You’ll probably think me insane for this, but I sacrificed this year’s Otakon for the first year of the ScrewAttack Gaming Convention. Why!? First year cons always make people a bit nervous as there have been a few memorable disasters. The one I’ll always remember is a notorious Midwest con (that shall not be named) where two staffers got into a fist fight and half the dealer’s room shut down due to an industry witch-hunt. Also, there’s the fact that this is strictly a gamer convention. Wouldn’t it just be an anime con but louder? Why did I do such a thing? With the possibility of stepping into an unknown realm of conventions that I had never before gone into, I suppose it was me just being lured in by my curiosity. Most of the time, my curiosity can prove to be my worst enemy, but in this case it became my best friend. With benefits. SGC turned out to be nothing like I imagined… and everything I could possibly want in a con.
Founded in 2006 by “Stuttering Craig” and “Handsome Tom”, ScrewAttack.com’s star has been quickly rising in the world of gaming. Promising original content every day while having a special focus on their community of “g1s”, the site has truly made name for itself. Along with the recent acquisition of a video game store (named “GameAttack” by the fans), this convention marked another big step for them, being dubbed “A Celebration of Gaming Independence” as it was over the Fourth of July weekend. While the attendance was nowhere near the likes of bigger conventions, SGC managed a very impressive attendance count for a first year con, with people coming from as far as Alaska and Scotland to join in the fun. In fact, among the whole “ScrewAttack Crew”, the overall feeling was that of surprise that such a great number of people had flocked to the con to spend their time and money on them. Talking to Destin, the host of ScrewAttack’s Hard News webshow, he said that the goal of SGC was to not only hold something for the fans of the site or of them personally but for fans of gaming. In that respect, I believe they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
What made this worth the trip, though? Several things. Firstly, the hot topic of the con was the big debate on violence in video games between the infamous Jack Thompson and Mark Methenitis, best known for “The Law of the Game” on Joystiq.com. While it was a great debate, I couldn’t help but to think that perhaps there was a moment when Thompson went a bit overboard. According to him, if things remain unchecked, there will be an event that will be what he calls “the 9/11-type event for [the gaming] industry” where Congress will finally pass a law to ban violent video games altogether. I could go into a whole rant about my response to this but that’s another rant for another time. Still, even though Thompson had something of a security escort for the whole convention, the g1s proved to be a mature lot as there were no “OMG! JACK THOMPSON IS THE ENEMY!!” moments. In fact, I overheard several attendees who found themselves rethinking things and agreeing with Thompson’s stance on game violence.
Another big event was the keynote address by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. This was my first time seeing him in person and it was one of the most entertaining panels at the con. Aside from anecdotes about his days at Atari, Bushnell relayed his thoughts about the future of gaming, including talk of altered reality games for the iPhone that may be coming out as early as next year. He remains firm in the belief that there needs to be more innovation in video games, with the industry basically chasing the same thing over and over. “The best game has yet to be designed,” says Bushnell, “the best integration of story into a game has yet to be done… Now remember, we want to lose ourselves. We want to become part of the game. We want to be in the game… we want to get into this wonderful environment. And instead of being a pizza delivery guy, I want to be a god.” Also memorable was his response to people who were against video games, Bushnell replied “Well, there are a lot of stupid people out there…”
There are plenty of highlights from this con that are worth mentioning; things like the Mario/Sonic cosplay brawl in the middle of the lobby, or my victory lap after achieving the lowest score in DigDug during the “Iron Man of Gaming Challenge”. However, all of these are eclipsed by one man who I believe was truly the life of the party at SGC: Keith Apicary. This force of nature who wielded a Nintendo Zapper is something of the Sasha Baron Cohen of ScrewAttack, hosting his own show called Talking Classics. Nothing could have prepared me for the antics he pulled this year! In no particular order, he did the following:
– Held a room party with the goal being to fill it up with 523 people. He would then only get 20 people who he then convinced to start a conga line and run around through the con, reportedly going into the hotel kitchen at one point to get a pot and a lid with the intention of cooking something per run-through.
– Proved a point about the severe lack of females at the con during his panel, ran out of the room to track down every girl in the con, and brought them back. He would then line them up and use them as cover for a live version of Duck Hunt.
– Hijacked a pool party on the roof and took the entire party with him when he left.
In the words of an attendee, every con should have a person like this. Then again, after an incident at this year’s Comic-Con where he hopped up on stage during the Avatar panel for a glass of water, maybe not…
Events aside, though, I have to agree with a friend of mine who said that SGC was the most fun they’ve had at a con in the past few years, anime or otherwise. Throughout the weekend, there was always something to do and always somebody to mingle/hang out with. The great social atmosphere was in part due to ScrewAttack’s focus on community. Even if you weren’t a g1, you found yourself making friends wherever you went. I’ll put it this way: On Saturday night, I found myself in a room party with a group of people I only just met, playing Bomberman, Soul Calibur IV, BlazBlue, and Street Fighter IV until 5 in the morning! That’s never happened to me at a con! The pièce de résistance of the whole thing? Just because there is a focus on community, it didn’t mean that we had any of the annoying features of the average anime con these days. That’s right, there were no instances of people running around with paddles at 3 in the morning, no Idiot Fights or obstructive “Fad Dance” groups… put simply, it was bliss!
Now, I’m going to be bold and say that SGC has all the potential to be the next PAX. With its focus on gaming and community, word is going to spread fast about this con and make it truly stand out. At the risk of sounding like I’m overhyping this, I truly invite you daring readers to schedule SGC into your summer convention sprees next year if you can. If you want something different in your convention experience, this is the place for you!
Check out ScrewAttack’s Main Site: http://www.screwattack.com