Tag Archives: conventions

Crunchyroll Expo: Thoughts

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

So I attended some of Crunchyroll Expo, and wanted to share a few thoughts about the event. It’s actually pretty positive, though keep in mind I was mostly observing and wasn’t doing everything.

Still, what I saw impressed me – and gives me ideas for how we can manage cons in pandemic times. In fact, more on that later.

METAPHOR: In general there was an attempt to copy the feeing of a con – treating it like a city! That’s just pure metaphor, but it makes it memorable and relateable and fun.

Takeaway: Model your virtual con on physical space.

EVENTS: Pretty much every kind of con event was there, just often changed for the need to be virtual. Again, this preserved the metaphor and experience, and it made it accessible. Also I think people needed that sense of normalcy.

Takeaway: Find equivalent events for your virtual cons. Not always the same, but close.

MEDIA: There was streaming and videos and so on. Wisely, there was chat so people could, well, chat – while being on the page. Discord type stuff is nice, but I see the advantage of the embed (more on that later).

Takeaway: Combine streaming with accessible chat for the “con experience.”

PANELS AND SUCH: These used pretty much the same model – stream with a chat. But most panels were pre-recorded, which gave the presenters time to chat. I never realized until now how the pre-recorded appraoch works for audience contact.

Takeaway: Try pre-recorded events in your virtual environment, using chat for interaction.

SHOPPING: This was disappointing as it was mostly links to people’s profiles and some items. This is an area that needed to be rethought as it lacked the human contact. I think shopping at virtual cons needs to feel like the real thing, including chats with others and the store owner. Try to create a virtual artists alley or dealer’s room.

Takeaway: The fun of shopping and art at cons is the interaction. Try to get that with chat, people being available certain hours at their “table,” a good metaphor, etc.

Was it a success? Well, people came from all over, I saw great stuff, people had fun, and in the middle of a horrible pandemic. I also saw some clever use of metaphor and web layout.

So heck yes. There’s a lot to learn here.

Steven Savage

Some Thoughts on Ruggedized Geekdom

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As I write this, America’s response to COVID-19 has been dismal without federal vision. There are many problems, but one of the things I’ve been considering is the status of geeky activities: cons, gaming events, cosplay, etc.

This is not intended to be flippant or minimize issues. However these activities are big parts of people’s lives, create and reinforce social ties, and encourage creativity and development. They do matter, and I wondered how they can survive our current situation, become stronger, and build a better geeky community. My barely-organized thoughts are as follows.

As a note, this is based on two things. One is my knowledge of organizational structures. The other is what I’ve observed, learned, etc. about the virus, possible treatments, and responses. The short form is I think this will bedevil the world for two years, that a vaccine IS possible (but needs annual updates), that there will be better treatments/preventatives, but lots of people aren’t going to follow science.

CONVENTIONS

Conventions should plan for the worst case scenario of no in-person cons happening until mid-2021 easily, possibly start of 2022. I’m missing them as much as anyone, but there’s not going to be anything big until we have a widespread vaccine, and even if we find preventative/prophylactic medication who’s going to take the risk.

But we also needed to rethink cons anyways. Some are overly huge draws. Small ones provide useful niches but get ignored. There’s giant logistical challenges. So here’s my takes.

  • Every con out there should plan to go virtual for the next 18 months easily.
  • A kind of “league of conventions” needs to be formed to share knowledge, tech, and ensure survivability.
  • Cons should consider breaking up into smaller events online, then possibly in person, then re-consolidate if needed.
  • Cons should look at things like outdoor events, etc. that will minimize risk when we’re nearer the end of this.
  • Small cons need to Voltron together right now to support each other.
  • We need convention guides and info sites to focus on virtuality and track them.
  • Duplicate con events as singular events – online viewings, dealer rooms, etc.

GAMING GROUPS

Argh. I didn’t play a lot of tabletop and P&P RPGs as of late, but I wanted to get back into them, and now this happens. I can’t imagine how devastating this is for various gaming groups and stores. Fortunately I’ve seen a lot of gaming groups going virtual or having it as an option anyway.

  • First, I don’t know how bad this is going to be for game stores, but my guess is pretty devastating – many held gaming events. It’s imperative for people to support them.
  • I think we need to see someone write and promote guides on moving gaming groups virtual temporarily. Discord, tools, etc. I see people pick this up by osmosis.
  • Other groups (con groups, cosplay groups, etc.) need to promote these.
  • Gaming groups are great ways to build virtual events to – you guessed it – support cons.

WRITING AND CREATIVE GROUPS

I belong to a bunch of these, and trust me they’re helping a lot of us stay sane and focused. Be it writing, art, or cosplay, these are vital. Fortunately, a lot of these have been going virtual for ages (in fact, I think they’re ahead of gaming groups). The ones I’m part of have adapted well.

  • These groups should cross-pollinate. I’m doing that with my current groups, and it’s helpful to maintaining them, and is psychologically comforting.
  • Some groups are good at specializing, and this helps cross-pollination. Have a “shut up and write group” share members with a “business writers” group.
  • Combine with other events to promote the socializing. We run a movie night and I promote it into my writing groups. This further reinforces things.
  • Start doing presentations WITH cons and other events – be a source of events!

VIDEO GROUPS AND BOOK CLUBS

These seem to have moved online pretty easy based on my experience, so hey, my folks, keep at it. A few thoughts

  • These groups can be vital to building social ties and be ready to help people. We need groups like this.
  • Video groups especially can help support other groups as they can be sites of casual socialization.
  • Experiment with different technologies and try them out – I’ve found out about optimizing experiencces.

GENERAL GEEKDOM
A few more thoughts on what geekdom can do to ruggedize.

  • SPEND. Financial supports of cons, groups, meetups, dealers, etc. Put your money where your mouth is.
  • VOLUNTEER. People may be busy, but we should step up to help our various clubs and groups and cons out.
  • DON’T depend on one technology. Do not count on Discord, Facebook, Zoom, etc. if at all possible. Use multiple technologies as social backup.
  • RECRUIT. Get people involved and help out. We need people actively supporting geeky communities.
  • LEARN AND SHARE. Get to know all these tech tools and share your knowledge.
  • RELAX. Treat yourself right, let your hobbies support you, and don’t overdo it.

So those are my thoughts of a more rugged geekdom. There’s a lot to do – and a lot I need to do more of. But maybe we can build a stronger geekdom in a hard world.

Steven Savage

Remote Cons?

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

With the coronavirus again in the news, I was talking with fellow author Dianne Dotson about COVID-19 and conventions. Obviously some cons are threatened by this disease and it’s going to be with us awhile. This led to a further discussion of how could cons go remote?

That at first sounds kind of impossible for large cons. I mean, how do you replace a get-together for 20,000 people? I’m not saying we should (I may blog on that at another time), but let’s look at how we could do it.

Let me theorize.

General

In general you want the con “feel.” That would probably mean:

  • A central website.
  • Communications tools like chats and forums.
  • Scheduled events.
  • Guests.
  • So on.

Really, none of this is impossible to achieve. But we think of cons as geospecific gatherings – we need the internet equivalent. Besides, that’s a central clearing point for other things . . .

Dealer’s Rooms

Well that’s pretty easy if everyone has an online store or can set one up. You make a list of dealers and perhaps arrange some con discounts.

But you could do more. People might have their own chats or discord servers. You might even be able to route things through an app so you can literally browse and socialize.

There would obviously need to be pre-screaming and so on. On the plus side, it means there’s less physical limits.

Green Rooms/Host Rooms/Parties/Social Events

These can be done easily as well – there’s many social programs folks can use. It wouldn’t take much to have these simulated with chat rooms, etc.

Of course they’d need to be moderated, but that’s something you can do easily – and by holding people responsible of course.

I’d strongly encourage these kinds of socializings at “Remote cons” because that’s part of the point!

Panels and Events

A lot of these can be done, again, with social media programs and chats. There’s things like Zoom, Webex, and more. it’s not hard to do them at all – I know, I’ve done them. Plus you don’t have to have physical limits of space.

These would need schedules and so on – just like other cons.

Guests

Well meeting guests and getting autographs and the like is kind of out here. People can hear them speak and see them, but it’s not quite the same. They can have events, but yeah some stuff might not work.

Maybe autographed stuff can be done by mail or something.

Costume Contest

That’s tough, but it could be done by video or with pre-submitted video. It might be fun to at least try, but I think people would have to experiment to find the best way to get this to work.

Membership

This may be challenging. Cons need to be paid for, and that’s memberships – so how do you make sure con events are exclusive?

I suppose membership access, passwords, and the like could be made for various things. The tech has to be there, using it on the other hand . . .

And That’s It

Really, I can’t see any reason not to try a virtual con. The thing is, there would be challenges.

Even though I’ve enumerated the tech and methods, I think this would have to be tried out. Maybe a minicon could be done, or another con could be partially online. There would need to be experiments and so forth.

But perhaps it’s time we experiment

Steven Savage