CONVENTION REVIEW – “CONNECTICON 2012”

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Did you know that there are comic book nerds, sci-fi geeks, cosplayers, and gamers over the age of 21? Well, the organizers and staff of the ConnectiCon convention in Hartford, Connecticut don’t. Year in and year out, the management of this Convention advertise and charge for product that they don’t deliver. Their website claims the event is “New England’s ONLY massively, multi-genre pop culture convention, the convention’s focus is on all things pop culture and does every genre of pop culture in as big a way as possible. The event attracted over 8,000 members in 2011, and expects to have over 10,000 members attend its 10th annual convention in 2012.” However, after attending the Con for four years now — three as an attendee , and this year as a member of the press — I’d venture to say that they have never covered “every genre” of pop culture.

The truth is, ConnectiCon is for the kids. It’s a convention aimed squarely at the 12-17 year old demographic, and the geek culture product born out of the post-comic book speculator boom of the mid 1990’s, which transitioned to the Pokemons and Narutos and Final Fantasies of the world influencing a generation of impressionable fans. The Con is heavy on Anime/Manga, table-top gaming (Magic, Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer, etc.), and video gaming.

Everything else, and I mean everything else – is relegated to a minor blip on the radar. There were maybe three vendors selling comic books amongst the piles and piles of manga, snap-on tails for “furry” costumes, and various edibles from the Orient. There were no artists or writers from any of the major publishers like Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse. etc. (In the CTCon’s defense, most of these people are at San Diego Comic-Con, but not ALL of them. Come on guys.) Science-Fiction? I think there was a Firefly panel, and I might have seen a Star Wars shirt or a poster. Movies and Genre TV shows? Well, there was a guy selling some movie posters and some 8X10’s, but were there any actors from Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Who, X-Files, Star Trek, Babylon 5, LOST, Firefly, Game of Thrones? Was there a contingent from the Star Wars charity group, the 501st Division? Nope. (And again, yes, I’m aware most of these individuals were probably at San Diego Comic-Con as well, but surely a handful of celebs are East-coast based and prefer local cons.)

Look, I’ll admit, I’m an old man. I know. I’m in my 30’s, and I was raised on a steady diet of Marvel and DC superhero comics;  movies like Star Wars,  Blade Runner, TRON, Aliens; and TV shows like Star Trek, V, Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman in Japan), Robotech, and Voltron. But I’m still a geek to this day, and I still follow genre comics, TV shows and movies like The Dark Knight Rises, Firefly, LOST, Game of Thrones, Prometheus, etc. If I see a Convention in a huge, beautiful facility advertising that it “covers all aspects of pop culture,” then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to see some of these things represented more than they are here. The ConnectiCon is 75% Anime, 20% gaming, and 5% everything else. And when you’re asked to pay $40 for a one day pass, or $60 for a weekend pass (plus hotels, parking, etc.), it’s simply not worth the expense or the effort if you’re between 24 and 60 years old, and are a fan of traditional science-fiction/fantasy/comic book/genre TV, etc.

It would be different if the Con advertised itself as “One of the largest Anime and gaming Cons in the Northeast,” or something that effect, but they don’t. The words “Sci-fi,” “Comic Books,” and other key terms are displayed in their promotional materials, but the content pertaining to these things is minimal at best, and anyone looking to attend the Con in the future should be aware of this.

What follows is a series of letter grades for the ConnectiCon, divided into categories: Facilites, Layout/Signage, Cosplay, Events/Panels, Guests, Dealer Room, and Overall Value. (Keep in mind, these scores are based on the opinion of someone in their 30’s, who has very little interest in Anime or role-playing games.)

 

Facilities: A

The Hartford Convention Center is an absolutely beautiful modern convention facility, with 140,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 40,000 square foot ballroom and 25,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. It’s a bright, airy, and open location that suits photo opportunities with the colorful cosplayers very well. The panel rooms are on the smaller side, but with the low-profile caliber of guests the convention books, larger spaces aren’t necessary.  There were widespread reports of the Convention Center security staff (not the Convention staff) harassing cosplayers and other con attendees, but I did not personally witness any incidents.

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Events/Panels: D

“Niche” is the word when it comes to panels and events at ConnectiCon, and that “niche” is 12-17 year old Anime fans, cosplayers, furries, and hardcore gamers. Here is a smattering of some of the panels, taken from the official ConnectiCon website: Making Pony Ears, Surviving The My Little Pony Apocalypse, Plushie Weapons Workshop, Solo Juggling, Barfing Forth Apocalyptica, Brony vs. Brony, Brentalfloss Q. I can’t imagine any of them drawing more than a handful of people, and I’d be willing to bet that most of them were in that 12-18 demographic. I did notice a Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and Game of Thrones panel, but I was unable to attend, as many of them weren’t scheduled during our visit. However, I can tell you that none of them featured moderators that worked on any of the films/shows.

In terms of events, the Con is centered around three: The Cosplay “Death Match,” in which cosplayers engage in pretend battles, and the shrieking pre-teen crowd cheers for their favorites; The “Masquerade,” in which the cosplayers perform skits or dance routines, and the shrieking, pre-teen crowd cheers for their favorites; and the Saturday night Rave, in which the pre-teens and teenagers dance the night away to techno and dubstep music.

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Cosplay/Photo Ops: A

This is where the ConnectiCon truly shines, no matter what age group or sect of  fandom you belong to. It’s a wonderful place to see literally thousands of awesome, creative, funny, scary, and downright bizarre costumes from dedicated cosplayers, who spend months crafting and sewing their superhero or anime garb. The cosplay contingent here can rival any of the major conventions (yes, even the vaunted San Diego Comic-Con), so you can always walk away from the event with a nice photo gallery.

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Guests: D

As I mentioned in my introduction, The ConnectiCon never books any comic book writers or artists from the major publishers, or any actors from films or TV shows. Instead, they have a strange predilection for Video Game /Anime voiceover actors, and obscure webcomic creators. This year, Jim Cummings — who provides vocal talent for Darkwing Duck, and numerous Disney animated favorites — was the guest of honor, and the rest of the “featured guests” were ConnectiCon standbys like Carlos Ferro (“Dom” in the Gears of War video game series) and Rachel Robinson (various video games and animation). Hardly a lineup of household names in the Geek Community.

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Layout/Signage: C

This year the event made a HUGE blunder by constructing a labyrnthine series of curtains and booths known as the “Online Media” area. This area was a maze filled with a hodge-podge assembly of webcomic creators, small-time online merchants, webseries producers, obscure genre t-shirt sellers, game makers, and any other vendor that didn’t belong in the main merch room. Unfortunately, this relegated the merchandising room to a tiny corner of the event hall, causing claustrophobic log jams in the too-small aisles. Dozens of dealers that I saw at the Con in the past were missing, making a former strength of the convention into a major weakness. It was very disappointing. Aside from that, the signage of the Con is adequate, and the panel rooms are easily located in the upper floor.

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Overall Value: F

The ConnectiCon charges $60 for a three-day pass, and individual day passes are $30 for Friday, a whopping $40 for Saturday, and $25.00 for Sunday. These prices are simply too outrageously high to pay for a convention that offers no artists or writers from major comic book publishers, or actors from genre film/TV. Hell, you can’t even see the Batmobile or the DeLorean from Back to the Future, attractions that you can see at smaller-sized cons than this one.

CLICK HERE for our ConnecitCon 2012 Cosplay gallery.

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About Author

Jeff Carter

Jeff is the defining voice of his generation. Sadly, that generation exists only in an alternate dimension where George Lucas became supreme overlord of the Earth in 1979 and replaced every television broadcast and theatrical film on the planet with Star Wars and Godzilla movies. In this dimension, he’s just a guy from New England who likes writing snarky things about superheroes, monsters, and robots.

  • As soon as I saw anything with the word “Brony” on it, I would have asked for a refund.

    • noobiesnack

      If the word Brony turns you away, I guess your not attending any cons anymore… they are taking over every con it seems. damn bronies

  • Nobi

    I agree with almost all your feelings on CTCon. I was there this weekend as Kick-Ass and it was pretty disorganized the entire time. The staff was never helpful about anything. You could ask 2 staff members the same question about the con and get a different answer from both of them. It seemed to me that the con did seem like it was geared towards younger people, and I was very underwhelmed by the programming and organization. I have to say I did enjoy myself this past weekend, but it wasn’t so much because of the con itself, but my friends I went with. We had a great time because we had a venue to just hang out. If you have that kind of view of it where it’s more of a place to have a good time with friends and fellow geeks/nerds rather than a place where you expect comic con levels of activities, it still wasn’t that bad.

    • I think I saw your Kick-Ass costume, it was very well-done. Thanks for stopping by and reading the review. Let’s hope the organizers start providing more bang for the buck at this Con.

  • I was with Jeff and had a press pass. Now, I made a promise to myself to never be one of those people who didn’t “get” the new generations of kids and their interests, but I guess that’s the case here. I’ve accepted this and that’s just fine. I don’t need to get it but I respect it. I didn’t grow up with anime and there are only a handful of the older titles that I enjoy. Clearly the intent of the Connecticon is to charge teenagers a relatively large amount of money to give them somewhere nice and spacious to hang out. That’s it. Clearly the intent is NOT to offer anything interesting to see, do, and buy. I’m a fan of comics, sci-fi, movies, tv shows, and a casual gamer at best. I don’t think I’m that hard to please, in that respect. There was next to, if not totally, NOTHING for me. Apparently I’m not a target market. My main outlet of enjoyment was provided by cosplayers of those genres. Other than that, I was really let down. The deception lies, as previously mentioned by Jeff, in the fact that Connecticon advertises itself as a convention for all of these things, when it is really just a ploy. Just call it a Cosplay Convention. Then people such as myself won’t go and be disappointed. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go and give it one more try, but that’s all I would give it. If I went one more time and had a similar experience, I wouldn’t go again even for free on a press badge. Judging from the comments of some others, it appears to be on somewhat of a decline, at least in terms of pleasing certain crowds whose complaints are obviously falling of deaf ears.

  • Elindalyne

    Don’t go to cons if you don’t like things geared towards a younger generation? You realize that every panel, tournament, etc are submitted by convention goers. If you want to see something, submit a panel idea?

    • I have no problem with Cons geared towards a younger generation, my issue is that they advertise this particular convention as having a focus “on all things pop culture and does every genre of pop culture in as big a way as possible.” That’s simply not the case. All you have to do is walk around the place once to realize that it’s a 75% Anime convention. If they stopped boasting that they were an all-genre con, and changed their advertising strategy to calling the con what it is — an anime/gaming/cosplay con, then I’d have no issue.

      • elindalyne

        It’s a fan run convention… The fans get what the fans want. In past years there were sci-fi guests (Rob Picardo + Ethan Phillips). I’ll say it again, if you want stuff that cater to your wants, submit a panel, suggestion, etc and you’ll get what you want.

        • “In past years” doesn’t exactly help anyone now. Where were the sci-fi guests or comic artists *this year*? That’s my point. How exactly is the con “fan-run?” Is there not a staff that organizes and books the guests and the content each year? It’s not my responsiblity or my job to this. All I’m saying with this review is that A.) If you’re an older genre fan like myself, you should be aware in future years that this is not a convention for you. and B.) The value for what is presented is not a good one. It’s like a pizza place advertising calzones and gourmet pizzas, then when you get there, all they have are cheese slices.

  • I’ll agree that it’s not the best con I’ve ever been to. compared to Anime Boston, certain elements such as the organization, communication, and the size of the dealer’s room were severely lacking. I was frustrated as a panelist (thanks for not mentioning my panel in the list of sucky ones), because I felt like I had to seek out the important information, and I still missed vital things like needing an event leader badge and not having internet access to show Youtube videos during the panel; and no one showed up to help me work through my technical difficulties until after the panel was set to start. That said, I went to enough fun events, met enough cool people – both regular people and online celebrities – and got enough cool stuff that the positives outweighed the negatives. I will be going back next year, mostly to present more panels, and hopefully now that I know what to expect (and not expect) it will be an even better experience.

  • PS: those who said there were no good guests clearly have never heard of Uncle Yo or the Nostalgia Critic.

    • I love the Nostalgia Critic, guests like him are more on the right track. That being said, do I dig his shtick enough to feel good about seeing his panel for $60, with no other name guests to speak of? Not really. Glad you visited and read my review. Thanks!

  • Angel Rivers

    I agree with you on a few things but not the panels. Everything My little Pony Friendship is Magic filled up so quickly you couldn’t get in, and the majority of the people filling those panels were over 20. You don’t have to be a certain age range to enjoy that, I myself am 28 and am a big fan of the ponies as well as the Nostalgia Critic and Anime.

    The problem with the panels was that the more popular ones were only in one room as opposed to two conjoined ones and there were a lot of people left out. I was lucky enough to get into my Gargoyles panel. The only thing I saw missing was Dr. Who panels but I feel there were others like Firefly and Star Wars that were around and maybe there should have been more but the con states pop culture, not sci fi or comics. Forgive me if I’m mistaken but I thought the two were different?

    Sure the majority of the panels were Anime but I’ve always thought of Connecticon as an Anime Convention with all the other things as an added bonus. I feel your a bit biased because you don’t have the connection with Anime that the majority of the con goers nowadays do. Like someone else pointed out, if you feel the panels are lacking things, run your own? The con is going to have what draws people. Brental Floss, the Nostalgia Critic, Pony things, gaming etc are all very popular at the moment and will draw more crowds.

    Also, you mention its 60 dollars…that’s only if you register late. The earliest you can register for the weekend price is 40$ It gets more and more expensive but only by five dollar increments. Unless a press pass is more?

    I do agree with you on the lack of space at the Dealers room though. That wasn’t fun, but as for the stores themselves? Standard Anime convention dealers as far as I saw. Bit more food and drinks being sold than I’ve ever seen, but overall what I expected. Sorry if you were disappointed but if your looking for a convention suited more to your tastes, I’d suggest Comicon New York or even Arisia in MA.

    • “maybe there should have been more but the con states pop culture, not sci fi or comics. Forgive me if I’m mistaken but I thought the two were different?”
      No, not different at all. “Pop Culture” is a term that encompasses everything. In fact, popular culture is a little too broad in this case, but it certainly includes sci-fi-/fantasy and comic books. These things are also all mentioned in the advertising language in the program, press material and website; and contain phrases like “Massive, Multi-Genre Convention.” That right there should tell any attendee that it is more than an Anime Con. The fact that you’ve “always thought of the Connecticon as an Anime Convention with all the other things an added bonus” reinforces my point. I think a majority of people think it’s an Anime Con. I think of it as an Anime Con. The problem is they don’t, anfd they are charging ludicrous fees for an “all-genre” con that doesn’t deliver on all of the genres.
      The prices I pulled were directly from the website, thank you for clarifying the pre-sale prices, but I feel even those prices are too outrageously high for what is presented at the con. Thank you for visiting and reading.

  • You don’t grade a turtle on how fast it flies.

    You also don’t grade a “general interest” Convention on the specific things it wouldn’t have in the first place. Its a Connecticut Convention, not a video game convention, not a sci-fi convention, not a comic convention either. The general census is to dress up as your favorite character from anything you want and make new friends who share the same interest. There are panels for discussions like Steampunk, Parkour, and other various groups. There are plenty of other conventions that focus on other things FOR the big names to show up at.

    • @facebook-45608672:disqus Your analogy doesn’t “fly” (hehe), and your defense of the con is full of contradictions. If the ConnectiCon is not a video game convention, a sci-fi convention, or a comic convention, then why are all those things in the promotional language, and all over the website? The CTCon is not advertised as just a place for teenagers to hang out in anime costumes and go to sparsely attended parkour or steampunk panels. Of course, that’s exactly what it is, but my point is, IT IS NOT ADVERTISED THIS WAY. If you had never been to one before, and you are a guy or a girl who likes Batman comics, or Star Wars movies, plays some XBOX, and watches LOST, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc., and saw a Con advertised as an “all-genre con” with sci-fi, comics, fantasy, video games, etc. clearly in the promotional material, website, etc. then it’s perfectly within reason to expect things related to these genres there, and not just the limited niche stuff you mentioned. The fact that the con advertises something it doesn’t deliver therefore misleading people and overcharging them for it, was the focus of my article. I’m beginning to wonder if you really read the piece, or just skimmed through it.

      • I read it. What I meant to say it isnt “just” any one of those things. A purely sci-fi convention would have the DeLorean… hell maybe its monster truck version. But the CTCon is a combination of all of these and wouldn’t have the funds to provide such attraction. I know your post is simply an opinion but you ended it with a comparison. To be honest it was my first con ever, and my friends told me what normally goes on there so I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. From my understandings these Con’s only provide what is asked, which seems to have been just a hangout spot. What would you grade it in terms of that? Its a good article though.

        • I didn’t really end my review with a direct comparison to another specific convention. I was merely trying to make the point that smaller cons with smaller facilities have attractions like this that appeal to a broader non-age specific audience, so they must be affordable for a con of ConnectiCon’s size.

  • Some Guy

    Dear Comic Book Guy,

    Stop.

    Signed,
    Bart Simpson

    • Dear “Some Guy,” thank you for your well thought-out in-depth, and educated rebuttal to my review of the ConnectiCon. Oh no, wait…actually you just posted an anonymous, unfunny, trolling comment. Bravo, sir. I bow to your scathing wit and dazzling intellect.