Ucon Cape Town Genshiken

By the time you read this, the first ever anime and gaming convention to be hosted by UCT’s anime and gaming club, Genshiken, will be over. The event was a success, but it had a few minor problems.

When I arrived at UCT’s Molly Blackburn hall on Saturday I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people that were milling around outside. As we all know, most Cape Townians melt if they’re caught out in the rain, so I figured that most people would have decided to stay at home after the horrendous storm that happened the night before. It seems geeks are made of sterner stuff since, despite the grey clouds that filled the sky that Saturday morning, a large number had decided to risk venturing outdoors anyway.

The next thing I noticed outside was the food vendors, which were just to the right of the main venue. One was offering Chinese takeout and sushi, and the other was selling boerewors rolls (for my foreign readers: they’re basically uber South African hotdogs), and other fast foods. Already this event was a major improvement over Japan Day, which I went to earlier this year and had no food available at all. Easy access to food was a huge bonus since I had skipped breakfast. I wandered up the stairs towards the main hall, and after quickly chatting to someone I knew, I paid my R50 entrance fee and ventured inside.

As I entered I saw dozens of gamers huddled around Samsung screens playing Halo, Tekken, or the latest Mortal Kombat. I felt a bit bad for the people watching and waiting. The comfort of spectators had been sacrificed a bit in order to get as many tables and screens into the front area of the hall as possible. As a result, it was a bit cramped if you felt like watching or didn’t want to lose your place in line.

UCON GAMING GENSHIKEN UCT
It got a bit cramped during the peak hours.
UCON GAMING 3
Things were better when people disappeared for lunch.
UCON GAMING GENSHIKEN UCT
FPS on console (shudders). How am I supposed to rocket jump, weapon switch, and snipe a guy mid-air?

A couple of meters away was the market area. Now this may sound a bit derogatory, and it’s not intended as such, but the hall was basically a geek flea market. Again, I don’t mean this in a negative sense. It definitely had a certain charm to it. The tables were well spaced out, and there was a variety of geeky merchandise on display. There was board games, comic books, card games, costumes, cosplay clothes, goth fashion, roleplaying games, t-shirts, toys – if there had been more video gaming merchandise on sale UCON would have had just about every sector of the market covered.

UCON merchandise sellers
UCON merch on sale.
UCON merchandise sellers
During a bit of a lull.
UCON merchandise sellers
What would UCON be without Readers Den?
UCON Mechandise sellers
People shopping before the Kenjutsu demonstration began.
UCON merchandise sellers
Figures and model kits on sale at UCON.
UCON merchandise sellers
More geek toys!
UCON merchandise sellers
If board games and roleplaying were your thing, UCON had you covered.
UCON merchandise sellers
If board games and roleplaying were your thing, UCON had you covered.
UCON merchandise sellers
Clothes and other merch were also on sale at UCON.
UCON merchandise sellers
Clothes and other merch were also on sale at UCON.

In addition, four local artists, Kay Carmichael, Danielle Albertyn, Keda Gomes, and one of the Juvies artists (who I haven’t yet had a chance to talk to) had also brought along their awesome art, comics, and assorted merch to sell as well.

UCON Artists
Sophie Giant Slayer by Kay Carmichael. http://carmichaelkay.wix.com/kay-carmichael-
UCON Artists
A couple of pages from Sophie Giant Slayer. http://carmichaelkay.wix.com/kay-carmichael-
UCON Artists
Danielle Albertyn hard at work doing sketches for UCON attendees. https://www.facebook.com/WildThingIllustration
UCON Artists
Danielle Albertyn’s awesome art. https://www.facebook.com/WildThingIllustration
UCON Artists
More of Danielle Albertyn’s awesome merch. https://www.facebook.com/WildThingIllustration
UCON Artists
Keda Gomes – aka the Reckless Buddah – had great art on sale. http://kgomes.co.za/home
UCON Artists
More of Keda’s Art. http://kgomes.co.za/home
UCON Artists
One day I’ll have a room big enough to fit art like this in it. Art by Keda Gomes. http://kgomes.co.za/home

A little while after I got there, one of the local kenjutsu groups did a short demonstration. I had already seen them do their thing at Japan Day, so I took a few shots and then wandered back to the table where my friend Kay had set up.

Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.
Kenjutsu demonstration at UCON.

I discovered when I got there that more people I knew had arrived, so we all made a mission to go get lunch. We passed through the anime screening area, and walked through the LAN area, which was unfortunately very quiet. There had been a bit of miscommunication about the LAN, and after it was announced that gamers wouldn’t have overnight access to the venue, quite a few people decided to boycott the LAN. The organisers bent over backwards and managed to convince the higher ups to allow the LAN gamers to stay overnight, but it seems that most people had cancelled their transportation and there was no way they were going to be able to make it. You’d think that alternative arrangements could’ve been made to get there since less than two hours had passed since the original announcement, but I got the impression that even if each seat at the LAN came with a free bag of Doritos and Mountain Dew, these guys still probably wouldn’t have made it.

On the way we bumped into even more people we knew, so we all joined forces and ventured off we went in search of more substantial food. Our search was sadly in vain. While a few of UCT’s cafes were open, the amount of pidgeons patrolling the extremely messy tables (clearly the people that eat there don’t know how to clean up after themselves – and this is coming from a messy guy), and the fact that a friend ordered a boerewors roll and chips which somehow became a hamburger and chips, saw us return to the main vendor area by Molly Blackburn. After lunch I caught up with a bunch of people, and managed to score a lift back home with some (awesome) friends of mine. They were heading out but would be coming back for the cosplay show. I confirmed with the organisers that the show was 18.30 for 19.00, and headed home for a couple of hours. The day had been pretty great so far and I was really looking forward to the cosplay show. Sadly, it seems some things are just not meant to be.

I returned to UCT at 18.35 with my two friends. As we wandered closer towards the hall, I realised that the music was much louder than it had been earlier in the day, and was very definitely Jpop. We stepped inside to find all the cosplayers already on stage. It seemed as if the show had started, but we weren’t quite sure. We sat down, caught one of the acts, and then discovered, yes, the show had already started. In fact, we were watching the end of it.

Cosplay at UCON
Cosplay at UCON.
Cosplay at UCON
Cosplay at UCON. Sadly most of my other pictures came out worse than this one. The lighting near the stage was pretty bad and my camera’s flash wasn’t great.

I was a bit bleak about this and chatted to a couple of people I knew. It turns out that when most of the stalls started closing up for the day, that people were fading fast, and so the decision was made to push the show forward. I pointed out that they should have put an announcement up on their Facebook event for those of us who were expecting it to run on time, but I wasn’t too upset about it. It was really a tiny crew that was running the show, and I can imagine that most of that hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. Anyway, what little of the show we saw was still pretty cool, and because we finished early my friends and I ended up going to watch Killing Them Softly (I should have the review up soon).

So overall it was a pretty cool day. While certain things hadn’t worked out as well as Genshiken (and others) had hoped, I still have to congratulate them on actually making it happen. So many others, including some professional organisers, have promised to bring a geek event to Cape Town and had failed to do so. While it was on a smaller scale, the Genshiken crew had succeeded where many others have failed, so well done to them. Regardless of this year’s hiccups, I’m definitely looking forward to UCON 2014.

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