Tuesday, September 4, 2012

FANeXpo 2012: a final look

Another FANeXpo has come and gone, and a week later, as I look back, I realized a couple of things.

The first thing I realized is that I enjoyed it way less than probably wanted to.

And this was despite me actually getting more actual convention-related activities as far as my normal attended-as-a-fan conventions go. I went to a panel, I attended a screening among the usual "hanging around on the dealer's room and convention floor" deal.

But overall, it was a frustrating event for me. The lines were long, the crowds were too big and the planning felt shot and unprepared for what the days brought. This was particularly evident and true on Day 3, which is supposed to be the marquee day of the entire convention - the one day that is perhaps the most "worthwhile" day in which to attend the event.

And it basically works into my number one criticism and suggestion for this convention: the floor they use is too small a space for the number of people that are there. The very fact that they ran out of tickets on Saturday at 1PM and had to hold people outside in line for up to and over an hour because of capacity issues.

And even when they're "under capacity" the place still feels too crowded and jammed of people to really enjoy what is going on.

I'm familiar with the Metro Toronto Convention Centre downtown, and I know renting the space costs a lot of money. Like through the nose money compared to other locations across town. That's the price you pay for using a space in the heart of the downtown core that's both accessible and large.

But I also know Hobbystar - the company that creates and plans this entire convention - they rake in huge amounts of money at these events.

Therefore it is not difficult for me to imagine them being able to rent other spaces (particularly spaces in the north building) in order to bloody well spread out covention goers and provide more space for the convention in general.

Right now, everything is situated on two (albeit huge) floors of the south building. But it created huge crowding issues as lines merged or scattered and the people walking past them had to slow because of it.

And because everything that is going on is going on in these two floors, it basically forces more people than it can handle into the space causing the "sardines in a can" metaphor to come to light.

If they plan to continue to improve this convention, they need to move some of those events - namely "big name" panels and screenings - into another part of the building (I'm thinking some of the bigger rooms in the north building) so that the lines for those events interfere less with traffic of regular convention attendees that are just there to take pictures, view costumes and buy stuff in the dealer's room.

The "lower traffic panels" can stay in the south building's north side in order to make use of the rooms available there.

Of course, the additional problem this would cause is that "so and so panel was too far away from so and so panel". My answer? The ones that need the bigger rooms are all bunched together. The ones that don't and is back in the south building are no more than 5 minutes away. Deal with it.

The other good thing that does is that it also extends and expands traffic and gives additional places for people to meet up and chill without leaving the convention.

Yes, additional traffic means additional resources to manage and maintain traffic like security and volunteers.   But that can be made up by simply adding 100 more convention goers at the price they charge for tickets!

So what should happen to some of those bigger panel rooms in the south building then though? Move the food courts into them. Why? Because working past the food court (which were both situated at entrances to the convention) during lunch and dinner hours were a nightmare to deal with and you move the patrons who simply intend to eat away from people who only want to - what else - enjoy the convention floor.

AND it creates a space that booths can move into on the dealer's room floor and maybe widen the existing hallways of the convention so that traffic moves more smoothly right?

This convention has had to deal with a tonne of problems and drama as it grew up in the last decade I've been attending. From having an weapons retailer selling weapons illegally to underaged kids (not to mention selling illegal weapons itself) to the fiasco of 2010, it can't say it was a smooth process.

But even so, the convention grew. And now, the convention outgrew the south building space two years ago. It needs to move past it and move up if it in any way plans to seriously compete with the likes of Comi-con going forward.

The crowding was a real pain and without enough areas to loiter and hang out, it made the place feel like it lacked the easy-going personality of a real genre convention and was just filled with the stresses of real life all bottled into two seemingly tiny floors of a convention centre.

The point of a convention is to create a shared space for people with similar interests to get to know each other and engage in their interests. It's to escape the sometimes cruel and judgmental realities of the modern world.

This year, FANeXpo failed mightily in my mind to do that.

It had its moments, but overall, not impressed.

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