Ai-Kon Winterfest 2013 Post-Show

Aaaaand I’m back. I’ve spent the weekend at a hotel so that I could easily take in the sights and sounds of Winterfest on Saturday. Ai-Kon’s miniature convention is a way to whet your appetite for anime each winter – and this year, at least, it just felt like their heart wasn’t in it.

So being a miniature convention, the scale was much toned down – which, for the most part, had the impact of making everything feel more… familiar and comfortable… than conventions often are. The downside was that, the atmosphere of the main room was so cold and sterile, that it sapped a lot of that comfort out of that section. I suspect they were trying to go for the ‘snow white’ style of decoration to try to make things feel elegant and pretty, but between the poorly polished brown-stone flooring and strange lighting, it just didn’t work. While I know that they had little control over lighting or the floor itself, the decor could have been altered to try to create a better feel within that room.

The layout itself was, for the most part, handled quite well. They separated the showing room a great deal from the rest of the convention, ensuring a private and quiet setting for people who were partaking in that part – even during the rave at the end of the evening – it was really nice to have a quiet place one could go without actually leaving the convention while that was going on. The shop was easily accessible, and was laid out with a good amount of space for people to walk and still look at the displays.

As always, the atmosphere is the biggest attraction of Ai-Kon – even the mini-Ai-Kon called Winterfest. The fans are always happy and excited, and that is what makes the convention a success. Everyone has a certain exuberance, from the attendees and artists to the volunteers and exhibitors, and it really does help to create an atmosphere that is conducive to enjoying yourself. The ‘masquerade’ was probably the one exception to this. Half of the crowd just sat around awkwardly while the other half was on the dance floor dancing to the violin music… and the feel in the air at that moment reminded me of a pre-teen dance, awkward and unpleasant. Fortunately that was the exception and not the rule, and only lasted about an hour.

With a reduced crowd, of course there were less cosplayers around – but the cosplay that was there was quite impressive. Unfortunately due to the glare on the floor and the strange lighting, many of the pictures I took didn’t turn out anywhere near as well as I was hoping, but I still did manage to grab about 20 cosplay pictures that turned out. Sorry to everyone I grabbed a picture of that it didn’t turn out – some places just aren’t meant for taking pictures in. If you check out my galleries from the link at the top of the page, the Winterfest 2013 gallery has all of my pictures including a rather amusing picture of some people playing catch with a companion cube at the rave.

On the subject of the rave… nowhere did they even give a hint that the ‘dance’ portion would be a rave. All of the previous announcements and discussions pointed to it being a bit more varied in tone than just straight up pure hard-bass techno remixes of popular songs blended together. I was actually kind of excited for the dance portion because of what was talked about prior to the event. But you can’t please everyone, and clearly a lot of people enjoyed the rave so I will just have to accept being in the minority on this subject. A little better messaging for this might have been nice though.

There were some unfortunate organizational missteps that really hurt my enjoyment of the overall event. Most pressingly was the fact that there was no map anywhere, and no signage pointing to the events/panels area. This, combined with the fact that the first panel started at noon when the doors open, led to me feeling really bad for the nice people running the first panel – dubbed ‘the panel that never was’. Scheduling a panel to start the second doors open when you have people checking in at registration at that point is just cruel.

The other frustrating thing was that they completely skipped over at least one of the programs on the showing schedule without mention. If you’re only going to have one showing room… make sure you do it right. I loved the showings room, the specific room they used, the separation from the rest of the con, etc… all great… but skipping over a program without even explaining why… really disappointing. If someone forgot the dvd, or it got damaged… that’s fine – just say something so people who showed up for that one can know that they have to go find something else to do.

All told, I really enjoyed my time at Winterfest. I felt they did a good job at creating a very satisfying ‘taste’ of the Ai-Kon experience in a mini-convention. I do think that some elements certainly could benefit from a bit more thought put into the reality of the situation… and that if this was someone’s first dose of Ai-Kon, they might not leave with the best impression. I hope that it was successfully enough that next year they try to expand it a bit – I think having 2 showing and event sections/rooms would’ve really enhanced the experience by adding a bit more to do, but I understand that this year’s Winterfest ‘mini-con’ was a bit of an experiment.

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