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Otakon 2021: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


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No one made one of these yet so I guess I will start.

 

Good:

  • Otakon is back!! =]
  • Panels - Panels were great.  Liked that there was both quite a bit of diversity in the panels but there were also panels that touched on similar topics and it was good to see how differently they were approached.
  • Art Auction has been great like always.  I am glad that they moved back to in person paying instead of online.

Bad:

Just a couple gripes, nothing too serious

  • Ending at midnight instead of 2am.  I know that it's because of cleaning and such but I hope it goes back to 2am next year.
  • Doors not opening until 9am on Saturday and Sunday.  I don't know if it was because they needed extra time for cleaning or whatnot but it was a pain with door opening right at 9.  I know that my brother wanted to see something in a video room at 9 but by the time we got in, it already started.  The panels all got pushed back until 9:30, why wouldn't the video rooms?

Ugly:

  • Covid - lets hope that we don't have to worry about it for next year.

 

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Good:

  1. The Otakon staff for putting all of this together in just a few months
  2. The attendees and masks- I didn't see any instances of attendees abusing the mask policy. People self-regulated, were considerate and respected the mask policy.
  3. The Japanese Cultural Embassy. I'm THRILLED Otakon brought them in especially since Katsucon gutted them from their con budget in 2020. The kabuki panel and demonstration was especially interesting and Capitol Area Budokai is always a welcomed guest.
  4. The staffer in access control who works the line up in Main Events. He has long hair and a beard. He's a great communicator, very professional and keeps the lines organized. He has great con stories.
  5. The concerts: Both Distant Worlds and the Sunday jazz concert were excellent. The performers really seemed to enjoy being back on stage. 

Bad:

  1. The Saturday morning line through the Marriott tunnel. That line was horrible. It looked as if the escalator was bringing people up faster than security could check them in so they switched to the stairwell. The backup ran from the Marriott convention center entrance down the stairs, past the hotel ballrooms, up the escalators into the main lobby and out the door into the streets. It seemed as if they were re-routing attendees from the convention center entrances into the hotel.

Ugly:

  1. The Con Horror Stories panel not showing. This rarely happens at Otakon and I'm glad to hear they will not be allowed to present again. 
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1 minute ago, KyoKyo said:

The attendees and masks- I didn't see any instances of attendees abusing the mask policy. People self-regulated, were considerate and respected the mask policy.

I forgot to mention that.  I was glad to see people taking it seriously.  It was the a big reason why the con was able to happen as all.

 

3 minutes ago, KyoKyo said:

Bad:

  1. The Saturday morning line through the Marriott tunnel. That line was horrible. It looked as if the escalator was bringing people up faster than security could check them in so they switched to the stairwell. The backup ran from the Marriott convention center entrance down the stairs, past the hotel ballrooms, up the escalators into the main lobby and out the door into the streets. It seemed as if they were re-routing attendees from the convention center entrances into the hotel.

I was in that line but I was lucky where I was on the stairs when all the people started go up the escalator.  That got scary real quick.  They need to sort out the line into two lines for the main entrance.  They need one for people with badges and people who are picking up badges.  That way it avoids the giant line going around the block and a bunch of people funneling into the Marriott tunnel to try and get in.

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Good:

  • Quicker bag check system this year
  • Lots of photo requests for my cosplay, which I hadn't really expected.
  • The Kabuki panel

Bad:

  • More of a personal one, my co panelist and I were sent around in circles when trying to get our badges/panelist ribbons on Thursday because no one at the front door told us where to go, we went to the info booth and even they seemed perplexed about how to get us to panel ops. Took a while before we were able to ask the right person to escort us up there.
  • Due to covid concerns I didn't hang around the con, between events my group and I retreated to the hotel and only ate in the hotel, which was a bit of a damper since usually we rarely are in the hotel room outside of eating breakfast and sleeping. 

Ugly:

  • Lax mask wearing. I understand there will be idiots in every crowd, but I saw a lot of people taking their masks off in the halls and during panels. Gave me real second thoughts about having attended the con.
Edited by windseeker
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Most of the "bad" and "ugly" I experienced this year were outside Otakon's control, so I won't ding them for it. Personally, I was glad they wrapped up at Midnight. There is nothing worse than con goers returning to their hotel to continue partying while guests are trying to sleep. Shouting when they go down the halls, doors slamming, drama, etc. At least with the early end to the convention you can get a little more sleep. This year I was next to a "frat room" in the hotel and it was not a pleasant experience. People banging on the door to get in, and shouting over the music which was bleeding through the walls. I think hotel management had them tone it down the 2nd night.

The only complaint I had was that a lot of adult content moved to 6 PM. I don't know the median age of the convention attendees, but having limited under 18 video content so early in the evening may put a quicker end to the day for some. I come to the convention to watch anime, and this was the first time in a long time that I had to get an over 18 band.

Did they announce dates/location for next year?

Edited by Clutch
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28 minutes ago, windseeker said:

Ugly:

  • Lax mask wearing. I understand there will be idiots in every crowd, but I saw a lot of people taking their masks off in the halls and during panels. Gave me real second thoughts about having attended the con.

If I was seen without a mask during the con, it was mostly because I was either eating or drinking something. Outside of that, I tried to keep my mask on whenever possible while at the con.

As for me:

THE GOOD:

The simple fact that Otakon is able to get a convention done this year (especially at a period where the delta variant of COVID is causing problems in other regions in the United States) and that people are willing to attend the convention is enough for a good, especially considering how busy I was Saturday in terms of the panels and events I attended (with me only missing one late night panel due to me feeling tired by that point).

THE BAD:

Even with Otakon being back, there's still a few signs that could suggest that it probably wasn't ready, with me feeling really depressed on Friday night and considering returning home early if my mood didn't get better for me on Saturday (which, thankfully, did improve that day) . The main example is the Dealers Room, with a number of noticeable companies and businesses being absent this year and the complete lack of Otakon 2021 merchandise (although that could be due to the convention being put together in such short time).

THE UGLY:

Just walking in Chinatown on Thursday gave me a bleak idea of how bad things are due to the pandemic. Seeing the U.S. Mint shop and the Lucky Strike bowling alley/bar closed while the pandemic is going on is one thing. However, to see the candy store that a lot of people go getting closed down permanently shows just how hard COVID is affecting businesses.

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With Otakon 2021 done, I'll go ahead and give my personal take on how things went with me.

The Good:

 

-Just in general, Otakon actually being a thing, after it got canceled last year.

-Fellow attendees were generally very good at following this year's mask wearing protocol.  Hopefully by next year, we won't have to need them.

-Laura Post's invitation rolling into this year was definitely nice.  I'm glad at least one of the proposed guests from the canceled 2020 Otakon made into this year.

-Wild Bill's Soda being back.  I brought my mug that I bought from the last Otakon 2 years ago, and paid for refills for the whole weekend.  What else is there to say about it, other than their drinks are so damn tasty?

-A few of the booths in dealers room were also quite nice.  But the best ones go to CDH Creations which had these custom made wood carvings of different anime and video game stuff.  I bought one for Final Fantasy 7, and even got a hanger put on it, when the dealers at the booth asked.  The other one is more a display but it's a stall run by the guys who call themselves the Japan Rail Modelers of Washington, D.C.  They had an impressive looking n gauge train layout where one of the trains was themed to Evangelion, and very fittingly had Godzilla on the layout!

 

The Bad:

-Though understandable, not too many guests for this year.  Let's hope things can be much better by next year, and the con can have more guests like they would in the past.

-More of a nitpick, but in the gaming room, there was no station that had a PS5 nor an Xbox Series X/S.  Granted, both consoles are still hard to find, but I kind of thought that at least a few of the staff would've been successful in grabbing either one of them.  And this is coming from someone was lucky enough to gotten himself a PS5.

-Convention center food prices.  Sure they've always been like that, but seriously, why would anyone want to pay $10 for a burger?  At least there's always the Subway and Sbarro's Pizza in the area of the convention center that serve their jobs in providing food to sustain many of us.

 

The Ugly:

-COVID still going on, as we all know.  Again, we can all hope it will all be more under control by next year, and things won't need to be scaled back.

-The Saturday autograph signing for Zach Aguilar and Abby Trott.  The lining up was just a total cluster (bleep).  It was a whole entire mob rushing up to the entrance of the autograph signings, and the staff had to play crowd control.  I was part of the crowd myself, but wanted to be more respectable, and just walk, not run.  Sure while I was part of the mob, at the same time, I still wanted to cooperate with the staff.  Granted, it's not the first time, some crazy crap like this has happened, but it is worth bringing up.

-While I was content enough with a few of the guests the staff picked for this year, I'm still bummed that they ONCE AGAIN couldn't get Monica Rial for a guest.  I could on and on about it again, but I'd just be regurgitating the same old things that have been said before.  I'll just a link to another thread I made where I really go into it: https://board.otakon.com/index.php?/topic/29845-no-monica-rial-this-year-again/

 

That's my own personal two cents about 2021's edition of Otakon.  Again, hopefully, things will be even better by next year, and the con can once again be at its full potential.  And for the last bit I said in "the ugly", I really don't know if I should keep making more guests requests.  I'm just tired of making the same requests I make for certain people I'd like to see be invited end up going to waste/falling on deaf ears/never amounting to anything.  Part of me kind of wants to give up (for real this time).  Because what's the point of making the same requests year after year, after year for a certain guest you want to see be invited.  I kind of hoped that after Otakon's cancelation last year, the staff would reevaluate on how they bring in guests a little, but it doesn't seem that they did.

 

I've said enough now.  Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I think I will give up on making guests requests.  Because I'm officially convinced that the staff will never invite Monica Rial, no matter how requests that me and other people make for her to be invited.

 

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The Good:

This felt like the best-managed Otakon of the 20 or so Otakons that I've attended.  I usually have a few gripes about line management, how panels are handled, video room operation, etc.

This year, just... nothing.

Otakon Staff and Gofers were on point, the Convention Center security and other staff, of all shirt and jacket colors, were friendly but firm, and we had fun conversations with a few of them.

At least where we went and what we did, it was a nice, smooth, no gripes convention.

Sitting on a end seat (left side) rather near the front of the AMV room during the Saturday night AMV screening, I could see that the staff was doing a really good job of managing and helping the singles and groups of stragglers that were coming in late, in the dark, and needed seats in the mostly full room.

 

 

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Main Events on Sunday needed to have volume levels checked. I was sitting in the back of the audience while the  AMV contest winners were being shown, and it was constantly well over 100 db according to my smart phone. By the time the Best in Show video was being shown, my ears were hurting. Volume levels/equalizing/etc needs to be done so this doesn’t happen again.
 

Also The video for Best Non-Finalist was only shown for about 10 seconds when it somehow skipped to the next video on the list. I definitely didn’t want to be the editor for their video if they were in the audience and saw that happen. They worked hard to make their video and it was going to be shown to a lot of people at Closing Ceremonies only to get skipped. 

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42 minutes ago, BrakusJS said:

 

Also The video for Best Non-Finalist was only shown for about 10 seconds when it somehow skipped to the next video on the list. I definitely didn’t want to be the editor for their video if they were in the audience and saw that happen. They worked hard to make their video and it was going to be shown to a lot of people at Closing Ceremonies only to get skipped. 

I’ll have to look at the files we were given to see what happened there. Those files are all on a playlist, so the file may have had a problem. 

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The Good:

- Yay Otakon is back!

- Pretty much everyone abided by the face mask mandate. I spent a large chunk of time in the dealers hall, artist alley and gaming hall and can't really recall seeing anyone without their mask on.

- The few panels that I went to were pretty much perfectly ran and getting people in and out was pretty smooth. Great line management.

 

The Bad:

- It felt like there were a lot fewer dealers/artists in each alley this year. A bit disappointing, but covid gonna covid. But on that note, with fewer dealers, why were all the booths basically crammed together? There was A TON of empty space in each hall, and I feel like that should have been used to space out the booths a bit and have been less on top of each other.

- All the water fountains being turned off. I get covid and all that, but it would have at least been nice to have a place to fill up a water bottle.

 

The Ugly:

- There needs to be a new system worked out for the Marriott tunnel entrance. There was a couple of times where people were nearly knocked over because they had no where to go at the top of the escalator. Anyone being stopped/pulled aside for a bag check basically halts the line and causes backups.

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15 hours ago, UzumakiWarlord said:

but seriously, why would anyone want to pay $10 for a burger?  At least there's always the Subway and Sbarro's Pizza

 

$10 for a burger is pretty standard in DC tbh.

And I stayed away from sbarrros just due to the sheer crowding in there.

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16 hours ago, Clutch said:

 I don't know the median age of the convention attendees

Going by the fact that, like me, you've been going since 1994, I'd say we're both on the far end of a bell curve of attendee ages. (To put it in D&D terms, we're in the 16-18 range on the 3d6 scale. 😀)

 

My GBU is partially the con, partially the trip to DC itself.

[/u]The Good:[/u]

IMG_4183a.jpg.d9ed5fff44e5034dd05a3e22da44106a.jpg

- I got to attend a lot of panels, only missing a few that I'd wanted to see. And I still haven't missed the AMV contest.

- The weather held on Thursday and Sunday - the important travel (and touring) days.

- There were only a few times I got dinged with lines.

- So far, I haven't had a cough or a sniffle nor a sneeze for the entire time.

The Bad:

- The mask must have dug a groove into the back of my ears from wearing it so long.

- Between the day of walking and the decision to just get takeout, I didn't get to Daikaya Ramen. Though Ghost Burger was a decent alternative.

- I wasn't able to get a cardboard mailing tube for the prints I bought. The stores didn't carry them, and I didn't have the time Saturday to check the Fedex store. I was able to get them home without wrinkling them, but I would have preferred something more secure. (There's an idea - if the con could pick up some and sell them down in AA for a couple of bucks. I'd bet they'd make up the costs on them.)

The Ugly

- Covid, of course. There were a couple of people who attended who apparently didn't understand that you should cover your mouth even if you're wearing a mask.

- Ginger turmeric carrot juice probiotic drink. I picked it up at Safeway to keep up the immune boosting, but it was nasty. 🤢

- I heard the 'party' going on at the Marriott. Fortunately, I can fall asleep quickly when I'm tired, in spite of the noise.

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The good:

Most people wore their masks and wore them right. I didn't see a lot of physical contact.

Grab and go concessions were neat.

The torch was a great flex.

It was good to have some old favorites back like MAT3K and Super Art Fight (I'm biased, since the SAF folks are friends)

The bad:

I've gone over this before but there was no physical distancing. I mean, we knew it going in but in light of the Delta variant it seems like more could have been done. Parties would go into rooms seated a couple seats apart and then people would come in and fill those seats. In retrospect, attendance should have been capped. I don't know how feasible that would have been given how many people rolled over their memberships like I did but, even before we got the preliminary number, but for the masks and such, it "looked" like a normal Otakon. Horrifying.

I know Otakon's mask mandate was revised in the couple of days prior to the con due to DC's order but I'm not sure if everyone knew that. I know the idea of those additional tables was to give someplace somewhere where they could sit down and eat and take off their mask but I'm not sure everybody else knew that. Why weren't the videoboards hijacked to provide Ota/DC messaging on the mask rules and how/where they applied and didn't apply?

Concessions needs more vegetarian options. Especially at the grab and go. I'm a pescatarian so I was able to grab the salmon poke salad or whatever but other folks may have been out of luck.

The menu at the pizza joint by Ben's Chili Bowl listed all these topping options they weren't actually offering... when they say cheese, pepperoni or white, that's all they meant.

The ugly:

Restrooms were not consistently stocked/cleaned.

Edited by Aresef
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One major flaw that has to be addressed is they absolutely can not continue to keep scheduling autographs an hour after the dealer room opens if they are to continue to be held in the dealer room. It makes these sessions impossible to get into without camping the huge ass dealer room line each morning. Secondly, as far as I know, there is no special needs mobility policy to wait for the dealer room to open, because why should there be, you should not have a need to get in there to shop right away, this especially impacts people with those mobility disabilities. Even if you could get in early enough you would have the autograph horde I heard about rush over before you could get over there anyways. Autographs severely needs to be held in a different location.

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One major flaw that has to be addressed is they absolutely can not continue to keep scheduling autographs an hour after the dealer room opens if they are to continue to be held in the dealer room. It makes these sessions impossible to get into without camping the huge ass dealer room line each morning. Secondly, as far as I know, there is no special needs mobility policy to wait for the dealer room to open, because why should there be, you should not have a need to get in there to shop right away, this especially impacts people with those mobility disabilities. Even if you could get in early enough you would have the autograph horde I heard about rush over before you could get over there anyways. Autographs severely needs to be held in a different location.

I wasn’t after any autographs this year but I understand the issue. That said, I also understand what they’re up against. They have all that real estate in that hall and dealers don’t fill up all of it. But maybe they could’ve moved signings this year to the area normally used for the dance? Could they do that in normal years, too, or would that present logistical issues for the dance setup?
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5 hours ago, Hainiryuun said:

- All the water fountains being turned off. I get covid and all that, but it would have at least been nice to have a place to fill up a water bottle.

There should have been "water coolers" spread throughout that are periodically refilled...

I didn't actively seek them all out but I know for sure there were 2 situated right outside of the "salon" that Registration sits in....

Edited by Ikano
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51 minutes ago, Aresef said:

The bad:

I've gone over this before but there was no physical distancing. I mean, we knew it going in but in light of the Delta variant it seems like more could have been done. Parties would go into rooms seated a couple seats apart and then people would come in and fill those seats. In retrospect, attendance should have been capped. I don't know how feasible that would have been given how many people rolled over their memberships like I did but, even before we got the preliminary number, but for the masks and such, it "looked" like a normal Otakon. Horrifying.

I'm singling this post out as an example of something that's come up repeatedly in this thread already (and a couple times during the live con feedback session as well)- frankly, I do not understand how people think Otakon could/should have enforced any kind of social distancing in panel/screening rooms, ONCE THEY DECIDED NOT TO CAP ATTENDANCE. If they had decided to cap attendance at a certain level before the convention, okay, you can probably spread chairs out inside the rooms and try to enforce physical distancing (though I think people are still vastly underrating the logistics of this- i.e. how do you set up a room at a con for a certain number of "pods"? Do you tell friends and families they cannot sit together despite the fact that they're staying together in a hotel room all weekend, and just make everything a max of spaced out two seats, or do you include different sets of different numbers of seats?). But once you have a peak attendance of 26,000- very similar to a normal Otakon year, as others have noted- trying to vastly reduce the number of people who can be inside certain rooms is only going to result in A) massive bottlenecks and lines outside of those rooms to get in, where they will be packed closely together anyway & B ) a lot of very angry attendees, who now feel like they're ripped off because they can't get into anything even remotely popular due to these physical distancing & capacity requirements in individual programming rooms.

I understand that the current situation with regards to COVID in the US is murky and unclear to many, but the facts still seem to say that the vast majority of vaccinated people are extremely well protected from the most severe outcomes of COVID. Given this basic fact and the fact that vaccines have been widely available for months, I don't think Otakon did anything irresponsible in putting on this convention in the way they did. Masks are a reasonable precaution that can be easily applied to the convention to hopefully help limit whatever spread is going to happen, without fundamentally destroying a major part of the convention experience. Physical distancing in programming rooms is NOT a reasonable precaution for a convention that can be easily undertaken, again unless it also involves capping attendance at a relatively low level. Since that doesn't seem like it was an option, for a variety of reasons, I don't think it's really fair to blame Otakon for not doing distancing in the rooms.

Ultimately, choosing to go to Otakon AND choosing to go into popular, crowded programming rooms were both your decisions. I would have not come at all if I was unvaccinated, living with children who could not be vaccinated, living with immunocompromised or elderly people who are at high risk for severe disease even with vaccination, or had to immediately return to a job involving any of those groups as well. Since I live only with vaccinated people who are not high-risk and work from home, I made the decision that going to Otakon was not high risk to either me or anyone else. If you didn't meet these criteria, you probably shouldn't have come to the convention at all. But even if you DID go to the convention and were that upset with crowded programming rooms, I do think it's worth noting that you had the option of simply not attending that programming (or leaving when it became obvious it was going to be extremely crowded or full). It's not like that meant you couldn't still attend things at Otakon- I went to quite a few panels where physical distancing was very possible! Again, these seem more like matters of personal choice than something that Otakon could- or should- have enforced.

Edited by WorldisYours
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I'm singling this post out as an example of something that's come up repeatedly in this thread already (and a couple times during the live con feedback session as well)- frankly, I do not understand how people think Otakon could/should have enforced any kind of social distancing in panel/screening rooms, ONCE THEY DECIDED NOT TO CAP ATTENDANCE. If they had decided to cap attendance at a certain level before the convention, okay, you can probably spread chairs out inside the rooms and try to enforce physical distancing (though I think people are still vastly underrating the logistics of this- i.e. how do you set up a room at a con for a certain number of "pods"? Do you tell friends and families they cannot sit together despite the fact that they're staying together in a hotel room all weekend, and just make everything a max of spaced out two seats, or do you include different sets of different numbers of seats?). But once you have a peak attendance of 26,000- very similar to a normal Otakon year, as others have noted- trying to vastly reduce the number of people who can be inside certain rooms is only going to result in A) massive bottlenecks and lines outside of those rooms to get in, where they will be packed closely together anyway & B ) a lot of very angry attendees, who now feel like they're ripped off because they can't get into anything even remotely popular due to these physical distancing & capacity requirements in individual programming rooms.
I understand that the current situation with regards to COVID in the US is murky and unclear to many, but the facts still seem to say that the vast majority of vaccinated people are extremely well protected from the most severe outcomes of COVID. Given this basic fact and the fact that vaccines have been widely available for months, I don't think Otakon did anything irresponsible in putting on this convention in the way they did. Masks are a reasonable precaution that can be easily applied to the convention to hopefully help limit whatever spread is going to happen, without fundamentally destroying a major part of the convention experience. Physical distancing in programming rooms is NOT a reasonable precaution for a convention that can be easily undertaken, again unless it also involves capping attendance at a relatively low level. Since that doesn't seem like it was an option, for a variety of reasons, I don't think it's really fair to blame Otakon for not doing distancing in the rooms.
Ultimately, choosing to go to Otakon AND choosing to go into popular, crowded programming rooms were both your decisions. I would have not come at all if I was unvaccinated, living with children who could not be vaccinated, living with immunocompromised or elderly people who are at high risk for severe disease even with vaccination, or had to immediately return to a job involving any of those groups as well. Since I live only with vaccinated people who are not high-risk and work from home, I made the decision that going to Otakon was not high risk to either me or anyone else. If you didn't meet these criteria, you probably shouldn't have come to the convention at all. But even if you DID go to the convention and were that upset with crowded programming rooms, I do think it's worth noting that you had the option of simply not attending that programming (or leaving when it became obvious it was going to be extremely crowded or full). It's not like that meant you couldn't still attend things at Otakon- I went to quite a few panels where physical distancing was very possible! Again, these seem more like matters of personal choice than something that Otakon could- or should- have enforced.

Anime cons are places where people have to be reminded to shower and use deodorant. Even if DC was reopened, the attendance should’ve been capped on the front end. I have friends who were supposed to present who bugged out at the last minute because of the Delta variant. One is a parent to a young child, the other is an art teacher.
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1 hour ago, DeskLaser said:

One major flaw that has to be addressed is they absolutely can not continue to keep scheduling autographs an hour after the dealer room opens if they are to continue to be held in the dealer room. It makes these sessions impossible to get into without camping the huge ass dealer room line each morning. Secondly, as far as I know, there is no special needs mobility policy to wait for the dealer room to open, because why should there be, you should not have a need to get in there to shop right away, this especially impacts people with those mobility disabilities. Even if you could get in early enough you would have the autograph horde I heard about rush over before you could get over there anyways. Autographs severely needs to be held in a different location.

Honestly, they should make the closest set of stairs/escalators to autographs an autograph only exit/entrance. Then you can make the middle one the Dealer's Room Entrance and the far one, that no one wants to walk to unless told they have to, the exit.

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5 minutes ago, Aresef said:


Anime cons are a place where people have to be reminded to shower and use deodorant. Even if DC was reopened, the attendance should’ve been capped on the front end. I have friends who were supposed to present who bugged out at the last minute because of the Delta variant. One is a parent to a young child, the other is an art teacher.

Well, whether or not the con should have been capped for attendance is a different debate. I don't think it was possible if you want the convention to survive, for simple financial reasons, but I understand why people wanted it to happen. My whole point is that people who are mad that Otakon didn't enforce physical/social distancing in programming rooms once they already decided not to cap attendance, which again isn't just coming from you but was a complaint that I heard a lot throughout the convention on Twitter/at the live feedback session/during this thread, aren't really thinking through how that would have worked. Once you make the decision to allow twenty-six thousand people into the convention, you can't just start halving the capacity of individual programming rooms. All you'll be doing is moving the extremely crowded places from the programming rooms to the hallways directly outside of them, with the added bonus of pissing lots of people off. It just didn't make any sense for Otakon to do, and I'm glad they didn't bother.

And frankly, I don't think it would have been wise for either of your friends to attend even if the capacity was capped at like 15k with physical distancing in programming rooms, but that's just my opinion there.

Edited by WorldisYours
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Well, whether or not the con should have been capped for attendance is a different debate. I don't think it was possible if you want the convention to survive, for simple financial reasons, but I understand why people wanted it to happen. My whole point is that people who are mad that Otakon didn't enforce physical/social distancing in programming rooms once they already decided not to cap attendance, which again isn't just coming from you but was a complaint that I heard a lot throughout the convention on Twitter/at the live feedback session/during this thread, aren't really thinking through how that would have worked. Once you make the decision to allow twenty-six thousand people into the convention, you can't just start halving the capacity of individual programming rooms. All you'll be doing is moving the extremely crowded places from the programming rooms to the hallways directly outside of them, with the added bonus of pissing lots of people off. It just didn't make any sense for Otakon to do, and I'm glad they didn't bother.
And frankly, I don't think it would have been wise for either of your friends to attend even if the capacity was capped at like 15k with physical distancing in programming rooms, but that's just my opinion there.

I know the math is a concern but Otakon has had attendance caps before and survived.
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31 minutes ago, WorldisYours said:

They haven't had attendance caps that were either as low as people were asking for here or a year after a convention had to be cancelled entirely, though.

I didn't expect 26,000 people to show and, heart of hearts, staff probably didn't either. I also don't know what the costs particular to this year looked like, though I know the con was clearly without revenue streams like new merch, advertising and bag pack-ins. I also don't know how a cap would have been implemented in an era of single-day trial memberships. But there has to have been some number below 26,000 where people would have felt safer and the convention still would've wound up in the black.

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2 hours ago, Aresef said:

 

Concessions needs more vegetarian options. Especially at the grab and go. I'm a pescatarian so I was able to grab the salmon poke salad or whatever but other folks may have been out of luck.

Can confirm, it wasn't great for vegetarians this year. There were some extra veggie options with the food stalls in the dealer's room, but the lines to get in meant we couldn't actually get in when we were free to get lunch Saturday. I'm not sure why the food (and autographs) weren't separated from the dealer's hall and given their own separate entrance. 

Also there should really have been at least one vegetarian option at the grab and go places, but oh well 🤷 

 

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21 hours ago, TnAdct1 said:

THE UGLY:

Just walking in Chinatown on Thursday gave me a bleak idea of how bad things are due to the pandemic. Seeing the U.S. Mint shop and the Lucky Strike bowling alley/bar closed while the pandemic is going on is one thing. However, to see the candy store that a lot of people go getting closed down permanently shows just how hard COVID is affecting businesses.

It was strange to see homeless camps and boarded up restaurants amongst $500,000 mini condos and people driving around in Porsches. We walked to the Irish pub we've frequented in the past only to find it boarded up. On the way to the Irish Channel pub we were probably asked about 6 or 7 times for money or food from the local homeless. Between that and the rising homicide rate, it's sad to see the nation's capital in such a strange state. 

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5 hours ago, Aresef said:


I know the math is a concern but Otakon has had attendance caps before and survived.

Otakon has only had attendance caps 4 times in its history. 2005 (22k, cap hit), 2006 (25k, cap not hit), 2014 (35k, cap not hit) and 2015 (35k, cap not hit). And those caps were due to mainly literally not being able to fit enough people in the con center. There has not been less than 20k people at Otakon since 2003, almost 2 decades ago/ I fully expect that if a cap is instituted, like you want, Otakon, at the bare minimum, will be asking for donations again just so survive. More likely, the con will be gone for good.

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Otakon has only had attendance caps 4 times in its history. 2005 (22k, cap hit), 2006 (25k, cap not hit), 2014 (35k, cap not hit) and 2015 (35k, cap not hit). And those caps were due to mainly literally not being able to fit enough people in the con center. There has not been less than 20k people at Otakon since 2003, almost 2 decades ago/ I fully expect that if a cap is instituted, like you want, Otakon, at the bare minimum, will be asking for donations again just so survive. More likely, the con will be gone for good.

I feel like there’s a difference, during a pandemic, between it being possible to fit a certain number of people in the WEWCC and it being right to allow that many people.

I love Otakon. I’ve been going for nearly two decades, I’ve volunteered, I’ve donated. But I’d like to know more about the behind the scenes logic of the decisions that were made in regards to Covid. Specifically, the lack of a vaccine requirement and the lack of a cap.

And we’re supposed to hear more from Otakon on their financials and the impact of the donation drive. That was promised at the feedback panel in lieu of the State of Otakorp panel, which couldn’t happen because its usual presenter was, like some other staff, stuck in Canada.
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11 hours ago, Aresef said:

Concessions needs more vegetarian options. Especially at the grab and go. I'm a pescatarian so I was able to grab the salmon poke salad or whatever but other folks may have been out of luck.

I didn't get to attend this year because I am immune-compromised (and it sounds like that was the right call for me based off of some of this feedback!)

However, this was definitely something I intended to bring up after my last Otakon in 2019. There definitely needs to be a few more concession options, especially for those who have special dietary needs. I unfortunately can no longer eat gluten, and it was SO difficult finding anything I could have. What made it extra difficult was that a lot of the food service workers did not seem familiar with what gluten is and would say things were GF that I knew weren't (it is in a lot of sauces and almost always in soy sauce, for example, so often things that could have been otherwise kept GF were already glutened with a sauce or by their prep process.)

I do expect to be limited in what I can have at places like a con (and I thus bring some snacks), so for that part I get it if there isn't much we can do about it... but what would make a HUGE difference for many is if in GuideBook there was a food vendor guide - a section describing each food vendor on site, list their menu, their hours of operation, their location, and ideally have a legend or icons for any relevant dietary needs that it may fill (vegetarian, vegan, GF, etc). This way we could at least know where to go (and when!) without having to go to every single vendor to see their menu first and ask if they have anything for us. At the very least, even an indication of the type of cuisine would help immensely...

Something like that did not exist at all in 2019 and it was our biggest stressor, so if they already made this improvement this year then great! But in case they did not, I thought I would mention it in hope for next year...

I also remember the hours for the food vendors were very confusing in 2019. There were some areas that closed as early as 8, most others around 10, but this wasn't mentioned anywhere in GuideBook. It would be great to have the hours of the food vendors listed on Guidebook, same as we do for events and rooms.

I am super curious about any improvements in this area that may have been made this year, if anyone cares to share! But I am betting there is still room for further improvement.

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8 hours ago, Aresef said:

And we’re supposed to hear more from Otakon on their financials and the impact of the donation drive. That was promised at the feedback panel in lieu of the State of Otakorp panel, which couldn’t happen because its usual presenter was, like some other staff, stuck in Canada.

Matt S doesn’t live in Canada. You’re thinking of Simon. 

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8 hours ago, Aresef said:


I feel like there’s a difference, during a pandemic, between it being possible to fit a certain number of people in the WEWCC and it being right to allow that many people.

I love Otakon. I’ve been going for nearly two decades, I’ve volunteered, I’ve donated. But I’d like to know more about the behind the scenes logic of the decisions that were made in regards to Covid. Specifically, the lack of a vaccine requirement and the lack of a cap.

And we’re supposed to hear more from Otakon on their financials and the impact of the donation drive. That was promised at the feedback panel in lieu of the State of Otakorp panel, which couldn’t happen because its usual presenter was, like some other staff, stuck in Canada.

To keep it brief there are a lot of logistical and practical considerations and trade offs that had to be considered in terms of holding a convention. And if we're being honest, there is nothing we could have done that would satisfy everyone. 

For example, social distancing. If you spaced out seats in the programming rooms to distance folks, the seating capacity of each room would be roughly 15% of what it was this year.  It's not worth having a video room with a max capacity of 23 people, or limiting main events to a couple hundred attendees. Once you do that you have thousands of people congregating in the hallways, which leads to the questions behind a cap. What is the appropriate attendance cap for a building that has 2.3 million sq. ft. of event space? Even under non-pandemic conditions this is not an easy question to answer as the safety capacity of the building changes depending on how various spaces are used. Still where do you assume everyone will be at any given time? Do you count the people who work there as part of the cap? How do you know how many people are in the building at once? 

The same thought process goes along with vaccine requirements. If we required one, the first result would be is no attendees under 13 (12 an under can't be vaccinated) and a drop in those under 18 along with their families. Next we have to determine who is checking the vaccine cards and verifying their authenticity, and what are the liabilities and costs associated with this process? What training does someone need to determine if a card is fake, and what are the chances of false negatives or false positives following training? After all if you cannot effectively differentiate a fake card from a legitimate one, then what's the point of screening? Then what do we do with the information we have collected - who gets access to it and how long do we have to keep it? With masks it's a much easier to understand policy, they are effective for both vaccinated and unvaccinated folks, and it's relatively easy to enforce.  On top of that we acknowledged that this was not an easy decision for people, and everyone had to make a choice that was in their best interest. We also offered everyone the opportunity to request a refund/rollover of their membership, no questions asked, and several people took us up on that offer. 

As for the Otakorp panel, we did try to see if it could be done remotely this year, but the logistics didn't work out. The current plan is to put together something for an Otakon connection broadcast later this fall. While it probably would be a little more pleasant to be stuck in Canada, I haven't actually been there in at least 10 years. Logistics between commitments at my real job, my wife's job, and the start of school for our kids, prevented me from attending this year. This would have also been the case had Covid not been an issue. Once we get through some of the post-Otakon financial wrap up, we'll start this up, and maybe even take some pre-conversation questions.

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To keep it brief there are a lot of logistical and practical considerations and trade offs that had to be considered in terms of holding a convention. And if we're being honest, there is nothing we could have done that would satisfy everyone. 

For example, social distancing. If you spaced out seats in the programming rooms to distance folks, the seating capacity of each room would be roughly 15% of what it was this year.  It's not worth having a video room with a max capacity of 23 people, or limiting main events to a couple hundred attendees. Once you do that you have thousands of people congregating in the hallways, which leads to the questions behind a cap. What is the appropriate attendance cap for a building that has 2.3 million sq. ft. of event space? Even under non-pandemic conditions this is not an easy question to answer as the safety capacity of the building changes depending on how various spaces are used. Still where do you assume everyone will be at any given time? Do you count the people who work there as part of the cap? How do you know how many people are in the building at once? 
The same thought process goes along with vaccine requirements. If we required one, the first result would be is no attendees under 13 (12 an under can't be vaccinated) and a drop in those under 18 along with their families. Next we have to determine who is checking the vaccine cards and verifying their authenticity, and what are the liabilities and costs associated with this process? What training does someone need to determine if a card is fake, and what are the chances of false negatives or false positives following training? After all if you cannot effectively differentiate a fake card from a legitimate one, then what's the point of screening? Then what do we do with the information we have collected - who gets access to it and how long do we have to keep it? With masks it's a much easier to understand policy, they are effective for both vaccinated and unvaccinated folks, and it's relatively easy to enforce.  On top of that we acknowledged that this was not an easy decision for people, and everyone had to make a choice that was in their best interest. We also offered everyone the opportunity to request a refund/rollover of their membership, no questions asked, and several people took us up on that offer. 
As for the Otakorp panel, we did try to see if it could be done remotely this year, but the logistics didn't work out. The current plan is to put together something for an Otakon connection broadcast later this fall. While it probably would be a little more pleasant to be stuck in Canada, I haven't actually been there in at least 10 years. Logistics between commitments at my real job, my wife's job, and the start of school for our kids, prevented me from attending this year. This would have also been the case had Covid not been an issue. Once we get through some of the post-Otakon financial wrap up, we'll start this up, and maybe even take some pre-conversation questions.

Thank you for your thorough response.
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Never got around to doing my own Good/Bad/Ugly so here goes:

Good:

How Otakon handled COVID. I've kind of been over this already in my replies to someone else, but I think they hit the exact right mix of precautions that were reasonable and still allowed the convention to proceed as close to normal as possible. A mask mandate was absolutely the right call- even if it only reduces transmission a very small amount, it's worth the minor inconvenience. Physical/social distancing in programming rooms would have destroyed the convention experience for a benefit that was, at best, extremely unclear- you'd likely just end up with more people congregating in now much more crowded hallways, and there's no rule of nature that states a virus can spread in programming rooms but not directly outside of them! Otakon found the right balance here, because unfortunately you were never going to reduce the risk of attending to zero or anywhere close. That's just the world we currently live in. Please get tested after the convention if you attended! They sell take home antigen tests right now in most major pharmacy chains!

Related to the above, the mask wearing of Otakon attendees. I saw nearly universal compliance with wearing masks, which was great to see as I wasn't really sure what to expect going in. The only time I saw anyone take their mask off was to briefly eat or drink or if they were up on stage hosting a panel (more on this in a second!).

Panel room/AV staff. I've presented panels at many different conventions by now, and Otakon remains the best when it comes to the people working in these programming rooms. The A/V setup is so much easier than so many other conventions, and the in-room staffers (the ones who work the door) are always super nice and helpful. I want to give a special shoutout to whoever was working Panel Room 6 at 10:15 am on Friday (sorry I didn't catch your name!) during my first Japanese Indie Music panel- she even gave me some nice feedback and a look at the exact count she took of my attendance, which was very much appreciated! And while I'm at it, the guy who was working my second panel (10:45 am Saturday/room 5) was very helpful as well, pointing out to attendees as they entered that I had prepared a flier with a QR code for them to scan to get the playlist/artist info. Thanks for that!

Just the energy of being back at a convention was so incredible, after nearly two years away (my last con personally was AnimeNYC in November 2019, so not quite two years, but still). Anime conventions are special places- filled with people who are passionate about some of the same things you are, people who feel like it's their only chance to express themselves or be their authentic selves, and people who are just frankly finally able to weeb out for one weekend after having to hide it on their phones or computers most of the rest of the year. For a long time it didn't at all look clear when we'd ever be able to have one of these things again, and it was even more special than I expected it to be finally being back at one, with most of our faces covered or not. The health risks are real, but the mental health benefits are too, and this may have just been the thing that made it easier for someone out there to keep going. In fact, I'm quite confident it was.

Bad:

Almost all my complaints here are things I assume were COVID-impacted (well, and one that definitely was), but: I thought the quality of the panels was a bit lacking this year. I went to a few that were good, a few that we okay, and then a few more that were quite bad, and that's more like what I would expect out of a typical convention than Otakon, which generally has a higher average quality. But given the time crunch on programming (which I could tell you about personally as a panelist!) I wasn't really surprised that the panel quality took a bit of a dip this year. 

It was very tough to see the AMV Contest this year with no airing in a main events room- there were I think three airings in the AMV Theater, but I tried to get into two of them and both were full. Usually this is something you can walk right into even late, but that wasn't the case this year obviously. They already said at Con Feedback that they will probably put the contest back into main events next year so no big deal there.

I really wish there was a way to enter through L Street after all these years! I understand this is out of Otakon's control and up to the con center, but speaking as someone who stays on an L Street hotel, it would be SO nice if we could enter through those doors instead of just exiting. This goes double because like 80-90% of the time I'm heading for that second building (because I'm heading for either panel room 3-7 or the AMV theater) anyway, so it would be so incredibly convenient to just enter through those doors and head right to where I'm going instead of having to go across the street to the Marriott Marquis, go down the escalators to the tunnel, go through the tunnel, and then make my way back to that building. It's like I'm playing a Metrodvania game with all this backtracking! At the very least, some kind of L Street entrance exception for panelists would be very much appreciated in future years, especially when we have early morning panels to get to right over there. I made myself wake up super early on both days just in case there was a line to get in the building (thankfully there wasn't, but you never know), so I'd have time to make it in and then all the way across!

Ugly:

What was up with the mask instructions for panelists, especially on Friday morning? Was this just a case of no one knowing the answer, because of the new DC indoor mask guidance? Let me just break down for you how this went in steps:

1. Before the convention, DC required masks indoors. That's not a big deal really for Otakon who was already requiring masks indoors, but it did get rid of the previous exception they were going to make for cosplayers to pull their masks down for photos. That was taken off their website policy. HOWEVER, the "panelists may remove their masks while on stage and socially distanced" (my recollection of the policy, not the exact wording, because I can't find it on the website anymore lol) was still on the site after the DC policy went into effect, as the con was starting.

2. As we checked in to get our badges and panelist ribbons on Thursday evening, myself and some other panelist friends asked the staffers working there if we'd be allowed to remove our masks while hosting. We got two very different answers: the first staffer told us that no, we now had to wear masks at all times during our panel no matter what. But then a second staffer basically overrules her and says that removing your mask is fine if you're a solo panelist (which two of us were), but not if you were presenting with others. Okay, fine.

3. Friday morning comes around. My friend has one of the first panels, at 9 am. He removes his mask as he was instructed he can do by that programming ops staffer. About halfway through his panel, the in-room staffer comes up to him (during the middle of his panel as he's talking!) and tells him that he needs to put his mask back on immediately, and can't take it off. He's very confused, but obviously complies.

4. I have a panel right after that at 10:15 am. BEFORE my panel starts (thankfully!), my in-room panel staffer comes over and just says that I have to keep my mask on during my panel. I say okay, thanks for letting me know, and I comply (and quickly learn that speaking through a mask into a microphone is MUCH harder than I anticipated it would be). Almost exactly halfway through my panel, my in-room staffer returns and tells me that actually I CAN take my mask off. Well, okay! I take mine off immediately, because again, it was very hard to present in that thing (and I really am quite far from the attendees, way more than six feet).

This was just a bizarre series of events that I assume was caused by the DC mandate and not knowing how that impacted the presenters, but yeah, it was strange. I didn't have a problem when I presented on Saturday- I removed my mask for the entire panel- and I would say the vast majority of panelists who I saw throughout the weekend (including some with multiple people on stage) were not wearing masks while presenting, though a few did. But the conflicting messages we got early on during the convention were weird, if perhaps understandable.

 

Overall though I would give the Otakon team extraordinarily high marks for how they put this convention on with such short notice. I would not have been surprised going in if this turned out to be an outright disaster, but it was about as close to a "normal" Otakon experience as anyone could have reasonably expected. Everyone over there should take a bow for pulling this one off, seriously.

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The Good:

  • Being back at Otakon. We missed you all last year
  • Overall good traffic flow and management of con attendees
  • Stayed at the Marquis for the first time - a definite good thing

The Bad:

  • The much smaller number of dealers in the dealer's room
  • No Japanese food eatery this year. Will it come back next year, I hope?
  • Not as much variety in anime screening rooms. It would be nice to see more new shows, but I mostly saw a lot of older shows. We also had a lot of panels on similar topics
  • The challenges of panelists trying to talk through a mask into a microphone. Seriously, they should have been allowed to remove their masks to be heard, then have the mikes wiped between talks.

The Ugly

  • The staffer who was threatening to eject male cosplayers who weren't wearing shirts. Seriously, this is specifically allowed on the website.
  • The homeless encampment right outside the convention center
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It was very tough to see the AMV Contest this year with no airing in a main events room- there were I think three airings in the AMV Theater, but I tried to get into two of them and both were full. Usually this is something you can walk right into even late, but that wasn't the case this year obviously. They already said at Con Feedback that they will probably put the contest back into main events next year so no big deal there.


Just to expand on this a bit, I would have LOVED to have the AMVs back up on the third floor, but the room we usually host it in (Featured Programming) wasn’t available to us this year. So, with one room, it got quite busy with rehearsals and events. :(


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Yeah, I totally forgot that there was a missing room next to Main Events and that's where it's usually held. Hopefully Otakon has access to that room next year and it can return to being aired there along with the AMV Theater screenings.

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It was great to be back at Otakon and see everyone again. This marked 10 years of Otakon for me and getting to do it meant a lot. It was also nice to just do something.

The Good

  • People mostly wore their masks. I felt more or less safe -- though I'm vaccinated, don't live with anyone immunocompromised, and I had an N95 for the weekend. I thought Otakon and the WEWC staff did a good job of enforcing things. There were some times people didn't; I don't think 100% enforcement is possible, but I thought it was about as good as it could be. I am looking forward to when people don't have to treat attending an anime con as a calculated risk, though.
  • The Discotek Panel was wild. My first one, and it was very memorable! That Gunbuster announcement is already a very fond memory.
  • I really enjoyed the Sword Lesbians in Anime, Anime From 1991, and Retro Game Challenge by Gameshow Impossibru/Manly Battleships. Those were some very fun panels and very memorable.
  • The Studio Trigger cosplay photoshoot was such fun.
  • While some old standbys were gone from the Dealer's Room... the Lunar Toy Store and the Japanese import booth were both fantastic and I believe new. I found some really great things at both.

The Bad

  • The line out of the Marriott. It looked scary. I didn't stay in that hotel, but coming back from a cosplay photoshoot was pretty harrowing.
  • A lot of old standbys in the Dealer's Room weren't there -- I missed Kinokuniya, a video game store from New York, and then booths by Right Stuf, Nozomi, and other industry types. I was sad to see them not there at all. I realize this might be COVID in general.
  • Chinatown took a hit. So many closed places. Here's hoping new ones will come along.

The Ugly

  • I'm glad Wild Bill's Soda is there... in other years. Having a way for people to regularly pull their mask down for a drink -- and congregate in one area -- made me a little nervous. 
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2 hours ago, texside said:

The Ugly

  • I'm glad Wild Bill's Soda is there... in other years. Having a way for people to regularly pull their mask down for a drink -- and congregate in one area -- made me a little nervous. 

I have a refill card and mug from them, but figured COVID-19 was too big a risk to partake this year. Maybe next year if conditions improve.

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11 hours ago, MattTheMinion said:

For example, social distancing. If you spaced out seats in the programming rooms to distance folks, the seating capacity of each room would be roughly 15% of what it was this year.  It's not worth having a video room with a max capacity of 23 people, or limiting main events to a couple hundred attendees. Once you do that you have thousands of people congregating in the hallways, which leads to the questions behind a cap. What is the appropriate attendance cap for a building that has 2.3 million sq. ft. of event space? Even under non-pandemic conditions this is not an easy question to answer as the safety capacity of the building changes depending on how various spaces are used. Still where do you assume everyone will be at any given time? Do you count the people who work there as part of the cap? How do you know how many people are in the building at once? 

Thank you for addressing this specific issue.

It appears that Nekocon is going to try this very approach this year, going so far as to issue a no sleeping/lounging in common areas in the convention center order as well as reduced capacity/social distancing in all events according to their FB page. Conventions and convention centers by their very nature are not designed to be socially distanced and spread out and if you decide to do that it can create additional logistical headaches as you mentioned.  The HRCC isn't very big and I'm curious to see if they will have line problems with people spilling out into the hallways and being on top of one another. (And this is a con that is a fraction of the size of Otakon.)

 

All in all, Otakon did what they said they would do in regards to their health and safety policies and the staffers were polite and professional, especially given the constantly changing nature of what's going on. 

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On 8/8/2021 at 9:16 PM, KyoKyo said:

 

  1. The staffer in access control who works the line up in Main Events. He has long hair and a beard. He's a great communicator, very professional and keeps the lines organized. He has great con stories. 

Hi, I am the department head for that side of the building. I passed your compliment on to the staffer and he is says thank you. I am glad I made the right choice putting him in charge of the main events lines. 

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1 hour ago, Clutch said:

I have a refill card and mug from them, but figured COVID-19 was too big a risk to partake this year. Maybe next year if conditions improve.

Yeah, that makes sense! I definitely wasn't going to this year. I like the idea, though. The sodas seemed tasty too.

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9 hours ago, blackdaggr said:

 

  • The staffer who was threatening to eject male cosplayers who weren't wearing shirts. Seriously, this is specifically allowed on the website.

That has to be a first.

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23 hours ago, blackdaggr said:

 

  • The staffer who was threatening to eject male cosplayers who weren't wearing shirts. Seriously, this is specifically allowed on the website.

That was the Convention Center. There was some confusion regarding policy with us and them, but we did fix it. 

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Dovetailing on the feedback panel comment about keepsake programs and T-shirts, one thing that's in the program that I kinda missed was the staff list. Let us, you know, know who was responsible for putting all this together so they can take a virtual bow. Also, though I wasn't interested in autographs this year, a fun feature of the program book was the autograph page you could have a guest sign, no questions asked. I don't know if any kind of alternative was provided but it would have been nice if that were the case.

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