måndag 23 februari 2015

NärCon Winter 2015 ConReport

NärCon Winter has grown a lot since last year, with almost double the amount of visitors. A lot of space had been freed by moving the sleeping halls away from the main venue, so the convention wouldn’t feel double as crowded. They had moved a lot of the booths and exhibitors away from the main hallway into the old sleeping hall rooms. This made it easier to walk the hallway, but also removed any reason to do so. And by having everything so spread out it made it very difficult to find anything, especially the rooms that required you to walk through some far away empty hallways; I know of at least one room that had made a thing of how many found the room only because they were lost. Everything felt thin and spread out, and it was hard to know if there were anything in this side-hallway or not. A lot of empty areas which is awesome if you want to get away for a while, but made it feel like the convention didn’t have anything to offer.

There were the standard merchandise stores which has become some blurred out white noise to me since they never have anything I would be even remotely interested in. I didn’t care about the game rooms; I can play games at home, so why would I do that here? Most of the external events looked empty and not very inviting, they felt like an excuse for that event to get free tickets. The main exception to this was the PostApoc-room that actually had decorated and it felt like they had made an effort to accurately represent themselves.

Last NärConWinter they had made a push to offer a lot of variations of food. This year it felt like they had forgotten this push. The cafeteria sold some noodles and salad; “Hottu Drinku” sold warm beverages; an external restaurant sold sushi (which I don’t eat); “NärKorv” from last year had been replaced with a toast bar that sold toasted sandwiches; and then there were a lot of sweats and candy. So no real food, so I spent all my food-money outside the convention and at the hotel restaurant.

One store that I really liked though was “PeppByrån”, a store that sold everything you might have forgotten to bring, like shampoo, tampons, deodorant, and my favorite: cough drops. It was a mood-saver to find this store. I want to see stores like this on all future event. I also liked that most of NärCon’s own stores accepted credit cards, so you didn’t have to bring cash.

I didn’t have time to do much this convention, and maybe that was a good thing, because when I had free time I couldn’t find anything to do. I tested some games from LiU Game Awards, played some games in the Doctor Who room, had a small practice run with a potential lecture about Arduino, and looked at some awful stage shows. The stage shows I watched as a regular visitor all had terrible embarrassing technical “difficulties”. The opening ceremony didn’t have enough content to fill all the scheduled time, all they had was a bad “skit”, some standard info, and a quick interview with the guests of honor. The opening ceremony was supposed to be followed by the performance and skit contest, but since the opening ceremony finished a whole hour early all the visitors had to leave the hall for that hour.

The performance contest itself never happened because the only two that had registered to compete never showed up. I was supposed to be judging the performances, but was moved to judge the skits instead. There were some technical problems during the skits (I was not surprised), but it didn’t affect the scores negatively. The winning skit was a really sad skit about a man that loses everything, with Karu Wallin as Charlie Chaplin (it made me cry). We haven’t seen many emotional and sad skits before, but I hope to see more like this in the future. Skits does not have to be fun or high-energy dances. The whole skit-contest was opened with a (non-competing) skit by VändettA Cosplay. It was a faithful and fun SnK parody of AvenueQ’s “There’s a world outside your apartment”. The stage was maybe a bit too small and way to unstable.

I was also a judge for the Master category in the regular cosplay competition. I was so happy to have fun and open co-judges, they had both humor, focus, and knowledge. The prejudging went well, there were a lot of cool and good cosplays. Where were different judges for the different categories, so we didn’t have to think about the other categories, which I liked and it made it easier to focus. All the categories had prejudging in the same room, but with temporary walls put up between each “booth” so we wouldn’t bother each other. This worked surprisingly well.

The cosplay show had some artsy intro-skit that I couldn’t really put my finger on what is was, and an outro-skit by T-Rex Gymnastics. The T-Rex skit had great acting, but I don’t think those who haven’t seen Code Geass would understand it. During the Master part of the competition our co-judge Calssara felt a strong pain and had to abort her judging and be rushed to the infirmary. The competition went on, but we other judges were worried about her. The cosplayers all had really good performances. It was really tough to decide since the top three could all be Best Master, and our discussion after the contest went on for hours, the last of us left the judging room after midnight. We finally decided on this:

Best Master: Hani Abbas as Tiny Tina from Borderlands 2
Best Craftsmanship: Linnea Hansson as Hawke from Dragon Age 2
Best Performance: Emma Charlotta Granath as Elsa from Frozen
Honorable Mentions:
Alice Gomér as Fairy Gym Leader Valerie from Pokémon XY
Erik Pettersson as Nuada Silverlance from Hellboy II
Jenny Norberg as Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones
Alice Rebecca Holmén as Victorious Morgana from Leauge of Legends

Another cosplay competition was of course Cosplay SM (Swedish Cosplay Championship) that took place in an ice hockey arena that had been converted into a stage. New for this year (and apparently a world first) was that the whole finale was broadcasted live on national television. You should be able to watch it here. I was not involved in in this year’s edition of CosplaySM, I was just a regular visitor. I arrived at Saab Arena just as they opened the doors. It took me 30 minutes to get in, and by then all four queues had doubled in length. I still managed to get a spot quite close to the stage. I was a bit nervous about that I might have to be ashamed over the championship, but as soon as everything started to get going I felt more and more like this is something we can proudly show off. The only thing that made me close my eyes and sigh was Rebecka’s fursuit incident, sad that it happened but I was not surprised. All competitors looked good, especially since I know some of them was finishing their cosplays in the hotel the night before. Most of the performances looked good as well. Linn was however the obvious winner, and I also agree on the second- and third-place with Lotta and Cat.

The production value on the whole show was high, a lot higher than anything we’ve ever seen in Swedish cosplay. And to quote Debbie Lane, who has been involved behind the scenes in all CosplaySMs to date: “This was the most gorgeous cosplayshow ever!”

I hope that other large cosplay competitions can learn from CosplaySM, especially regarding timing, videos, getting props on and off stage, etc. Even if television might not always be there, work like they are.

After CosplaySM something I had suspected the whole event became very clear. CosplaySM had gotten all the love, all the money, and all the good staff. Even NärCon’s founder would rather wear a CosplaySM shirt than a NärCon shirt. NärCon itself was left with whatever it could find. A crappy stage, technicians that doesn’t know how to use PowerPoint, chaos everywhere and all the time, and not enough content to fill out the event.

On a personal note:

I had a lot of fun during NärConWinter2015, and I never had a dull moment. My throat was killing me but the cough drops from Peppbyrån saved my weekend.

I wore MewTwo for an hour during the Friday, it was very fun and people seemed to like it. I could barely walk a meter before being asked for a photo. It took the whole hour to take one back-and-forth turn in the main hallway.

I was planning on wearing Sailor Jupiter on the Saturday, but I was so tired after the prize-ceremony and it had started to rain, so I skipped it.

I feel very happy for getting to know so many people this event. High-profile people are talking to me like they actually are interested in my opinion and we can have interesting discussions. This boosted my self-esteem. But mostly I’m happy about getting to know Fia, Cim, and Mica from VändettA, last event I was star struck by them, now I feel like their friend.

Now I’m really pepp to start working on new cosplays, and maybe compete in the future. And my anti-juding feelings I had before this event are long gone, now I want to continue as long as they want me.

NCW15: 2/5
CosplaySM: 5/5

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