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A Home Without a UCON January 17, 2012

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.

I’m unfortunate enough to live in an area where, while there’s a perfectly large population in it, is completely ignored by the mainstream media. Up until recently, the western United States was the only place to go when it came to any major gaming events. The Electronic Entertainment Expo has been in Los Angeles for the past twelve years, PAX was in Seattle, GDC in San Jose, and Quakecon takes place in Texas. If I wanted to attend any of these events I was going to need hotel arrangements, a rental car, and airfare, all of which are quite expensive. Yes I know there are some great fan created conventions like Magfest, but those were still pretty far away from me and would have required hotel arrangements and a lot of gas money. I longed for the day that I could attend some kind of major convention which would be within a reasonable distance of where I lived, and be affordable to attend.

Two years ago, that changed. I heard musings from several peers that a new convention was going to be held at the University of Connecticut, which, while not super close, was within a reasonable distance. Called the UCON at UCONN, the organizers were creating a new by fans for fans convention anyone could attend. There would be panels ranging from the debate on should anime be subtitled or dubbed, lectures by prominent professors on comparing the games of Halo to the work of Homer, and several viewing rooms showing all sorts of classic animation and science fiction shows. Best of all, it was free to everyone, and you didn’t have to be a student to attend.

I first heard about the UCON at UCONN while visiting Doug Walker’s site, That Guy with the Glasses. He announced that he was going to be at the convention for that weekend doing a panel and signing autographs with his brother Rob. When I started to do some research on just what the event was I was floored. A free convention within close proximity and some awesome events planned for it? I signed up.

I attended the first day’s events with a close friend who was a UCONN alumni. Arriving just in time for the opening ceremonies, the organizer (a friend of my friend) kicked off the event and showed a funny little video he made of some of the things that would be at the con. It was a great way to kick off the show. After the opening I sat in for a lecture on Halo by one of UCONN’s professors and then hit the screening rooms to watch some episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.

That night I was really excited for the chance to watch the screening of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s most infamous episode, Space Mutiny, starring Reb Brown. I had never seen it before and was really excited to finally get the chance to watch it. Right before the episode started, Doug and Rob came in and sat down. They were really nice guys and we talked for a bit before they started running the movie. I told them to feel free to say whatever they wanted while it ran but they said the episode was funny enough without their comments added to it. We did however join together in a group sing-a-long of the theme song as the episode began. It was a great night, and to top it all off I think at one point I was hit on by a college girl dressed as Sailor Moon.

That Saturday was just as great when the panel kicked off with Doug and Rob Walker’s Q&A, there was a live improv show, and later on I kicked back and watched some episodes of Invader Zim. The night ended with a video game tournament, but while there was a pretty wide selection of games they were having tournaments for (various fighting games, etc) there wasn’t much of a presence for the particular multiplayer games that I was any good at so I didn’t play. I asked Doug and Rob what their plans were and they said they had every intention to get into one of the gaming tournaments.

It was a fantastic weekend that I very rarely get to have in my home state, and I was really looking forward to the next year’s event. When the next year’s started up I felt that second UCON was just not as good as the first. I attended the first day and left very disappointed. The show started a lot earlier than the last year’s had and the panel slotted for the prime time slot never happened because the host of the panel was MIA. It also ended really early, much earlier than the last year. Doug and Rob were delayed and didn’t arrive until that Saturday for their panel. After the disappointment of the first day, I didn’t attend the other days, although I did later regret not attending on Saturday because I heard that was the day General Zod announced he was running for President.

All good things must end and I’m sad to say that UCON at UCONN will not happen this year. My insider has informed me that the UCON student organizer was a senior at the time of the first event and graduated the year after. The organizer of the second UCON was someone different, and they also graduated after the event. Now it seems that with no guiding light, the convention will not happen. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to operate like this. Wouldn’t you want to keep the successful organizers of the events to continue their good work?

The world is a lot different now, as major convention organizers have started hosting events on the East Coast. PAX has an extremely successful second show in Boston. The New York Comic Con in NYC has hosted panels ranging from a preview of the upcoming Avengers movie to live demos of The Darkness II.

Now, I know there is another by fans for fans convention in my state that predates UCON, but I’ve never actually attended it due to cost or scheduling problems. UCON, being free and open to the public, had a charm about it that made me feel quite welcome. If they decide to bring it back, I’d love to give it another look.


1. A Con Follow Up « gameXcess.net – Gaming News, Videos and Editorials! - January 19, 2012

[…] after completing a post lamenting the loss of the UCON at UCONN I was informed that there was a new local convention that would be free and open to all ages.  […]

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