On a sweltering July Friday, yours truly and two of my best LaserCola staffers drove about 45 minutes south of LaserCola Headquarters to scope out and file a report on ConnectiCon, one of the largest fan conventions in the Northeast United States. The ConnectiCon draws an estimated 8,000 cosplayers, gamers, manga/comic readers, action figure collectors, and Sci-Fi fans every year over the course of a three-day run time to its enormous, bright, and clean facilities at the mammoth Hartford Convention center.
ConnectiCon offers panels and how-to workshops on podcasting, video game design/voiceover technique, drawing Manga and traditional comic art, web site design and promotion, action figure collecting, and more. It also features a huge dealer’s room, a large video game expo/demo area, an artists colony (for webcomickers, t-shirt/sticker designers, sketch artists, etc.), screening rooms, role-playing game competitions, and an after-hours “rave” at the adjoining hotel ballroom. The cost was quite expensive, with a three-day weekend badge coming in at a hefty $60, and one-day passes ranging from $30 on Friday, $40 on Saturday, and $25 for Sunday.
The ConnectiCon website boasts an event that appeals to fans of all the major “geek” genres:
Over 7,000 people attended ConnectiCon in 2010, making it one ofNew England’s largest pop culture events. Why pop culture you ask? Well, because ConnectiCon doesn’t focus on just one element of fandom, the convention’s organizers are fans of a lot of different things, so we focus on all of the awesome stuff that we like including: web comics, anime, console games, board games, table top miniatures, science fiction, fantasy, comics books, role-playing games, live action role-playing, collectible card games, and horror. You name it we’ve probably got something related going on, even Madden Football, and spontaneous games of Twister while folks wait in line! ConnectiCon has “Everything but the kitchen sink!”
However, after spending an hour wandering the three floors of the convention, it became clear to us that Connecticon isn’t so much a Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic Book convention as it is an excuse for cosplayers aged 12-16 dressed as characters from Final Fantasy, Pokémon, Bleach, Cowboy Bebop, and other Japanese pop culture icons to mingle, hug each other, and pose for photographs.
The panels and events seem to be an afterthought, finishing a distant second place to the mass photo ops and the main event known as the “Cosplay Masquerade” – a talent show of sorts where the cosplayers perform skits and dance routines based off their favorite Anime, video game, etc. This certainly isn’t a negative thing, but for our group – which consisted of 20 and 30-something hardcore comic book/sci-fi/film nerds – much of the event programming left us feeling bored or out of place amongst the loud, shrieking teen and pre-teen crowd.
We did enjoy strolling through the gargantuan dealer’s room, which was exploding with colorful merchandise from all facets of the nerd universe including movie posters, steampunk accessories, imported DVD’s, comic books, medieval armor/clothing, Asian weaponry, board games, trading cards, action figures, video games, and even Japanese food treats like Pocky. Some controversy was sparked in this area, as a dealer dressed in full Nazi regalia refused to remove the Nazi items he was selling and even harassed Con attendees who demonstrated offense to the merchandise. (LaserCola.com later found out he was asked to leave and will not be returning to the Con next year).
With the attendance that the ConnectiCon draws, one would expect the guest list to be on par with some of the mid-range conventions like Dragon Con in Atlanta or even the New York Comic Con, but comic book artists and writers from the major publishers, as well as any sort of entertainment guests from TV or genre films were nowhere to be found. Instead, Carlos Ferro and Rachel Robinson – two video game voiceover artists – were the Con’s “signature” guests; hardly a who’s who in the geek community.
Due to poor signage and a combination of bad timing and a lack of interest on our part, we didn’t get a chance to attend any of the panels. We also skipped the “rave” and any after-hours activities. We left the Con with the impression that in order to increase their overall marketability and begin competing with the larger Conventions across the country, the organizers need to divert some of the focus away from the younger cosplaying demographic and put more effort into securing comic artist/writers from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, etc. as well as media guests like actors from Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Who, LOST, Firefly/Serenity, Star Trek, and Star Wars to help attract more of the older Sci-Fi comic fans to the event. We’d also like to see the convention showcase some movie props like Iron Man’s armor, Thor’s hammer, CaptainAmerica’s shield, Star Wars lightsabers, swords from Lord of the Rings, etc.
Here are our scores for ConnectiCon 2011:
- Facilities: A+
- Cosplaying/Photo Ops: A
- Events/Panels: C
- Guests: F
- Signage/Organization: D
- Dealer Room: B+
- Value: C-
CLICK HERE for our full ConnectiCon 2011 cosplay gallery!