Growing up in Atlanta, I never had a real opportunity to experience video game conventions the way that the East Coast dwellers have. Sure, I watch E3 coverage every year like it's Christmas morning. I follow PAX, GDC, you name it. Despite being up to date with everything that comes from conventions, I have never been able to truly be a part of the action.
In 2005, MomoCon came around. Conceived and run by the Georgia Tech Anime Club, it is surely not a force among the big convention giants. Still, it is nice that a group of people got together to make something happen for the fans in the southeast.
It wasn't until last year that I actually attended MomoCon. I was aware of what it was but it never pulled enough interest from me to get me to go. Then, last year, Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty from Kinda Funny attended the event and peaked my interest enough to pull me out for a day to see their panels. Simply put, I had a blast! Getting to see them live and meet them was a true pleasure, but I mostly thank them for pulling me out of my house forty-five minutes away to actually go to MomoCon.
Havig had a fantastic experience the one day I attended MomoCon last year, I decided this year I would give the con a proper chance. I purchased a full pass and booked a hotel with way too many people. I was set up for the real thing. I was ready to experience everything that MomoCon had to offer.
MomoCon places a large emphasis on anime, and when I say large, I mean the convention is almost entirely about anime. Half the convention is people cosplaying as characters I could never tell you the names of. I've never been much of an anime fan. Sure I've watched a series or two but it is nothing that I am passionate about. Still, I was surprised by how many attendees were there for the games. The convention features a handful of panels dedicated to video games, game development, and other aspects of the industry. This is the part of MomoCon that I really love. As a gamer, it is so nice to have some event where I can feel surrounded by a handful of like-minded people. The only downside is that it's only that, a handful. Still, with not much else around, it is certainly better than the alternative, nothing.
During my first day this year, I was rather disappointed. After attending a random assortment of panels one thing was clear, they will allow just about anyone to have their own panel. It is as if all one needs to do is pay a fee and voila! in fact, there were even two panels in which the panelists did not even show up. No explanation was ever given and no one seemed to question what happened. Perhaps this is a regular occurrence at MomoCon?
That's not to say that all the panels felt illegitimate. There were some panels that were extremely informative and were clearly run by educated members of their respective industries. These panels were fun and engaging. Every time I attended one of them, I left feeling a little better about dedicating a weekend of my life to a less than stellar convention.
Aside from the panels are the Game Room and the Dealers Room. The Game Room, in theory, is a large arcade for players to enjoy a multitude of both classic and modern arcade favorites. There was also a corner for indie developers to show off their upcoming releases, as well as a selection of console games with mostly broken controllers. In the back were some tables set up for tabletop games and that area often seemed occupied with tournaments.
Getting back to the arcade, the problem is that one, the arcade is very tiny and two, the majority of the games are rhythm games imported from Japan. While these are fun games in their own regard, some variety would be nice. The classic games are crammed in the corner and are only there because they are sponsored by another, much newer, video game convention, the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo. The selection here was even smaller but that was understandable as it is only meant to be a sample of what to expect at their expo. Between the two, I enjoyed the classic games much more but overall, the offerings at the arcade were abysmal. Since the selection was so slim, I spent more time in line waiting to play games than I did actually playing them. Normally, this would be understandable to me, but MomoCon does not pull a big enough crowd to justify the long wait times. I hope next year they really beef up the arcade, or I'll just find myself playing Metallica Pinball all weekend again.
The Dealers Room takes up nearly half of the convention's bottom floor. Essentially it's a large section filled with various vendors selling their goods to attendees. These offerings range from shirts, to fan art, to used games and accessories, and more. Despite having a large number of vendors and lots of goods to choose from, I found myself mostly uninterested in everything available, and that's coming from a guy that can't leave a good merchandise store empty handed. Still, this seems to be the main attraction at MomoCon. Not many people attended the panels I was at, and the Game Room was busy, but compared to the Dealers Room the convention's crowds seem moderate. Getting around the Dealers Room is like trying to beat the traffic after a concert. Good luck!
Of course MomoCon does offer more. There are the aforementioned tournaments going on all weekend for tabletop gamers. Not to mention larping events and various late night music events. Though I did not personally experience any of those offerings, it was nice to know that the options were available for those interested.
Overall, my experience at MomoCon was better than I had anticipated. Though there wasn't a fantastic lineup of guests and panels, what was there was spaced out well enough that I always felt like I had something to do. The passionate audience made the overall atmosphere welcoming to both veteran and new attendants. The Game Room was mostly disappointing but a fun place to kill time in between events. Getting to meet indies and play their creations was extremely fun. It was inspiring to talk to them and hear their stories of how their games came to be. I would ultimately recommend MomoCon to fans of video games, anime, or both, of course. While the offerings are slim and it may not be as legitimate as some of the conventions on the other side of the country, it's just really nice to have something.
If we want to see the convention scene grow bigger in the southeast, it is important that we support it to show that we care, and MomoCon is a great step in the right direction.