Pop Con celebrates games, comics and culture

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The Wood Center multi-level lounge was taken over by hug flat screen TVs, desktop computers and oversized monitors for PopCon gaming tournaments. Many attendees did not participate in the tournaments, but brought their own laptops to the lounge to socialize with like-minded gamers. Ellamarie Quimby/Sun Star Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

Vendors, cosplayers, gamers and geeks flocked to Wood Center last weekend for Pop Con 6, the sixth iteration of the yearly pop culture convention.

Visitors to Pop Con were greeted by rows of vendors occupying the downstairs area of the Wood Center. Pop culture aficionados were able to peruse The Comic Shop’s table, which held everything from comics, to anime and video games. Other comic books featured were “Jeff & Taylor” or upstart “Red,” which are a little less mainstream. Other vendors offered kitsch and crafts like handmade Christmas ornaments or costumes.

Pop Con was sponsored by the Student Activities Office and the e-Sports Gaming Club and featured numerous competitions and contests, a keynote speaker, several gaming tournaments and a showing of the “Suicide Squad” and “Warcraft” movies.

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Claire Ketzler, a junior at Effie Kokrine Charter School, poses on stage during the PopCon cosplay contest on Saturday, Nov. 12. Her hand-made costume of Mercy from the video game "Overwatch" won her third place. Ellamarie Quimby/Sun Star Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

Among the booths was the Aurora Borealis Alaskan Outpost, a local branch of the 501st Legion. The legion is a organization of Star Wars cosplayers who dress in Stormtrooper uniforms and support charitable causes.

One booth was run by Kelsey Skonberg and her friend Katie Tasky, a duo better known as Mossy Stone Media. Kelsey, who has a background in video and photography, has been selling watercolor prints at Pop Con for several years now.

“I like to do commissions and give them to people within a couple hours or the end of the day. This is my third Pop Con selling [prints], and I’ve sold at SenshiCon once,” Skonberg said. “The first year especially was really surprising because, when I was a teenager I sold art and I never did so well, and then I came to Pop Con and did all these Pokemon things and I did way better than I thought I would.”

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Eric Bennett, a 2015 graduate of the Journalism program, won second place for his hand-embroidered costume of Terry Bogart, from the 1991 video game "King of Fighters." Ellamarie Quimby/Sun Star Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

In the multi-level lounge, swathes of gamers could be seen clustered around consoles and computers, either participating in one of the many tournaments being organized by the e-Sports Club or simply playing for fun. Tournaments were split across both days of the event, with “League of Legends” and “Soulcalibur” held Friday, and “Street Fighter” and “Smash Bros. 4” held Saturday.

“This is the first year where we’ve been working a lot more directly with SAO,” Danny Williams, who ran the club’s “League of Legends” tournament, said. “We’ve been going to their Pop Con meetings. They’ve been having us not just as a vendor but more as a partner. It’s a really big upgrade from last year’s [Pop Con].”

The competition that garnered the most attendance was the “Super Smash Bros. 4” tournament hosted by Lucas Acker, president of the Smash 4 Club. With 48 participants signed up, the tournament featured some competitors from outside Fairbanks.

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Steven Laszloffy, a digital media student, secured first place in Saturday’s PopCon cosplay contest with an entirely hand-sewn Hunstman costume. His costume was an adaptation of the Snow White character, which he had debuted at SenshiCon in Anchorage this past year. Ellamarie Quimby/Sun Star Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

“We had one player from Barrow named Len Ahgeak and one from Palmer named Jacob Glatt, who’s ranked sixth in the state of all Smash 4 Alaskan players,” Acker said.

This year, Pop Con was host to keynote speaker Zach Lowery, a senior animator at Boss Key Productions. Lowery previously worked as lead animator for “Saints Row 3” and “Saints Row 4.” He spoke about his experiences in game design and what prospective game designers should know that they’re never told.

Upstairs in the dining area of the Wood Center, two “Magic: The Gathering” card tournaments took place: one where players could use their own decks, the other where players had to build decks out of booster-card packs.

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Hannah Foss, the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce’s Artist of the Year for 2016, tables during PopCon with illustrations, stickers and postcards for sale. Hannah recently won a contest sponsored by Hainan Airlines and Dreamworks Pictures, to design a plane wrap for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner based on the Kung-Fu Panda movie. Hannah is a graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in computer art and now works for the Geophysical Institute as a CGI animator and graphic designer. Ellamarie Quimby/Sun Star

Next to the card tournaments were members of the Japan Alaska Club, selling curry and other foods to attendees; one member, Ryan “Bunny” Anderson, dressed up for the event, wearing a full maid’s costume and advertising the event throughout the Wood Center.

“I like the spirit of Pop Con,” Rod Espejo, a member of the Japan Alaska Club, said.

A cosplay contest was held in the Wood Center Ballroom, where anime, cartoon, and video game characters abounded. After lengthy deliberation, the judges awarded third place to Claire Ketzler, who dressed up as Mercy from “Overwatch,” second place to Eric Bennett as Terry Bogart from the “King of Fighters” video game series and first place to Steven Laszloffy, who cosplayed as a version of The Huntsman.

The final note that marked the end of both days of Pop Con was the showing of a movie in the Wood Center ballroom—on the first day, it was “Suicide Squad.”
On the second, it was “Warcraft.”

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