Fan World 2016: Was it worth the trip?

So if you read my last blog post, I talked about Matsuricon. Well, Matsuri was very last-minute for me, thanks to some money from my birthday.

Fan World has been on my radar for a long time. Ever since Youmacon 2015, I had heard about Fan World and thought it sounded amazing. A convention at Niagara Falls? Sign me up!

Or . . . so I thought. Four friends and I decided to take the four-hour drive through Canada to Fan World. From the sleek layout of the website to the charismatic convention representatives at Youmacon and Midwest Media Expo, I was thinking this con was going to be big.

Dante Basco was a guest! You know, Prince Zuko, Rufio in Hook . . . very tempting to say the least.

My first warning was when I went to get my badge online, and had to upload a picture of myself. This was shady. I don’t mind when people take my picture in cosplay, but a first-year convention having my photo on file that any of their staff members could have access to?

Well, it was that or no con. So I painfully handed over a selfie of myself at Casino Night and went on my way. I booked our hotel, we all made sure we had our passports ready, because this convention took place in two countries at the same time.

Now, let me just make a quick note here. My friend and I decided we were going to wear huge ball gowns all weekend, because we heard about Promstuck at the Hard Rock Café in Canada. The convention also told us we would have an expedited process crossing the border as pedestrians if we had a con badge.

Now, one thing here. We didn’t have badges. We had QR codes we had to print out ourselves before the event, or pull them up on our phones.

Well, if you’re like me and a broke college student, there’s no way you’re going to pay an arm and a leg for data to get your QR code pulled up from your email on your phone in Canada. Therefore, they simply didn’t check badges on the Canadian side.

Then, the convention didn’t really have many printed schedules. Even if we had one, there were constant updates happening to the schedule on the Facebook page, and it was hectic trying to keep up with when and where things were.

Just like at Matsuri, I decided to enter the cosplay contest, as it’s one of the weekend’s biggest events. From the start, I was confused. There was no ranking system. Which meant my friend and I had no chance. How could us, two people who just started in the competition scene, ever hope to compete against long-time cosplayers? Or people who’ve entered and won hundreds of contests?

The convention itself was just really confusing. The game room was in a hotel around the corner, the American panel rooms, dealer’s hall and artist alley were in one convention center, then another panel room and dealers hall across the border, plus the Hard Rock Café in Canada. All in all, that made for a lot of walking in high heels, as the convention didn’t have a shuttle or any access to public transport.

In terms of accessibility, I’d give this con a zero. There’s no way someone in a wheelchair could have gotten around quickly and efficiently at this convention.

Another thing that just made me sad was the game room. They were really friendly, but they had very limited outlets, meaning they weren’t able to put in computers for online gaming.

I spoke to one of the men running the game room, and he said he only made $40 from energy drink sales. He said he lost at least a couple hundred dollars.

Artists on the Canadian side were upset after promises were broken on who would be selling what kinds of wares. They came to the convention and staff didn’t know where to set them up and had to “wing it,” according to one of the artists.

As the weekend went on, my friends and I realized many panels were rescheduled or just not happening altogether. So, we volunteered to host one of our panels, which I happened to have on my laptop.

And I have to say, the equipment for running panels was fantastic. Each panel room was supplied with tech instructions, and the con chair helped advertise our last-minute Homestuck panel.

Dante Basco even came and gave us some insider information about the new Homestuck game and the Homestuck 2.0 project. He even recorded a video to send to the creator of the webcomic, Andrew Hussie. That was a very memorable experience, and it was one of the highlights of the weekend for me.

However, now let’s get into price. We’re all college students. We don’t have endless income. The convention was $39/badge for the weekend, which isn’t horrible. But compared to other cons in the $40-50 price range, this con was lacking.

The game room closed by 4 p.m. on Saturday. There was no rave, as a DJ canceled. I ended up back in my hotel at 8 p.m. with nothing to do, which has never happened to me before at conventions. Usually that’s when the con is just getting started.

You also had to pay 50 cents each time you wanted to come back into America. So that meant we had to carry cash and coins on us, which was tedious and made us less apt to go across to the Canadian side. If you drove, it was $5/pass. Plus, we were lucky our parking was included in our hotel. Parking around the convention was very expensive, and artists complained to me that they had to pay their own parking, which helped drive them into the red even more.

I have to say the convention staff was very receptive of negative feedback. Future years should for sure be in only one venue on each side and have a better split between the Canadian side and the American one (as most events were in America to begin with).

Also, it would help to have real badges instead of just paper QR codes. I might be silly, but I always keep my con badges as memories of cons I’ve been to with friends, and it just felt disappointing I wasn’t able to have that to hold on to.

My last bit of advice to the convention isn’t really advice, moreso a warning. Matsuri is going to be the same weekend as Fan World next year, it looks like. And Toronto’s Fan Expo 2016 is just one week after Fan World. That means a ton of people are going to be traveling to those bigger, more well-known conventions, and not one that’s just starting out.

Fan World needs to be advertised more in New York and Canada to convince people that they should check out the convention. My friends and I were convinced to drive partway across the country, so it should be easy to convince local convention-goers.

We were asked by con staff if we were coming back next year, and to be frank I haven’t decided yet. I had a blast this weekend thanks to the people I was with. And for those of you who like to drink, the drinking age is 19 in Canada, which one of my friends was pleased about. It meant this weekend I was able to relax and just hang with my friends.

But on the flipside, if I’m paying over $160/night for a hotel at Niagara Falls, plus a $40 badge, plus paying to go back and forth between the venues . . . I don’t know if it’s worth it again.

If you want to take a trip to the Falls next summer, maybe check out Fan World while you’re there. And I especially recommend this convention to locals wanting to have fun for a weekend.

Unless you already planned on visiting the Falls, though, I don’t think I’d recommend the trip out there just for the convention. If you’re in town anyway, check it out to help support a new convention.

The only way a convention can get better is through feedback and through people actually attending the convention. Do I think there are some serious things that need addressing at Fan World? Absolutely. Did I see the staff backed into a corner with no other alternatives? Yep, that too. So, I say be patient with the convention. Support it even for one day if you can, because next year the convention should have a face lift. And if it doesn’t interfere with Matsuri or Fan Expo, then I might take the trip out once more.