I have a confession to make: I have not attended Q-Con in some 10 years. I have no simple excuse other than, well, life gets in the way. Phew. That’s off my chest. On to the rest.
This year was the 21st year of Q-Con and it could boast of being the longest running convention in Northern Ireland. Run by Queen’s University Belfast’s Dragonslayers, Q-Con has always had a great tradition of specialising in gaming and anime. This was true 10 years ago when I last attended and it certainly was true this year again, but only bigger and better.
10 years ago the convention was mostly located within the Whitla Hall at Queen’s University Belfast with movie screenings at the Queen’s Film Theatre across the road. This year it has expanded to the point that it now takes over the QUB’s Students’ Union as well as locating their CCGs to Elmwood Hall and roleplaying games to the South Dining Hall. This was a very shrewd decision on the part of the organisers as it meant gamers were able to get away from the main buzz of the Students’ Union and get on with their tournaments in some relative peace.
Within the Students’ Union itself the con was very well organised with each level dedicated to a different function. Ground floor was for registration, tabletop games and the Q-ED Sessions. What are Q-ED Sessions? Think of TED Talks featuring artists and game designers but centred on local talent. These sessions were great for hearing how to get the funding and support for whatever project you have in mind as well as allowing attendees to benefit from learning from the experience as well as the highs and lows of those giving the talks.
The first floor was dedicated to gaming in all sorts of electronic forms from handhelds, consoles, PCs and even a dance mat. It was surreal watching Altaïr tackle a dance off at one stage. He was a nifty mover.
Second floor aka the Snack Bar was the trading floor as well as Artists’ Alley. This was a dangerous place to go into with a full wallet with stalls selling every type of geekery one could want from Totoro key rings to tea and cosplay weaponry. The Artists’ Alley was full of interesting individuals all offering something for everyone and not just the traditional pen/pencil/paint on paper. This included one stall specialising in nail art and another in balloons.
Also contained within the Snack Bar were a number of game companies showing off demonstrations from computer games to tabletops such as the very fun Luchador published by Backspindle Games.
Last, but not least, the third floor was dedicated to anime talks and events as well as screenings.
Also dotted around the site were events such as Johann Sebastian Joust, a game which does not contain graphics and the only equipment the players use are motion controllers, such as the PlayStation Move. One of the players on Sunday was Jesus. I suppose what else is he supposed to do on the holy day of rest? I had a go at the game and unfortunately my lack of ability in determining timing got me knocked out of games very quickly! Thankfully no videos exist of my embarrassing attempts at playing but check this one out instead:-
Of course, it would not be a convention without cosplay and there was plenty on show and pretty high quality as well. It’s a mystery however that there were no car accidents from the gawpers who slowed down to stare at the cosplayers gathered outside of the Students’ Union. Trying to explain cosplay to utterly confused taxi drivers seemed to be something many attendees had to endure at some point during the weekend! Of course there were the perennial favourites: Assassin’s Creed, various Marvel/DC Universe, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Pokémon, etc and then there were plenty from the more obscure branches of anime/Manga culture here than at a more populist event like MCM’s Belfast Comic Con, which was held only two weeks before Q-Con. It’s nice to see Belfast/Northern Ireland having an outlet such as Q-Con for cosplay, and with MCM and the upcoming Belfast Film & Comic Con in October, there are now certainly more avenues for cosplayers to show off their skills. Unfortunately I had to miss the cosplay masquerade which is held on the Sunday.
I was very impressed at how much Q-Con has expanded over the years. Organisation was efficient with each guest receiving lanyards containing a small laminated booklet with all the information you could need for the weekend together with plenty of posters confirming times for various events and screenings. This meant attendees were kept well informed of the goings on at the con. This year boasted over 7,000 attendees and it’s not an easy job keeping this many people both entertained and informed which Q-Con did so admirably. It will be interesting to see how Q-Con expends over the next 10 years but I definitely will not be waiting that long to attend again!
Q-Con returns next year for its 22nd year from 19th June to 21st June 2015.
More information can be found at: http://www.q-con.org.uk/