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Otakon 2022: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


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Good: Great con overall, had fun. My panel was well attended and my cosplay was a hit.

Bad: Zeno Robinson being an hour late to the scheduled autograph session on Friday, apparently there was some schedule confusion but what really was aggravating was that staff there said nothing to us about why the delay was happening. 

Ugly: The saturday chaos. Fortunately I got in to the con early and the line at the marriot was about 20 mins but people with me who got in line later in the morning (who had bages and wristbands) were stuck in it for over an hour. I also didn't dare set foot outside the convention center all day because I didn't want to risk getting stuck in a line to get back in. I had restaurant plans but oh well. I spent some time on the third floor eating overpriced con food just staring down at the sea of people on the lower level which was so packed people were barely able to move. One of my friends saw several people rage quit and leave while saying they would dispute the membership charges with their banks and credit cards.

The workshops lines were a mess as well - I heard from people who were waiting just to be yelled at by staff that "there was no line" and then said staff just picked a random line of people and called it the official line never mind people who had been waiting longer.

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Good: weather was not terrible, photos and videos allowed at all the JP guest panels I attended? That must have been a first. Pretty good programming overall. Love the VGO concert (really should just have been titled this). I enjoyed that Sonicboombox afterparty? Is that considered Otakon?

Bad: Lines & crowds were uncharacteristically Otakon.

Yeah the Saturday entrance situation was nuts. I waited for maybe 40 min outside, but others had it much worse. Also had to basically skip lunch for this reason, but a friend was able to wait it out in the Marriott line and bring food. Also the corridor linking the Dealer/AA underground--IIRC in 2019 this wasn't a problem because it was in 2018, and the crowd control measure was put in place 2019 to clear especially that one intersection. I didn't go to 2021 so not sure what changed. The autographing mash on Saturday could have been easily avoided if the autograph team didn't shoo everyone so far away to cause the stampede, and simply by spacing out the autograph session line up time by 5-10 minutes--people were all going to wait that hour anyway. That was probably something you can tell from experience and foresight because the root cause was Ise only had 1 session, which coincided with a bunch of other ones. All that had to be done was to stagger them by a bit. Autographs could have also just done more to communicate attendees and manage them instead of telling them to go away lol.

Ugly: I stayed at the Marriott Marquis and some of the staff had some kind of sass that was just too much as the weekend wore on. It didn't really bother me much because the appropriate services were still rendered, but my room were all Bonvoy status people, so much for brand loyalty when you are just one of the unwashed masses of congoers I guess. Also a friend was complaining about the Old Fashion he got at the Dignitary had...lemon instead of orange? lol. Otakon missing certain companies/brands representing is not a big deal but a cosmetic black eye maybe.

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Good: Both photoshoots I attended were amazing. People in general were all really happy to be back after 1-2 years and the atmosphere was excellent and friendly. My three panels for the most part went really well and the audience was great. The AV and panel room staff were also excellent. I also had an awesome time at the idol showcase!

Bad: Panel ops seemed like it was having a lot of issues this year. In roughly chronological order:

- The panel application deadline wasn't announced until ~2 weeks before applications closed, and as far as I can tell it wasn't announced very clearly. We found out with one day to spare and many of our friends (veteran Ota panelists) missed it entirely.

- From what I heard, presenter ribbons didn't arrive in time for Thursday check-in so everyone had to come back Friday morning. This led to a big crowd at panel ops Friday morning.

- The con was down at least one panel room from last year - I got the impression from one staffer that this was a venue related problem but I'm not sure. It looks like that reduced the overall number of fan panels, though.

- Panel variety was weird this year. With the more limited number of spots (and possibly more limited pool of applicants) I understand that picking and choosing would be a harder task, but I also counted 4(?) separate intro to 3d printing panels which doesn't seem like a good use of the more limited panel slots. It didn't seem like there was good use made of the late night slots either - maybe not enough people with 18+ panels applied, but I saw a lot of stuff late at night that seemed like a bad fit. 

- That said, the only gripe I have about my panels is that Sword Lesbians got put in one of the smallest panel rooms after filling Panel 1 last year. I felt really bad for all the people who queued for it in an already queue-heavy con. (The actual panel itself went fine though!)

Ugly: A staffer wouldn't let my partner use the elevator during the escalator snafu even though she had an accessibility sticker. We were told it was reserved for people with mobility aids or strollers only. Her disability is invisible but very much affects her ability to climb stairs or walk long distances so this was a problem.

Ota later clarified for us that the staffer was incorrect and she should have been allowed on, but that's pretty poor comfort after the fact. Otakon needs to make sure that everyone on con staff properly understands the policy because messing it up can have a huge negative impact on someone's weekend.

So yeah, I have a lot of thoughts. I don't think the bad actually outweighs the good for me though - it's just easier to talk about. Overall I had a blast.

 

 

 

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Good:  Lots of great fan panels - it was hard to choose because the topics were all interesting.  I had zero problems getting into, out of and around the convention despite the crowds.   Being early and planning ahead helped.  I had my badge mailed ahead of time and went through the Marriot Entrance around 8am and waltzed through.  Loved the Artist Alley - glad to see them getting lots of love!!

 The Bad -  Where were the big Industries?  Aniplex, RightStuf, Crunchy??  Sailor Moon is 30 years old and we didn't get a Moon panel!!  The most promoted/hyped anime on the video screens was Nandos PeriPeri.  Traffic routing was out of hand - there needs to be better signage, floor arrows, ropes etc.

The Ugly:  No Japanese Food Vendors!!  ::Sadface::

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, CarolineAndJustine said:

 

- From what I heard, presenter ribbons didn't arrive in time for Thursday check-in so everyone had to come back Friday morning. This led to a big crowd at panel ops Friday morning.

Was a panelist this year, can confirm we had to go and get our ribbons friday morning though we got badges on thursday. Maybe I just got there early but there were approx 10 people checking in when we got there.

Edited by windseeker
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10 minutes ago, windseeker said:

Was a panelist this year, can confirm we had to go and get our ribbons friday morning though we got badges on thursday. Maybe I just got there early but there were approx 10 people checking in when we got there.

I spent longer than I'd have liked in panel ops Friday morning (my partner ran into a glitch activating her badge... Not anyone's fault, just bad luck) so I got to see how things progressed. Things were mostly under control when I first got there but by the time things picked up there was a lot of confusion about who needed to do what and go where in the process of pick up waiver -> return waiver -> activate badge -> get ribbon, so everyone ended up in one giant line for everything. 

Honestly, stuff happens sometimes and in the end this bit was relatively minor. If not for the other issues I mentioned I probably would have chalked it up to supply chain issues and gone about my day.

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The good:

Excellent panels as usual. Otakon consistently seems to get pretty good presenters and manages to select a wide range of interesting topics. My pleasant surprise panel for the year was the Japanese Tea panel.

The Masquerade actually had some skits and things in the Masquerade again, not just the singing/dancing performances that have absolutely dominated the last 5+ years.

The Saturday Morning Cartoons are always welcome (along with the old commercials and American promos that go with them).

The ad-hoc "No bags/no props" entrance was very welcome. I rarely have either and it's so much quicker to get in. Consider bringing this back in the future.

The bad:

Please consider keeping fan-content front and center. The Fan Parodies for instance used to be treated as semi-18+ but aren't anymore, yet still don't start until real late (10pm, I think?). It's the same with MAT3K, 10pm start time despite not being 18+. Please consider moving these to afternoon timeslots where they're more available to people who can't stay late (like people who daytrip the con or have to work the following day). It's a fan convention so it feels like the fan-made content should usually get the better times over the corporate screenings.

The ugly:

Obviously, the lines on Saturday. Like someone else mentioned I actually refused to leave the convention center for a while because I wasn't sure I would get back in. I think a lot of other people thought the same way leading to part of the crowding issue. At the same time, compliments to the con for bringing the situation back from the brink. The lines issue had fallen apart by noon and by about 4:30pm they seem to have gotten it completely under control because I left for dinner and didn't see anyone waiting to get inside the center.

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  • The Good: The red jacket guy and Otakon Staff handling the lined to the Marriott Connector. They were doing the best they could in a bad situation.
     
  • The Bad: Overcrowding. I waited in a line to get to the Dealer's Hall, only to not get much of a look at any of the merchandise. There were a solid wall of people near any table. The top of the escalator's near the Game Hall was a mad mess, as was the bottom end of the escalators. The stairs had been closed off to go down to the Connector level and a giant mass was trying to fill 2 elevators to go down. That was when the police had things blocked off. Surprised Otakon did not get shut down by the Fire Marshall at that point. Felt sorry for all the people waiting outside in lines all weekend. As others have said, it was a long line to go through security, but I ended up going outside to get back to the hotel some times. The main fault is with the venue. They need more connectors between the buildings. Instead you only have the bottom floor to access either side of the upper levels. Very short sighted on their part.
     
  • The Ugly: The escalators. Moving death traps. I deliberately held the top for 2-3 seconds before getting on in case something bad happened, so I would have time to react. They were packed solid the entire weekend. The down escalator at the Marriott Connector, closest to the convention center, was making a screeching noise mid way down. If you have ever seen a video of an escalator collapsing, that screech would make you shudder. Took the stairs as much as possible, even though my feet were killing me.
    😮
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The Good:

 I think I was pretty lucky that I never had to wait too long on lines this entire weekend I guess I was just showing up before the masses.

Got to see some of my friends from the industry (who came to the con).

Attended most of the panels I wanted to attend (especially the Discotek Panel).

Video game room has some games I never seen before.

Most people I've seen were wearing their masks at all times.

Water, water everywhere!

 

The Bad:

Videos in the screening rooms that were "overrated", meaning all videos that was like at least rated 15+, you had to have an 18+ wristband to view them.

 

The Ugly:

 

Can't really think of anything at the moment.

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The Good:

- thursday badge pickup was smooth and easy.  we arrived around 6pm with a line out the doors but got through everything in under 25 minutes.

- artist alley had an amazing selection this year and the interactive map online/app was very helpful in locating the artists i wanted.

- bag check only on thursday or for registration. i was worried about getting hassled for bringing water but there was no bag check for registered attendees. 

The Bad:

- lack of water coolers in common areas/the video game hall.  my group had to leave early saturday night to get hydrated.

- dealers hall.  the industry section was interesting but for the most part many other booths were selling the same merch.  i also never found a single tony tony chopper hat the whole weekend.

The Ugly:

- lack of metal detection for entry.  it was a huge choke point making all 40k attendees enter one at a time per line instead of multiple gates at each entrance.  and even then someone snuck in a butterfly knife and kept flipping it inside the dealer’s room. IN THE MIDDLE OF CROWDS.

- linecon registration aside, the traffic situation indoors was ridiculous. otakorp has been at the wewcc for five years now and has a whole year to plan out traffic patterns and they still messed it up.  i saw so many stair sections blocked off that could have been used to alleviate junction traffic like what happened saturday downstairs.  in the dealers hall, a lot of the exit only escalators actually went DOWN instead of exiting UP. they really should have made the first two sets of escalators entrances and the last sets exits so the people exiting weren’t cutting through crowds of people trying to enter.  i hope they invest in more stanchions and large signs to help control traffic.  one staff tried to help with a megaphone but it just came out muffled and confusing.

 

I don’t know if it was problems on the wewcc’s part limiting what otakon could use venue-wise but i hope the large attendance this year gives incentives to open up more of the venue for next year.  i would also love to volunteer to help alleviate a lot of the traffic problems because they were definitely understaffed for the weekend.

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I can't knock Otakon for some of the crowd control issues. They are a group of volunteers. So unless a lot more people volunteer to steer crowds, their choices are limited. Then you have the selfish people who cut lines, which leads others to follow.

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Good: 

  • Covid protections. I'm glad that Otakon was firm about their Covid safety requirements. It made me feel safe in such an enormous crowd, and I hardly saw anyone flouting mask requirements. Between staff, vendors, and attendees, it really felt like everyone was on the same page about encouraging health safety at the convention.
  • Friday lines were so well organized. I remember thinking it was probably some of the smoothest lines I've ever seen from Otakon. Everything flowed, it was almost always clear where you needed to go (that one stairway by Downtown being closed off was a surprise), and the staff (center and convention alike) were all generally pleasant with attendees.
  • Having the checkpoint for the Marriot Marquis connection PAST the photoshoot rooms. Great change. It always annoyed me having the checkpoint by the escalators so you got stuck in a check-in line trying to get back to the main convention if you wanted to go to a photoshoot.
  • Seating for panels/workshops. Felt like the rooms were generally well-matched to the number of people who showed up, and staff was polite and organized about getting people into seats.
  • Pre-reg pick up at select hotels. I really great way to help alleviate some Thursday badge traffic! My only critique is that they only had badges, they did not have the booklets, but that was easy enough to remedy by visiting Badge Services on Friday.
  • Downtime seating. I've always felt the WEWCC was noticeably limited when it came to places where people could just sit and chill, which often leaves people sitting on the floor against walls. In the past I've seen more instances of people getting told they couldn't sit certain places even when they were out of the way, but I feel this year was more relaxed about letting people be as long as they weren't in the way. (Someone at Con Feedback suggested maybe moving autographs to another location for organization, and I think if that happens I would love to see some of that space in Dealer's go to more seating instead of filling it completely with additional vendors.)
  • Printing hall hours on the badge. I know it was primarily so nobody could say they had no idea Dealer's was closing at 6pm on Saturday (because it's definitely been open later in past years, I swear! lol) but it was actually really helpful for me. I always lose track of time, and it was way easier to just flip my badge over to see times then it was to get the Guidebook app open and flip through menus to find Hours of Operation.
  • The weather! Not that Otakon staff control this (that we know of🤔) but it was so nice to have an Otakon weekend where we weren't all drowning in our own sweat.

 

Bad:

  • Downtown dining still closed. I weep.
  • Stairs by Downtown/Reg/Hall A were closed off. I don't recall them ever being closed off and it confused the hell out of people and also created bottlenecks for crowds now being forced to use a SINGLE area for changing levels. Need to have those open again next year.
  • Content summaries. There were several panels/workshops I attended that seemed like they were going to be about one thing but then ended up being not quite that in reality. I would love if there was a way to get some improved review of those summaries to make sure they remain accurate to the content in their quest to also be attention grabbing.
  • The Wifi. I work in IT, I know the limitations of wireless connections ("available seats" as someone at Feedback put it), but I felt bad because a number of vendors (especially in Artists) mentioned struggling to complete purchases for people because they could only take cash when they expected to have Wifi available to them for cards. 
  • Photoshoot crowds, conditionally. I know it's the job of the people hosting the photoshoots to organize the people who shows up, but I went to a couple of the bigger ones where a) the size of people who showed up just didn't fit the space, and b) there were people sitting up front who weren't even taking pictures, and people who were taking pictures got left to cram in the back struggling for clean shots without other people's arms or heads in the way. I would love if we could find a way to adjust for this, whether that's a periodic reminder from staff to make room for those actually taking pictures, or finding some slightly bigger spaces so people can spread out more. (I know some of it is tied to scheduling and the never-ending struggle to accurately guess which things need more space, which is why I said "conditionally".)

 

Ugly:

Three words: Saturday crowd control.

I understand it was due largely to drastically unexpected attendance numbers mixed with limited staff, but Saturday morning it was almost like Otakon staff had never seen a line in their lives (like at all, not just at Otakon). When I hopped in line that morning around 11-ish, the lines outside were utter chaos. There was initially no one with end-of-line signs. The line for people with badges somehow ended up in the middle of a folded line for people without badges, making it difficult to discern where the line was and to reach it. There was also some outreach group set up right next to the line adding to the confusion by greeting people and telling people to ask them if they had any questions without providing any context. More than one person asked them for information about the lines by mistake and then just obviously got turned away, which created visible frustration. I get in normal circumstances that's a good place to set up but these people really needed to read the room and realize they were adding to the chaos by confusing people who were looking for help. Some people tried to enter through the hotel entrance because the line was shorter, but quickly realized that line wasn't even moving at all. Just as the badged line hit the ramp for the building, it became apparent that part of the reason it was moving slowly was because people coming from across the street were just hopping in line right at the front instead of going to the back, and there were no staffers around to stop them. I paused to mention this to a staffer outside the doors -- that they could really use someone over there -- and as she gave me a flustered "we know, we know, thank you, we know" she looked liked she was about 2 seconds from a full-blow panic attack, like she was just not prepared for the stress of line/crowd control. The stress seemed to be the general mood of the few staffers I saw outside. 

Crowd control inside was no better on Saturday. The entirety of those 40k people were getting funneled through the single set of escalators since the stairs near Downtown were blocked off. At one point there were so many people going up the escalator but not clearing the space that we got backed up and for a few seconds people were stuck on the escalator even after they'd reached the end and I was genuinely panicked that disaster was about to occur with people getting injured. The hallways on the lower level between Dealers and Artists was PACKED and so disorganized that people could barely move. Perhaps they were lost in the crowd as well, I couldn't more than one or two staffers around trying to get people sorted into directions in the hallways. Not nearly enough for that particular area. If there's going to be a single funnel going up and down, then that space needs extra staffing attention. Ideally staffing with loud voices. Groups of people (regular attendees, from what I could see of badges) also kept getting gestured to enter Dealers at Hall B instead of going all the way down to Hall C, and then seconds later other people who tried to enter there would get shouted at that they couldn't enter there. It was confusing. Otakon has been pretty good about trying to stay on top of lines in past years, which is why Saturday this year felt so atypically and excessively bad.

 

Despite issues on Saturday, this was still overall another great Otakon. I had a ton of fun and an awesome weekend.

 

Edited by LittleHobbit13
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12 minutes ago, LittleHobbit13 said:

Content summaries. There were several panels/workshops I attended that seemed like they were going to be about one thing but then ended up being not quite that in reality. I would love if there was a way to get some improved review of those summaries to make sure they remain accurate to the content in their quest to also be attention grabbing.

(Crossing my fingers that none of my panels are on this list 😨)

Yeah this is the #1 most common failure mode of fan panels, IMHO. I have no idea how to fix it though since it's not feasible for the con to vet someone's entire presentation ahead of time. Maybe allow some kind of panelist feedback after the con from attendees so at least it can be brought to people's attention?

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6 minutes ago, CarolineAndJustine said:

I have no idea how to fix it though since it's not feasible for the con to vet someone's entire presentation ahead of time. Maybe allow some kind of panelist feedback after the con from attendees so at least it can be brought to people's attention?

Yeah, it's a difficult one to find a way to mitigate. Even as I request it, I genuinely don't expect the Otakon content team to be giving content that intense of a review with their limited time. I like your idea of some kind of post-content feedback feature. "Did the summary match the content, Y/N" would be easy enough to include with a handful of other questions.

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On 8/1/2022 at 2:24 PM, CarolineAndJustine said:

- The panel application deadline wasn't announced until ~2 weeks before applications closed, and as far as I can tell it wasn't announced very clearly. We found out with one day to spare and many of our friends (veteran Ota panelists) missed it entirely.

Yup, this happened to me and my entire friend group. I almost always submit panels for Otakon (usually I host Japanese Indie Music most often- last year I had two different version of it and filled up two different rooms), as do some of my friends, and none of us saw any deadline announced at any point. You say here it was announced, but I honestly have no clue where- it certainly wasn't ever up on the Otakon panel application page on the website, as I remember checking only days before the sudden cut off. We even tried e-mailing them explaining that we never saw any deadline and we were still interested in submitting panels literally the day that panel applications suddenly closed and not only was this not allowed, but we never even got the courtesy of a reply saying "no, sorry, we can't do that." Our e-mail was just completely ignored. A very nice way to treat people who have provided content at your convention for literally over a decade in some of our cases.

Two of my friends were so disgusted by this experience they didn't even end up going to the convention at all. I did still and mostly had a good time despite not being able to present like I normally do (in some ways it was sort of nice to get a year off I guess!), but this still left a bad taste in my mouth. And I found the fan panel selection to possibly be the weakest of any Otakon I can remember, so I'm guessing this sudden cut off of the applications had a lot to do with that. I hope panel ops is much more clear next year about the deadline.

While I'm listing complaints (and I have no idea if anyone from Otakon staff even reads these things anymore, but I guess it's worth a shot): whoever decided that the year of record breaking attendance was also the year to close off whole areas of the convention center that we've had access to in every previous year the con has been in DC is not a very smart person, whether it was from the con side or (I suspect more likely) the building side. There were several examples of this, but the most notable one was when you enter through the Marriott tunnel: in previous years you always had the option of either going left (which takes you to that big escalator up to the panel rooms and the L Street bridge, then eventually past that to the Dealers Room) OR going right, which has stair access to the main lobby and direct elevator access all the way up to the Panel 1/now AMV Theater area and the Main Events/Featured Events area. The elevator access especially was always a great shortcut to get up to Panel 1, what used to be Panel 2 and is now AMV Theater, and Main/Featured Events directly from the Marriott Tunnel.

But this year, for no reason I can think of, there was a security guard blocking the way to the right, so you HAD to go left coming out of the Marriott tunnel. This obviously had a lot to do with the absolutely insane traffic jam of people leading down that hallway to the escalator and Dealers Room, as it was literally the only option for anyone coming from the Marriott. Besides the generally unsafe nature of herding that many people into one enclosed space anyway, it strikes me as pretty incredibly counterproductive to be pushing so many people into an enclosed space at a convention requiring anti-COVID measures like vaccines and masks. And this is NOT a criticism of either of those requirements, both of which I agreed with, but why you would go to that trouble and then also be okay with having attendees jammed together like sardines because one side of the building is essentially cut off from a prominent entrance, I have no idea. That was a gigantic infection risk obviously, and it wouldn't surprise me if many people got COVID as a result.

One last complaint- last year I attended the con feedback session (sadly I was not able to this year) and asked for them to please bring back a screening of the AMV contest in either Main or Featured events, as it ALWAYS fills up in the AMV Theater. They basically indicated to me they would consider it. Well, it didn't happen, so I'm asking again! I know the AMV Theater moved to a bigger location, but it's STILL not big enough for the number of people interested in the contest, as I was turned away for both evening screenings due to the room filling up. Multiple screenings in the theater makes sense, but there should still be one big screening in one of the gigantic rooms, given how many people are interested in viewing the contest each year.

Edited by WorldisYours
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21 minutes ago, WorldisYours said:

You say here it was announced, but I honestly have no clue where- it certainly wasn't ever up on the Otakon panel application page on the website

Honestly I'm not sure where it was announced - I was given a last minute heads up by a friend and I don't know where she got that information. Probably Twitter?

I agree that the fan panels were unusually weak this year, plus a lot of the usual mainstays were missing (I.e. Bad Anime Bad and New Anime for Older Fans). Hope this gets fixed for next year.

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2 hours ago, LittleHobbit13 said:

If there's going to be a single funnel going up and down, then that space needs extra staffing attention. Ideally staffing with loud voices. Groups of people (regular attendees, from what I could see of badges) also kept getting gestured to enter Dealers at Hall B instead of going all the way down to Hall C, and then seconds later other people who tried to enter there would get shouted at that they couldn't enter there. It was confusing. Otakon has been pretty good about trying to stay on top of lines in past years, which is why Saturday this year felt so atypically and excessively bad.

The staffers in that morass on Saturday were shouting, but getting muffled out in the throng of people. Great way to burn out their voices too. Megaphones might help, but more electronic message boards throughout would be better. If you could read a sign instead of shouting the information you could get a better response.

quick edit: Better signage at the security check-in would help get people through more quickly. Put up 3-4 static signs in the line path saying to put your electronics on a specific side, to make a gap when approaching the scanner, to hold your arms apart at the scan, and to approach the guard check if you get a red light. That would make the security check people a lot happier than having to repeat the information over and over and over.

Edited by Clutch
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Good: The facility was very accommodating, thanks to some strategically placed stanchions that tried to minimize cross traffic. It looked like there were lines at times, but from what I saw, they seemed to be moving at a steady pace. Also it never seemed too crowded to go anywhere -- not even in the dealer's room. Lots of space for everything.

Bad: Still no return of the downstairs "Narnia" food district yet. I hope it does come back someday in some form. I loved going there and getting ramen and sushi and other nice eats there.

Ugly: There were three dudes that got overly excited about a license announcement at the Discotek panel. I thought it was cute, but several prominent social media people (including one of the panelists!) did not think so and tweeted out such. It's true, those dudes may have been cringe at the moment, but those others that sent out Tweets insulting "mental patient" and similar comments were even more cringe. These were indeed *notable people* that were tossing out insulting and demonizing language about people with mental issues -- they absolutely need to do better or shut up. Also, one's autism is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for to insult others for being overly excited and out of one's so-called decorum.

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9 hours ago, Clutch said:

quick edit: Better signage at the security check-in would help get people through more quickly. Put up 3-4 static signs in the line path saying to put your electronics on a specific side, to make a gap when approaching the scanner, to hold your arms apart at the scan, and to approach the guard check if you get a red light. That would make the security check people a lot happier than having to repeat the information over and over and over.

Fully support more signage, at the entrance and at main thoroughfares. I think it would both groups, staff and attendees alike.

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14 hours ago, BrakusJPS said:

Ugly: There were three dudes that got overly excited about a license announcement at the Discotek panel. I thought it was cute, but several prominent social media people (including one of the panelists!) did not think so and tweeted out such. It's true, those dudes may have been cringe at the moment, but those others that sent out Tweets insulting "mental patient" and similar comments were even more cringe. These were indeed *notable people* that were tossing out insulting and demonizing language about people with mental issues -- they absolutely need to do better or shut up. Also, one's autism is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for to insult others for being overly excited and out of one's so-called decorum.

I don't know how people are going to take this, but I was at that panel and these individuals did made me cringe when they went over the top like that. I don't know if these individuals was just trolling, or they just wanted to gain attention in the worst possible way. Well they got the attention they wanted, both good and bad. 

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22 hours ago, LittleHobbit13 said:

Yeah, it's a difficult one to find a way to mitigate. Even as I request it, I genuinely don't expect the Otakon content team to be giving content that intense of a review with their limited time. I like your idea of some kind of post-content feedback feature. "Did the summary match the content, Y/N" would be easy enough to include with a handful of other questions.

Most of the time, I figure it's just the panelist getting a better idea of what their thesis really ought to have been during the research and early preparation phase. I've sure been there. Since it was easy enough this year to ping Ops and get them to amend the schedule when they went up with the wrong titles and descriptions, I think just making it clear to panelists that they can ask to change their title and description would be enough to mitigate the problem. Obviously if someone is asking to change their panel into something completely different, they can just say no.

Personally, the malicious cases don't seem like a big enough problem to justify a fix that increases the workload for staff when clearly Ops is barely getting by as-is. They've got plenty else to worry about, and there needs to be a clear triage of what things to fix first.

As for other issues, as I mentioned in Panel Feedback, the lead panelist on Government Sponsored Anime never got an email that the panel was accepted and we only found out when we saw it on the schedule…where we also saw that he was scheduled against himself. I had trouble with emails last year, but this is the first I've seen a scheduling conflict at Otakon.

Also, the projector field in Panel 5 was set too big for the screen and cut off the edges of everyone's content. Not a huge problem and I hesitate to bring it up because honestly I didn't even try asking the AV tech to adjust it, but maybe worth mentioning.

Ah, since this is a good/bad/ugly thread and I don't want to just be a downer, I should mention that I'm in camp "staff were clearly responsive and working the problem" when it comes to the crowds, and I'd like to recognize their efforts, however well they ultimately coped.

Edited by Nate A.M.
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The Good: 

Having good sensible Covid policies and sticking to them.  Far too many cons of Otakon's size (and larger) went back on their policies or were not good about enforcing them, much to the peril of their attendees.  Otakon managed to learn well from those cons who did stick to their guns policy-wise and mask compliance was even better than last year (and last year was pretty good).  Best of all, based on what I've seen from my own friend group, the policy was a success - not a single positive test thus far!

- Having badge pick-up at the partner hotels.  I wasn't able to make use of it myself because I was a panelist, but I still think that's a good way to help ease Thursday lines and hope it sticks around for next year.

- More seating in the dealers hall.  They learned their lesson from last year and provided more places to sit, eat, and safely spread out without needing to lean upon the walls (and thus forcing staff to chase them away from the walls).  

The Bad:

- Unlike a lot of people, I didn't have a problem with the selection of all-ages panels.  What I did have a problem with was the lack of variety in 18+ programming.  I realize that's always going to be a more limited pool to pick from in general, but did we really need so many versions of the same old 'ha ha let's laugh at the random hentai/ecchi clips' format?

- I'm still not a fan of the program they use for submitting panels.  Not only does it not seem to play well with whatever they use on the con's website to display the schedule (as we saw early on when the wrong portions of text were used for descriptions), it still can unpredictably bug out and alter applications.  I know anecdotally of one person whose applications disappeared entirely, who never received any notifications on panel app status and had to publicly reach out the panel staff for a response.  In my case, it un-ticked the portion that notated that one of my panels was 18+, leading it to get put on a schedule as an all-ages one.  I had to reach out to panel staff about that, which led to it getting removed and waitlisted (which was frustrating, because of the 2 of mine that were accepted, that was the one I wanted to perform the most).

- Would it kill them to use the AMV theater instead of the video rooms for some of the video premieres?  I'm mostly thinking of the Macross 7 and Gunbuster dub screenings, which were in one of the smaller video rooms.  I had to skip out on the latter because I saw that line and knew I wouldn't have a chance at getting in.

- Why did it take them so long to get the Guidebook schedule up?  I get that it takes some time to finalize things, but not having it ready until literally a few days before the con was ridiculous.

The Ugly:

- Yeah...the Saturday lines.  We've all pretty much covered it at this point.  I will say that to the credit of the staff, they reacted quicker than I would have expected.  I first heard about the entrance line problems on social media around 1PM, when I had left the center to hang out with friends.  By the time I returned at 3PM, the situation had been cleared up there and at the dealers hall.  I'm glad I missed out on the crush for the latter - one of my roommates got caught in it and it got real dodgy for a bit.  Thankfully no one got hurt.  I also agree that at this point, making some signage about the metal detector screening procedure to put in both the convention center and Marriott lines would be a sensible move.

- I do feel like that the best way to avoid that problem in the future is to not sell day-passes.  Yes, they may not get those record-breaking numbers (and profits), but it would allow them to better estimate and control the crowds they do get and to allow the con to keep growing at a more sustainable rate.

- I don't know why Otakon will not fix their autograph line situation.  They need to adopt a ticket system, where a set number of tickets are available for a given 15 minute interval.  It would mean that you wouldn't have to show up early just to guarantee a spot in line, nor that you could end up walking away empty-handed because the line didn't move or because a certain voice actor's enormous line wouldn't end up taking up all the space for those waiting for autographs other guests as it did on Saturday.  

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The good: All of my groups workshops and panels went really well! The staff in the rooms were excellent helping us set up, keeping with crowd control, and getting additional materials if we needed them. Also providing adapters!!! We present at so many cons and literally no other con does this. Forgot our iPad adapter by accident and staff had one! Awesome! And big thank you to attendees of any of our programming - they were all so full!! (Haikyuu: How to Volleyball!, Contemporary Dance for Cosplayers, Design Your Own Magical Girl, Anime Openings that Slap)

Had no issues with lines - quickly and easily got into the convention center at both early morning (815-930) and post late lunch times (2-3). Aside from Saturday afternoon/evening, the con center felt spacious (there was crowding and slow moving lines to get to the dealer's/AA escalators). 

Most people seemed good with the mask policy. Big change from Anime Expo. I only saw a few people without masks throughout the con over the course of the entire weekend. Pictures I'm seeing are showing a little less, but I'm hoping they just took them off for photos. I did see some concerning photos from the rave though, so highly recommend enforcing the mask policy (if returning) at all events including late night ones. 

Artist Alley had a great variety this year! I LOVED how spread out it was too! 

The bad: more of a complaint than bad, but the masquerade. If I wanted to see a bunch of idol performances, I would have attended the areas and events specifically designated for them for multiple days throughout the convention. It was nice to see some things we don't usually (ballroom, live singing, etc) but I think more than half of the masquerade performances were idol dances. I'm at the masquerade to see something creative and new. I go to the idol showcase to see idols perform. I really think that masquerades should limit unoriginal choreography, but that's for another discussion. 

We sometimes had a hard time finding water. I know it was marked on the map (like which bathrooms) but sometimes they were far from where we were. Panel/workshop rooms had the water stations in them and that was great! We were hoping for more of those around some more common areas as well. 

Oh, a random note. Not hearing back for all programming submissions was a little weird this year! I usually get an acceptance, wait-list, or deny email for all submissions but that didn't happen with a few things. 

The ugly: My friends and I were all panelists, so we picked up our badges at programming ops on Thursday evening. There's nowhere on registration to put preferred names or pronouns, but I thought that the anime community would be a little more aware that many people are LGBTQ+, gender-nonconforming, etc... Yelling out what could possibly be deadnames (which happened to two of my friends in my room) to a large room of people is really not ok. It would be sufficient to ask for identification without yelling out a name, check/compare the name on the registration, and return the ID. Additionally, using "ladies" rather than a gender neutral term for a group of people... was not ok. I guess I just expected a little more sensitivity in a community that I think of as diverse and accepting. 

Edited by weeb palace
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On 8/2/2022 at 4:29 PM, CarolineAndJustine said:

Honestly I'm not sure where it was announced - I was given a last minute heads up by a friend and I don't know where she got that information. Probably Twitter?

It was indeed on Twitter: 

But it wasn't two weeks in advance of the deadline, it was one week. And since there are people who don't use Twitter or Instagram, I'm not sure why it wasn't announced in the news section of the website (since everyone has to look at the website if they're applying for panels in the first place).

Regarding the missing ribbons, I realize that wasn't Otakon's fault, but I do question the complete lack of communication about it, since a mass email to panelists or the like would allow people to make informed decisions about whether they wanted to go to the convention center on Thursday at all, especially if they had had their badges mailed.

I did have a great time this year overall, but this was mostly because of my fellow attendees - I had some great chats with people who came to my panels and to the cosplay meetups I attended and I feel like I made a few new friends. The fun I had was more in spite of how the con was run than because of it, and in general I felt like communication, both among staffers and between staffers and attendees, was really lacking.

Edited by xenoglossy
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I've said versions of parts of this already elsewhere.

Good:

Excellent diversity of guests and panels. When I wasn't gofering (and boy oh boy did I gofer a lot this year), I was seldom bored. This con was jam packed.

Observance of masking rules was excellent.

While gofering reg, I noticed and appreciated the change from laptops to tablets and easier QR scanners. I was also pleased to learn about the satellite registration areas at the hotels. Please make that a thing going forward and explore options for later in the con as well.

Speaking of gofering, that's always spoken about as a path to staff but for the first time, I saw someone at orientation there for that express purpose of recruiting future staff members.

Bad: 

There were not enough food vendors, beyond the loss of the Downtown Food District. Places around the con floor where I was used to seeing stands (like by the alley) weren't there, and there were far fewer of the cold brew coffee dispensers. I know Otakon knows this and that they're working to make sure Aramark knows it. But seriously, those coffee pumps are rad.

I would also like more vegetarian/healthy options.

There weren't enough water coolers either.

Ugly:

Line management. The Saturday lines were bonkers. The tunnel line stretched all the way up into the lobby and the Marriott folks can't have loved that. There were more crowd control issues than I'm used to seeing at Otakon--people stopping for photos in crowded corridors, that sort of thing. Maybe it was a problem with staffing.

Otakon is back to being big again. But I worry about how many people Otakon can comfortably handle from a logistical point of view. Referring back to my point about the lines, you need to have enough security lines going in parallel to allow people in at a decent clip and keep them safe. An attendance cap should be part of the discussion as well. Fire code for WEWCC is 42,000. For the sake of argument, let's say you can fit another 5,000 in the Marriott. That doesn't mean the cap should be 47,000. It should be less than that because the big draws are going to stay in the convention center and 5,000 people aren't going to be in the Marriott spaces at any given time.

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13 hours ago, weeb palace said:

The bad: more of a complaint than bad, but the masquerade. If I wanted to see a bunch of idol performances, I would have attended the areas and events specifically designated for them for multiple days throughout the convention. It was nice to see some things we don't usually (ballroom, live singing, etc) but I think more than half of the masquerade performances were idol dances. I'm at the masquerade to see something creative and new. I go to the idol showcase to see idols perform. I really think that masquerades should limit unoriginal choreography, but that's for another discussion. 

Omg this. When my best friend performed in the masquerade at Baltimore, I remember there being so much variety in the acts. Now we have a 3 strike rule and leave after 3 idol performances. We lasted 6 acts this year…

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