; I loved seeing my favorite artists from previous years, as well as new ones I would like to see show up in the future.  Reaching these artists was difficult though, due to the massive crowds clogging the pathways.  This was frustrating to deal with, and quite possible something a fire marshal could write the con up for.  I recommend instituting one-way pathways through the center of each aisle, focusing traffic into specific directions and patterns, and spacing the aisles out a bit, as there seemed to be plenty of room at the far end of the Artist Alley.  The division between walk-space and boothgawking-space could be marked by tape, same as with the express routes outside Stage Zero in the main hall.
Also, it's often difficult to see which artist is which, and in which alley they're in.  I know the booths are marked (useful), but with the crowds those numbers are almost always obscured; we have the Artist Alley map in the back of the room (also useful), but not everyone knows they're there, and spares are always in short supply.  I recommend placing the booth numbers on top of the booths, making them easier to see from the crowd, and marking the artist aisles by the hundreds - in a sense, they already are, but having a sign above or in front of each aisle that says "AISLE 1200" or so would definitely assist in navigation.

Dealers Hall:
As always, Dealers Hall was fun to cruise - whatever you want at Fanime can usually be found there.  I'm not sure if my memory is playing tricks on me, but there seemed to be more food booths at the back than on previous years, which was good - the idea of bringing in more food booths and tables for a makeshift Fanime food court sounds appealing to me.  I'm sure if you spoke with the businesses that frequent this area of the hall, they'd know people who would happily come for the con.  Naming the aisles was a stroke of genius, which makes finding vendors easier than previous years; this is definitely something that should be continued.

Gaming Hall:
Gaming Hall this year saw the return of the Jumbo Jenga blocks, the arcade machines, and tournaments galore, but at the e-gaming section select consoles seemed to be missing.  I remember the xbox and a few playstation consoles were missing Friday (not sure if this was fixed the following days), and virtually all of the PCs supplied by the AFK Gamer Lounge weren't playing.  To boot, at e-gaming I found myself unpacking containers to see material meant for the board game section, and vice-versa.  Better marking and tracking of what's where, and where it's being put would help staff and volunteers alike.  Beyond that, everything else went smoothly, and I enjoyed seeing people's enthusiasm for the tournaments, which we should definitely have more of (Catan should be added, in my opinion).


Events:
Swap Meet:
Swap Meet could use more nights - I'm not sure if we only get that area for two nights, but extending it to three or more would make it another fan favorite in my opinion.  Seeing the amount of open space there, a few more areas could be added to make the swap meet more interesting, such as an area were people could actually bring items and swap them, as opposed to the flea market setup that actually dominated the Swap Meet hall.

Black & White Ball:
As always, the ball was a blast - seeing the proposal was a bonus, and I loved meeting new people there (shoutouts to the Stormtrooper, who is a legend amongst volunteers and staff; if you're reading this, you're awesome).  It was a shame we lost the Tech's room for dancing, as that dance floor definitely felt much bigger than what the Marriott had to offer.  I recommend the con shuffles around rooms a bit, and possibly ask the Fairmont and other neighboring hotels and venues if they have a dance floor sufficiently large enough for our use.
Also, the dance-type sign on the wall this year included no listing as to what the next dance type would be, as previous years did.  I always found that useful, as it allowed me and others to prepare for what dance type was coming up, and to react accordingly.  If the people in charge of the Black & White ball could reinstate that, the ball would be perfect again.

Speed Dating:
This was my first year making it into speed dating, and I was rewarded with a hell of a good time.  Talking with everyone, laughing, learning about new books and music - it was a blast.  My only complaint is that it seemed like a good chunk of the other matches were from different areas (I met one from Tahoe of all places), which is going to make it more difficult to find a match.  People come to Fanime from all over, and if matching sessions could roughly be sorted by geography, I fell that would make it easier for everyone.
Beyond that, the online sign-up option was a very smart move, which should be continued for future years - It definitely feels less intimidating for both genders to sign up and wait for a lottery result, than in two very disproportionate lines (No joke - last year we had women coming around the corner and very quickly backpedalling at the sight of the whole mess).  All I can really request besides the geography bit is a longer open period for signing up online (24 hours?  Really?), and more matching sessions.


In General:
Hotels and Con Space:
As most of us know, Fanime is growing, and has been steadily, and sometimes quite rapidly, growing every year.  The McHenry Convention Center has for years been the mainstay of the convention due to it's size, convenient location, and overall ability to host the con.  While I definitely don't advocate leaving the place anytime soon, it's becoming more and more obvious that the Center alone, even combined with the Fairmont, isn't big enough to solely house the con.  I remember the first year I came to Fanime, when I arrived for Clockwork Alchemy's first year (It was the whole reason I attended back then, actually).  The fact that con-goers were able to move between two different areas for what essentially felt like one large on was impressive, and something that inspired my feel for Fanime ever since.  Every year, we take over the Convention Center, the Fairmont, the City National Civic, (formerly) the ballroom at the Tech - we effectively run downtown San Jose when we arrive.  If FanimeCon wants to  not only maintain the current amount of people and events it already hosts, but to grow to accommodate new ones (and let's face it, we are growing), then we need to reach out to more of the hotels and businesses in the area to compliment our accommodations.

Security:
Security is always a concern at events these sizes, and I'm happy to see Fanime addressing attendee concerns over the amount of ghosters and con-jumpers we've been getting.  Moving the badge-checks downstairs near the entrance was a good move that cuts down on the amount of staff needed for badge-checking, and ensures better screening of the people who enter the building.  What would improve on this in my opinion would be to post the badge-checkers at all the entrances to the convention center, so that we could secure the lower levels as well as the upper ones.
One point of major concern however, is that once someone left the Convention Center, their protection effectively ended.  This year, agressive vendors hoarded the front yard, and made transit extremely difficult.  Also, while most of us know San Jose has been becoming more and more like Los Angeles every year, the amount of vagrants clustered around downtown seals it.  People actively stated at con that in some areas, it didn't feel safe wandering around outside (especially if they were a female cosplayer).  I didn't see as many SJPD officers as previous years, whose presence does help, both in reassuring our fellow con-goers, and deterring creepers and undesirables alike.  Formally asking them back, and in larger numbers would help Fanime keep the peace in and outside the convention center.
Also, while I noticed rovers around the main hall previous years, I didn't see quite so many this year.  If Fanime could send them out again in force, and possibly have them patrol the adjoining areas outside the convention center, then I'm 99% certain all our con attendees would feel completely safe.

Volunteering:
One of the main things I arrive for every year, volunteering is a great way to experience more of the convention, as well as to interact with staff, and possibly earn my registration money back.  The staff members in the volunteer room are great people, and very good at helping you find tasks suited to your liking, and to get you the most hours in that area as possible.  It should be noted, however, that when you go to registration to pick up your badge, volunteer opportunities and where to sign up for them aren't always apparent.  This year, no one at registration could initially tell me if the volunteer room was in the same spot it was previous years, and after initially helping out for several hours at the registration area, I was asked where the volunteer sheet was (despite them not directing me to the volunteer room first).  If a sign could be placed at or near the registration area and/or front hallway detailing the existence of volunteer opportunities, and where to go for them, that would help both con-goers and staff alike.
Concerning food for staff and volunteers (which I remember Fanime staff wondering about), the convention did just fine - it's only around Monday or Friday evening that supplies start to run low.  In this area, I recommend simply buying more of the same - actually, maybe not the same.  Healthier items besides ramen and cookies would be better, and a deal with the food booths around the convention center interior could be reached to help with this.  I know there's a great asian supermarket at most two blocks away, and in the spirit of Fanime food, they could possibly be counted on to supply us for next year's con.


Beyond that, there's not much else to mention.  I didn't go to any panels this year, so I'm not qualified to review those (I'm sure they were great though).  Overall, four stars out of five, and I'm really looking forward to next year's convention!

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This year's Fanimecon had two major shocks for me.

The first was a policy change regarding access points. In previous years, people who didn't buy a pass were only blocked from attending specific events. They were still free to roam the convention center's open spaces on both the upper and lower floors. This year, the entirety of the upper floor and a good chunk of the ground floor were off-limits except to pass-holders. This is a HUGE drag.

The second was the sharp increase in registration prices. The last time I attended Fanimecon, a 4-day pass was somewhere in the neighborhood of $60. This year, it was $85. Look, guys, this isn't Venezuela. We're not experiencing 50% annual inflation. This kind of price increase, in combination with the first policy change that I mentioned, is absolutely inexcusable, especially when Kublacon is still only $60.

It was fun while it lasted. Maybe I'll start my own convention with blackjack and hookers.

My two cents:

  • The policy change on access points was instituted to keep the convention by fans, for fans.  In previous years, we've had too many people from outside the con walk in without paying for a badge, and sneaking into con areas like the Dealers Hall and the Gaming Hall.  Combined with several reports of harrasment in previous years (a small issue, but it did seem to pop up), Fanime probably decided to switch things up in the name of security, which worked out very well this year in my opinion.
  • Prices are pretty much the same they've always been, especially concerning four day passes.  They've only experienced at most a $10 increase over previous years due to the main rule of economics: supply and demand.  When pre-reg first opens, you can get weekend passes for the same price as day passes at-con; it's only as you draw nearer to the convention that prices go up.  Also, pricing is pretty much irrelevant if you volunteer, which nets you your money back.

Overall, not a shock for me, or for the rest of us, really.  Considering that the convention has been growing like crazy every year, I'd say there's nothing to complain about, pricewise.

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I grew up in San Jose, and still pass through downtown quite often, here are some tips:

  • There's a crosswalk at the lightrail station in front of the convention, you can use that to get across the street.  If you need to go further without encountering the people at or near the Market/San Carlos intersection (the people you're describing tend to cluster around downtown all year long), I recommend cutting through the business plaza behind the Tech, or hugging the Fairmont/Art Museum side of the downtown park
  • Travelling in groups won't entirely deter agressive panhandlers and catcallers, but it'll supply a buffer between you and them, as well as making them think twice.  You can ask a group of friends/fellow cosplayers to go with you - people inside the convention tend to be a friendly lot, and wouldn't mind offering their support.
  • When you do encounter persistant vendors and/or people who set off alarms of any sort, keep walking.  Don't stop to engage them in any way, and do not acknowledge them in any way.
  • Pretty much all areas east and south of the convention center should probably be avoided - neighborhood quality takes a quick dive going south, and between us and the University, it's not as friendly as it could be.

Beyond that, I've got nothing.  San Jose's always been this way growing up, and in recent years it's looking more like LA-lite.  Right now, the best that can probably be done is to report all problems surrounding your stay with FanimeCon, and ask for solutions.

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