It was upwards of twenty degrees in the scorching sunshine in Dublin last weekend, but the hottest place to be was in the D4 Hotel in Ballsbridge for ArcadeCon.
ArcadeCon stands apart from other conventions in that it’s not catering to any one group of people. As per their own website, the aim of ArcadeCon is to bring together all aspects of gamer and geek culture for one entire weekend during the Irish summer; including the words “Irish Summer” was wildly optimistic of the organizers of ArcadeCon, but it turned out that the summery weather did indeed appear, the rest of their promise was fulfilled too. AcardeCon brought together a lot of disparate geek and nerd communities in to one place for one long weekend, and everybody felt welcome.
When I arrived at the D4 Hotel in Ballsbridge at 10AM on Saturday morning, the queue for admission, while nowhere near as long as it had been the previous day, was already stretching past the doors of the Convention Centre and out in to the car park. I checked back at a few different stages during the day that size of that queue never got smaller. It was as if a secret agreement had been made between two thousand people online to make sure that the queue was an everlasting thing. Is there such a thing as a stand-in-a-line version of a Flash Mob?
This not being their first rodeo, the organizers of the convention made sure that there was plenty of information about what was happening and where it was happening plastered all over the walls. The timetable had already been published online, but a depressingly small amount of people seemed to have gone to the bother to actually print it out. The first big event of the Saturday that caught my interest was a panel called “Women in Refrigerators” which was due to start at 11AM.
Due to the fact that I didn’t have to queue for admission, I had an hour free before the panel was to start, and just like every other convention I’ve ever been to in this country or any other, the first thing I did with my free time was had to the Trade Hall. I had money that was just begging to be spent, apparently.
As much as I loved the nerd-diversity of the event, I was very happy to see a lot of people that I recognized and to see so many of my interests included. Darrin O’Toole, fresh off the success of his recent KickStarter campaign was on hand with his Earthruler books. The crew from Lightning Strike were frantically sketching and selling copies of the third issue of their book. Kevin Weldon was selling some of his own excellent prints, and Jay and Doc were representing Dublin City Comics while delighting their customers with Venom and Deadshot costumes that they made themselves. All at the same time, knowing so many talented people is extremely gratifying but it’s also a motivator to get a better day job. After some catch ups and a few quick chats and spending an impressively small amount of money on new comics…
The “Women In Refrigerators” panel was hosted by Pubcaster Kim Brosnan, Writers Anna Nic Ghiolla Mhuire and Andrea Magnorsky from Bat Cat Games. The audience, which easily filled half of the seats of the biggest room in the hotel, was pretty evenly split between male and female attendees. Even though the title of the panel hails from the infamous issue of Green Lantern and the gruesome death of Alex DeWitt, the panel was representative of the convention in which it was held, ranging from comics to movies to games to general literature and back around to comics with talk of The Hawkeye Initiative. The panel was as serious as it was funny and as educational as it was emotional. It’s always a good sign when a panel like that runs out of time. The conversation and interaction could have continued on and been interesting for three times the hour that was allotted.
After the panel was over, I decided to check out the Saturday Morning Cartoons room. Even though it was slightly past Midday and technically not the morning any more I went anyway. My little act of temporal rebellion was well rewarded as when I went in to the room, the cartoon which was playing was the Jungle Book movie. The Jungle Book was the first movie that I ever saw in the cinema so I was very happy to be able to sit and watch the movie for a while.
The next panel that I scheduled myself in for wasn’t until 3PM so I had some time to ramble around and see what was to be seen. Several members of the main organizing committee were running frantically from place to place trying to make sure that everything was running smoothly and that there were no problems. It’s worth saying that everything did run smoothly and there were no problems. I did manage to see Naomi Bolger standing still long enough to have a quick chat with her. At that stage of the day, not even yet 1PM, she was exhausted after only two hours of sleep, she had a million different things that she had to do, and a huge number of staff members to corral. You could also see her delight at the way that the convention was going. Numbers were up from last year, and the atmosphere in the place was electric. That was enough just to make everything else seem worthwhile. Even at that stage Naomi was thinking that the convention might reach capacity, delighted with the success that that meant, but sad at the thought of anyone being turned away. By 2PM, the capacity of roughly two thousand people had been reached.
Where the combination of “all aspects of gamer and geek culture” was most obvious was in the variety of cosplay that was on display at the convention. I did recognize an awful lot of the characters that were walking around the hotel but I have to admit that a lot of the characters were unknown to me too. The folks at Lightning Strike suggested that if there were any costumes I didn’t recognize, that meant they were Naruto. It seemed like a decent enough explanation, and any inclination I had to ask for more information was derailed when someone asked to have a photo taken with me as I was wearing my Clerks 2 Mooby shirt.
My second panel of the day was entitled “Big Bang Bullshit” hosted by Naomi Bolger and Paul Furey. The panel was being held in Panel Room 2, a room that holds about thirty people, but the amount of people who wanted to hop on this bandwagon was much more than thirty people. I went to that panel mainly because I was sure there was going to be a row about the show but I was actually the only person in the room who liked the show whatsoever. I’m not sure if the huge level of hatred for the show is due to the show itself or its popularity. I didn’t stick around to find out as I had other places to be and people to talk to. I’ve never really understood the nerd rage thing. If I don’t like something, I ignore it and move on with my life, which is why you’ll never see me write about Dr Who.
Talking to different people at different stages who were involved in different parts of the convention, the one through line was the fact that there just wasn’t enough time, regardless of how many days they attended the convention for. ArcadeCon is probably the most sociable convention that I’ve ever attended, and it’s always a true thing that time spent in the company of great people goes by too quickly.
It hardly seemed like any time at all had passed before the Trade Hall closed and the panels ended. Before I knew it, I was in the hotel bar with Darrin O’Toole and Stephen Mooney and the folks from Pubcast talking about the events of the day. Though the conversation very quickly turned to other things as it always does.
Nothing good can last forever. It’s a fact that we all have to learn to live with, just like we all have to accept that people will keep giving Michael Bay money to blow stuff up. The thing that makes it bearable is knowing that just like your Birthday and Christmas and the few days of summer that we get and all of the days of the year that make the other days bearable, ArcadeCon will be back next year. A lot of the same people will be back next year as organizers and panelists and attendees and they’ll bring the same level of knowledge and enthusiasm and friendliness with them that they brought this year.