The Escapist Expo Report: Why You Should Check It Out

There are many conventions, expos, and tradeshows spanning across the US. They range from gaming, to movies, to anime, to music and everything in between. The Escapist decided to throw their hat into the ring this year, and I had the opportunity to attend. For a first attempt in organizing an expo they did phenomenal. They had an artist alley, a full set of panels, exhibitors, free play areas and fans abound. Planning an event like this isn’t easy. You have no way to account for the number of people doing anything; everything is a guessing game when it comes to your first expo. How many people are coming? Can we expect everyone who pre-registered to be there, and how many more will come aside from them? Is anyone going to want to participate in the cosplay contest? How many volunteers do we need to put at the doors, at the registration desk, ect. Escapist Expo didn’t only jump these hurdles, they flew. There was barely a hiccup the entire time. The show was a success, and I feel like if they choose to do it again it will only grow. For now we’ll look at some of the highlights from the first ever Escapist Expo.

The Escapist Expo had a lot of panels. There were about three panels going on at once every hour and a half for six or so hours. Saturday had the most panels, and also the most attendees. Given the amount of extra people who had to miss panels due to them filling up, I feel as though they weren’t expecting some of the panels to be as much a success as they were. The Escapist panels filled up the fast unsurprisingly, but there were panels for just about everything. From PhD to discussing the art of game mechanics to employees of Insomniac giving tips on how to get into the video game industry, and even panels featuring  some of the worlds best Magic: The Gathering players, the Escapist Expo really did have a place for everybody. Due to the fact there was almost always and Escapist panel going on some of the other panels were painfully empty, but there are always going to be preferred panels at conventions and expos.

Exhibitor Show Floor
The exhibitor hall had about ten booths set up. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s because it isn’t. A lack of playable demos and merchants made the show floor a bit disappointing, but the inclusion of the American Classic Arcade Museum was all the apology I needed. Though the few times I was around the arcade museum it seemed a little empty, many people I spoke to mentioned the attraction as being their favorite down-time area at the expo. Despite the lack of shops and demos in the room there was always something to see and do in the exhibitor hall.  You could get a picture with one of the D20 girls and sign up for the cosplay contest, wander around looking at the shops set up on the floor, try your hand at old arcade games specifically meant to make you lose, or watch players compete in the video game tournaments that were being held throughout the room.

The Physical Events
During the entire expo, going on all day, you had the chance to participate in Humans Vs. Zombies and Chest High Walls. I didn’t actually have the chance to play in either event due to how busy I was with everything else, but I really wanted to. I know a lot of people were looking for groups to join in Chest High Walls with them, so I am really not sure how it did overall. In regards to Humans Vs. Zombies, during the entire weekend of the Expo you could find people everywhere you went wearing their Human or Zombie bandannas and carrying around Nerf guns.

The Gaming Events
On top of the physical activities happening all weekend us gamers might not particularly be fond of, there were also video game and Magic: The Gathering tournaments happening during the entire duration of the expo. For $10 you could buy an all-access pass that would allow you to participate in any console tournament. The games you could compete in were: Gears of War 3, Halo: Reach, Mortal Combat, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Super Street Fighter IV, and Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. The Gears of War and Ghost Recon tournaments were all free to participation, but the $10 pass allowed you to play in the other tournaments and receive additional prizes. On top of the console tournaments there were also Magic: The Gathering tournaments all weekend. These ranged from Two-Headed Giant Sealed, to Magic 2013 sealed, to Innistrad block sealed, and there were even drafts that were firing off every time they got enough registrants. There were many magic players in the large play rooms, so it was always easy to find someone to challenge.

Gamers Helping Gamers Charity
Not long ago, some of the top ranking players in the Magic: The Gathering tournaments decided to create a charity to benefit other magic players. These players included the likes of Jon Finkel, world champion, and Bob Maher, Player of the Year. These players were present during the event, along with president of the charity and avid MTG player, Tim McKenna. A large tournament was being held to raise funds for the charity. The prizes were donated by artists and card shops alike, with the top prize being a Mox Sapphire donated by Atomic Empire. The tournament was only $25 dollars to enter; pennies for a chance to walk away with a Mox Sapphire. Jon Finkel, Bob Maher and Tim McKenna were also on sight all weekend to offer players help with deck construction, tips for playing, or even to play games with attendees themselves. Jon and Bob were also present to speak in two Magic themed panels.

Cosplay Contest
Much of the Escapist staff were worried about a number of things in regards to guessing numbers at the expo. One of them was the question of how many people would actually participate in the cosplay contest? Saturday night rolled around, and the staff couldn’t be happier. There were a lot of applicants in every category, and all the participants were willing to put on a show for their cosplays. Audiences helped judge the winners based on the sound of their cheering, and a judges panel of five made the final decisions. Prizes were handed out, and everyone seemed to have a great time. This is definitely something that should become an annual event at the Escapist Expo.

VIP Treatment
For $15 and registering on the website you could upgrade your weekend pass to VIP. But what was it like being a VIP? What were the perks, and were they worth it? In my opinion, yes. But also in my opinion, some of the perks given to the VIP members were things the general attendees should also have had access to. Being a VIP granted to a “swag bag”. These bags contained a 30 card intro deck from MTG and a journal courtesy of one of the sponsors, Kalypso. You also got a four pack of red bull to carry around with you all day. If The Escapist continues to have expos in the future, which I certainly hope they do, swag bags for all attendees are something they should make available. Free things are always a highlight of shows, and while VIP swag bags might encourage more VIP passes sold, general free things might encourage more overall registration. As a VIP you were also first in line for most events. That includes the Saturday Night Shindig which featured the Cosplay Contest judging and musical performances. You also got slightly early access into the Expo as VIP members were allowed to wait in the hallway just before the exhibit hall entrance.

I believe The Escapist Expo was a success, and I certainly hope they will be doing it again next year. Though moving it to a larger convention center would probably be a good marketing idea, I would certainly miss the more personal experience; not to mention the super cheap parking that was available during it. I definitely support it growing and adding more content in future shows, and to do that they will definitely need a bigger hall.

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  1. Yeah, the show was really fantastic. I’m glad they have been putting the videos up on the site because there were a ton of great panels! I can’t wait for them to put up Magic As Therapy because, unfortunately, I was in another panel at the time and missed it.

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