This past weekend I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of being allowed to visit Indy PopCon, a massive pop culture convention that has just had its third year. Started by geeks for geeks, Indy PopCon serves as a beacon for all lovers of gaming, anime, and pop culture in Indiana and the Midwest at large. This was my first con experience. I have never been to a con before, not because I had anything against the practice, but simply because either I didn’t have the time or the money to attend. So in addition to being excited about all the great content that was on offer at Indy PopCon this year, I was excited to venture into something new and foreign to me. I have to say, I didn’t know what to expect, but by the end of my time there, I was blown away with Indy PopCon.
The first thing that struck me upon getting off of the shuttle and entering the convention center was the sheer size and scope of the event. I and my assistant/unofficial photographer (my sister) got there relatively early on the first day, and there were already dozens of people milling around the convention center, registering their tickets and getting in line to enter the main floor. Within the first hour I saw incredible cosplays by dedicated fans; there was Cloud from “Final Fantasy VII,” several iterations of Link from “The Legend of Zelda” series (all of which were brilliant), and even a Master Chief from the “Halo” series. Everyone was in good spirits and very friendly – I didn’t see anyone without a smile on their face, and most people were engaged in excited conversation about the con with their fellow fans. It was a wonderful environment for someone like me, who loves so many elements of pop culture. I count myself amongst those who wandered around the place with a full grin.
Members of the press were allowed entry into the main floor of the con a bit earlier than the rest of the attendees, so I was able to see the floor before the rush of con-goers, to get a peek at the “quiet before the storm,” so to speak. I immediately noticed the autographing booths for several pop culture celebrities: people like Tara Strong, Nolan North, Jennifer Hale, Charles Martinet, and many more. I also noticed the booths of several video game development studios, with hardworking and passionate game devs setting up their demos for attendees to play. And of course, there were tons of vendor booths, preparing to sell everything from Funko Pop figures to pieces of art of characters from a variety of game and anime series to cosplay gear (including one booth catering specifically to steampunk enthusiasts, whose wares were all made with real leather!). Once I felt that I had absorbed the magnitude of what was being set up, I stepped out to get a soda and take some notes. Soon after, the floodgates opened, and hundreds of eager fans began their journey through the exhibition floor, lining up to meet Youtubers and pop culture critics and perusing the merchandise on offer. My steadfast assistant and I re-entered the fray and began to take pictures of cosplayers and the crowds as a whole, mystified by the scale of the con. I personally bought quite a bit of merchandise I found, finding it irresistible. There’s something to be said for the magic of the convention vendor, a merchant who sells items that you can’t find anywhere but online or perhaps in Akihabara itself. It’s wonderful to wander and see so many passionate people that have put so much work into their costumes for the convention, as well.
It’s wonderful to wander and see so many passionate people that have put so much work into their costumes for the convention…
The second day was even more vibrant and extravagant than the first. There were hundreds of people on the first day, but I would venture to say that the number of attendees on the second day would land somewhere in the thousands. We saw a functional replica of the UNSC drop pods from Halo, accompanied by an extremely realistic and detailed Master Chief cosplayer (as well as some regular UNSC soldiers that were commanding fans to do push ups before they got in the pod). We saw a fan cosplaying as the second Doctor from the Doctor Who series, followed around by a motorized Dalek that was threatening and conversing with con-goers as it wheeled around. I bought a mystery box shaped like a Tardis that contained several random knick-knacks such as a Vault Boy bobble head and a pair of Spock ears. And as I wandered through the game dev section of the floor, I stopped by the booth of Daylight Studios, the developers behind “Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!” I had met these creators the day before during my early entry into the con, and they were a very nice group of people that were passionate about their project. GamerGiving has streamed “Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!” before and I was very excited to see the demo for their upcoming game, “Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space!”. Even better, I had the chance to ask the game script writer of Daylight Studios, Ian Fun, a couple of questions about what gaming means to him. I asked him how video games had changed his life, and he told me: “Growing up, I was an only child with a single parent. Video games were a great outlet for me. I remember playing “Final Fantasy IX” and discovering the Black Mage Village – it taught me that games can be a way for people to share experiences or ways of thinking.” When I asked him what he wants the games he creates to bring to the players, he said, “Laughs and a smile, mostly. I love to see people playing our games and laughing. I like to make people happy.”
It was great to get to speak to such a positive creator and the rest of the team was just as friendly and eager to share what they were working on. Likewise, it was a treat meeting all of the other devs there, including the developers of the upcoming “Battle Chef Brigade,” Trinket Studios. I also played some of their demo and found an interesting mix of a match-three puzzle game, a cooking simulator, and an action RPG. Definitely a title I will be keeping my eye on as I’m a sucker for match three puzzles and cool artwork. Although I didn’t get the chance to play the rest of the available games, it was clear that there was an aura of excitement in this particular area. I saw people playing demos for “Read Only Memories” by Midboss, “Sausage Sports Club” by Luckshot Games, and “Stacks on Stacks (On Stacks)” by Ian & Elie, amongst many more. It was heartening and exciting to see so many new games being developed and made available for enthusiastic gamers to try out during the con.
it was clear that there was an aura of excitement…
The major event for me during the second day of the convention was the “Voices in Gaming” panel, which featured Nolan North (of “Uncharted” and “Assassin’s Creed” fame, as well as many more works), Jennifer Hale (the voice of female Commander Shepard from the “Mass Effect” series as well as many others), David Eddings (the voice of Claptrap from “Borderlands” as well as a key member of the Gearbox Software team) and Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi…probably every Mario character other than Princess Peach). It was a terrific experience to see these legendary voice actors in reality, answering questions by fans and telling stories of their time behind the microphone. There were some key questions and answers that I noted. First, the panelists were asked what their dream project would be. Nolan North said that working on the Uncharted series as the voice of protagonist Nathan Drake had been his dream project, but that he was interested in the future of VR. Jennifer Hale thought about the question for a moment but expressed that any project would be a dream, seeming to be eager to provide further terrific voice work for fans to enjoy. David Eddings said that he was promised some work with Justin Roiland of “Rick and Morty” and expressed his love for the show. Finally, Charles Martinet said that he was already living his dream, every day. He said that he loves working on the Mario games and loves meeting his fans, and bringing happiness to as many people as possible. Secondly, the actors were asked what their biggest challenges were in their careers. Nolan North referenced a show that aired on Nickelodeon called “Breadwinners” in which he voiced the father of the family in the show, stating that maintaining that voice put a lot of strain on his throat! Jennifer Hale stated that she had voiced the famous fish Dory in all materials outside of the actual films, and that mimicking Ellen Degeneres’ excellent rendition of the character was a definite challenge (she then followed this up with an impression after much begging from the fans in the audience and her fellow panelists). David Eddings mentioned that he was once approached to do a Valtrex commercial as Claptrap, but that he turned it down. In a hilarious final answer, Charles Martinet said that it was a challenge just waking up in the morning. This panel was funny, heartfelt, and a great outpouring of affection for the fans. It was a pleasure to see such high caliber performers reaching out to their audience with kindness and enthusiasm, and I left the panel feeling not only starstruck, but even a bit warm inside.
Although we weren’t able to attend the final day of Indy PopCon due to scheduling conflicts (and a fair bit of simple exhaustion), I feel honored and happy to have been able to attend. I would like to thank the organizers of Indy PopCon for granting me the privilege of visiting their event, and I would like to thank all the other con attendees for their enthusiasm, passion, kindness, and goodwill. I met a lot of great people this weekend and I honestly cannot wait to visit again next year. My first con experience has turned me into a firm believer, and I’m so excited to bring a little slice of GamerGiving to Indy PopCon again.