A second-to-last celebration of geek culture in town
Con-G’s handmade welcome sign and small, intimate location were the first signs that this convention would be something more akin to a family reunion than anything else. Here, friends of the past and present would reunite under the pretense of celebrating geek culture. It would be a place to meet new people, reunite with old “con friends” whom you may not see other times due to distance or busyness, or to just hang out with the people you came with.
Upon arrival, you would first take inventory of the weird and wonderful people around you; if it was your first convention, you might be a little shocked. Cosplayers – that is, people who have dressed as a character from a comic, videogame, or anime they enjoy – were everywhere. Participants in miniskirts complete with dangling severed heads and giant chainsaws, dressed as Juliet Starling from the lovely Lollipop Chainsaw, were consorting with others dressed in outlandish red trench coats. Some participants even dressed as characters of the opposite gender. Brandon Steumont, who was cosplaying as a “genderbent” version of Black Rock Shooter from the self-titled anime, explained the phenomenon.
Steumont responded, “It’s a fun, healthy hobby… I enjoy it because I enjoy making things, like I enjoy the craftsmanship aspect of it… I like making something look cool, just being someone that I’m not.”
Steumont was evidently having fun, posing as passersby asked for pictures, and hanging out with other cosplayers. Clearly, there was something to this.
The first major event was the opening ceremonies. Having been to Anime North, one of the biggest conventions in Canada, I was expecting a grand ceremony, a lavish predictor of things to come. Instead I found several Guelph graduates wearing the signature green volunteer t-shirts of Con-G joking around on stage – not exactly grand or lavish, but definitely a sign of the convention’s fraternal spirit. This year’s facility, the Delta Guelph Hotel and Conference Center, was the largest the convention had yet occupied, but was still packed with conventioneers, all of whom seemed to have some connection to each other. Old friends were chatting in the halls, discussing various incarnations of Transformers and Fallout, or attending panels to discuss anime and better costuming techniques. In the dealers room, one can buy anything from manga to classic videogames to a chainmail bra, which one can only assume pinches terribly. Almost every dealer would stop and chat with browsing fans. In larger conventions, dealers are always scurrying around, moving items and tending to customers, generally dealing with the frantic nature of bigger events. Business did seem to be good, but something about the size of Con-G really afforded them the opportunity to get personal. The same could be said about the talented artists who were offering their wares in the Artist’s Alley as if from an old fashioned market.
Cosplaying carried both an air of lightheartedness and a deeper meaning to those who look for it. Some people just enjoy the challenge and fun of it.
Ryan Sithread, cosplaying as Nero from Final Fantasy (a costume that incorporated a straitjacket-like design with giant wings) said, “I like to one-up myself every costume I make,” and that ultimately, “It’s fun.”
This was not an uncommon sentiment.
Tasha Lumbis, cosplaying as Seras Victoria from Helsing, a costume that can only be described as looking like a blond army girl with a ten foot bazooka, said that the character was a “total badass… and I really like it, and she has this awesome costume, and she has this big gun… It’s fun, you get to make cool things, you get to meet cool people, it’s just sort of a really cool social outlet as well as a creative endeavour.”
Alex Houchamini, cosplaying as the Vault Dweller from Fallout, may have put it best when he said that sometimes it’s just for “shits and giggles.”
For some people however, cosplay went beyond being a hobby into something that inspired them. I met normally shy people who would perform on stage during the Con-G masquerade (which was temporarily visited by the Daleks of Dr. Who fame), and people who found cosplay a vacation from the pressures of work and academia.
Ariana Whitman, dressed as Vanellope Von Schweetz from the recently Oscar-nominated Wreck it Ralph, noted that there was an element of “escapism, finding… a change in the humdrum, the everyday life… you put on a costume, you become someone very different sometimes and so you can express yourself in ways that may be difficult on a regular basis.”
This is the beauty of events like Con-G: they mean as much as any one person will put into them.
In an interview with The Ontarion, Internet personality and Con-G’s special guest Bennett the Sage, properly known as Bennett White, discussed experiences cosplaying in Guelph, and how con culture has expanded recently.
“The con has treated me very well. I mean, it’s obvious that they’re not the most well-staffed and most well-funded convention out there, but for what they have and for how limited resources can be they have been nothing but helpful.”
On the topic of the cosplay on display at Guelph, White said, “When you see somebody across from […] the convention center and they’re dressed from the same show or movie that you’re dressing as, then you have a connection there, you have a talking point. Two complete strangers can look at each other and be like ‘we have something in common, and we could talk about it, and we could probably be friends from it.’ That’s, you know, that’s beautiful.”
“In this convention alone there was a guy who dressed as Dr. Evil, except he called himself Dr. Stevil, and he was completely in character… and he was fantastic. He was committed… and I think he was doing this more for himself than for anyone out there… He did that as an expression of his own way of having fun, and you’ve got to admire something like that, especially when he was that funny,” White added.
When asked about the increasing visibility of geek culture, White replied, “It’s probably better than it was ten years ago…If you asked someone fifteen years ago… ‘Would you believe there’d be an anime convention in Guelph?’ he probably would have said no and slapped you silly. But here we are now.”
Sadly, the convention ended with bad news: next year will be the last Con-G due to the rigors and cost of running such an ever-growing event. This will be the end of one of the closest and most achingly fun conventions in Ontario.
“It’s been really nice to have a convention in Guelph,” said student Daniel Jacobs. “It’ll be a shame.”
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