Sunday, July 10, 2011

Speaking of Cons: AFW Review

This past weekend was Anime Fest Wichita. I was there helping to promote Naka Kon as well as running my usual panel.

In every respect, this con was dismal.

We'd paid for a booth with electricity to run our projector and other electronics. Which we didn't get. There was little apology from the organizers and we eventually dragged a promise of a refund for that payment out of them, which was not delivered until well after we'd planned to leave.

Our table was placed in the vendors room, which is pretty normal, but gave us a chance to talk to other vendors. Apparently, one had been told that AFW's attendance was an order of magnitude higher than what it was. Another had been packing up merchandise that wasn't selling and had one of the con's chairs flip out on them, telling them they were in violation of their contract which required to have their booth open until the dealers room closed. Which they were.... just removing some merchandise.

The short story was that their vendors were treated pretty poorly and many have decided not to be returning.

But how was the experience as a panelist?

Also disappointing.

I was given a large space, but when I arrived, there was no projector, no screen, and no connections for audio, all of which were checked on the submission form. I'd arrived 30 minutes early because I always expect the worst and had found a projector and (tiny) screen, but it took pathetically long to get audio working. It took nearly 20 minutes for a member of their A/V staff to arrive to attempt to make the sound work. But they weren't equipped with cables sufficiently long to make the connection. For 15 minutes they searched for some that were, but ultimately, didn't have any. The final solution was to move their entire sound box to right next to my laptop, which ultimately worked.

The panel started only 5 minutes late and went exceptionally well. I'd intended to leave 10-15 minutes for questions and discussions and ended with exactly that amount.

Lastly, my experience as a general attendee: Yet again, this con was a failure. For an anime convention, it was unfocused. It was loaded with panels and guests that had absolutely nothing to do with the topic. There wasn't a single panel that ended up being worth attending. The "dance" couldn't make its mind up what it wanted to be either.

The only reason I've ever attended this convention was as part of the Naka Kon staff. But as a guest, I'd not return on my own.


Bobby Scarbrough said...

To be fair on their dance, the DJ dropped out last minute. The kid playing had about a day's notice to prepare. I played that event last year, and I'll say it's a very split crowd.

The kids who love electronica LOVE it (most are now coming to Tokyo in Tulsa to our heavy electronica dance event), and those who don't are all over the internet trashing me for not playing requests (which I actually DID play since I spent the better part of two weeks gathering them up) and not playing enough Jpop.

Found that just last week when their DJ contacted me to tell me he was dropping out. I googled DJ and the convention name. Ouch. Eh you can't be loved in every city I guess. LoL.

Their attendees are, hands down, the roughest crowd I've ever dealt with. The internet trashing takes it a bit too far for my tastes.

Jon Voisey said...

I'd heard that the DJ had to drop. That's unfortunate and I have sympathy for them on that.

Still, the split nature seems to be a big problem AFW has. Is is Anime or is it steampunk? Techno or Jpop? Trying to be diverse only works so far. Sure, it gives some incentive to others to come that might not otherwise, but it also gives less incentive to come to those looking for the narrow focus. AFW sure hasn't learned this lesson.

And don't take the criticism too personally. At Naka this year, DJ Sephiroth got slammed for his music choice, and I think pretty rightfully slow. It was too slow to really get the energy up. But I think he had completely the right approach: He got on the Naka forums and discussed it, demonstrating his reasoning, where he had done what was asked, and trying to fine tune the style. I wasn't all that impressed with him at the con, but that response totally earned him respect points in my book.

Meanwhile, I posted a similar comment to this blog post on the AFW feedback forums and got a pissy, dismissive response from their staff.