**Edit: The video of the Chocobro Panel isn't available just yet. We'll make a separate announcement once it's ready. Thanks for the understanding!**
My first EXPCon was seven years ago in 2010. At first, it wasn’t a particularly memorable convention, but I had a good enough time that I went back the following year, and even brought a friend along with me. It was that year, in 2011, and consequently, the convention’s last consecutive year, that I fell in love with EXPCon.
I have been attending conventions for ten years up and down the east coast, and I have yet to find another convention that puts as much dedication, drive, and heart into putting on the best show they can. Ryan Sweat, the con chair, and his staff are some of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know. Their passion to provide the best experience possible shows in everything they do. From the late nights and early mornings, to the communication and professionalism, they have it all.
As for the convention itself, this was its first year on the scene after a six-year hiatus, but what a comeback it was! In its new debut, EXPCon was able to boast something no other convention will ever be able to: they were the first to have the entire main cast (and VO Director) of Final Fantasy XV as guests! Yeah, it’s a pretty big deal, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
It doesn’t seem to matter what convention it is; we always have an issue with registration, be it that they never got our applications for press, or there was a lack of communication about press as a whole. While there was a bit of a communication error, there was also a bit of a dilemma going on at the time, the dilemma being that the badges hadn’t shown up yet. What the problem was, specifically, is unclear, but come time for registration to open, there were no badges to give out. Again, not sure where the ball dropped, and it was somewhat frustrating to have to wait an hour and a half after Registration was supposed to open to be taken care of, but I know that Ryan and his team worked as quickly and as diligently as they could to ensure that the mishap wasn’t a foretelling of how the rest of the weekend was going to go.
Something else to note about registration is the promotion that allowed for a free pass per night you booked at the convention hotel. While we had an issue with our reservation (we had to cancel and re-reserve under a separate rate due to personal timing issues), the system was pretty nice, and easy on our pockets. Nice as it was, however, I sincerely hope that the convention was able to at least break even with badge and ticket sales. I don’t know numbers, just thinking out loud.
It’s been a while since I’ve attending opening ceremonies for a convention, but I definitely remember the event being more than five minutes long. Sure, the point of the event is to introduce your guests and get everyone hyped for the weekend, but I feel like this one fell a little flat, though I do appreciate it getting straight to the point.
Maybe it was just me (it probably was, let’s be honest), but I found the autograph lines to be confusing. I understand not wanting to crowd the hallway, and thus putting everyone in the room, but once you actually got through the line and made it down the way of the voice actors and other guests, it was borderline claustrophobic. I’m not sure why it was changed from the way they did it in the past (separate lines for each guest). Maybe it’s supposed to be more time efficient? I can say that it certainly wasn’t, as by the time we were halfway through to Adam Croasdell’s line (which was only halfway through the guests), we were encroaching on the set-up time for the VIP Party (which, by the way, we did not attend, so we can’t cover it.)
It’s a shame that so few people offered to volunteer for the convention, (only six people turned in volunteer applications), because the help was definitely needed at some points, whether it was watching doors, or marking the end of lines as Regular or VIP. Was it horribly hard to distinguish? No, not after we messed it up the first time and waited for an hour in a line that we weren’t supposed to be in, but maybe it’s something to note for the future.
The Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley could have easily fit in the same room. In fact, (and again, I don’t know numbers), I think there were more artists than there were vendors. Not necessarily a bad thing (because you should always support your local artists), but with the vendors not having much of a variety, it made perusing the booths too quick and easy. We spent maybe a grand total of twenty minutes in there, and half of it was spent calling out a bootleg seller that was later asked to either leave or remove all of the bootleg merchandise. Still, it was nice to see some familiar faces amongst the crowd of vendors and artists.
Now, the part I know most of you are reading this for: the Chocobros. Chris Parson (Gladiolus Amicitia), Adam Croasdell (Ignis Scientia), Robbie Daymond (Prompto Argentum), and Ray Chase (Noctis Lucis Caelum), appeared at a convention together for the very first time, and it was a blast! For a Final Fantasy XV fan, what could be better? Maybe a photo shoot of all four men cosplaying their characters and hosting a panel in those cosplays? Yeah, they did that, too! We managed to snag a few photos ourselves, but the credit really goes out to Ren Treubig, Mur, and Ridley Honeycutt for their amazing work and dedication for making it all come together. Everyone, including the voice actors, had a great time, and you can catch some of it on Robbie’s Vlog!
The panel was as entertaining and amusing as you think it would be. All four chocobros and Keythe Farley, the Voice Over Director, answered questions, read scripts, and even did a slam poetry rendition of “Stand by Me.” The best part, we have the whole thing on camera! (See **EDIT**).
Oh, right! The Game Room!
It was there, and honestly, I was just happy to see Project Diva in the line-up. There was some Rock Band in the back, and an entire row of Smash Bros., as well as Street Fighter and other game room classics. Not much to report on, but damn, I never knew I needed Vocaloid Power Rangers until now.
We never quite got around to many other events, however, we did find ourselves at the rave…or lack thereof. Naturally, we arrived fashionably late, (about an hour after it started), and the place was dead. The only people inside were the D.J. and some of the EXPCon staff. Initially, we joked that he should play music that we’ll relate to, being an older crowd, and we were met with Darude’s Sandstorm. Almost instantly, a small crowd of about thirty other people flooded in. Even the vendor selling a variety of glowing accessories – glow sticks, poi balls, light-up sunglasses, etc. – found his way back to his table. But alas, the fun didn’t last long, and the D.J. started spinning the same stale beats once again, thus the room that wasn’t all the banging in the first place lost its steam entirely.
I should note, this is no fault of EXPCon’s. When the D.J. was addressed about the tunes, he made a sly remark, and kept playing the same thing that, frankly, no one wanted to hear.
We left around midday Sunday for the three-hour drive home, but we were fortunate to meet up with the con staff before we left and sincerely thank them for the show they put on this year. It had its bumps and hiccups, but every convention does. Going into this convention, I was excited to see the same heart and fun that I had had in the past, and I was not disappointed. For a convention that had fallen off the grid for the better half of a decade, EXPCon made one hell of a comeback, and Chibi Media will be adding it the list of conventions we will always return to.