"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 29: Avcon

I was doing some work at Fresh 92.7 when I heard this ad come on over the radio:

"Introducing Avcon. Adelaide's premier anime and video game convention. Featuring special guest appearances by some of the biggest names in the business, including Chris Avellone, Cherami Leigh and Jon St John. July 18-20, Adelaide Convention Centre."

*Gasp* 'Avcon's in town?' I said to the girl on the front desk. 'I can't believe I haven't been there before!'
'I didn't know you were into that stuff.'
'Are you kidding? Chris Avallone's going to be there! Cherami Leigh's amazing! Jon St John!'

So I started texting around to see who would join me on this exciting venture. First up was Jerida.

'I can't, my first performance is on Saturday. You do remember I'm performing in The Sound of Music don't you?'
'Um... Of course.' I replied.

Next was Mitchell.
'Prob not man, too expensive.'
'But Chris Avallone's going to be there! And so's Cherami Leigh and Jon St John!'
'Michael, I'll give you $100 if you can tell me who any of those people are.'
'They... work in anime.'
'Have you ever watched an anime in your life?'
'I've watched a lot of Pokemon. Bit of Dragonball Z...'
'What about Dragonball?'
'I said that!'
'No, you said Dragonball Z... Never mind.'
'What if I paid half your ticket?'
'No deal, man.'

So I was already running short on options. I didn't know who else of my friends was into anime. I decided to give my sister Christina a go.
'Hey, do you want to go to Avcon?'
'I've never watched an anime in my life.'
'Pfft. Noob...'

I was getting desperate. If Christina wasn't keen, who would be? But then in came my saving grace...
'Is that half-price ticket still on the table?' It was Mitch.
'Alright I'll go. That blunt puppy-dog expression in your text made me feel guilty.'
'Great to hear! Just to let you know, I'm unavailable Friday and I'm working until 5 on both Saturday and Sunday. We'll have to go after that.'
'You mean after those panellists and most of the events have wrapped up?'
'I'm sure we'll find something.'

So I bought the tickets and we met up at the Convention Centre. I'd decided that if I was going to do this for the first time, I had to do it right - and that meant going in costume. I had the perfect idea. A costume that could be slapped together in no time, but looked exactly like what it was meant to look like. Plus, it had the added bonus of being normal enough that I could just wear it out to town later if I wanted. I found Mitch...

'Why are you wearing sunglasses?' He said. 'And why does one lens have a red dot on it?'
'Can't you tell? I'm the Terminator!'
'Dude, that is not the Terminator.'
'Yes it is!'
'Well for a start, the Terminator didn't wear jeans, he wore leather pants. He also wore a black t-shirt under his leather jacket, not white. And I'm pretty darn sure he didn't wear brand new New Balance runners.'

A quick Google image search on my phone told me he was right. I sulkily took my sunglasses off and tucked them in my bag, reverting back to mediocre civilian life. Then we walked in.

The first place we went was the video game area. It was an enormous room full of all sorts of games on every non-portable console you could think of. In one corner there was a sectioned-off area where some spectators were watching the finals of a video game tournament. There were commentators on the stage, wearing headsets and announcing the action, but they didn't seem to really know what they were doing. Their contribution consisted of occasional awkward comments like "That's gonna hurt," and "Looks like he's on the ropes now."

We looked around for a video game that looked interesting and was available. The first one we settled on was one of those Street-Fighter type games that looked like it had been put through a rigorous steroid program. Of all the playable characters in the game, all the males had arms bigger than torsos and broad-swords the size of small cars. All the females wore the most revealing clothes I'd seen yet from a video game. We played a few rounds of that, trying to figure out what the game was. Our best guess was Soul Calibre. Mitchell won every fight.

Are we right? Was it Soul Calibur?

Next, we found an Xbox with an electric guitar plugged into it. A proper one. I'd never seen that before. I can play a few chords, but I don't think I'm good enough to ace a video game of it. We cycled through the songs until I found one I liked. Ooh, House of the Rising Sun! That's my favourite song to play on guitar! I should be awesome at this, right?

What the...

As you can see by my face, I was not right. The screen had the most confusing set-up I'd ever seen, with strings and boards and bricks flying everywhere. I failed miserably. Mitch had a go at (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, one of the easier rock songs to play. It was in watching him that I started to pick up was was going on. The strings were in reverse order, with the high-noted string on the top of the screen and the low-noted string on the bottom. The board moving towards us from the distance was the fretboard with the top of the board on the left hand side. The bricks were the markers that told you when to pluck the string. I had a go at Satisfaction after him and did MUCH better. I hit like 90% of the notes. And then I turned to Mitch and gave him a quick smile as if to say "You're not better at EVERYTHING, are you?"

But Mitch was gone. He'd moved on to this intriguing anime drum game. It was just a single bongo drum with big plastic sticks the size of fritzes. The screen had this amazingly sickly super-happy-fun-time look to it. We would choose a song and this sunny little bongo with legs would jump out and go "Yay!" During the song, you simply had to hit the middle or the edge of the bongo depending on where it told you to and if you got enough hits you passed. The little bongo dude would either burst into sunshine and cheer, or sit under a storm cloud and sulk. It was the most adorable animated thing I'd seen since Pocoyo.

That was enough video gaming for now. Time to check out what else was going on. There was a quiz night which had just started somewhere else in the building. We made it or goal to find it.

We made our way into a corridor that seemed deserted save for the odd person here and there. We weren't sure we were in the right spot, but we kept pushing. We eventually came across two staff members who were standing in a room which was set up to take long lines. There was a lot of that rope mazing you see at banks and airports. We approached the staff members to ask directions, but we could see that they'd had a very tough weekend and were clearly at the end of their ropes.

'Excuse me, is it too late to join in on the quiz night?'
'Oh, look, I don't know,' Said one of them.
'Do you know what time it started?'
She huffed and checked her guidebook. '7:30.'
'Where abouts?'
'Look, I don't know, just follow this corridor and you should find it.'
'Ok... Thanks for your help...'

We followed it around and turned a corner before finding ourselves in an auditorium full of many hundreds of people and a huge stage. How the noise of this place hadn't bled out beyond the doors is a mystery to me. But we'd found the spot. We looked around for a registration booth, but couldn't find one, so we decided to join another table. Preferably one that was already going so badly that us joining them wouldn't make it any worse. The questions we heard as we were looking for the registration booth were atrocious.

"Who's the protagonist of the Space Quest series?"
"In Minecraft, which two ingredients are needed to make a clock?"
"In Duke Nukem Forever, what does Duke Nukem say directly after he kills the Cycloid Emperor?"

Neither of us had an absolute clue. So we decided we'd better join a crap team and just have a laugh. Ah, these guys looked like good candidates...

There were four people at this table. One of them was a weedy-looking boy with a loud voice who was complaining about every question they asked. A second guy was sitting to his left, quietly watching the stage and not saying much. A girl to the boy's right wasn't even paying attention, she was just looking into a pocket-mirror applying more makeup. And a girl to her right had a pen in one hand and her head in the other. She was writing down whatever the first boy shouted at her to write with a look of disinterest. They let us join them and the six of us sat there dumbstruck as more and more ridiculous questions were asked.

"Who did the voice of Aichi Sendou in Cardfight Vanguard?"
"What was the name of the series of episodes from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that were exactly the same but with a few details changed in each one?"

This was ridiculous. I'd never even heard of half of these things. Then came a question that was music to my ears -

"How many Dragonballs can one collect in Dragonball Z?"

I knew that one!

'Seven! It's seven! Write down seven!' I yelled, surely alerting any table that somehow didn't already know.

Next, they showed a series of videos and asked a question about each video. The questions were ridiculously hard, such as "What was the date on the white board behind the male character?" And "How many times did the teddy bear kick the blue-shirted character in the balls?" Again, there was one question I knew the answer to: There was a video of the Swedish Chef from The Muppets. He was throwing pancakes up in the air and shooting them with a musket. There was a shelf behind him with a bit of china sitting on it. And just on a hunch I counted how many plates were sitting on it. Sure enough, the question was "How many plates were sitting on the shelf behind the chef?"
My response was a bit more subdued this time. 'There's nine,' I mumbled to the scribe.
After that segment, there was a break and we took the opportunity to look elsewhere.

On the other side of the building there was a so-called "rave" happening. It was a licensed area, so only over-18s could enter. I was apprehensive - you may already know how much I hate clubbing. But I went to the club anyway, just to check it out.

It was... weird. A whole bunch of people in costume standing around a dance floor while stereophonic video game music played. A DJ was chilling up the front, just quietly concentrating on his equipment. Not much going on, but I imagine that if anyone had brought extacy into the building, they would have had an absolute ball. We surveyed the scene for a bit, shook our heads and walked out.

We decided we'd seen enough. We wanted to go back to the video game section and keep playing there. I noticed that Point Blank was free - An amazing PlayStation One shooting arcade game that I love.

'Ooh, let's play Point Blank!' I cheered.
'What's Point Blank?'
'It's a shooting game. Players compete to hit all sorts of targets. It's great, I've got it at home.'
'So you paid $70 to play a game you've already got?'
'Shut up and pick up a gun.'

I kicked his ass on that one. Not surprising, seeing as I owned the game and he didn't. A couple of games in he sighed and said 'What else is there to play here?'

Bad Boys 3. Tighter... and Whiter.

From the competition corner, I heard the words "Our next game is Crash Team Racing!" I nearly choked on my tongue. Crash Team Racing??? I love that game!! I don't think there's a single game I'm better at in the world. I sure hope I can register to compete...

We went up to the game area and found a staff member.
'Excuse me, can anyone register at this point?'
'No, sorry. This is the Ultimate Video Game Championship. It's been going all day with different games.'
'And they made Crash Team Racing one of the Ultimate Games? Respect...'
I was sad that I couldn't compete, but I enjoyed watching the battle and quietly believing I could be better.

The final thing we did for the night was to play Titanfall online. We each went to a console each and started playing. It took me a while to figure out how to get into one of those giant robot things. And when I did I got blown out of it pretty quickly. I was blown apart, shot and trampled over and over again as I suffered the age-old curse of noobism. I struggled in this Hell until a staff member came over and said
'Are you playing online? We rather you play over the LAN connection if that's okay.'
'Yeah sure... How do I do that?'

He took the controller off me and expertly played with the settings. I got back on the game...

And encountered the sweet relief of players who were more at my skill level.  The first game I didn't even die once, although my score wasn't very high because I only killed computer-generated soldiers, not human players. At one point I tried to change my Gamer Tag to something a little funnier, but it wouldn't let me.

What's wrong with that?

So that was it for Saturday night's entertainment. Mitch told me to look at the Avcon guide tomorrow morning before work to see what was on in the evening so we didn't end up wandering around aimlessly. I looked for a bit, then I had to text Mitch.

'Yeah, looks like there's not much on in the evening tomorrow. Do you want to just play video games the rest of the night?'

We turned up at 5:30 just in time to see that in the Competition Corner, they were having the final battle of their Pokemon X & Y tournament. I used to be a gun at Pokemon, but that was back when it was just the first and second generations. Now Mitch is the Pokemon gun and he's far better at it than I could ever hope to be. As we watched the battle, he explained to me how certain moves on particular Pokemon achieved such and such results. After it was done, we decided that rather than than get straight to the video games, we'd keep taking a look around. There was meant to be a cosplay competition finishing up somewhere, maybe we could watch the end of that.

We found a place that could have been it. There were some serious characters lining up on the wall with people taking photos of them. These must have been the finalists.

But as they dispersed, it became clear that the competition was over.
'So wait,' I said. 'What are we in line for?'
'The annual auction,' said a passing staff member.
'What time does it start?'
'Seven o'clock.'

I looked at my watch. It was 6:15. No way was I going to stand in line for 45 minutes waiting for the auction to start.
'Come, on, let's get to the video games.'

We got to the video game section again, and were horrified to discover they were packing it up.
Point Blank!
The LAN section!
Happy Drum Drum! (Is that what it was called?)
All gone!

I buried my head in my hands and said
'Why?! Why must this always happen to me?'
'So what next, line up for the auction?' said Mitch.
'Ah, let's look around a bit more first. I saw a sign for a place selling "Goku Burgers", I want to check that out.'
'Um, Mike... I think that's it over there.' He pointed to a room that came off of the video game section. The place was deserted and the lights were off, but there was a sign above it clearly saying "The Maid Diner".
'Well, maybe that's not it. Let's keep looking.'
'I dunno Mike...'

We walked around the building in what was clearly a wild goose chase until I finally gave up and we went to rejoin the line for the auction.

...The line that now filled the room and had no end in sight.
'Man, I'm glad we gave up those ace positions in line to walk around for 20 minutes,' said Mitch.
'Ah, shut up. Let's just sit here and wait until they all go in.'

So we sat on a sofa and played risk on my phone until the line started moving and they all filed in. When everyone was in, the auctioneer bounded on stage.

Would you know what I meant if I said he was a jock-nerd? The type of person who's into very nerdy stuff like anime and Warcraft, but who's also good looking and confident? That was this guy. He swaggered on stage in his skinny-jeans, volleys and "let's party" shirt and tie and had the whole crowd eating out of his hands from the word go.

He facilitated the items as they cycled through. There were signed convention passes, Indie games and plush toys. People paid RIDICULOUS money for that stuff. A set of passes to this year's convention signed by each of the special guests sparked a bidding war which was won by a plump girl in a Peppa Pig outfit. What did she pay for it? Eleven... Hundred... Dollars. We're in a recession, people!

The showpiece item for the night was a full, working suit of armour retailed at $1300. They started the bidding at $800... And didn't get much interest. Looks like everyone was all bidded out over those pieces of plastic on a string.

When the bidding hit $1050, it looked like the bidding was going to end there - until a tall bearded man dressed like a dwarf from Lord of the Rings came onto the stage and grabbed the microphone. He went on a rand, shouting in a ye-olde Brittish accent,
'This isn't just a cardboard cutout to stick into your room and forget about! This suit can be taken into battle! The sword can split a man's head! And with the Dark Lord Abbott running our country, this will soon become a crucial piece of equipment! And you people will only pay a thousand dollars??? For shame, you people!' And with that he handed the microphone back to the host and exited the stage to huge applause.

The host regained himself.
'Okay, so with that in mind, do we have any more bids? Anyone? Do I hear eleven-hundred? Going once... going twice... going three times... sold. For Ten-hundred-and-fifty dollars.

So much for that.

The Angry Goblin.
The closing ceremony consisted of some people from other anime and gaming conventions across the country giving a talk about their upcoming events and then a cool sketch where they brought an old fashioned turn-based battle game to life and acted it out It had great humour and ended with an audience member pressing the "skip" button to avoid battling the main boss. After that, the audience filed out and wearily went home. I enjoyed my time there, even if I did feel out of my depth. But there was one thing during the whole weekend that DIDN'T make an appearance...


  1. I wish you'd spoken to the plump girl to find out why she paid so much for those passes. Maybe she's a shrewd investor who thinks they'll go up in value. Or maybe she thinks they'll help her get laid. I wish you'd asked...

    1. I thought about mugging her for them on the way out ;)

  2. That game is Soul Calibur 5. It is great.

    1. Yeah, it was! But I think I still prefer the latest Mortal Kombat.

  3. Well, you could have told Mitch you were Corey Hart, the legendary singer of "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night."

    1. Well I do often find it hard to keep track of the visions in my eyes...

  4. Haha! You're a great writer this was a really engaging story of the convention. Very entertaining and humourous I enjoyed it :D

  5. Haha thanks stranger! Do you have a blog? I could follow you :)

    1. I appreciate it, although I don't have one :) keep on writing!


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