Pop goes off with a bang

By Daniel Thoman
Sun Star Reporter

At first it was just word of mouth, rumors of an event, a gathering of all things great and nerdy. Then, confirmation arrived in the form of posters, and there was a calendar of events and dates to look forward to. This past weekend, Pop-Con arrived at the Wood Center.

POP-CON organizer and UAF student employee Ryan Bateman plays with LEGOs in the Wood Center Multi-Level lounge on Saturday night. Bateman, a senior, worked in conjunction with the Student activities office to organize the three day event. Nina Schwinghammer / UAF Sun Star

Ryan Bateman of UAF’s Student Activities Office (SAO) and Josh Hovis of the Comic Shop were the two main driving forces behind Pop-Con, but it was Cody Rogers, Assistant Director of the SAO, who originally brought up the idea for a Con on campus. Work on the Con began in July, and preparations for it kicked into full gear in September. Bateman said it was then that the work became “all-consuming.” Finding places was the hardest part of the set-up, and Bateman hoped that a student club could be formed to help set up and run the Con next year along with SAO. Hovis said that one of the original ideas behind Pop-Con was that, “We wanted a lot of people to have a lot of fun for a lot of free.”

There were 12 vendors at the Con with a variety of things on display. Some, such as the Comic Shop and Forge of Ice were selling their goods. Others, such as the Mind’s Eye Theatre Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) group, were there to spread the word of their existence. Other attendees included the Queen’s Arctic Expeditionary League, the 501st Stormtrooper Legion, and Forget-Me-Not-Books. One of the Vendors, an artist named Lucas Elliot, was happy with the Con because it allowed him to get his name out into the public. He said he would enjoy coming back to Pop-Con, and would like to be more involved in setting it up.

Gaming of all sorts took place at Pop-Con, from a Starcraft 2 tournament on computers to various console game tournaments in the lounge, such as Street Fighter, Halo, Rock Band, and Super Smash Bros., to a pair of tabletop war-game tournaments for the systems of Warmachine and Warhammer 40K. The 40K tournament far exceeded the expectations of its creators, with at least 30 players attending.

There was a great deal of other things going on during the Con that weren’t necessarily vending or gaming involved. A steampunk goggle-making workshop was held, and there was a huge crate of Lego pieces brought for the purpose of people playing with them and having fun. A Zombie Survival Workshop was held Friday night, and various movies were shown on both Friday and Saturday nights, including “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” on Friday and the headliner documentary “Reformat the Planet” on Saturday, which is about chiptune music, or music made using old video game equipment. Following the documentary was a FAQ with the director and chiptune artist DJ Bit Shifter, who would also DJ the Superhero dance that was held in the Pub later that night.

Reactions were positive toward Pop-Con, even before the event began. Bateman said that more people than normal had come to the SAO office for information, and there had been a great deal of positive feedback. Chris Skidmore, an attendee who went to both nights of the Con in costume, enjoyed himself and said that for a first-year event, Pop-Con was a “big success.” He hoped to see more vendors next year, and thought that the creators could have used their space better. Lachlan Gillespie, a freshman and political science major, said that he had wished that the Warhammer tournament had started earlier, but the event as a whole was “fantastical.” Hovis said that his favorite part of the Con had been seeing the costumes, and “cheesy as it sounds, the smiles.” Hovis said that one of his biggest hopes for the next year is to see more families attending the event.

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