Okay. I didn't want to highlight this in it's own post, but it got so long I had to move it (otherwise the recap would be like 4 pages long), but I wanted to have a rational discussion about what went on this past ACEN weekend.
Firstly, I want to say that I had a great time at my booth. It went so smoothly, check in was flawless and the staff was so pleasant and helpful. I was still moderately successful in comparison to other conventions, and I think with a few tweaks, I can do even better next year.
REGARDING THE SITUATION ON SATURDAY
If anybody has heard or been keeping track, Saturday was a day full of craziness and disappointment for many attendees at ACEN. I want to post my feelings on the entire event (having not been a part of it this year, I can only give my view as an outsider this time).
For the first time I ever recall, half of the masquerade was flat out canceled. That's right. They did not show the skits, they did not get judged (from my understanding), and awards were not presented on stage (they were announced though).
But how does such a thing occur?
First, there was a concert beforehand that was running so behind the show started the time the Masq was supposed to. Then the band played an encore. Once the room was cleared out and they got the Masq audience seated, apparently somebody thought it would be a good idea to pull the fire alarm in the Hyatt, and then take a fire extinguisher and spray people with it wherever they were in the hotel. They had to evacuate the entire hotel, and Masq, and participants, wait a bit, then let everybody back in to be seated. (I have heard they caught the guy and he has since been arrested for what is probably a couple of felonies).
So around 8:30 the walkons were going across the stage (at a show that was supposed to have started at 6 or at the latest 7). They had the space until 9 I want to say, and the MC came on and announced the skits were canceled, and announced the award winners, but did not present. Then the room was cleared out and they got it set up for the Soap Bubble. (The Soap Bubble is their giant dance they have every year with DJs, and such and is commonly referred to as the "rave". It goes until 4ish in the morning, this year they extended it to 5:30 from what I hear.)
My heart goes out to all the cosplayers who worked so hard on their costumes and performances. I could only imagine what a crushing blow that was to them. Secondly, to the Masquerade staff, who have been very reasonable about dealing with all of this, and acting with so much class. You guys are awesome (I've been reading your posts on the boards.)
I don't know what decisions the upper level management made to come to this conclusion, and I'm sure it was difficult to come to (I should hope so). What I can tell you is what it looked like.
To any outsider, participant, audience member, and general attendee, this appeared to flash in huge letters: "WE CARE MORE ABOUT OUR DANCE/RAVE THAN WE DO OUR MASQUERADE."
Even if it isn't true. Even if the decision was made for money/contract reasons (such as, they paid to let these DJs perform at the soapbubble, and promised them all time to do their sets). Even if the decision was made by someone who had no idea the ramifications of what they were doing.
This has NOTHING to do with the actual intentions of the higher ups at ACEN.
This will have EVERYTHING to do with how they appear to the common attendee.
And they cut short one of the most important and high ticket events of any anime convention, so they could start their dance on time. A dance that goes for over 5 hours into the wee hours of the morning. A dance that could have sacrificed a half an hour to an hour of their time.
That is what it looks like to all of us on the outside.
ACEN THOUGHTS IN GENERAL
As an artist, I'm still strongly contemplating coming back to this convention. It's a huge alley, with tons of wonderful artists (I was so happy with all the prints and artwork this year that I saw), and I met a lot of wonderful customers too, and I'd like to keep them happy by coming back with more and better items on hand! I'm already mapping out chapter 2 of Tangerine due to it's good reviews.
However, as an attendee, the problems are starting to outweigh the fun. The fact that I had to go to a hotel over a mile away (maybe it was 2) so that I could actually get a good night's sleep free from noise and general annoyances is a big red flag. ACEN is definitely appearing to become a "Party Con", with all the stories I hear about the Hyatt (which I stopped going to 4 years ago because of terrible drunken debauchery going on, which has apparently gotten worse since then).
Even my "quiet hotel" had become one full of noisy, rambunctious people. I cant' tell you how often I heard people talk about their "I'm getting drunk" money this year. Last year at the DoubleTree we had to fight off a room party next door to my room where an exhausted artist (me) was trying to sleep and a graduate student was trying to study complex latin documents. Knocking on their door apparently only made them play music louder.
Why is this occuring? Why does it only seem to happen at ACEN? I don't know.
The crotchety old lady in me says "Delete the Soap Bubble for a year", and see how it does. Apparently the Hardcore Synergy dance is more anime/Japanese related, and I don't seem to see a lot of the same issues from that dance than I do the Soap Bubble. It's also on Friday.
OTHER PROBLEMS I HAVE SEEN
Irresponsibility. I'm not expecting everybody to be perfectly moral and polite at all times... but
it pains me to see underage kids (those in their mid-late teens) coming to this show, acting like animals, and getting themselves drunk enough to injure/harm themselves (ambulances are apparently a normal thing for this con now - seen em for like 5 years. This is also the ONLY con I can recall where I see ambulances that frequently).
Damages. One year someone pulled a urinal off the wall in a hotel. Another year someone dropped a bottle from a balcony breaking glass in the dome. There were reports of this year people dropping liquids from above into a photoshoot. Previous years have cosplayers not remembering they have body paint on and leaving big blue smears over white seating. (Thanks Avatar!) Don't even get me started on some of the stories of what people have dealt with in the Hyatt on Saturday nights. Those stories are just downright unsanitary and disgusting. All these damages cause the ticket prices to rise each year, because the convention has to pay for those out of their own money.
Lack of regard for modesty/taste. Cosplayers, cosplayers, cosplayers. *sigh* Seriously. Please stop cosplaying inappropriate things (especially during the daylight hours. I don't care what you do after hours). I don't want to see your panty shots, I don't want to see your groteqsue limbs you made for your zombie costumes, and dear lord I'm glad I didn't see a supposed "Human Centipede" cosplay. WTF GUYS. Beyond the cosplayers, general attendees - why do you feel the need to dress like you're "working the corner"? Do you look in the mirror? Do you understand that you can see your undergarments through that white tanktop? All I ask is that you take a look at yourself in the mirror and imagine if you'd really want people to see you like that. At least try to cover yourself properly (even if you need cheerleader shorts). There are technically kids at this con during the day. I saw a lot of them come to my booth.
And what was with the weird Clown Posse that showed up halfway through Saturday? No really. I want to know. I'm not afraid of clowns, but I'll admit these guys creeped me out. And those horns. I thought I was hearing Gamzee floating around all day. And let me tell you, that's a little unnerving.
Lack of respect for space. Apparently this year trash all around was a terrible problem too. (Don't get me started on the food trash pile from my neighbor in the alley this year, eeew.) Previous years have left the Hyatt looking like a hurricane hit it inside. When they added the frosted glass stairs... I was honestly terrified at what would happen to them during the show.
Right now this is not a show that I would encourage parents letting their moderately older kids go to and spend the night. Sure the day may be kind of tame, but the nightlife is terrifying.
Something is going wrong with this convention.
So ACEN - I want to come back to you, and I want to believe in you. Please. Show me throughout this upcoming year that you're worth coming back to. I can't think of any good solutions to the problems right now, but there has to be something we can do.
We as attendees. We as a convention.
This is one of the largest conventions I go to each year. I want to say it's name and be proud I'm a part of the magic. Let's all work together to try to make this the great convention we remember.
I know I'll try to do my part.