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Justin Webb: CuddleCon 2010

Column By Justin Webb on March 23, 2010

As each new spring begins, I get very excited … It’s the beginning of convention season.

At some point about three or four years ago, conventions became awesome. Prior to that, there were comic shows and there were game trade shows. Both were great of course, but they definitely catered solely to just their own facet of the Nerdiverse.

About that time, Hollywood began to take notice and started using some cons (especially San Diego Comicon) as a marketing device. “You mean I can go buy some comics AND watch a panel with the stars of my favorite TV show. I’m going!” Then video games finally got smart and decided to show up at comic shows too instead of just game-trade shows. So now, we really have “genre” conventions that feature comics; TV/movie panels; celebrity meet n’ greets; video-game booths … everything a growing geek needs. The end result is that nowadays there is much more likely to be video-game presence at a show than, say, five years ago.

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Most big publishers have a “booth” that they take to all the big cons. Going to a convention can be an excellent way of getting some hands-on time with a game prior to its release. Often, developers get sent with the booth to help out, so you can chat with the people who actually made the game.

Sometimes, big news “breaks” at a convention. This year, I’m hoping there’ll be some kind of announcement about “Copernicus” at Pax East. Fingers crossed.

However, while conventions can be awesome, they also have a sordid underbelly.

I must admit that this story really isn’t about MMORPGs, but readers, I need your help. While I love checking out new games, my favorite part of a convention is meeting the “celebrities”. In 2007 I witnessed something strange at a convention; something so bizarre that no one believes me. There is proof out there, but it must be uncovered, which is why I need your help.

I went to Dragoncon 2007 on Mythic’s dime. The plan was two-fold: to talk to Jamie Bamber about doing some voice work; and then to try and get footage of every celebrity we could find, preferably with them wearing the WAR white sunglasses and/or Waaagh!-ing. Dragoncon 2007 was the first time I can remember there being a photo-op “room”, where basically, you pay the company running the room a bunch of money and then you get a “professional” candid photo taken with the celebrity of your choice.

We had arranged to meet Jamie Bamber at the photo-op room. While we were waiting for him to arrive, using a jedi mind trick and my trusty blagged press pass, I snuck inside the photo-op room and sat down quietly at the back. I got to watch. I got to experience firsthand … CUDDLECON!

First up was Jamie Bamber. Jamie was very courteous and friendly with his fans. Pretty much how you would expect a celebrity to behave during a photo-op. Standing close, but with no overt hugging, and with a big toothy grin. Firm handshake after the picture, a bit of chit-chat, and a nice sincere thank-you as you are escorted out. Very professional. Next! He even did a group picture with his fan club Bamber’s Bunnies, who follow him around from con to con.

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Justin Webb
Justin Webb is a veteran MMO designer and curmudgeon who has worked for Hasbro, EA, and Tencent.

Justin's column will appear every Tuesday here at MMORPG.com.
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