By Hector Caceres
After allowing my thoughts to settle, I was thinking about Momocon, and really trying to get a wrap around what I thought went well and what went poorly, and really the only issues I had with the con were logistical ones.
First, recap of the con:
Full disclosure, I volunteered as a staffer for Tokyo Attack, so I spent the majority of my time in the arcade. The arcade was amazing this year, and in the following years I hope it grows to be even larger than it was this year. I was able to see a few panels and get some stuff signed. I spent some time in the dealers room on two separate days. I hit up the indie section to play a handful of games (I liked Just Beats and Shapes), and I spent the last hour or two of the last day at Sega’s booth putting some time into Dengeki Bunko. On Saturday, I was ‘assigned’ a panel that literally came together minutes before we presented it. All in all, it was a busy weekend, and while I didn’t feel as “free” to do things as I do at other cons, I felt it was productive and nice to catch up with folks, and still have the ability to partake in the festivities whenever I could.
The “problems” I had were minimal, and they were mostly gripes with how things are set up around the con.
Strange Hours for some things
The dealers room (and other longstanding, non-panel functions of the con) had awkward hours. The dealers closed at 6pm if I remember correctly most days. The indies section closed at 9pm. That left the arcade and console gaming room, which as far as I know were intended to stay open til at least 1am every day.
I understand the rationale of wanting to limit the hours for dealers. From what I saw, several booths were run by one or two people, and they were effectively running it straight with little to no breaks. But as a badge-holder for the convention, it just felt weird to to say “Hey, wanna hit up the dealers and buy something” after dinner, and arriving to that entire section of the convention hall closed off. Yes, the dealers are people too, though, and have human needs, so I can sympathize with the hours situation, but maybe something could be done to address this?
Panels were also all over the place most days. Concerts were held super late. And the rave in the Villains room went from like 11 to 3am or something. I don’t know what to say to this other than maybe some slight tweaking to the panels to make the majority of them during the day and leaving the really weird stuff for later would help. I can’t pinpoint one specific thing that felt off, because it’s a sum of parts kind of thing… but I can say it was at the very least different from what I’m accustomed to.
My hotel situation was great. I stayed at the Omni, and I can’t really find much to complain about. We had linen service every day, and the beds and rooms were comfortable. The pipes made weird noises when you ran the water, but the water was clean and the linen service tidy and quick. I heard several people had issues with room cards, but for me at least I can report things went swimmingly. Would it have been nice to have some kind of continental breakfast? Sure, but seeing as this is a pricier hotel, I can do fine with getting food elsewhere. Apparently there was a pool and jacuzzi I missed, so maybe next time I can hit that up.
The parking situation needs a severe overhaul. There is ample parking in and around the convention space, but the pricing structure is archaic, weird, unfair and mostly unchecked. For a convention attendee paying a basic fee for entry for the entirety of the con, it should be made abundantly clear what the parking options are up front (and ideally) free parking should be offered to badge holders. If that isn’t viable, then work out a specific parking pass deal on badge purchase that allows for a user to pre-pay for parking so they always have a spot.
Red lot parking was what I was told where most attendees should park. However, they had a 10 dollar fee per day or a 15 dollar overnight parking fee (also per day) within the GWCC lot. These are the normal rates apparently. I heard from the lot attendant that one was supposed to go on some website and pre-purchase parking. The parking lot attendant that happened to be there when I pulled up wasn’t super helpful in giving me the actual site, so I had to use google to find it. According to the site, I understand the lot is supposed to have someone there 24 hours, but there were times when no one was stationed there or even patrolling the lot per the websites description.
What happened was that if you were in the lot early enough, I guess at some point the parking people decided it would be too difficult to actually enforce the rules they laid out. Apparently no cars were actually checked to ensure people paid parking. I got away with paying for the first days parking, never moving my vehicle for the entirety of the con, and then leaving the last day only having paid 10 bucks for the whole time I was there. I only did this because the receipt I received stated the parking was good from the day I bought it, and the only stipulation was that it could not be used for re-entry and it had no expiration date.
But, based on what the website was claiming, I fully expected to have to pay some kind of fee or get some kind of ticket. I “got away” with it scot-free. I feel like what happened was a chain of miscommunication. If the intent of the people running the lot was to NOT check peoples vehicles for verification of parking, then it should have been made more clear up front (ESPECIALLY on the website).
As a result, I feel like a number of people unnecessarily paid a ton for parking (upwards of 50 dollars with “reserved” dates from a website), and sometimes even couldn’t even access the deck because no one was there! The GWCC doesn’t seem to be the type of organization that would refund someone for their inconveniences either, so that just leaves people paying for a sub par service they can’t even access. It sounds like, based on what my receipt was stating, that con-goers could have just paid the fee once during the con times and not bothered with the website.
I also read/heard reports that the OMNI parking lot was much more expensive and prohibitive. Frankly speaking, if you’ve got rooms for Momo, then parking should be included in there without dubious fees added to your stay. Again, what I’m trying to say is the parking should be free, or reasonably cheap, to those who are there specifically attending the convention. Other conventions I’ve been to in the southeast and northwest have managed to provide entirely free parking for attendees, so I don’t see why this can’t be a goal for Momo as well.
Food (and vending) was also an issue within the convention hall. Being as this is a congress center, the clientele is probably assumed to be important senators and other RICH folks during the rest of the year. Looks like someone forgot to adjust pricing for the 13 year old kid with 20 dollar allowance for this weekend…
4 dollars for a 20 oz beverage is frankly unacceptable. 12 dollars for a chicken sandwich combo from a cart inside the con center is crazy. Especially when the actual restaurant was within 5 minutes walking distance.
Add to the fact that water was only really available from disparately placed water coolers in SOME of the panel rooms, or from under performing water fountains near elevators (not even near restrooms!), and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Hydration is very important, and it can’t be stressed enough how crucial it is to preventing medical emergencies for attendees.
As far as food goes, the only saving grace was that the CNN center had an ample sized food court with generous hours, several options, and some of the places also served breakfast items, all at much more reasonable market prices. I had waffles and bacon one day with a cup of o.j for like 5 bucks.
I think many of the convention guests figured it out on their own that they could have food at the CNN center, especially near the end of the weekend as word spread. The distance was also very close, and didn’t require driving, which is great. In the future, Momo should encourage people (or at the very least make them aware) of all the food options so they can make informed decisions before jumping onto a severely overpriced bandwagon of shame and disappointment.
What would be nice would be a convenience store within walking distance that has reasonable prices. Sometimes you just want a bag of chips, a candy bar, or a soda at “not wallet destroying” prices. Some vendors had Japanese candies at OK prices (others not so much), but the closest convenience store with “normal pricing” I found was an Exxon gas station about a mile away in a bad portion of downtown.
I otherwise had a great time, and would definitely return. Maybe in the future I can run a panel I’m actually prepared for. We’ll see. But I guess there is a one elephant in the room that has to be addressed.
“Cosplay is not consent”
The “worst” part of the con was really reading the complaints on social media. I wasn’t cosplaying this year, but I tend to have a thick skin about those kinds of things anyway, so obviously I didn’t have to deal with any of the cosplay related issues some people had. Also, since I was there in a volunteering/Tokyo Attack staff capacity, people mostly respected me anyway, so it’s likely I wouldn’t have had any issues anyway.
This was an otherwise HUGE blemish on a event, for all intents and purposes, went extremely well. Heck, even the rave only had one person drop out from exhaustion (i.e. carted away by an ambulance) which is a lot better than what I can say at other anime raves I’ve been to.
I’ve already explained my thoughts on this on other places, but basically if you see something, say something. This kind of thing unfairly paints a picture on Momo that I don’t think the convention deserves. Cosplayers being groped isn’t a phenomenon unique to Momo, and it happens everywhere. We need to as a community come together and work on tackling this problem together. Just because you are in a convention hall for a weekend, as magical as it seems, does not mean you are immune to the problems and issues of society as a whole. The staff were on point with how they handled this situation, and rules and regulations were in effect way before this ever happened. It’s likely it will happen again. Our “job” as a community as it were is to help each other police this kind of behavior and really work, as a group, to target the actual trouble makers.
The people who did it are the creepers, jerks and punks that cross the boundaries. Blaming Momo for the actions of another is not fair, and purporting Momo as actively encouraging this type of behavior is ludicrous and slanderous. Momo has already made an official statement on the matter, and they’re working to rectifying every portion that was a problem.
And that’s a wrap
Thanks for reading if you made it this far, and I hope to see several of you next year! I had a great time, and please don’t let the report of one isolated incident discourage you from coming. Come see for yourself what makes this rapidly growing convention worth your time and effort to come. It will only get better with time, and I can see the positive effect the growth is having on the convention, both in attracting top quality guests as well as providing an entertaining experience for everyone attending.