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Genericon 2010: Tales of a First-Time Staffer

Kids will be kids: Genericon's Friday night karaoke session

February 12-14, 2010

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Troy, New York, USA

I’ve written a lot of con reports, but this one is going to be a little different. In fact, it’s not even technically a con report! Usually I discuss the organization of the convention, detailing the things I liked, the things I didn’t like, and what could be done better. This time, since I am actually the Public Relations Coordinator for the convention, such quality judgments would prompt a large question mark over most readers’ heads. So, I’ll simply be providing some personal perspective from my first time working as staff at a convention.

Let’s get one thing straight: being staff is unlike any other experience at an anime convention. Never as an attendee, panelist, or member of the press have I been thrown into as many odd jobs and forced to deal with as many spontaneous problems as staff are. For me, Genericon XXIII (yes, that’s the 23rd one) was a valuable lesson in how the staffing process works, and it will certainly help in the future when covering other conventions and recognizing where their organizational strengths and weaknesses lie.

One of the most eye-opening moments was when I began to understand how many things we take for granted as attendees (or press). Some things just seem simple, like counting the number of attendees or printing badges, but when registration is split among multiple people and there are multiple badge types with their own privileges and caveats, simple things become much more complex.

Working my shifts in the Operations Room made me realize just how many things go on simultaneously at a convention, as I fielded calls from stressed-out staffers, found volunteers to keep track of the video game room, and answered questions from bewildered artists, panelists, and cosplayers. As a staffer, I had to constantly be on call to help solve any problem at any time, which made the otherwise typical convention experience so much more exciting (and stressful).

In the time I had to freely explore the convention, I visited the Vendor Rooms, sang the famous Fist of the North Star opening song, “Ai Wo Torimodose,” at karaoke, stopped by a few interesting panels, and ran a panel of my own. One of the great things that I discovered while checking out the convention was that Genericon, in spite of the seemingly large crowds of immature high school-age cosplayers, attracts a deceptively high number of fans of old and obscure anime.

In fact, one group was running a great pair of panels about both good, obscure anime (It Came Out of Nowhere!) and completely terrible anime (Burn on Sight: Bad Anime). Some of their choices were a little questionable, such as Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, which is hardly obscure, and the bad anime list was heavy on fanservice shows and light on MD GEIST. Still, inclusions in their good anime list of shows like Nadia of the Mysterious Seas showed that these folks had some knowledge of the old school under their belts.

Lawrence Eng presents his panel, Old-School Gainax.

Adding to the fun were the panels run by “otaku researcher” Lawrence Eng, which covered his research (Otaku Studies 101) and older works by Gainax (Old-School Gainax). Additionally, attendees at all of these panels seemed to know a whole lot more about older series like Astro Boy and Space Battleship Yamato than I expected. With a few more smart panelists (and smart attendees) like these, I think that future Genericons could be a really fun time for fans looking for old-school experiences at a modern anime convention.

My panel about the history of anime/manga character designs, titled “The Changing Faces of Anime,” certainly could have gone over better, considering that my PowerPoint ended up not working at the last minute. (It was SUCH a pretty PowerPoint!) I ended up having to just open up pictures one-by-one from a folder and read off of a rough script, but the small crowd — I was scheduled against our very own Uncle Yo’s comedy act — seemed to enjoy the presentation anyway. Of course, thanks must go out to Ed Chavez from Vertical, Inc., who kindly spent some time to look over my script beforehand, correcting factual errors and supplying me with invaluable bits of trivia about manga character designs. Who knows, the panel might see a much more organized rebirth at this year’s AnimeNEXT…

I certainly enjoyed my time at Genericon, whether I was working as staff or doing normal attendee activities. Besides recommending that people head out to Genericon XXIV next year — hey, that’s my job! — I also recommend that people try out the experience of staffing an anime convention. It’s a unique challenge that requires a wide variety of skills and allows fans to give back to their community in a meaningful way.

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