Event Review: Sci-Fi Weekender 2013

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Introduction: Why We Went

I am relatively new to conventions. I dislike crowds and noise, so they aught to be the very embodiment of a place where I would not want to be under any circumstances. However, I actually find them to be quite fun. Once or twice a year, I “let down my hair” and attend gatherings of geeks and Guests, partake in Workshops, listen to Talks, play games, watch films, and generally have a good time.

I had heard a lot of amazing things about The Sci-Fi Weekender, and I decided that, in all my capacities as fan, journalist, and photographer, I absolutely had to attend this year.

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“Gig” overload!

So, after almost an entire year of writing and photographing, half the period of which suffered delays due to ill health, I am, as regular readers will know, “back in the game”, out-and-about again, and busy as ever.

I have attended two conventions in two weekends (one of which – GEEK – I received my first ever Press Pass for) and I have been networking my heart out at both, doing detailed write-ups, photographing hundreds, if not thousands of shots every day… and, apparently, it is paying off.

Self Portrait.

Self Portrait.

I am absolutely ruddy exhausted after all this work (including two thirteen hour coach journeys!) but, as aforementioned, “Nothing worth anything is ever easy”.

So, here I am, two months into my New Year’s Resolution, and I have been offered not one, not two, but seven, yes, seven, unpaid “gigs” for both my writing and my photography.

I know that unpaid is not the goal, but ultimately, it will drive me there. Last year I showed a lot of progress in a short period of time, and I was indeed offered paid work, which I turned down on principle due to my lack of experience. But, with seven unpaid jobs currently in negotiation for the coming weeks and months, I may yet gain the experience, Portfolio and references that I feel I need in order to accept paid work.

How Uninspected!

After posting an article about An Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time only days before departing for the event, and scheduling it to be posted whilst I was away, I, rather coincidentally, found promotional postcards at the very event that I had left for, The Sci-Fi Weekender, which were apparently placed there by one of the actors visiting from the US as part of the line-up for the weekend.

My reaction? First and foremost, as Doctor Horrible of Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog so brilliantly put it, “What a crazy, random happenstance!”. Secondly, how utterly fantastic! One of the UK’s largest conventions, and the word about Inspector Spacetime’s very own series is spreading.

What a treat!

nb: Are you a fan of the show? Please remember, there is still time (at the occasion of Blog Post publication) to donate money to help fund a second series. For more information, visit the Kickstarter crowd funding campaign.

Back from Wales…

One of my favourite photographs from The Sci-Fi Weekender convention, and a teaser of the many, many photographs to follow...

The Area 51 entertainers. One of my favourite photographs from The Sci-Fi Weekender convention, and a teaser of the many, many photographs to follow… Copyright Illisia Adams 2013. Please do not use or distribute without prior permission.

After five long, hard days, I have finally returned from my trip to The Sci-Fi Weekender in Wales.

I spoke to many attendees, got lots of interesting facts and figures, did a lot of networking, and of course, took thousands and thousands of photographs (one of which can be seen above, but only small, as a “teaser” for the rest) that literally almost maxed-out both my memory cards!

Photographs, a full Event Review and more to come in the days and weeks to follow (but for now, I need sleep!)… Watch this space!

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Worry not, non-gamers, I have not forgotten about you. There will be plenty of Blog Posts, photographs on my Facebook and website, articles and reviews, etc, in the coming weeks that are nothing to do with games.

Games have been a prominent part of my Blog of late due to GEEK 2013, so I have been aiming many of my Posts at that target market.

But, for fans of other media, photography, and more serious journalism, on the way I have

  • The Sci-Fi Weekender Reports, photographs and over-all Review
  • Photographs
    • Snowy shoots
    • Animals and Wildlife shoots
    • People/Modelling shoots
  • Reviews
    • Film
    • Games
    • Television
  • Articles

So, please bare with me. There is more to Illisia Adams than simply gaming!

Be part of something big: Kick-start a new gaming convention!

The SyperByte 2013 website banner.

The SyperByte 2013 website banner.

My gamer readers may have heard of, or attended, The Euro Gamer Expo, GEEK (Games Expo East Kent), Rezzed, or any of the other established games conventions held throughout the UK, but I can almost guarantee that you have not heard of this one.

SyperByte is a gaming convention held in Manchester with a twist. Two twists, actually.

The first twist is that it is a retro gaming convention that is not just about the games, but the music. It is more like a music festival than a convention. But with games. There will be DJs and artists coming from all around the country to perform their interpretations of retro gaming soundtracks, and original music made with the classic consoles, etc. This is known as “Micro Music”.

Kickstarter Logo

The second twist is that this convention will be “Crowd Funded”, with the use of Kickstarter. This means that they are looking for money not from sponsors, but from you, the fans.

The convention is not completely “new”, it was actually founded last year, to great success, but they do need funding to make the convention bigger, and better.

Funding this event will mean it can expand to not one, but two days, there will be more games available, more live music to enjoy, film screenings, workshops, and lots more. See the full Press Release here.

I, for one, shall be contributing funding to what I think will be a unique, brilliant, and very fun event for gamers such as myself. Funders get their money’s worth, too, with thanks on the website, free ticket/s for the event, exclusive Limited Edition merchandise only available to backers, and even one lucky £250 contributing fan will get to take home the banner that will be held over the main stage throughout the weekend!

There are four days left in the Campaign, and they have got the money that they requested, but the more that they make, the bigger and better this can be. I see so, so much potential here, so I wanted to share it with my readers and give them an opportunity to be part of this, like I intend to be.

So, what are you waiting for? Visit their website to read more about the event, and if you like what you see, get funding!

Event Report: GEEK 2013, Day Three (Saturday)

Introduction

I promised to do a daily Event Report, and though this one is late due to illness, here it is. As with Thursday’s Report and Friday’s Report, I am keeping things simple and used categories and a bullet pointed system. Please note, all images are copyright Illisia Adams 2013. Do not reproduce them without prior consent, thank you.

Report

Layout

The main gaming floor has an interesting colour coding system for genres of games

The main gaming floor has an interesting color coding system for genres of games

Now that I had the lay of the land, it was easy enough to find my way around. Though admittedly the names of the different halls, etc, was still a little difficult at times, when announcements were made, to figure out where to go. It is one thing to know the layout, it is another to know the names of the places you are walking through, especially when the map is difficult to understand.

That said, I had the pleasure of meeting the lady who was responsible for the blocks of GEEK logos (etc) hanging from the ceiling in the main games hall, and she informed me that, actually, the different games genres as marked and colour-coded on the map can be seen physically in the games hall, with different square blocks showing different colours in each area. For instance, ‘Fighting’ is orange, and therefore if you are interested in fighting games, you look for the orange blocks. I felt absolutely stupid for not noticing it before, as it seemed so obvious once I knew, but the fact that no staff had told me this, either, was disappointing.

Games

The new Crowd Funded console, still awaiting release, was playable at the convention at the Fists Of Awesome stand.

The new Crowd Funded console, still awaiting release, was playable at the convention at the Fists Of Awesome stand.

I spent time with the Independent games today, there were some really interesting, unique ones on offer, of different genres and available on varying platforms.

Fists Of Awesome, a very “old school” inspired game with plenty of humor that is oddly addictive, was drawing in the crowds with its Ouya console, a gaming platform that has yet to be released, but was available there due to the game being one of the launch titles of the Crowd Funded console.

Another game, Chompy Chomp Chomp, was a multiplayer game for up to four players where you face-off against your competitors to literally “chomp” one another by chasing after the player who’s color you have been given. I found it ridiculously challenging (I scored zero points three rounds in a row!), but also lots of fun.

The third independent game I unfortunately did not manage to play today, but it seemed very popular with the crowds, which is no surprise given how it seemed to be a form of retro games emulator.

Talks and Workshops (etc)

The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes!

The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes!

… It drew in quite the crowd!

Today I listened to a Talk and sat in for a few minutes on a Workshop about cosplay. Fascinating stuff, by people who clearly know what they are talking about from years of experience.

Another Talk that was beyond fascinating was Matt Fox’s The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes. The seats were all taken, and crowds were piling around the back and the sides, as well, he had everyone enthralled. And for good reason, too. Not only is a ten minute history of video games a seemingly impossible task, but when you manage it with such humor and interaction with the crowd. This Talk was to coincide with the release of his second book, The Video Games Guide volume 2. We swapped contact details and I have every intention of hunting him down for an interview.

Cosplay

A group shot of cosplay on Saturday's stage.

A group shot of cosplay on Saturday’s stage.

Saturday, being the most popular day of course, drew in quite an impressive cosplay crowd. Even my partner and fellow journalist, Matthew Brown (seen here in the center, in the top hat) aka Lord Matt was drawn into the Cosplay Masquerade, with his steampunk-esque clothing, which ironically is his everyday wear!

Four of those cosplayers came all the way from Scotland, and they were an absolute pleasure to speak with, and even later on, play games with. A long way to come for gaming and cosplay! Word of GEEK is clearly spreading…

Exhibitors

There were plenty of stalls with a wide range of games from different genres and consoles. The stand owners seemed very knowledgeable. My friends at Groovy Frog in Ramsgate were also there in full swing, and not just as an exhibitor, but also hosting various workshops on the games that they sell there.

Food

The Irie Soulfood Cafe staff (right) and founder (left) taking a short break as the crowds lessen.

The Irie Soulfood Cafe staff (right) and founder (left) taking a short break as the crowds lessen.

Today I decided to try the Jamaican food available from The Irie Soulfood Cafe‘s stand. I have eaten their food before, last summer in Cecil Square during the Diamon Jubilee celebrations, if I recall. They are still holding strong, and their food is just as gorgeous and their staff and founder just as pleasant as I remember.

Staff

After three days of being at the event, I have found myself seeing familiar faces in amongst the Crew, who greet me by name when they see me and make recommendations for Talks, Workshops and games. I swapped contact details with several of them, I can see us being good friends. These people are geeks, and very polite, friendly ones who are well informed, at that. Questions that could not be answered in days past, ongoing problems, etc, are now easily resolved by them, they are clearly learning from mistakes. Good to know.

Over 18s Late Play

Geeky gaming-themed poetry, courteousy of Game City Nights, as read by Dan Simpson and others.

Geeky gaming-themed poetry, courteousy of Game City Nights, as read by Dan Simpson and others.

There were plenty more Tournaments. Once again, I entered a Call Of Duty one, this time for the original Black Ops (not last year’s record breaking sales sequel). I got lots of comments from my fellow gamers about how a woman aught not to be so good, much to my amusement, and the Replay Events (who host the Tournaments and provide many of the consoles at the convention) staff knew me by this point, cheered me on, and even waited for me when I was running a little late for my turn.

Once again, however, there were many problems with the way that the Tournaments were structured and played. For the Black Ops one, people were told they could not use Custom Classes, but persisted in making them anyway, and the maps used varied from match to match, which made the games unbalanced. There is clearly needs to be more effort to make these games fair for whoever plays them, next year, but nonetheless, I had lots of fun and made many friends.

GameCityNights also provided alternative entertainment for the adults with a gaming themed poetry recital from Dan Simpson, and others. I recorded it, so I can share it with you all at some point in the coming weeks (keep watching this space, or Subscribe to know when it is posted). It was quite brilliant.

Other Notes

  • Disabled Access is limited, but available.
  • The toilet facilities are well maintained.
  • The “GEEK Around Town” events have been well received and recommended by all.

Conclusions

Saturday is widely regarded as a convention’s busiest, and therefore most difficult to run, day. I think that, although there were problems with the schedule, etc, considering the crowds, GEEK did a good job.