I love being part of the gaming community. It’s so vibrant and alive, full of people who really enjoy doing what they do, whether it’s streaming, speedrunning, developing, making fanart, blogging, or simply just sitting down and slogging through a new title. The earnest social awkwardness and camaraderie is infectious.
It’s too bad that Sac Gamers Expo completely ignores the fact that this is a community and has decided to stick this festival onto SacAnime with a piece of duct tape. I walk in, and I pay ten dollars for my wristband. Oh, it’s a 2016 SacAnime wristband. I get two sheets of paper. The first is a map of the convention. The other is incredibly exciting! Tons of the voice cast from Overwatch are going to be here! And CharlesMartinet, the voice of Mario?? I’m finally gonna get to meet the man himself! These are gaming legends.
Oh, they’re all going to be at SacAnime. The gaming icons are going to SacAnime.
I get it, it’s a bigger festival! It’s longer-running, and its success likely enabled Sac Gamers Expo to exist in the first place. But the flippancy with which the SacAnime admin ignores the distinction between the two communities is appalling. That’s right, I said it: flippancy. We’re our own thing. And while HyperDimension Neptunia and the newly viral Doki-Doki Literature Club are examples of how the two communities blend, there’s not too much crossover between us. The gamers have their own deep brand of nerdiness, and the otakus have theirs. Give each their due.
Just to really drive the offhand nature of this home: with the exception of a few developers and tech booths, almost all of the vendors said they were coming back for SacAnime in a couple weeks. Same folks, different portfolio. While I am all for giving hardworking artists and vendors more opportunities to sell, what benefit is there for the attendees? Especially coupled with the fact that SacAnime is such a gaming-heavy event in itself, what makes this con special? It seems like the only point of coming to Sac Gamers Expo is to buy a gaming-themed Christmas present. Thanks, but I have access to broadband and Etsy (for the time being…).
They need to put the time into making this event special. The lecture halls and panels weren’t very well-attended, and while they were cool devs, there are so many other big names in the gaming community that could’ve made an appearance. Even a big-name Twitch streamer would have been a much-needed boost.
The Event Itself
What makes this an extra shame is that the event itself was made up of such good people. The artists were incredible, and they seemed like they really enjoyed being there. Everyone I talked with was excited to chat about which fandoms they liked best, what tech they were using, and show their favorite art pieces. It warms my heart in a special way to know that these people make their living by expressing their love and creativity for video games.
There was also a dev room, where several indie game developers were showing off slightly more polished versions of the games they presented at the Indie Arcade Expo this past year. While it was neat to see them, I again feel like this wasn’t their biggest event all year, and that they’re looking forward to April 2018 when they can head out to the West Sacramento Convention Center and show off their year’s effort.
There were tourneys and classic consoles galore, as well as a couple pinball machines! Pinball doesn’t often get proper respect as the grandaddy of video games, but the Northern CA Pinball Association was out in force.
As for specific folks, I want to do a couple of shoutouts to people who really stood out from the (dense, sweaty, costumed) crowd.
Andrew Davis is a 3D modeler who was really excited and informative about his process. His artwork is super cool and has a good amount of breadth to it! He was a neat find, and someone who definitely has a good future in game design.
Chris Cayco is another guy who really had a distinctive, neat style. You should absolutely check out his DeviantArt (link in his name). His use of a fisheye-esque perspective really makes his stuff pop. He was also a cool dude to talk to.
My personal favorite was Jupebox, whose art was cute, shockingly well-drawn, and featured a lot of my favorite fandoms. (The one above mixes Undertale and Cave Story. How could you go wrong?) She was incredibly personable, and I could tell she deeply loves being creative, in whatever vein that may be at the moment. I would absolutely suggest heading over to her Etsy account if you’re still looking for a nerdy, unique gift for a nerdy, unique friend.
The Long and Short
I hope it’s obvious that I enjoyed the people I met at Sac Gamers Expo, but it is all too often that great people are stymied or made insignificant by out-of-touch administration. That’s exactly what has happened here. The gaming community isn’t being represented well. It isn’t getting its day in the sun. If things don’t change, my decision to go next year would probably be based on economy: is the price of a ticket cheaper than the shipping I’d pay if I bought that stuff online?
That should never be the deciding factor in going to a convention. If next year is more of the same, I’m staying home.