End of Year Rant 2019

I’m tired.

I decided to retire the “Sunday Sermon” branding at the beginning of 2019 because I thought the joke had run its course (also some people didn’t get the joke and assumed it was actual legit religious). The reason it evolved the way that it did in the first place was because I was taking the piss out of cosplayers who had little to no life experience pretending to lecture others how to live their lives. It then turned into a way to shine a light on shittier aspects of cosplay and nerd culture, pointing out the emperor had no clothes, as well as holding people accountable for being fuckwits.

I wanted to turn away from that and be more thoughtful and analytical. I didn’t even do a mid-year rant like I have done in the past. I joked that maybe people thought they’d be off the hook so they could act like shitlords again but let’s be honest, I’m not anybody important. If I were important, if I had the influence to make a positive change then I don’t think we’d be where we are with this year.

Unlike some people, I’m not trying to be “the go-to guy for pop-culture in Adelaide” nor am I manufacturing scenarios to line myself up as the local “Cosplay Mum” (yup both of these are a thing that are happening).

I don’t like being negative. It eats away at me. However being critical is important or else change doesn’t happen and you simply swallow any old slop they feed you. Also, the “let’s see you do better” attitude is such a cop out. Why the hell should I get involved in order for people not to harm or take advantage of others? I’m not a politician but I have something called “a vote” (for all the good that has done as of late).

Have I managed your expectations yet? Good because we’re gonna start with a very, very soft one…

I love free stuff
Not really a complaint or even a rant but more of an observation. I don’t see enough people rocking up to Rundle Mall to partake in Free Comic Book Day anymore.

It’s actually understandable as to why: Getting into the CBD can be a hassle, expensive if you drive, and despite the best efforts of the few comic book shops left in the city there’s not actually a lot to “do”. Also the Gumeracha Medieval Fair is on the same weekend however that’s two days whereas FCBD is only one day (barely).

But I also see a lot of people who go to the smaller cosplay gatherings and not a lot happens there either. Scratch that – those folks have to make their own fun. Also for a lot of people, cosplayers in particular, they go to conventions and don’t actually do anything but get photos and hang with their mates. I’m overgeneralising of course but you get my point. It happens more than you realise especially at events that end up just being “lobby cons”.

In all fairness, the mall is so very public. The convention etiquette that we’re used to is virtually non-existent so it’s quite easy to understand why so many cosplayers don’t bother with it.

I have fun with it every year. Some years I dress up and a couple of times I haven’t. I just think it’s a shame it’s not a bigger thing.

Cashless economy
This year, both the Adelaide Convention Centre and the Entertainment Centre announced that they’d be going cashless from September. This means they will only be accepting payments via card and other contactless payment methods.

This is kinda shit.

It’s a minor concern but a concern nonetheless. Not everyone has a credit or debit card (many aren’t allowed access to one either for various reasons). There are plenty of people who are unfamiliar with Apple Pay and Android Pay, etc. The problem with forcing these things under the guise of efficiency is that it creates havoc and inconvenience more than it does simplify the process.

I don’t know how successful this has turned out to be so far but normally, transitions to new technology are a slow process not a hard cut. People need to be allowed time to get used to things. I’m not saying it’s the end of the world but there are issues of accessibility to be mindful of.

Now this is a potential issue when it comes to AVCon but only so mildly. When you look at the reasons people need to use money within the convention, the dealers hall and Artists Alley are not going to be affected by this as each vendor can decide their own preferred payment.

But when it comes to the catering and parking then that can pose certain issues. One of the requirements of doing business with the ACC is that you use their in-house food services and if they are cashless then that may pose a problem. People have suggested that there are so many alternatives in the CBD but why the hell should I need to walk 100 metres up the road in full cosplay just to get a quick feed?

Also, the After Dark event is licensed. Is the bar going to be card only?

If for whatever reason my card is declined then does that mean my car is trapped in the ACC parking until I get that resolved?

Also AVCon skews to a younger crowd and again not everyone has access to a debit card etc.

Look, I’ll be fine and most people aren’t going to feel the negative affects of such a restriction but keep in mind: in much the same way certain people complain that there isn’t enough to do at other events, variety is what allows everyone to have a hassle-free good time.

Not for profit
I’ll let you in on a little secret: As part of this year’s effort to be more thoughtful in my writing, for a short time I contemplated not bothering with post-convention write ups. Despite being well-received by so many, I simply wanted to refocus my energy on my newer projects and ideas.

The few negative reactions were never enough to dissuade me from continuing though, that sort of thing is to be expected from the thin-skinned and the arrogant. Some having such poor reading comprehension as to see a mostly positive write-up as negative, that was annoying (did you know someone messaged me asking to remove someone else’s name from a write-up thinking I was being too harsh when I was actually glowing about that person and their extra efforts?). Seeing people be aware of said feedback and then lean into it and make the same mistakes (or even worse)… yeah that’s exhausting.

When I was politely asked to provide feedback by someone whom I respected that was pretty much enough to keep me going for at least one more (I made a promise after all). For what it’s worth, after what happened at this year’s show, paid or not, I would’ve ended up having to air my grievances anyway.

I’ve pretty much said what I’ve had to about this year’s PR disaster. However, a few things I kept out because there wasn’t enough to go on at the time and was only made the more concerning after the fact.

I’m still bothered by how excruciatingly piss-poor the “AVCon Avengers” idea was implemented. A potentially good idea on paper ruined by an inability to think about the bigger picture. Local cosplayers were exploited for their name and recognition, utilised as draw cards on the same level as cosplay guests, asked to do multiple days worth of work, leveraging their social media and followings, all in exchange for a staff pass and the always reliable “exposure”.

I’m mildly put at ease (if only by a matter of degrees) knowing that maybe one or two organisers did in fact bring up the important topic of compensating the cosplayers. But to end up not have that implemented at all speaks to a deliberate intention to be shit.

There was an open application process for cosplayers to apply for the positions. And yet, it was revealed later that many of the more prominent Adelaide names were all secretly asked to apply. Many turned it down because of time commitments and the like as well as the obvious fact that they weren’t getting paid for it (one friend told me their response was “fuck that shit”). One did decide to take them up on the offer after some cajoling and got in (which technically means they were invited as a guest doesn’t it?).

That does raise the question about overall intent as to why you would approach the more popular and well-known cosplayers if it was an open call? It becomes even more suspect when you look at the line up they settled on. Did they not have enough applications? Or were they deliberately looking for cosplayers with clout and name recognition (because there’s not a single unknown among them).

One bit of scuttlebutt I cannot confirm is that one cosplayer didn’t have to apply at all because the idea was actually built around helping them raise their profile. And the more I think about it the more ridiculous it sounds. I mean, that implies that multiple organisers were complicit in exploiting local talent all because of one cosplayer’s career and ego. The ramifications of that are even too much for me to swallow.

The following month, in a separate situation, one of the biggest names in Aussie cosplay and one half of the duo who took out the top prize at this year’s World Cosplay Summit publicly called out Oz Comic-Con for refusing to pay local cosplay guests.

Not only did that cause a minor shitstorm in revealing how prevalent it has been in the last few years, it put a major dent in ReedPop’s reputation for its focus on “community”. AVCon is also an event that loves to emphasise its commitment to community every chance it gets but has often failed to realise what that actually means.

The very idea that organisers think they can get away with such shitty practices boggles my mind and bothers me incredibly. I don’t care what format your event takes, profit or not-for-profit I will say it again: this is EXPLOITATION.

With a few names I trust behind the scenes and this year’s reshuffle at AVCon, I am at least hopeful that the 2020 show will minimise the clusterfucks of 2019.

Do you want to go professional?
On the subject of exploitation, this post was doing the rounds about a mouth ago…

There are a lot of red flags in that post. For one thing they haven’t specified appearance fees. Secondly, no proper dates for this brand new event. Third, no fucking name of the event.

While I can appreciate the honest and forthright approach into what they are looking for, this just smacks of not understanding anything about the business of cosplay. Hell, it may end up being a legitimate thing and all I can say for those of you brave enough is be careful and more power to you. But you have been warned!

Cult following
People are drawn to groups or personalities that offer them a sense of safety. A sense of belonging. In “geek spaces” we often frame this as how we find like-minded fans, make friends when we would otherwise be outcast for our interests (I’ve unpacked this one before) often at gatherings such as conventions and the like.

To their credit, AVCon have been successful in accomplishing this sense of belonging in part by simply existing as a place to gather. Also, because the festival is pretty much “youth focused” (at least that’s the line as part of Adelaide City Council’s sponsorship of the show but there is a clear and obvious sense that AVCon appeals to the younger crowd more than it does to older folks or families). Fans revel in getting away from the parents and other potential naysayers to be with “their people”.

But that sense of belonging can sometimes go too far… most notably we’ve often seen with cults. We see the horrible results of religious cults yet that mentality and inflated sense of loyalty can also be applied to brands. We’ve seen how people line up for nights on end for a new iPhone for instance.

At its most cynical, AVCon is a brand but for many it’s also a community. One that accepted them when they felt isolated and alone. It was one of my first introductions to the cosplay community way back in 2009 so I understand. It’s also easy to understand the type of defensive reactions when AVCon is perceived to be under attack. Or they go on the attack themselves.

When Supanova was overdue its one scheduled fuck up, which manifested this time in the form of an aggressive guilt-trip PSA on Facebook, a handful of loyal AVCon folk took it as an opportunity to regain some ground. The dyed-in-the-wool faithful would use any opportunity to attack Supanova publicly.

I just think when folks like the former vice-convener (quoted above) or those who have been (or are still) involved with an event that failed to make its money back in previous years, or is now known to exploit local cosplayers, as well as has a reputation for attacking its critics on social media, they probably should try to fix internal problems before throwing stones.

To jeopardise the working relationship between events by slinging mud in an effort to score points puts your colleagues in a difficult position.

The thing is I get it. I really do. But unlike some of these people I was able to detach from loyalty to a brand and instead realise that it’s the people you need to be loyal to and even then they need to give you a better reason than having ONE thing in common. There is a much bigger picture, a larger community of fans and like-minded folks here in Adelaide that we all need to be aware of instead of being trapped inside the tiny pop-culture bubble we feel too comfortable inhabiting.

Wrath of Con
When you step outside of that bubble you open yourself up to a more varied experience and view of the community around you. And you realise where your energies should be going.

I don’t like “defending” certain events, but sometimes it’s important to clarify egregious errors made by bad faith actors online.

No one spoke a peep about Supanova until its misguided PSA. But then the flood gates opened and suddenly Supanova allegedly didn’t care about local communities, they weren’t marketing enough, they didn’t bring in the good guests, guests were too expensive… it goes on.

From what I could tell, Supanova made more of a marketing push this year than previous. In the span of a few minutes I was able to find a bunch of businesses all running promotions giving away passes to this year’s event.

I mean why is Rundle Mall Plaza even there if there wasn’t an effort to reach more people?? This was about getting more feet through the door rather than making money off of tickets (so more people could spend on the vendors inside).

I’m sympathetic to the complaints about the rising cost of… well anything. And yes, John Travolta as headline guest was definitely pushing that boundary. But that didn’t stop people because I saw his line, I saw the standing room crowd at his panel, people did pay for his photo and autograph.

But let’s, for a moment, put that into perspective: the prices for his more intimate Sydney show…

Silver and Gold don’t get you photos. The VIP Photo Op was a selfie with your own camera if I recall correctly from the material.

Combine that with the news coverage and it highlights the type of guest Travolta is and that it was quite the coup to get him at all for even just a day.

And to the people claiming there was no gaming whatsoever, as I pointed out in my write-up, there have been gaming set ups in all the past years with very little interest paid, and this year there was a tabletop gaming area smack back in the middle of the map (I shot videos in that areas myself so I saw it with my own eyes).

Look, Supanova has a list of issues that slowly takes time to correct (if it can). It’s not perfect, I’ve spoken about the really shitty stuff multiple times. But the shitty stuff should be enough without having to make up other shit.

Highest bidder
In the lead up to this year’s Supanova a rumour popped up that someone was actually interested in buying the event. The interested party was alleged to be a very popular US actor and fan favourite on the con circuit.

And then a couple of weeks later news dropped that ReedPop had sold Oz Comic-Con to another event management company (one that was better known for Art and Craft events).

There are a few things to unpack so lets see if we can parse this all out…

People are quick to assume that OzCC’s sale has anything to do with the event itself failing to make money because it fails to improve itself (remember AVCon failed to make its money back in previous years too) but the reality is that we may have reached a peak at what these events can realistically offer. Cora Berry used to work for ReedPop and her insight into why conventions are dying across the country is very helpful.

She also has another useful blog post about why events get sold off (keep in mind ReedPop bought Oz Comic-Con from The Hub Productions back in 2014. The creator of OzCC also used to work for Supanova before starting up The Hub).

ReedPop, a worldwide company with multiple events in almost every continent, still has PAX Aus, so as far as a presence in Australia it’s much more manageable for them.

It’s too early to say whether or not Expertise Events will bring the show back to Adelaide and Perth but keep in mind they probably bought it based on the cost of running only THREE events. Also, reading all the stuff their ex-employees have been posting has been both worrying and hilarious!

We thought that was it, that the Supanova rumour was simply the result of a game of “telephone”. But then a funny thing happened. Another rumour popped up recently that claimed that Supanova was indeed on the market.

Now, here’s the thing: a single rumour doesn’t mean an awful lot but a series of events can often weave an interesting tapestry.

With these all popping up withing the same two months you kind of have to wonder about the timeline of it all. Were both events up for sale at the same time to the same interested bidder perhaps? Was Supanova’s tone deaf PSA actually about drumming up more numbers to make the Adelaide event more appealing to any prospective buyers? I mean, none of these are certain or backed up by anything but it’s interesting to at least speculate.

Also selling off Supanova means that the most politically problematic aspect of the event will be gone.

Moving the goal posts
Remember my major issue with a certain local event changing the weapons policy in the middle of a Saturday and lying about it to save face. Well here’s a bit of similar drama about changing the rules from a US event that caught my attention. It’s a fascinating read…

Say hello to Warped Con.Three months ago, my friend Beth (Amazonian Cosplay) won their cosplay competition with a £750…

Posted by Dominic Waite on Thursday, 31 October 2019

Surprising even myself, I had a lot more to try and get through but I am drained and would prefer to get a start on my more positive and reflective review of 2019.

I don’t want reasons to keep shining on a light on crap like this for the sake of my own mental health. I just want everyone to be more mindful of others. Being part of a community is more than just the immediate people around you. Your actions have ramifications that extend past what you can see and feel.

We all share these spaces so lets try a lot fucking harder not to fuck each other over!

HERE ENDETH THE SERMON (woo that felt good)

I don’t care if you didn’t enjoy any of this. I’ve got a ko-fi account that could use some dollars coming its way.

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