Geek.Kon 2016: Otaku Tonight Steals the Show!
This weekend, I had the privilege to attend Geek.Kon in Madison Wisconsin. I must say, it's changed since I last attended a few years ago, however it's definitely kept it's charm.
Merchandise and Art. The Vendor room at Geek.Kon was small, but packed with mainstream items that one would antipate from a modern con. Booths carried the usual plushies, figs, and other anime merchandise. There were also some steampunk and game vendors. One thing I was a little bummed about was the absence of a vendor selling actual cosplay, however that presence seems to be limited to larger, more merchandise-focused cons. Geek.Kon is definitely more about the community.
Artist's alley was small. The artists there were pretty talented, however I didn't find any whose style really catered to my taste so I was bummed. I did come home with some sick spray-paint art, though.
Organization. Geek.Kon's Staff was consistently kind and helpful. Praise be to volunteers. I especially liked how video rooms were kept open 24/7 and how late arrivals could visit con ops to register. Because Geek.Kon is relatively small, there didn't need to be excessive amounts of crowd control (no fighting over a place on the elevator, no obstructive lines, etc). This year, there was a boffer/outdoor activity tent in the lot outside of the convention center. This was a great way to get the attendees outside, and therefore eliminate crowding indoors. The con also had an excellent "No Harassment" policy. I felt very safe while attending.
Special Events. Geek.Kon does an interesting version of combat chess where the attendees are the cosplayers in the game. Because of this, there is limited rehearsal time. I only caught part of the game because I had to split up my time wisely. For me, the best part was getting to see some of Geek.Kon's best cosplay. The "Spooktacular Maze" was incredibly popular, and perhaps held the longest line of the weekend. Even with the Daytime version, the line seemed to take up the entire hallway of panels. "The Mixer" which is Geek.Kon's rave had a pretty great DJ, however it seems that the Wisconsin crowd isn't very interested in breaking a sweat on the dancefloor. There was plenty of personal space as the group mildly stood around.
Unfortunately "The Mixer" started right next door to possibly my favorite part of the weekend: "One Night Stand Up" hosted by Otaku Tonight. The comedians featured were hilarious and had material specifically catered to it's 18+ audience of geeks. The show would have been even better if the rave music from next door hadn't been bumping so loud we had to strain ourselves to focus on the talented comedians.
The Masquerade cosplay contest was fun, but I'm not really sure how the judges came to their decisions for the rewards. There were plenty of excellent competitors so I could understand their difficulty in deciding. I do wonder, however, if I should have stopped in to take a peek at the actual judging session rather than just the presentation show.
Panels. Panel offerings were relatively diverse. The panels I attended generally offered useful, yet basic information that would be helpful to con-goers. Geek.Kon is interesting because it's a social con--not a celebrity or merchandise con, however usually social cons have panel offerings that are extensive and amazingly engaging. The Geek.Kon community however is so focused on the social aspect that even the panels take a back seat to groups of friends just hanging out and meeting people at the con. I have to hand it to you, Madison, your crowd is definitely something.
Cosplay. There were some very skilled cosplayers at Geek.Kon, however the ratio of cosplayers to non-cosplayers was a little too balanced for my tastes. Again, Geek.Kon is more of a social gathering. Even cosplay takes the back seat to simple time with friends and community-building. Personally, though, I would have loved to see more cosplay.