There have always been several things about Baltimore’s Otakon that have made this convention, above all other cons, my favorite:
1) It was my very first con and, much like your first love, its difficult to find fault with its overly romanticized image.
2) The culture at Otakon is one of the best. When we nerds speak of the fabled “Nerd culture” we aren’t speaking of some parallel reality, where we all bond over plushies and sake, but an atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance. Otakon is, without sounding pedantic, a nerds utopia. At least for what could be considered a larger convention.
3) I just love to watch the unsuspecting Baltimore masses look on in utter confusion, as their city is overrun by otaku. There is no greater spectacle than watching poor pedestrians panic as a seven foot tall Domo-Kun stalks then down Pratt Street. Seriously. Just watch the sheer horror from a sky walk just once!
The Ninja Legion arrived at Otakon 2011 in full force, starting things off like all other con goers, attempting to get our panel badges on Thursday night. Oddly, they neglected to inform panelists that they had decided to skip Thursday and start preregistration on Friday. Not the best start to my favorite convention but from there it was pretty smooth sailing. Well, except for the fact that most of the guests were announced two weeks prior to the convention and, after taking the time to submit our desired interviews, we never received any kind of reply. You can choke that up to a change in head of press or a vital lack of communication which seems to be all the rage with conventions nowadays it seems. There seems to be a bit of a loss of focus going on at Otakon, especially in the Dealers Room. There is a shift from Otaku based interests to profitability and crossing nerd genres. At least five tables in the Dealers Room were selling wares that, to my opinion, had little to do with “The Otaku Generation.” Again, not a problem just a concern.
I have always enjoyed the layout of Otakon. The Baltimore Convention is the perfect setting for the event with more than enough space and almost no bottle-necking and congestion. But a new trend has suddenly appeared. Panels and press were held at The Sheratan and Hilton hotels rather than the convention center. While I can understand the theory behind the move, it was slightly inconvenient to have to move between three different locales. The Ninja Legion however viewed this as just a part of our quest. I know it seems like I’ve had nothing good to say about Otakon but, truth be told, it was standard fare. We did the same activities we’ve all done for years prior and, though we’re now on the other side of the panel table, it still doesn’t feel at all that new. I think that’s we’re all missing. Conventions need new life breathed into them. We need to be as excited about devoting our time and money to conventions the way we used to.