May 5, 2012

A Discussion About ACEN. Let's be honest.

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.



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. 


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.


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.


  1. Lack of respect. YES. Lack of respect for themselves, others, boundaries, you name it. I personally think at least some of this stems from what I feel is a steadily-increasing tendency in our society towards not taking responsibility for our actions. I want it NOW, and I don't want to be held accountable for anything that goes awry while I get it. But there's probably not much we can do about that re: ACEN. :P

    I was reading posts on the ACEN FB group, and one poster mentioned that Ren Faires tend to have themed days. Maybe, this poster suggested, we should get a group of cosplayers together and "invade a Renaissance Faire". If Bristol really does have a Zombie Day as this poster claimed, then I say they can't really complain if a bunch of cosplayers invent an Anime Day, but I felt like the post sort of exemplified some of the things you mentioned above. I think that the act of cosplaying is, for some, an excuse to do whatever you want. Yes, you're in costume, you're not "yourself" in some sense, and so you can act differently than you normally would – I think this applies, to some degree, to most people. Derp it up, yo. But then it gets taken to extremes, and that’s when things start to go wrong. Here’s a setting in which, well, “everyone else is doing it” – so not only is it okay to look especially strange, wear a wig, etc. etc., but maybe the very fact that everyone else is doing it too causes people to want to amp it up even more. Group energy gone bad. Combine that with a lot of teens who are probably parent-less for the weekend (or under minimal supervision), and suddenly we’re ripping urinals off walls (really? REALLY?).

    Aaaand this post is totally going places I did not intend, and all of it is to say that I don’t really know what I would suggest for ACEN in terms of the big picture. I really want to believe that it’s possible for the interests of both younger and older (in both age and maturity level) attendees to be met without interfering with each other, but I think one problem may be that some people honestly don’t realize there’s a problem, or don’t care. Hope the discussion on the boards, FB, etc., will at least spread awareness that a lot of people aren’t happy and want to see change.

    1. I'm going to totally agree with you on the whole "people and their lack of respect" for others, themselves, property, and what have you.

      Just the fact that when I went to the movies on Sunday, there were 3 separate advertisements (one of them even being from the owner himself) that said "please, don't talk or text on your phone during the show. it's disruptive". THREE messages. THREE.

      HONESTLY. AUGH. Common courtesy is no longer taught, or accepted as proper these days.

      And as a cosplayer, I'm absolutely mortified at some of these cosplayers behavior. They're not even thinking. Apparently at one of the My Little Pony photoshoots at ACEN this year, a couple of Pinkie Pies decided it was totally appropriate and not destructive to shoot CONFETTI into the air INDOORS. CONFETTI. Apparently cosplay staff had to pick it up by hand. I'd like to know what made these people think that tossing confetti indoors like that was appropriate convention behavior?

      (no bash to the MLP fandom, these few people just made some REALLY bad choices as other groups have had happen too)

      Why are cosplayers taking their art for granted and giving us all a bad name?? Just because you have a costume doesn't mean you can disrupt other people's events (see renfaires, other conventions, etc). While I enjoy cosplay not EVERY event calls for it.

      Bleh, I digress...

  2. How I missed this post I don't know but wow. Just wow. This is really sad for me as my hubby and I planned on going to ACEN one of these days. It's a shame it's becoming more of a frat party then an Anime Convention. I think we will still go but it's horrible that prices are just going to get worse because people can't manage being adults/near adults. We will probably still go but it's sad to see all things we had dreamed about when broke and without a car in high school be ruined by disrespectful and downright disgusting people.

    1. Despite it's issues, I still think that going to ACEN is a good time. You just have to plan and know what you're going to do during the weekend, as opposed to going with no plan at all.

      I'm really hoping after this year's issues, they'll start to try to clean up/organize things better. (it really feels like the line was drawn, and something has to happen) I will keep us all posted if any amazing developments come along.

      However, I strongly recommend to NOT stay at the Hyatt if at all possible. That hotel is a madhouse. :P

      As for the disrespect issue - egh. I can't possibly fathom what makes people thing that it's okay to just... dump their trash wherever, act like wild animals, and generally be a jerk just cause they're "away from the 'rents" for a weekend.

      (Part of me really wants to blame the "helicopter" parenting that got popular when a lot of these kids were younger... They honestly just don't know how to act in an environment like that on their own, and only have movies/tv to go off of.)

      They are, unfortunately, the one thing the convention cannot control.