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.

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.

Figure Facts for GEEK 2013

I photographed myself in the large mirrors, as I was atop the main games hall on a balcony. I quite like the blur here, very appropriate given how I hate photographs of myself - lol

I photographed myself in the large mirrors, as I was atop the main games hall on a balcony. I quite like the blur here, very appropriate given how I hate photographs of myself – lol

The number of photographs that I took throughout GEEK 2013 were 562 for Thursday’s Preview Day and Evening Launch Event, exactly 1000 for Friday, 1039 for Saturday, and a tiny 136 on Sunday due to illness and having to go home early.

That is 2737 in total, an average of 684.25 photographs per day!

Phew!

Event Report: GEEK 2013, Day Two (Friday)

Introduction

I promised that I would do a day-to-day report, so here is my Report from Friday’s convention. As with Thursday’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 GEEK 2013 Map

I photographed the map to share, so you can all “get the lay of the land”.

There are more halls and rooms open today than there were yesterday, and honestly, the map provided was a little confusing at first for myself, and several other visitors that I spoke with, but we soon go the “lay of the land” after speaking with Crew members and asking advice.

The layout is actually a lot simpler than it seems, and it gives you lots of space to move around in, none of the horrible “shuffling” through crowds that other conventions suffer from. Even the main games hall which looked quite crowded when I first entered was actually rather spacious and well organised so that there is little need for queuing and it is easy to find the game/s that you are interested in.

Talks, Workshops and Food, again, though a little confusing at first, were easy enough to find and were spaciously arranged.

Games

The Video Games Carnival

Outside of the main games hall, there is a Video Games Carnival which had laser games, 3D handheld games, and even giant size games and games controlled using fruit!

There were many more games available today. The main games hall had more games than it did yesterday, including several new independent ones. The entrance hall where the Talks and Food Court has a Video Games Carnival with retro 3D handheld games, giant size competitive gameboy play, and even a PacMan game controlled with the use of fruit (isn’t science fun?)!

Talks and Workshops (etc)

I did not “sit-in” on any Talks or Workshops, but I did walk around the room and I could hear clearly what was being said so the sound travels well for the Talks, and I passed by several Workshops which seemed to be interesting enough to be drawing in the crowds.

Tomorrow I shall attend Workshops and Talks.

Cosplay

Cosplay Group Shot

The Cosplay Masquerade entrants pose for a group photograph.

I met the cosplayer organiser, she is a very pleasant woman with lots of passion for and knowledge in the field. The Cosplay Masquerade was well organised, though there were a few technical difficulties that had it running past its scheduled time, and during the Masquerade there were a few mishaps with the music being played, etc, but jokes were made and laughs were had when this happened, it was very professional. The judging system seemed very efficient and fair, and there were two prizes available. I agreed with their choices, well deserved. Many more photographs to follow.

Exhibitors

The Exhibitors were different today, much more available for purchase.

Food

Hand Prepared Food

The Food Court had much on offer, including a stall selling hand prepared sandwiches.

The Food Court has now been opened, and though it is a small area, there is a reasonable variety, dependent on your preference and budget.

Mr Simms Sweet Shoppe from Margate’s Old Town were there selling imported goods, The Great British Pizza Co were taking orders and having them delivered directly to GEEK’s venue for attendees, a local Jamaican food restaurant (name to follow, bare with me) were preparing hot meals on-site, and there was a stall with plenty of hand made cakes and freshly prepared sandwiches.

  • I decided on the sandwiches. The stall staff were very pleasant people, lots of smiles and very polite, and they even made me a sandwich that was not on their pre-prepared menu, at my request, and for no extra cost. It was well “filled-out”, quite filling, and good value at three pounds. I later tried a lemon cake, a ninja shaped ginger bread man, and an Angry Birds themed cookie. I was pleasantly surprised by the effort to make “geeky” food, and they were quite “yummy”.
  • A fellow attendee purchased a pizza, which he waited around half an hour for, and he allowed me a slice of to try. It was absolutely delicious, lovely and warm, beautifully presented, and not a bad price, given the size of the pizza and how filling it was. Five pounds per pizza.

Tomorrow I shall try the Jamaican food.

Staff

As with yesterday, I found the volunteers to be wonderful people. As you interact with them more and more, you find some even start to remember you and treat you as though you are an old friend. They are happy to answer questions, recommend things to do, and one even got me a glass of water to take pain killers with. Again, no unpleasant experiences with any of them so far, I am very pleased with them.

Over 18s Late Play

Tournament Winner

The winner of the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Xbox 360 Tournament

The main gaming hall was opened late for adults only, and a special section with 18 rated games was additioned. I like this concept, it means that adults that do not want to share their gaming experience with teenagers and children can purchase an evening only ticket.

I myself entered a Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare gaming Tournament, a game that I have never once played, and reached the Semi-Final. I am not happy with the way the Tournament was hosted, I noticed a lot of screen-peaking from fellow players, and even some communication between friends in the Tournament together. This definitely needs improving for tomorrow’s Call Of Duty: Black Ops Tournament.

There were other Tournaments from other genres of gaming (racing, fighting, etc) as well, so there was something for everyone, and the lack of crowds in comparison to during the day meant there was much more freedom in what you could choose to play and how long you could play each game for.

I definitely approve of the Over 18s Late Play.

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

Though the map is a little difficult to read, and the schedule of events was overrunning, I like the spacious layout and the range of games, talks, events, exhibitors and food that was available today. A big improvement on yesterday’s start. The Over 18s Late Play was also a fantastic addition.