Inside the Indie Games Room at AVCon

A sneak peek into some new and upcoming games that appeared at AVCon.


Now in its eighth year, the Indie Games Room (IGR) is the prime area to check out new and upcoming games by local developers at the Adelaide Anime and Video Game Convention (AVCon). In previous years IGR has hosted many great local titles, including the popular 2D platformer Hollow Knight. Here are some standout games that on display in the IGR this year.

Cardboard Carnage by Cardboard Kids

Making its debut in 2019, Cardboard Carnage is a game developed by Cardboard Kids, a development team made of TAFE SA students. The game was made using Unreal Engine and is inspired by games like Psychonauts and similar games from the original Xbox – early Xbox 360 era (2003-2007). There is currently no release date for Cardboard Carnage.

Homeowner by Birdrun

Developed by William Newman and Ashleigh Hanson, Homeowner is a 2D top down survival game developed during a Global Game Jam. The premise of the game is trying to survive the daily life of being a homeowner. This is explored through maintaining your character through basic needs, like income, sleep, food and entertainment, similar to a Sim. Its pixel art style and colour palette are inspired by games created for the Commodore 64 in the 1980s. While Homeowner made its AVCon debut in 2019, Newman and Hanson have previously made appearances in IGR before. The game can be downloaded for free here.

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The team at Manatech in IGR.

Little Reaper by Little Reaper Games

Little Reaper is a 2.5D platformer that follows Ollie, the assistant to the Grim Reaper. Other titles like Ducktales and Hollow Knight have been listed as inspirations for this title. The game has been developed in the Unity game engine alongside C# coding. Little Reaper Games’ debuted at AVCon this year, but Little Reaper has appeared at Australian PAX, bar one, during its six-year development. Developer Adam Robertson says they hope to release the game on PC later in 2019. There are plans to port the game for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Check out their website here.

Manatech by Drunk Galah

Manatech is a top down fantasy twin stick shooter for PC. The game has players selecting characters to pit against each other in an arena during a time limit. Developer Peter Cowen said its art style was inspired by World of Warcraft (circa 2010) and Battlerite. Developed in Unreal Engine and this is the third time Manatech has been featured in the IGR at AVCon. While there is no release date so far, the developers plan on releasing to Steam Early Access within the next year with console ports coming later on. Check out Drunk Galah’s website here.

Rooftop Renegade by Melonhead Games

Returning for their second AVCon, Rooftop Renegade is a 2D side scrolling platformer set in a futuristic city. The game was developed using Unreal Engine and its art style is described by the developers as “Pixar meets sci-fi”. Melonhead Games held several competitions over the weekend around the game and were selling stickers of the game, which were designed by local artist Kayla Woods. They are hoping to sell Rooftop Renegade at the next AVCon.  For more information on Melonhead Games, check out our Spotlight feature here and their website here.

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Rooftop Renegade on display.

Tinker & Spell by Anthony Robinson

Developed in Unity, Tinker & Spell is a 2D Metroidvania side scrolling platformer made its AVCon debut in 2019. The game has been worked on by its developers for the last six months and has an anime-inspired art style. Its primary narrative focus is around a collapsed civilisation and magic working alongside robot tech. There is currently no release date for this game, but you can check out their The Rookies page here.

 


These are only some of the games on display in the IGR during AVCon in 2019. For a full list of the games present check out the link to the IGR website here.

Words and images by Cameron Lowe

 

An Overview of AVCon 2019

The weekend where Anime and Video Games rule Adelaide’s CBD.

The Adelaide Anime and Video Game Convention (AVCon) has been uniting a community of pop culture fans for sixteen years. It has also become the prime convention to try out upcoming local games and sample the latest anime series. There was a little bit of everything for everyone there, from gaming and anime, to indie art and cosplay.

Gaming Goodness

Gamers were spoiled for choice throughout the event. Nintendo were back again, giving the wider public a chance to try out their latest and greatest first-party games for the Nintendo Switch. StreetGeek returned, offering an old-fashioned LAN (Local Area Network) experience with games like CounterStrike: Global Offensive and StarCraft. Retrospekt offered a free chance to experience classic consoles like the Commodore 64 and Super Nintendo, as well as gaming magazines from the late 1990s-early 2000s. Numerous speed-runners and tournaments also took place for some extra fun. Games that could be played in tournaments included old favourites like Super Smash Bros. and League of Legends. Tabletop gamers were covered too, with a number of roleplaying and board games on offer to play, like Call of Cthulhu and Settlers of Catan.

 

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The Nintendo Switch stand

Anime Galore

Anime lovers were spoilt for choice as well. Madman’s stall was full of manga, anime and J-Pop artists. Some interesting things on sale at this stall were artbooks from the Studio Ghibli films. Animeworks sold a variety of Japanese anime figurines and toys. If shopping isn’t your thing, there are always plenty of screenings by Madman and Hannabee. Special guests this year included Paul St. Peter, the voice actor for Punch in Cowboy BeBop: The Movie and Kurama in Naruto, and a livestreaming event with Spike Spencer (Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion).

Indies Assemble

Indie artists has become one of the fastest growing areas of AVCon. Artist’s Alley is the place to go for fan made art to pick up something unique. One standout stall was The Bee’s Knees, where one could purchase a Splatoon heat-pack or select stickers and badges*. Conventions like AVCon are one of the few places where you can check out these artists with their work on display. The Indie Games Room (IGR) was the other main indie zone at the event. It is where Australian game developer’s community came to show off their latest projects. Games like Melonhead GamesRooftop Renegade and Drunk Galah’s Manatech were available to try out and offer feedback to the developers.

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Artist’s Alley

Cosplayer Paradise

The AVCon experience would not be complete without the almost endless number of cosplayers. All over the event, people came dressed as their favourite anime or video game characters. A personal favourite was a cosplayer dressed as Malon from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The places to check out the best of the best were in the Cosplay Competition and parades which occurred throughout the event. Anyone interested in Lolita also had a chance to learn more about the fashion or participate in a Lolita parade.

Verdict

AVCon is one of the prime pop culture conventions in Adelaide. With many great games to try out and pop culture goods to pick up, AVCon proved once again to be a success. If you haven’t been but love games and anime, definitely check it out when it returns next year. It is one of the many friendly places where you can check out pop culture in Adelaide.

 


Words by Cameron Lowe

 

* Connect with The Bees Knees through facebook, instagram, or etsy.

Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair 2019

The Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair is one of the major events for pop culture memorabilia, toys and comics in Adelaide. Now in its sixth year, the event opened at the Marden Sports Complex (MARS) in Marden on April 14. After enjoying my first visit in 2018, I decided to once again go along again and like last year, this didn’t disappoint.

The first thing that caught my attention as soon as I entered the MARS Complex was the sheer size of this event. It was far bigger than the one I attended in 2018, which was held in the German Club on Flinders Street. It took up almost the entirety of the complex and had numerous stalls all filled with toys, comics and pop culture goodness. Visitors could buy Star Wars figurines, VCRs of classic movies like Alien and the latest comics from Greenlight Comics.

Like many of these events, there are always at least two standout items on sale. This year there was a sealed box of a Sega 32X, an add-on for the Sega Mega Drive. Sold by King Kaiju Collections, one would be paying of upwards of $1,000 to own this strange but unique history of Sega. The other item was a tea pot shaped as the genie from Aladdin (1992) one would pay about $49.95 for.

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Representing local creators at this year’s event included Dark Oz, Matt J. Pike and Dr. Mike 2000. Alongside his usual items of horror and sci-fi comics, Dark Oz owner Darren Koziol was selling Laserdiscs. One standout of this collection was a copy of Titanic. Pike was selling his books which include the Apocalypse series, which is a post-apocalyptic series set in Adelaide. Dr. Mike 2000 sold his Universe Gun comic series, a collection of twelve volumes which is basically Yellow Submarine meets sci-fi.

A number of different pop culture clubs and societies were present at the event too. One of these included Starship Mawson, a local sci-fi and fantasy society. In attendance of this stall included the society’s founder, pop culture historian and avid Tintin fan Stuart A. Blair. Fresh of the heels of the Franco-Belgian Comics exhibition at Supanova, Blair once again had a small display of Tintin memorabilia for attendees to enjoy.

If there are any criticisms for the Comic and Toy Fair this year it would be the venue itself. While the MARS Complex was massive, there was little to no air conditioning or fans available on the day. It was a warm day and inside was stuffy and hot, distracting from the enjoyment. The complex too is in an inconvenient location for those who don’t drive, which would have held some people back from attending.

The 2019 Adelaide and Comic Toy Fair is by far bigger and better than last year’s event. It’s still one of the prime events for pop culture, comic and collectible lovers around Adelaide. Entry this year was $4, more than last year, but still worth it considering the treasures waiting to be discovered.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Super Indie: Indie Fiction at Supanova

Indie fiction was the rising star at Adelaide’s Supanova convention in 2018. Indie fiction being a title self- published by the author rather than a house publisher. As part of Artist Alley’s Indie Press Zone, indie authors and publishers have become more prevalent at Supanova in recent years, and are now a part of the core experience. This prevalence has increased as the tools to self-publish have become more accessible. At the 2018 event I attended panels by local indie authors and had a chance to speak with some of them. Below are just some of the interesting discoveries I made about both indie fiction and the convention.

Kylie Leane, author of Chronicles of the Children series, is one of the longest exhibiting local indie authors at Supanova. She began selling her books at Supanova in 2013 and has seen the community and enthusiasm around indie fiction grow since then. She was only one of two indie authors in 2013 and only had half a booth in a very small Artist Alley. This began to grow slowly over the years, becoming four authors by her third year and now roughly 15-20 authors (fiction and comics included) as of 2018. Leane has also said she likes the enthusiasm the Supanova committee has for indie fiction. This support has been to the aligning of their interests and passion for the craft.

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Indie publishing appeals to some writers because of the opportunity for representing diversity Katie Fraser, author of Realm of the Lilies series, said indie fiction has given an outlet for people to tell their stories without gatekeepers, be it an agent or a head editor of a publishing company. This was a recurring criticism of traditional publishers, mentioned also in panels by authors like Maria Lewis, writer of The Witch Who Courted Death, who has been published both independently and traditionally. Even these authors have said self-publishing allows diverse voices to emerge, especially for stories traditional publishing may see as difficult to market even though they might be good. These diverse voices can be ones related to gender, disability, and minority voices to name a few.

This idea of gatekeeping makes indie fiction more appealing to some writers. Matt J. Pike, author the Apocalypse series, compared indie fiction to the Adelaide Fringe and traditional publishing to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The Adelaide Fringe offers a wide range of different performances where performers can experiment with their craft, compared to the Adelaide Festival, which has a more traditional arts and arts representation. Pike was encouraged to turn to indie publishing because of the long waits on hearing from agents and publishers. This frustration was also felt by Fraser, it would take months to hear from an agent and then even more time for a publisher to respond to a submission. This is what drove her to go indie with her first book, Through the Fig Tree, in 2016. However, aforementioned authors have said there is some hurdles that you will face by going indie. One of these is that you will be doing a lot of the hard work like advertising and hiring artists yourself. The authors have mentioned too that it is best to know or hire a great structural and line editor to help with your project.

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Many indie authors mentioned the local indie community is a major benefit to them. Fraser said the indie community is amazing and they often catch up with each other, be it at Supanova or at dinners. Pike said that there is amazing support from within the community for each other.

When asked what advice they would give anyone interested in going indie, the aforementioned indie authors gave a similar response: “Just do it.” Both Fraser and Leane stressed the importance of knowing someone who is a good editor. Both were lucky to know good editors, but Fraser says you can also find good editors through Twitter as well. She also says to write what you know and that there’s no right or wrong in the indie world. The world of indie fiction offers a chance for all voices to be heard, regardless of genre or idea.

The genuine enthusiasm Supanova has for local indie fiction is undeniable looking at the schedule for 2018. Over the course of the weekend, there were at least three panels dedicated to indie authors. These were spread over comics and fiction, all headlined by local indie authors. This is a vast improvement compared to a few years ago, where an occasional indie author would join one of Supanova’s literary panels. It shows Supanova is eager to promote local indie fiction at their events and to give these authors more publicity.

Going indie allows you to get your stories out there, even if they’ve been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers. If your work is experimental then it can become a good place for you to showcase it to a niche audience. Indie publishing is a growing field, and certainly something to consider when delving into the publishing world.


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Franco-Belgian Comics at Supernova 2018

Supanova Adelaide had a new addition to its line-up of events this year: a Franco-Belgian comics exhibition. A first for Supanova, the Franco-Belgian comics exhibition was a booth dedicated to European pop culture icons like Tintin, The Smurfs, and Asterix. This exhibition was hosted by Stuart A. Blair, an Adelaide pop culture historian and avid pop culture fan.

Blair says the idea of the Franco-Belgian comics exhibition was put forward by the organisers at Supanova. They had never had an exhibition quite like it before and there wasn’t as much on European pop culture compared to American pop culture. This exhibition’s presence allowed a light to be cast on the pop culture icons of European pop culture.

Some of the eye-catching pieces at the exhibition included dioramas from the Adventures of Tintin series. An example of one of these is seen below, with Tintin and Snowy travelling towards a castle. This diorama is based off the seventh volume in the series The Black Island (1938). When asked about the dioramas, Blair said the figurines were bought during his international travels and at auctions. The backgrounds were designed in France and taken from scenes within the stories. Other displays from Tintin included figurines of Captain Haddock and Belgian copies of the original adventures.  

Other exhibit displays in the collection outside of Tintin included graphic novels of Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat), an original daybill poster of Asterix in Britain (1986), and a set-up of the gold mine from Lucky Luke. One of the unique pieces in the collection though was a 1941 copy of le Journal de Spirou. The reason why this is so, Blair says, was because of the shortage of paper in German occupied France and Belgium during Second World War. Alongside this as well was issue one of Le Petit Vingtième (1937), which featured the first story of Tintin published.  

For those who are interested in European pop culture and comics, Stuart says there are many exhibitions in the near future. He is currently looking into getting exhibitions going on at libraries and local museums around Adelaide, one dedicated to French pop-culture and another for retro pop culture.

If you are interested in finding out more information on Stuart A. Blair, check out his website below.

http://www.stuartablair.com/


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Steampunk Festival 2018

You watch steam blow from the locomotive’s chimney as it sits idly at the station. Men and women dressed in Victorian fashion walk along the platform around you, smiling and taking photos. Your eyes catch a market set up on the other side of the locomotive. Here, you see a multitude of arts and crafts, books, and antiques for sale. Your attention, although, is on the strange contraption at the edge of the market. It looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel. The inventor of this device calls it: Virtual Reality. You put it on and reality disappears as you reappear on the bridge of an airship in the midst of a battle.

No, this isn’t fiction. This was, in fact, September 15-16 at the Adelaide Steampunk Festival at the National Railway Museum (NRM) in Port Adelaide. For one weekend, the NRM came alive with fans of both steampunk and history. This is a walking tour review of the event and why you, dear reader, will enjoy it too.

Your senses are overwhelmed as soon as you step through the museum gates. You get the illusion that you have just stepped into an alternate world, where steam and Victorian fashion is still dominant. There is the combined scent of steam from Peronne (NRM’s operating tank engine) and potato on a stick. These combine in taste as you purchase your own potato on a stick from near the signal box and begin your journey into the festival.

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Entering the first pavilion you are greeted by professional photographers. To the left is a set up where you can sit and listen to steampunk enthusiasts and authors talk. On your right is a small cinema set up with Georges Méliès’s 1902 film A Trip to The Moon (based on Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon).

Down the first row, display cabinets filled with old railway memorabilia and a reconstruction of the Adelaide Railway Station ticket booth are to your right. To your left, in carriages used by Commonwealth Railways on the Trans-Australian Railway, is the Pop Club and another photography spot. The Pop Club have wargames set up for visitors in the dining car while professional photographers are set up in in a nearby carriage. A wargame or two would be good later, you think.

The main steampunk market sits in the second row of the museum. Here, you find a range of goods, foods, and crafts to buy. Some include antique dinner sets, Dark Oz’s DECAY and Retro Sci-fi series comics, and cupcakes. The first set up on the left of the market is a VR set up, brought to you by the Flinders University Digital Media Department. You continue to browse what’s for sale through the marketplace. A custom-made TARDIS coffee table catches your attention, although its $340 price tag is a little steep. You finish your snack in time to reach a cupcake stand run by B is for Bake. After a quick browse, you buy a double chocolate cupcake, fascinated by the decorative chocolate steam cog.

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Before you go down the next row another display catches your eyes. This one is filled with metalwork art, ranging from steam operated electric lights to a clockwork robotic dog. You wonder how can people make such wonderful art. You swear the robotic dog could actually work.

You continue to the end row. Here, among the carriages and steam locomotives, you find a ‘secret’ second market. Here, an artist can give you calligraphy on a picture or bookmark for a small fee (free with a purchase), purchase steampunk detective fiction by local author Karen J. Carlisle, and converse with sci-fi comic author and game developer Mike Cooper (Dr. Mike 2000). At the end of the row are a group of musicians playing some rock music to heighten the atmosphere. You stand for a moment and take in the music, finding it unusual to hear such music in a historical setting.

There isn’t much in the next pavilion, apart from a stage where more performances occur throughout the day. You begin to wonder what to do next. Do you go have a game or two at Pop Club’s set up? Do you try the VR experience? Or will you go explore what else the museum has? If so, will you go ride Perrone or Bub, ride the Bluebird railcar, or grab a drink from the 1940s style Cafeteria car?

You had a lot of fun while you were there and make a note to visit again to it again next year. You make a reminder to recommend to the dear reader to also come along and visit too if you have an interest in steampunk, 19th-century history, literature and fashion.

There is a lot of fun to have at the Adelaide Steampunk Festival. The NRM is the best place to hold it as it blends in well with the old locomotives and rolling stock. The day is great for fans of steampunk. It also gives reason to visit the NRM, one of Adelaide’s many hidden gems. The Steampunk is an annual event so if you’re interested in attending next year, you can check out more information on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/adelaidesteampunkfestival/.

 


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

National Young Writers Festival 2018

 

The National Young Writer’s Festival (NYWF) has been a go-to for young writers across Australia for over twenty years. Held in Newcastle, NSW, over four days, NYWF is part of the This is Not Art (TiNA) Festival. This year it was held between September 27-30 and it was my first visit to both the festival and Newcastle. My time there has left my mind teeming with new ideas and a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young writer in Australia.

There was something for essentially every writer possible at NYWF. There were panels and workshops on fiction, journalism, and gaming to name just a few. I attended a variety of different topics, from community journalism to getting work as a writer.

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I found there were two particularly memorable panels. The first was ‘Write Off the Page’, where four panellists gathered and discussed games and digital poetry. The panellists included: Andrew Gleeson, Karen Lowry, Chad Toprak, and Cecile Richard. Lowry spoke of her digital poetry and electronic literature, which includes a detective game with poetry (check it out here). Toprak mentioned a game (Cart-Load-of-Fun) he made for the trams in Melbourne to try and bring games into a public sphere. One of his successes of this game was convincing a sceptical stranger and making them smile. Read more about Toprak here. Twine, a game engine, was mentioned and recommended for writers wanting to explore game development.

Another memorable panel was ‘Narrative Prosthesis’, which was panelled by Robin M. Eames and Alistair Baldwin. I went into this panel at random and discovered it was about disability in the arts. Being someone with a disability, I found this panel extremely empowering. It made me feel equal to other issues discussed over the weekend and raised some interesting points about disability in the arts. One fact I discovered is how it’s cheaper to hire a non-disabled person to play a disabled role on television than someone with that disability. I was surprised to hear this and it’s got me asking two questions: why does this happen and how can they get away with it? I wish to explore this further in future.

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As I travelled to NYWF with Empire Times (which I currently edit), I attended and participated in the ‘Student Media Symposium’. Held by the editors from Farrago (Melbourne University student magazine), the Symposium was mainly a discussion about student media, which included topics like what is expected of student media and how we address student politics. We also discussed issues in student media, coming back to common contemporary issues, such as budget, diversity and university politics.

Beyond the panels, discussions and workshops were plenty of other free events to attend across both NYWF and TiNA. Countless readings were on across Newcastle on a variety of different topics. One reading I sat in was called The Best Book I (N)ever Read. It was fascinating to listen to the stories on what other people thought about what are often referred to as the ‘best’ books and why they didn’t read them. Other readings included By the Sea (held at Newcastle Beach), Why I Write, and Late-Night Readings.

Zine Collection

 

Another event that took place was the NYWF Zine Fair. Held on the Sunday at Newcastle Library, the Zine Fair was where attendees could pick up zines from writers from Newcastle and across Australia. It’s here that I picked up copies of The Line (a free Newcastle zine) and a graphic novel called Ghost Beach by Ben Mitchell.

NewsXpress, a newspaper for TiNA, was also present throughout the festival. NewsXpress ran over the four days in different locations of the festival and was created by editor Danni McGrath through screen printing. The newspaper printed a new issue every day of the festival, typically discussing news and what’s happening around Newcastle. I watched McGrath create a copy of the Sunday issue when I picked my copy up (also on Sunday), fascinated by how it was done. It has now left me with the intention to try it out at smaller conventions here in Adelaide in future.

Overall, the 2018 NYWF overall was a lot of fun and full of useful information for every kind of writer. I enjoyed my visit and the addition of panels about gaming and podcasts make it the most contemporary and advanced literary festival I have attended yet. All the panels and workshops were free and the Zine Fair is a fantastic place to pick up a literary souvenir and support local writers and zine-makers. If I have the opportunity, I would love to go back next year, and if you do too, I highly recommend you visit it too.


 

Words and photography by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

AVCon 2018

AVCon is a three-day festival that runs during July and signals the end to both the school and uni break. In 2017 it attracted over 20,000 visitors and this year I suspect that record was broken. It is a place where avid lovers of video games, cosplay, pop-culture, and anime come together to share that passion. Run entirely by volunteers, AVCon is an example of a small community coming together in real life as opposed to the forums many visitors undoubtedly frequent to discuss the latest in games, cosplay, and anime.

Walking through AVCon, where-ever you might be, it’s not unusual to hear someone gasp over a cosplayer, artwork, or piece of merchandise they’ve been coveting all year. Adelaide has a lot of amazing talent and, for me, that is where AVCon shines. Not only do we have a strong community surrounding anime and videogames, but we have a range of talented artists with varying art styles who converge to sell their wares and display their skill.

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CDW Stall at AVCon 2018, photography by Cameron Lowe

Each year the convention begins with the opening ceremony on the Friday evening—generally characterised by weekend and gold-pass holders gathering in the foyer of the Convention Centre for up to a couple of hours before the doors open. This year was the first year I attended the opening ceremony. We were introduced to the organisers, volunteers, special guests, and the spirit of AVCon with a skit which blurred the lines of dream and reality. The special guests for 2018 included Major Sam, Spike Spencer, Vera Chimera, Neil Kaplan, Beke, and Knitemaya who were all involved in panels across the weekend. The ceremony was followed by a screening of Ready Player One in conjunction with Hybrid World Adelaide.

With Saturday morning came a rush of people flocking in to enjoy the weekend. In the gaming hall there was a mixture of free-play and indie games, as well as some of the weekend’s gaming tournaments (which were also held on the Sunday). In the Exhibitors Hall there was a selection of stalls selling official merchandise as well as stalls promoting Marion and City Libraries, HIDIVE streaming service, and CDW Studios. Beyond the hall was the chaos of Artist Alley. Downstairs you could find panels, special guests, and anime screenings from both HIDIVE and Madman.

With the evening came the ever-popular quiz night with forty-nine tables competing for the prize and privilege of first place. Unfortunately, this year the quiz wasn’t as enjoyable as it has been in previous years with challenging questions and barely anything accessible to your non-gamer. Unfortunately, the winning team disappeared before they could claim their prize and their prize was passed on. I can only hope that next year’s questions will be better and more specific to avoid confusion and that next year’s winners will remain present.

The cosplay competition on Sunday was a wonderful display of talent from local and interstate cosplayers who cosplayed a range of people from games, anime, and pop-culture. Some had spent months on their costumes and others just a few sleepless days. One thing was consistent however, the attention to detail each cosplayer had for their costume, all doing a fantastic job of portraying their chosen character and their personalities. One highlight of the competition was seeing a Xenomorph come onto stage and break out into dance.

My highlight was, predictably, Artist Alley. I’ve always loved the scattering of stalls, the friendly faces, and familiar fan-art portraying characters I knew and didn’t, as well as those I’d long since forgotten. Artist Alley isn’t just fan art; Decay Comics, indie author Matt J. Pike (whose self-published book series Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is set in Adelaide), and Anthony Christou (a full time visual artist) stood out from the crowd by providing their own unique work. Artist Alley had a wide variety of products on offer ranging from prints and badges all the way to socks and scarves printed with original designs.

I’ve always found that AVCon is what you make of it. It is a wonderful place to engage with the gaming, cosplay, Lolita, and anime communities here in Adelaide. It’s also a place to meet new people and form life-long friendships. It offers a sense of belonging for people of all ages and celebrates the talents of video game enthusiasts. Overall I’ve always found it a friendly environment and would recommend getting a friend or two and heading in next year if you can afford it.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

AVCon and Artist Alley: In conversation with Avery Andruszkiewicz and Ella Guildea

Ahead of AVCon cosplayers and vendors are preparing like mad for the three days a year when avid fans of anime, video-games, and general pop-culture converge on the Adelaide Convention Centre. AVCon is fast approaching (20-22nd July) and, as per tradition, it marks the end to both Uni and school break.

If you haven’t attended the convention before, it is, quite simply, a place where people of similar interests come together to celebrate anime, video-games, and the exciting work of a number of talented cosplayers and vendors.

Some of these vendors are local artists and can be found in Artist Alley and have provided both encouragement and inspiration to a number of artists and other creatives for many years. It’s not unusual to see people clutching their own sketch books or settled in a corner drawing throughout the weekend—I know that’s been me a few times!

In order to prepare for this year’s AVCon I sat down with Ella Guildea and Avery Andruszkiewicz, both of whom have attended a number of AVCons. Guildea even met her partner, Connor Madden, at the 2011 event, and he tables with her along with Sophie Ladd.

If you’re an AVCon aficionado you might recognise Avery Andruszkiewicz’s name already. Their design was selected to be on the AVCon shirts and merchandise for 2018. When speaking to Andruszkiewicz, I asked how they felt about their design being chosen and whether they’d expected it:

“Not really, but I definitely had all my fingers crossed for it. I was rather proud of my design this year, so I was really hoping to place, but winning the whole thing was a surprise! The other entries are always so amazing, I’m glad my design was picked.”

 

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AVCon Announcement of Avery Andruszkiewicz’s design.

 

Both Andruszkiewicz and Guildea have previously been involved with Artist Alley, Andruszkiewicz just for the 2017 event while Guildea will be tabling for the third year running with The Bees Knees (together with Ladd and Madden).

Andruszkiewicz says working in Artist Alley is: “a really great opportunity to meet and support other artists. But of course, the chance to get your work out there, and having people actually want to buy what you create is an amazing feeling.”

Guildea’s involvement with Artist Alley began when a friend asked her to table with them in around 2014. While that didn’t end up happening, in 2015 Guildea and Madden bought a badge maker, although “the final push for me to invest in a table at Artist Alley was really heavily inspired by artists Jac and Emerson from the table, Gutgeist! (http://gutgeist.tumblr.com). They travel every year from Melbourne to table at AVCon and were super helpful with guiding me on how to run my first table! I’m really grateful for the support they gave me.”

Much like the event itself, Artist Alley provides participants with a strong sense of community. Some artists get together ahead of the convention to work together cutting out stickers and pressing badges, essentially keeping one another motivated ahead of the event.

When I asked about the community of Artist Alley, Andruszkiewicz said that while they are still fairly new to it, it’s been quite welcoming. “Group orders to save money on shipping/get bulk buy discounts is not uncommon, as well as groups getting together to cut out stickers and press badges and such before a con. Working in a group can be great for motivation!”

One of Guildea’s highlights of the con experience “is the compassion and empathy vendors have for each other. On one of the days last year someone brought Krispy Kremes around to all of the tables, I’m not throwing hints or anything!”

 

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Ella Guildea, 2018.

 

This sense of community is evident in the level of support that artists offer to first timers. Andruszkiewicz and Guildea both offered some advice for anyone looking at getting involved in the 2019 event.

 

 

Advice from Andruszkiewicz:

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Avery Andruszkiewicz 2018.

 

“I always say just go for it, but definitely take the time to prepare. Use your resources. Don’t be afraid to ask artists for advice. A fellow artist by the name Hawberries (Twitter: @hawberries_) has put together a fantastic guide to art stalls, which was honestly my lifesaver for my first time, and I still reference it now.
Don’t table alone, it’s absolutely soul crushing. Either find a friend to split a table with (you save money on the table that way too, and that makes it easier to break even), or if you have enough stock for your own table (I’ll be blunt, you won’t for your first-time tabling), make sure you have a table buddy so you’re not there on your own.
Don’t go in with the mindset of making a profit, go because you want to and because you love what you do. Unfortunately, a lot of artists tend to come up at a loss at their first con, which can be disheartening, but even more so if you go with the exclusive intention of making money. Go, make friends, make connections, and as you gain experience, a following, and improve your art, the profits will come.

And to be harsh for a moment, prepare yourself for disappointment. There’s only a set amount of tables at any one convention, and the harsh truth of that is that artists get declined as a result. If you get declined, don’t let that overshadow your passion for art. Gather your resources again, work hard, and try again next time! Don’t let disappointment overshadow your love of the craft.”

 

Advice from Guildea:

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Ella Guildea, 2018.

 

“There’s a lot of Facebook groups which can be a really great influence for first timers – Aussie Con Artists is probably my favourite. However, the best way I’ve found to find the community is by networking at the conventions that you attend! Talk to your neighbours! Talk to that person who has the art style that you’ve totally fallen in love with!

Tough it out, keep it up and find what inspires you. Your first con might not be phenomenal, but if you’re passionate about vending, please keep it up!

Our first convention involved less than two weeks’ worth of prep, had 15 items in total, and featured the previously mentioned corkboard-ruler-blu-tack scenario. We now prep for significantly more than 2 weeks, stock over 125 different items, and have a nice easel to put our display board on so it doesn’t come crashing down every 20 minutes.

You’ll constantly grow and learn from your mistakes, and a lot of reflection as to how you can improve. You’re not going to become some sort of professional by the time of your first convention. Just throw yourself into it and learn!”


 

You can follow Avery Andruszkiewicz on Twitter @matte_bat_ or check out their Redbubble store https://www.redbubble.com/people/matte-bat/portfolio.

To contact Ella Guildea and The Bees Knees about commission work, see where they’re headed next, and keep updated about upcoming item releases, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thekneesofthebees

If you can’t make it to the convention check out their Tictail here: https://tictail.com/thekneesofthebees

Both artists are tabling this year at AVCon and are always up for a chat so don’t be afraid to stop by and say hello. When you do, don’t forget to mention this article!


 

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Mega Toy Fair 2018

The Adelaide Mega Toy Fair is the largest annual market for toys and collectables in Australia. This year’s event was held over the first weekend of June (June 2nd-3rd) at the Stirling Angas Hall in the Adelaide Showgrounds and marks 25 years since it began. I have been wanting to visit the Mega Toy Fair for years, but due to other commitments I never had time, this year I finally had the chance to visit. What I came out with was a thrilling, worthwhile experience that, without self-control, could have easily drained my bank account.

I arrived at the Mega Toy Fair right on opening time (10am) Saturday morning to a massive line up. The picture below shows me from the end of the line, near the Kidman Entrance gates. Seeing the line-up, I knew this was going to be an interesting event. The line eventually died down, much to the relief of anyone arriving later on.

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After paying the $7 entrance fee (I got concession, $8 for regular adult) I felt as though I had fallen down a hole into another dimension. The event was gigantic! Hundreds, possibly even, over a thousand stalls were before me. It was a collector’s paradise of things old and new; from pre-World War Two Hornby clockwork trains and a $35 statue of K-9 from Doctor Who to endless rows of Hot Wheels cars and a OO (1:76) scale model of The Flying Scotsman steam locomotive.

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My inner nerd went into overdrive browsing all of these tables, especially when I found the video games. At one table, I found a loose cartridge of Secret of Mana selling for $75 and a boxed copy of Mystic Quest Legend (Final Fantasy Mystic Quest in the US/Japan) for $100. While I did not buy these, I thought they were reasonably priced, as compared to game stores and eBay, which could have easily been double the price. One of my other encounters was discovering a copy of Harvest Moon on the SNES, a game that is rare in Australia. However, I suspected it to be a reproduction cartridge as it appeared too new and the cartridge art seemed off.

The Mega Toy Fair was a pop culture lover’s dream come true. I found Star Wars toys from the seventies and eighties on a vast majority of tables and a boxed Robot figurine from the original Lost in Space. To me, there were three things that really caught my interest out of this pop culture goodness. One was a Laserdisc copy of Star Wars: A New Hope. I did not ask for the price, but I found it to be a very unique piece and I would have bought it if I had a Laserdisc player. Another stand out piece was a collection of Star Trek: The Original Series figurines at the Starship Mawson stand. They were imported from the US and selling for $300, a price too steep for me at this moment. Although they were expensive, I found them to be beautifully crafted and would have gone well in my pop culture collection. The third was an Edgar Allan Poe bobblehead selling for $40. It is one of the things I eventually caved and bought.

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Overall, I really enjoyed the Mega Toy Fair. It was well worth the trip through to the other dimension, where pop culture and my childhood took over. I will certainly be going back to it next year. I can only hope I have more money on me and more space available to use up at home.        


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe