Conventions in their purest form are mainly gatherings of like-minded fans that come together to celebrate and mingle about their favorite hobbies and mediums. For Animate Miami, this is an event that is to bring elements of anime and video games into the spotlight and create a fun weekend for con attendees. Yet much like any other event, there are always things that don’t go so well or could have been much better overall. Sometimes a few key missteps and core issues can hamper and ultimately ruin what could have been a great weekend about anime and video games. And while there was a lot of spotlights, cameras, and flair to build up the weekend of Animate Miami 2014; there definitely were important aspects of the convention that need a lot of help in making better.
The better and more enjoyable parts of Animate Miami 2014 came from the Dealer’s Room and the Game Room. Not only did the Dealer’s Room have an abundance of vendors that offered many different collector’s items for purchase, but the Game Room provided entertainment throughout each day for those looking to step away from the festivities of the convention. Many of the special guests at the convention had booths set up in the Dealer’s Room so attendees could get autographs and photo-ops of some of their favorite voice actors, including some talent from shows like Dragonball Z, Panty and Stocking, and even Futurama. Up in the Game Room area there was more to enjoy than solely just current and classic console gaming and tournament play. There was a good showcase of classic arcade and pinball machines that offered a different kind of fun that appealed to everyone, as well as areas devoted to table-top and trading card games. Both places were the spots to be at if you wanted to see a lively convention, as they were the most constantly populated and exciting places of Animate Miami 2014.
Many of the panels that were hosted throughout the weekend were both hit and miss, depending on where you went. This is the case with most conventions as every panel that takes place is different in good and bad ways, so it is very hard to really rate this going by the content of the panels. Where it becomes clear however is how panels and events are spread out and handled by staff when they take place. And this is where things start to sour up for Animate Miami, as this is one of the major catalysts to other issues that arose during the weekend. While some panels events were given a lot of attention and care, others were not.
For Animate 2014, the cast and crew of “Heroes of Cosplay” were present to shoot footage for a future episode of the show, mainly of the cast members, like Yaya Han, and the costume contest. And because of that it seemed that most of the attention was shifted to leaving a good impression for the cameras in areas that they followed, rather than the enjoyment of being at the convention as a whole. In one instance walking through the convention halls, I noticed many people sitting on the floors away from the costume contest, for various reasons, with no real place to go. In many other conventions I have attended, there has always been a variety of interesting panels and events that took place outside the bigger and more publicized panels and events, such as the costume contests. This is to offer something to everyone that may not be competing or even remotely interested in such things and still keep everyone entertained while at the con. This was not the case though at Animate 2014.
The general feeling all around was awkward and felt like everyone was being funnelled towards the costume contest that was being filmed. And while there is nothing essentially wrong with wanting to leave a good impression on camera, that shouldn’t be the main focus and should never have convention attendees feel awkward or feel like dollar-paying cattle.
Yet the biggest issues of Animate 2014 were not from panels or on-camera impressions, but from the attitude from the convention staff. This is something that could potentially kill off the fun of being at any convention, especially those who may have paid top dollar in hopes of getting a quality experience. Such problems include conflicting information being given to attendees about multiple things, causing all kinds of issues for everyone, as well as lack of positive attitude towards attendees who were seeking help. When a con staff that is supposed to assist and ensure a fun weekend are instead rude and not assisting at all, it can be disheartening and be the cause of buyers remorse for attending the convention.
It is even more disappointing seeing con staff walk around the convention center aimlessly (some even with con booklets in hand) and have absolutely no clue/care for knowing important info for attendees about the event, but instead would shoo away attendees abruptly or not respond in favor of other task. Having been on the receiving end of such things multiple times, I can say confidently that such treatment is the worst thing any convention can do to its attendees (especially for someone who may have paid to be there as a VIP or Vendor). This is something that the entire staff of Animate Miami needs to understand a lot more intimately, as it is a very clear and important problem that is detrimental to the experience of any events they host.
With all of the inherent problems that Animate Miami 2014 suffered from, there were still positive elements that kept the convention from being a total bust. Spending time in the Dealer’s Room and Game Room amongst other people at the con was a lot of fun, especially being surrounded by friends and colleagues. Mingling with other enthusiast at any convention is always a great thing and can enhance the overall experience of the weekend. But no one attends a convention solely to be around their own friends, this should not be the only positive thing someone gets out of the price of their admission. There needs to be more effort channeled into making attendees feel as if they were given more than what they expected and treated like part of a grand experience. Issues such as conflicting info and staff’s poor attitude need to be addressed and worked on immediately, as it will greatly improve the quality of the convention. There is a lot of work that needs to be done for this convention; work on the basics that will be beneficial to everyone at the next Animate Miami.