One of New Orleans' largest nerd-centric conventions, MechaCon entices anime fans, gamers, scifi/fantasy geeks, and everything in between to converge on downtown New Orleans in a colorful display of pastel wigs and impossibly oversized weapons. This year's convention took place during a weekend of shared events and heat advisories. Thankfully, the oppressive, Southern heat didn't seem to scare anyone off, and the convention was full of great vendors, impressive cosplay, and even a few games.
First and foremost, let's discuss how the convention seemed to fair when it came to harassment: MechaCon, sadly, has not participated in the Cosplay is Not Consent movement. While there is a touching and thorough section of the "Attendee Conduct" policy outlining all the reasons hate symbols are not allowed at MechaCon (which is awesome!), issues of harassment are only glazed over in other sections and given a very short "Hands-Off Policy" paragraph in their paper program (neither this policy nor the anti-hate symbol policy appear on their webpage), and there were no signs posted addressing harassment around the convention. Considering how prevalent the issue is in our community (specifically at anime heavy conventions), and considering how many of MechaCon's attendees are under-aged, I was really hoping they'd adopted a more comprehensive and visible harassment policy.
Personally, I noticed a number of aggressive photographers at the convention. One in particular honed in on two young, female cosplayers on the Dealer Room floor. When I spotted them, this photographer was already taking their photo, so I stopped to wait my turn and began chatting with my friend. Nearly a full 5 minutes later I realized he was still taking their photos and encouraging them to get closer and more "friendly" (he all but directly asked them to start making out) as he invaded their space several times to get extremely close up shots. It was...uncomfortable to witness, and potentially avoidable with more of a visible policy.
On the plus side, I attended a lovely Anti-Bullying Panel on Friday with Queen D, Pink Pariah Cosplay, and Steve Kenson, that managed to start my MechaCon experience on a high. These three were genuine, funny, and insightful (all things I look for in a quality panel). They discussed some cosplay etiquette, the importance of standing up for yourself and those around you, how to approach a friend who may be unwittingly bullying others, and the generally great concept of "mind your own" (as D put it) to avoid bullying others when confronted with lifestyles and life choices with which you may disagree. They connected with the audience through humor and personal stories, and welcomed questions and comments in a true show of community. Truly, a great panel all around!
|Look at the shiny ponies!|
One thing that MechaCon does that is somewhat unique is their Scavenger Hunt. It's pretty massive, and certainly no joke! I helped my friend who won second place last year, and I can honestly say that winning takes some serious dedication. In addition to taking photos of yourself at various events and with various guests, you also had to scour the convention for 9 puzzle pieces scattered throughout the rooms. Even with two of us actively looking, it took the full weekend to find all nine!
|Some of these little bastards were legitimately hard to find in a crowd.|
If wandering around for the Scavenger Hunt wasn't quite your scene, perhaps the Droid Hunt would be. Conducted by the Bast Alpha Garrison chapter of the 501st Legion and +1 Gaming, the Droid Hunt was much more passive, but still carried the potential for an awesome pay out. Essentially, you pick up a numbered tag (complete with the beautiful work of a local artist) from the 501st table on Friday, then wear said tag around on Saturday until a trooper "captures" you by taking the bottom half of the tag. Then, starting Sunday morning, pop by the 501st table throughout the day to see if your tag was pulled and you won a prize. It's super easy, adorable, and could net you some sweet Star Wars swag!
The one real snag I saw at MechaCon was the location. Held at the Hilton Riverside, the hotel itself was less than ideal. While the size of the hotel was certainly adequate, having to navigate three floors of random conference rooms didn't exactly flow well. (To be fair, I'm directionally challenged, so I spent a good portion of the weekend just trying to figure out what floor I was on at any given moment.) In addition, the parking garage was littered with potholes, and due to some bizarre scheduling the convention's registration desk had to move out of the main hallway on Sunday morning to make room for another conference's setup despite that area being the only way to move from the first floor conference rooms to the escalators leading to the upper floors. These few issues were certainly not the fault of the convention organizers though, so all in all, I give MechaCon a thumbs up and I'm looking forward to next year!
Now, let's take a look at some super cool vendors and awesome cosplay, yes?