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A Tale of Two Cons: Gamefest 2019

Fact: Some conventions host mini conventions to self promote months before the main event.

Fact: Very few conventions actually host mini conventions within themselves.

As a native to the Texas convention scene, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the rise and fall of “mini” conventions.

That’s a miniature, often one day, convention promoting a larger convention that happens later in the year.

San Japan’s MiniMini Con is the largest free one day convention in the San Antonio area. Hosted in the Wonderland of the Americas Mall.

In one day, attendees can see a performance by local idol groups, shop all the handmade vendors, participate in the cosplay contest and sit in on panels.

Then we have …or had? Project A-kon’s Mini A-kon and Micro A-kon. These were also a one day, free con hosted within various local libraries for a few years.

Similar to mini cons, the programming of larger conventions is broken down into what is called “tracks”.

Tracks are often used to share with attendees a specific niche experience. You can find these labeled as such in programming guide apps that tag events as “Sci-Fi Track” or “Comics Track” or “Anime Track” etc.

However, a mini Convention within an established Convention might become a new trend.

I volunteered for the first year convention doing just that within the same space as AnimeFest. GameFest in Dallas, Texas.

Gamefest Dallas is a convention dedicated to the industry of Tabletop Gaming and caters to fans of the industry.

Another interesting tidbit about this con was the badging process.

If you purchased a pass for Animefest, you also had free access to Gamefest and vice versa. Which is great if you wanted to test the waters of this first year con while still venturing throughout Animefest events.

Occupying only two floors of the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, (37th and 38th floors) Attendees had access to game rooms for Tabletop and Digital gaming discussions.

The 38th floor housed open gaming and rentable games library of varying play styles in exchange for leaving your badge while playing.

Just don’t forget it when returning the game!

The 37th floor had dedicated rooms for Tabletop RPGs hosted by local organizations for Pathfinder, Star Finder, and Adventure League DnD.

There was a room for Paint-n-Takes, a room for panels, a room for Wargaming, a room for Battletech gaming, another room for Open Gaming and a room for Live Action Roleplay (LARP) opened. Where you could find games for Werewolf and Vampire: The Masquerade enthusiasts.

There were plenty of tables for attendees to bring their own games to play all weekend.

I was volunteering under Programming and was assigned to the panel room(GP).

As a badge checker to the only panel room, I had a front row seat to listen into discussions of Game Designers, Podcasters, and other game related topics.

Foxtrot Games Co-founder and lead developer, Randy Hoyt discussed their company’s beginnings and present line of games.

They are known for their most popular game, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. Which was now available in card game form. As seen on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop via Geeky and Sundry.

We were treated to a preview announcement of their latest game, The Search for Planet X. A game where Players are astronauts competing to discover this mystery planet first.

The Kickstarter launches for The Search for Planet X this October.

Attendees asked Randy what Foxtrot Games’ advice for how best to prepare for a Kickstarter (Pros and Cons) and what sort of vetting process was used when choosing to take on new games.

As true to their company mantra, “Foxtrot Games is committed to providing engaging, interpersonal experiences through beautiful, approachable tabletop games.”

I especially enjoyed the process for breaking down visual novel games by Pixels and Pins.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a Visual Novel game is. It is an interactive game genre, which originated in Japan, that features text-based stories with pictures and sound.

Think of it as a choose your own adventure book with multiple endings. A narrative game that’s a mixed media book.

Most commonly played on mobile or handheld games. Popular VNs currently out now are The Arcana, Love Nikki, Backstage and Doki Doki Literature Club to name a few.

Ashe Thurman, a one woman company who also had a hand in developing a Visual Novel Story Engine called Ren’Py.

During her panel, she broke down the stages of creating a Visual Novel.

How to graph the rising action, climax, and falling action of storytelling. As well as explaining the branching narrative planning stages for player choices when designing a story.

Including how and when to source artwork (Sprites) for the game and the importance of finding voices for a project. Or leaving out voices and source an independent composer for a project.

Lead Programmer of Ren’Py, Tom (twitter: @RenpyTom) explained his reasoning for creating a program engine for Visual Novel developers as a tool to streamline GUI (graphical user interface) coding in games. The success of the engine being implemented in over 200 games (and counting) since its release was impressive.

There was even an announcement for a new addition to the Ren’Py program that could revolutionize the Visual Novel market. Check out their Lemma Soft Forums to find out.

I learned so much about the process of creating a game from concept to marketing to gaining traction with an audience.

I even sat in on a couple panels discussing how Podcasting for DnD (Dungeons and Dragons) has changed with the rise in Streaming programs for the game.

Now, as far as first year conventions go, Gamefest was a successful run of a mini convention.

It maintained space for events, held a panel with industry guests and fan made panels of the industry, and offered samplings of some broader activities.

Here’s what I hope for Gamefest to add in going forward.

A dedicated demo space for upcoming developers to showcase new work to the public. Rather than having a booth in the AnimeFest Dealers Hall.

Invite more local Streaming Celebrities to host events and cover additional panel rooms producing fan run topics.

There was some streaming of the panels done on Twitch, but not all events were captured for Gamefest.

Maybe have a ticketed BYOC ( Bring Your Own Computer) area.

And finally, a dash of late night programming for those dedicated to the long hour campaigns.

Did you attend Gamefest in Dallas? What did you think of their first year?

Leave it in the comments below.

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Ideas for Eco-Friendly Cosplay

So, what about Cosplay isn’t green already?

It’s a hobby that literally teaches people to become MacGyver’s with hot glue. A hobby that encourages using tin foil crumpled and pressed into foam with an iron to make faux leather.

And don’t even get me started on how many coupon ninja tricks you can do to achieve 50% off an entire fabric hoarding purchase.

If you’ve been in the hobby for a while, surely you already know to never use the expensive stuff when the dupe in Walmart is just as good. However…

Cosplay can always be a little more friendly to the environment and your wallet.

Going Greener for Cosplay and your wallet.
Going Greener for Cosplay and Your Wallet.

The most obvious solution use what you already have.

Closet cosplays, especially for the sewing challenged are a great starting point. Shoutout to the Supernatural, the Once Upon a Time, and Myth Buster Look-A-Likes. Street clothes are probably the most comfortable you will ever be at a con.

And just like the “wear this item, X amount of ways” challenge, seek out that one clothing piece that’s extra versatile.

The same goes for wigs that are not permanently fixed to one look. Brush out or gently wash out all that holding spray; re-heat, re-style, and re-use.

Angelic Daze Cosplay gives advice on upcycling old cosplays.
Angelic Daze Cosplay via Instagram has a wonderful walkthrough for recycling old cosplays.

WARNING: Removing foam core that is sewn in/glued into wigs can damage and might not be worth repurposing. So, do deconstruct with care.

You could even salvage fabrics from that costume you wore only a handful of times and make a new costume piece.

So, what about the thrift shops?

Now, don’t assume all thrift stores are the same. Dark, dirty, and missing a door or window. There’s more out other than just Goodwill. With a little research, you’d be surprised at how many great finds make it into Consignments such as Plato’s Closet or even Buffalo Exchange.

Find the nearest garment district and become a regular of their overstock flea markets. Train your eye to see the base for any costume piece that’s easy to add or subtract features to suit your needs. It’s a skill that will take time to practice and will save you dollars over time. Modifying see-through raincoats for cosplay does come in handy for most Blade Runner cosplay needs.

Coming up, an excellent example of using an entire bed set for Critical Role cosplay. Top sheet, mattress sheet, and a couple pillow cases later…

Thrifted fabrics made into Beauregard , Critical Role
My Beauregard cosplay made from Thrifted bedsheets.

Can’t find a resale store?

Host a Cosplay Swap Meet.

I guarantee you that someone local is dying to get rid of a few costumes. They’ve recently outgrown cosplays, have some well loved cosplays, or fell out of love mid-crafting.

Find a public space for an event (might have to charge a small entry fee to pay for the rental) or a nice park that’s easy to access from most major highways. Grab a few blankets, some sharpies for price tags, suggests dates in your local Cos Community, settle on a date and bring all the trades to the yard.

For less stress, establish guidelines for how to conduct trades.

Traditionally, Swap Meets are straight “trade for trade” with no money involved. However, if money does become involved do make it clear that the use of third party payment programs like Venmo, Paypal, Facebook Pay, and others will require consent of both parties agreeing to the trade and a grace period of “X amount of days” for payment to clear. No returns unless mutually agreed upon that the trade was not for equal value or satisfactory to said parties discretion.

If possible, have participants share preview pictures of costumes and props their wishing to swap. That way everyone has an idea of what to bring.

And let’s not forget the number one way to save.

Commission, locally.

I can hear those eyeballs rolling, but I say again, hear me out.

When learning to craft props or even full on outfits for cosplay there will always be a waste cost to both time and supplies.

Instead of recasting those gems for the 10th time, why not order a 3D print of one from a local crafter that’s perfected it?

Force Captian Pin from Shinka Studios Cosplay
Force Captain pin (She-Ra) by Shinka Studios Cosplay that I purchased from the Prop Maker Coalition at RTX, Austin – 2019.

Instead of ripping seams only to damage that very expensive fabric to remake a bodice for the umpteenth time, why not take your measurements to a Cosplay Seamstress/ Tailor. Freeing up your time to work on other things.

I know, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of wearing a cosplay that you crafted with your own two hands. But it’s okay to hand off those pieces we’re not so great at to someone who is crazy talented at making.

Its okay! Buy that prop kit and download that pattern!

Don’t feel discouraged if you can’t always keep it green when crafting for cosplays.

If you can find an alternative to anything at a fraction of the cost, it’s going to help you in the long run. But, don’t ever skimp on quality for quantity. Do the research; Use the coupons.

Supporting each other in the cosplay community not only lowers emissions with umpteenth trips back to Lowes/JoAnn Fabrics/Michaels/ that one place in the sketchy part of town; It saves you many nights of re-sewing, and frustration over pattern instructions.

I have no doubt that as a community of Makers, Crafters and frugal shoppers that going with a cleaner alternative is beneficial in the long run. So, let’s continue to work together in sharing knowledge and resources for the next generation to continue the cosplay tradition.

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How to stay Optimistic While Streaming

It’s easy to go live these days.

Facebook does it.

Instagram does it with a time limit.

Twitter…sorta knows it can?

YouTube is experimenting with subtle differences here and there. Plus there are new apps appearing almost daily to cater to this new media.

But, streaming as a beginner can be a little overwhelming and high expectations too often meet a wall. I started my own channel just last year and while  it hasn’t been easy, I’ve made a handful of friends through it.

So, here are my tips for keeping the passion alive while developing your corner of the streamy-hood.

Disclaimer: These tips are more from my experience as a beginner ‘variety’ channel. But, can apply to other styles of Streams as well.

Don’t Sweat the Follower Count

I know, it’s mind boggling to not look at how often that follower count goes up or down with each new cast. In the beginning, that view count will be zero to two to zero.

Unless you happen to have a large following already, chances are high that no one will be watching you … for a while. This is a good time to get comfortable looking deep into the black hole of your webcam and thinking about your posture.  When the follow count is low, this is the best time to develop your online persona.

Continue to play your favorite game and narrate what you plan on doing as the stage progresses. Bonus points if you can manage to mention any developer history or facts about the game.

I find it helps to pretend the camera is a good friend that’s asking a question about what I’m doing or how my day has been every minutes.  Don’t worry, you’ll get use to it soon.

Focus on a topic rather than a task

Each time you go live, you should have a topic in mind. To stand out in a sea of other gaming channels, you need to come at your audience from a new angle.

One thing that seems to boost channels in categories for a game is the stream title being a “question of the day” or  “motivation of the day”. Take a moment to look up a few deep, insightful questions to ask a stranger. This also helps get the chat moving along and you can repeat the question/answer it each time a new viewer pops in.

Practice your stream ritual

What’s your signature move everytime you go live?

I’ve had to think about this for a while too. Do I want to greet my channel members with a high five and a welcome back then recap what we did last week? Or do I jump on, chat for  a bit about plans for the month then jump into the game?

Honestly, this should be a habitual thing that occurs when the channel is live. Followers  will begin to chant the motto as well if you do it right. Just, don’t steal someone else’s thing. You can borrow inspiration, but it’s generally frowned upon to blatantly copy.

Plan out your outfits for each broadcast

They say a new pair of shoes can change a person’s whole mood. So, why not pick out an outfit that makes you feel Ah-mazing every time.  This could even be a signature look for you later on. But, for now just have fun playing with your looks.

I know for me, I love to do my makeup and pull out a fun wig most days.

Share a Broadcast with friends and family

This is probably the hardest thing to do if your shy or not confident about your current channel focus. So, I suggest when sharing a link to your stream to mention, “Hey, I’m trying something on [X]. Feel free to take a peak and let me know what you think about it.”

Building a channel takes time, especially if you don’t have a large following on another social platform to feed from. Take this time to think about what sort of value*  you can give to the community and how you can boost your personality from here on out.

Ashnichrist is a Stream Coach for both Twitch and Mixer. Her video on that very topic is a golden rule to stand by.

Make a dedicated stream playlist

This one is a bit tricky as some streaming services have to be careful of copyright strikes for licensed music. So, if you have a spotify account or a source for royalty free music, why not try having that playing in the background while you stream.

It can help set the mood and theme of every stream. Just be sure you can use it otherwise, the past broadcasts audio will be muted.

Curate your offline Feed

Last, but really first, I guess? Think about starting a social account dedicated to your off stream activities.

I can already heard the eye rolls. So, hear me out on this.

Unless your a drafted Professional Gamer or a host for an eSports network, your feed shouldn’t be flooded with games all the time. There should be a balance between a few selfies and actual activities you enjoy doing outside of gaming.

Share plans for events your excited to attend. Snap a few pictures of the cute dog you ran into at the park. Share that fantastic new meal you created out of boredom.

This shows your fan base that not only are you a human that ventures into the public from time to time. You also have an interest in food, shopping, collecting comics, and more. Share what you feel comfortable with being on the internet for all eternity.

And those are my tips for staying optimistic while streaming.

Let me know what some of your optimising boosts are in the comments below. And if you’re looking for more help with streaming, check out Ashnichrist’s new book and her coaching options over on Patreon.

5 Things I Want To See In Aggretsuko Season 2

As a working adult millennial,  I’m sure that I am not alone in saying the Netflix x Sanrio’s, Aggretsuko really hit the feels. When it was announced at Anime Expo that Season 2 was in motion, I had to catch my breath. Then I got to thinking about what else could Retsuko show us from her corporate life. So, here are 5 things I want to see in Aggretsuko, Season 2.

If you haven’t watched Season 1 yet, don’t look at these theories. Spoilers ahead!