Here is the much promised write-up of the London Comic Con, which took place last weekend. I realise this is very different from the stuff I usually write about – it isn’t just about video games for one thing, but what the hell, I figure it’s something you guys would enjoy reading about, since you guys are probably all geeks or at least geek-curious, right? Also, bold statements like ‘I met Commander Shepard and Kaidan Alenko’ need to be backed up by documentary evidence! Unlike my usual posts, this one is doesn’t really have a point, other to show you guys some awesome costumes I saw and to share with you guys a few experiences I had while there. I confess that although I did play a couple of demos, I didn’t really focus on the gaming side of the con at all, so I won’t be covering anything substantive about upcoming games at all. This post is intended as more of a fun look at an up and coming convention. I hope you guys enjoy it!
NOTE: This post is coming a bit late, because (for those of you not on Twitter) I was on a plane Monday/Tuesday flying back to Hong Kong to visit my family. I’ll be away for two weeks, but not to worry, I’ll still be updating as usual. Other Sam (Grumbl3dook) will be holding down the fort in terms of uploading videos, so you may notice that he’ll be writing up the video blog posts until I return to the UK (I’ll be preemptive and tell you guys not to believe any of his slanderous lies – I wasn’t there! I didn’t do it! It was someone else!) The only minor change will be that I will not be uploading my usual Amnesia videos until I return. Instead, there should be an Oculus Rift video up this Saturday and possibly a Dota 2 video up next Saturday. After that, things should return to normal!
Did you have fun? What was it like?
We had tons of fun! The MCM Expo isn’t one of the biggest cons out there, but every year it attracts more people. It’s held twice a year during May and October. I attended the one back in October as well and the growth is really evident. The tickets don’t really sell out like many of the biggest conventions, but to be honest, I’m quite enjoying the fact that it’s busy, but not suffocatingly jam-packed (although Saturdays do get a bit crazy). Fridays are much quieter and personally I love it. I get to take my time buying up all the stuff I want to, without constantly being elbowed out of the way. Also, if I hadn’t gone on Friday, would I have managed to nab these? Not likely methinks:
If it gets any bigger (which it probably will) they might end up needing to hold it at a new venue. At the moment they can just about manage it on Saturdays! Like many conventions it covers video games, anime, manga, sci-fi and more. Oddly enough, even though it’s often called London Comic Con, the only thing it’s seriously lacking in is comics! It would be nice to see a few more comic book bigwigs there in the future.
The best things about the MCM Expo are without a doubt the signings and cosplay! I may be biased of course, because the two times I’ve been, there have been Mass Effect voice actors in attendance, so that pretty much made my weekend.
COSPLAY! Man, I love seeing all the awesome costumes! Unfortunately, I yet again failed to get a costume together in time, but I was content with ogling everyone else’s. I will do it next time though, you’ll see! It’ll be amazing! Alright, now that I’ve set your expectations at unrealistically high, let’s get on with those pics!
Meeting Commander Shepard and Kaidan Alenko
I spent much of my time lining up to meet these guys I’ll admit, but it was totally worth it! Raphael Sbarge (Kaidan) was just the sweetest guy. It took forever to get to him, because he spent so much time talking to every person, so you better believe that I milked it when I finally got my chance to chat to him! I’m pretty sure all the words I said came out in the right order and I didn’t make too large a fool of myself, because he smiled and responded instead of looking at me like I’d grown another head. He was there mainly for the TV show he’s in called ‘Once Upon a Time’, but judging from all the Mass Effect memorabilia everyone in the line was holding, I’m pretty sure most of us were there for Mass Effect. Did I already mention how nice he was? He was really nice. Super nice. I also wanted to kidnap him, but Sam said no again (he’s a bit of party pooper sometimes).
By the time I tried to buy tickets for the Mark Meer signing on Saturday they were sold out. You know the phrase ‘selling like hotcakes’? They should change it to ‘selling like tickets to a Mark Meer signing’, because DAMN they sell quickly. As a result, I woke up super early the next morning, so I’d be there when the con opened and Sam and I managed to bag two tickets. They sold out within the hour and because of the huge demand they opened up another signing in the afternoon. I knew that if I couldn’t get Mark Meer to sign my Mass Effect art book, I’d follow him around the globe until I could, but I’m glad it worked out this way. I was so happy to meet him, you have no idea. I kept telling Sam to ‘shut up’ so I could stare without interruption at Mark Meer while I was waiting in line. Luckily he didn’t take offense as he knows how obsessed I am. When I finally got to meet up, he turned out to be as nice a guy as I’d expected (even for a Canadian)! He was in a bit of a rush by the time he got to us, because he had to get to the talk on the Games Stage, which I attended (see below) and he’d already spent a lot of time talking to everyone in front us in the line, but he still really made an effort to chat, even though I was probably just muttering a lot of useless crap. He also did Commander Shepard-esque poses for pics whenever people asked for them (I didn’t, because I was focusing on trying to act natural and not obsessed like I truly am).
Yes, I do realise I’m wearing my N7 t-shirt like in my pics from the last con I went to, but I swear I do have other clothes and I don’t just wear that N7 t-shirt every day! I wore it last time as well, because there were Mass Effect people I wanted to get autographs from. It usually proves to be a good idea, because they pretty much always comment on it (like Raphael Sbarge did). The only person who didn’t comment on it was, oddly enough, Mark Meer (Commander Shepard himself)!
I attended two panels over the course of the weekend – one on the Cosplay Stage and the other on the Games Stage. Both were, surprise surprise, Mark Meer panels (I’m not obsessed at all really)! In case you didn’t realise this, Mark Meer is a giant geek. The first ‘acting training’ he received was by being a Dungeon Master during Dungeon & Dragons games. He’s more of a traditional, hardcore nerd than I am or pretty much most of the geeks I’ve met in my life (and that’s seriously saying something). He’s also a huge gamer, cosplayer and regular convention attendee (as a fan – although I guess that’s probably changed now that he’s gotten so big). During the cosplay panel, he chatted about his love of RPGs and open world games (like Baldur’s Gate and Skyrim). He’s also been with Bioware for a really long time and voice acted for them many many times. Unfortunately, I only managed to get one pic of him during the whole time he was on stage, because that guy never stops moving! I can’t remember what his costume was from (let me know if any of you have any idea). He also mentioned that he likes to cosplay as Commander Shepard when he does signings if he can, but that means his suitcase is reserved for the N7 armour and he has to stuff all his actual clothes into the bag he takes on the plane. See, this is why I’d rather hang out with Mark Meer above pretty much any of the Hollywood actors or video game voice actors out there. He’s a huge, dedicated geek and he’s proud of it. As he said during the talk, the benefit of this is that whenever he voice acts for stuff like Baldur’s Gate, they don’t have to explain any of the concepts or characters to him like they have to do for non-gamers. He knows his stuff.
On the Games Stage the next day, there was a surprise guest – Mr Raphael Sbarge himself! He only stayed for a little bit, but it was amazing seeing them together. I couldn’t really get any good pics of them, because I’m no photographer and it was tricky trying to get good shots from where we were sitting. They chatted about the difficulties of voice acting and their experiences of working on Mass Effect. They explained how neither of them really had much leeway in terms of how they acted their lines, because both of them had counterparts (FemShep and Ashley) who they had to match. If Jennifer Hale went first, Mark pretty much had to follow her lead, but if he got to do a specific line first then he had some creative control in how he wanted to voice it. In terms of plot or the wording of the lines they had no input at all, but as they said, that wasn’t really an issue since the writers of Mass Effect were so talented.
Mark also discussed what it was like providing the voice of Commander Shepard. He discussed the progression of the character of Shepard over the three games and how that affected his acting. In ME1 he was often told to express less emotion, because at that point Shepard was just your dutiful soldier, so he wasn’t really supposed get emotional at all. As the trilogy progressed, he was allowed to really be a lot more free with it as Shepard grew more comfortable and open with his comrades and became more than just your regular Alliance soldier. He also explained some of the difficulties he faced with having to voice both renegade and paragon options. There were many lines of dialogue shared between both routes, which meant that they always had to be voiced very neutrally so that it didn’t seem like Shepard was prone to wild mood swings.
For those of you who don’t know this, Bioware used Mark as to develop all the alien voices in the Mass Effect Triology. He also actually voices the whole of many of the alien races such as the hanar, the vorcha and many of the volus, including Niftu Cal (the ‘Biotic God’). I think he also voiced the elcor, but I’m not sure about that one and I can’t seem to find any info about it online. Whichever Shepard you prefer (both were great in my opinion, although Mark’s Shepard will always be my favourite) Mark is clearly a multi-talented voice actor, capable of both serious and comedic roles. He says that he hopes to return for any future Mass Effect games (although they’re still in the early stages yet, so there won’t be any info on that for a while). Considering how many of the alien races are voiced entirely by him, it seems likely they probably will bring him back for those roles at least!
At the end, Mark very kindly spent about 15 minutes saying whatever the audience wanted him to say in his Commander Shepard voice. My favourite was ‘KHAAAAAAAAAANN!’
Mark’s an awesome guy. I’d love to kidnap-I mean chat with him more in the future. I’ll be honest, part of my desire to become a games journalist is so that I’ll get to interview him properly someday (as well as other people of course, but mainly him). Creepy? Probably, but you guys are probably used to it by now, right?
Yikes, so this seemed to be more Mass Effect-oriented than I thought it would be, but there you go! I hope you enjoyed my write-up of the MCM Expo! Let me know if you’d like to see more of this in the future. I’m planning to attend more cons, especially in the US and Canada, so hopefully I’ll get to meet many of you guys there too!