FanExpo descended upon the Toronto Metro Convention Centre once again this weekend, and I was fortunate enough to attend the event along with legions of costumed fans, which ran from Thursday until today.
While gaming coverage fed my initial interest, my perspective has been greatly colored by a well worn quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson of all things, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Perhaps this is why, of all that panels offering fans a chance to meet and hear from professionals and celebrities this weekend, the panel that left the deepest impression on me was given by Ubisoft Canada’s PR Manager Jeyson Acevedo, who talked about his transition from gaming journalist to handling PR for the third party developer.
Jeyson discussed the years he spent writing reviews and covering gaming events for free, simply for the opportunity to report on a medium he was passionate about. It was easy to relate to his story given my own experiences on that front, particularly as he mentioned the need to follow your passion even when family and friends might question the countless hours being invested. His talk certainly gave me a renewed burst of energy during a weekend that reminded me of the importance in following one’s passion regardless of where that road might lead and how bumpy it may sometimes feel along the way. Where we might usually talk shop about upcoming titles, Jeyson took the time to tell me about his first year managing PR for Ubisoft, including hand-written letters from young fans which he keeps in view of his desk.
Passion wasn’t just the keyword for Jeyson’s panel, but for the entire event. Where some might question why people lined up in the heat this weekend, many risking dehydration while doing so in elaborately designed costumes, passion isn’t simply the easiest answer, but also the truest one.
Whether I was walking through the Artist Alley and seeing the phenomenal creations of local artists, watching fans excited for an opportunity to try upcoming videogames hands-on for the first time, or absorbing the artistry of countless costumes created by fans, FanExpo was an opportunity to be surrounded by people of immense passion connecting and sharing that energy and creative drive with a community of likeminded souls.
The Artist Alley is always an important part of FanExpo for me, filled with talented individuals across many mediums who invest an incredible amount of time in their craft. One booth that particularly caught my eye this year was Suzanne Butt’s hand crafted figurines, aptly named Bittythings.
Suzanne’s table was overflowing with tiny intricate critters, from more familiar pets to dragons and dinosaurs – check out these tiny Corgis! When I asked her about sculpting such small creations, she told me that her primary tools were simply her fingers in bringing the details out, which I found hard to believe even as she held her hands up as a sign of proof.
I was certainly struck by the amount of time she pours into her creations, which was a theme carried on as I caught up with Lisa Bell of Nerdbisket. Lisa’s craft is sewing, and her very memorable mission is to have as many people as possible wearing her hand-sewn moustaches. Her many creations includes some delightful catnip tacos, which my cats have since approved of – I’m not sure what kind of catnip it is, but it made them do this. She told me it takes her about forty-five minutes to hand-stitch a single taco, which sell at her table for five dollars and really drives home the idea of an artist pursuing creative passion regardless of the obviously slim return on the labour.
FanExpo also has a large vendor area, offering comics, toys and collectibles. The various booths can often merge into a singular blur with so many offering similar products, but I came across one that helped break the mold with a blast of color.
Glynis Tao’s Punch Brand is a company that started as a hobby for Glynis and has grown to reach retail outlets and attract Google’s attention – their signature crazyheads hoodies are ridiculously cute and I definitely recommend checking out more of their products via their site.
Gaming represented a significant portion of the show floor as well this year, with publishers like Microsoft, Sony, Warner Bros., and even THQ offering fans a chance to sample upcoming titles. The largest offering came from Ubisoft, with the publisher giving fans access to titles such as Assassin’s Creed 3 and ZombiU. While I didn’t miss the opportunity to jump into a multiplayer session of Halo 4, the real treat of the gaming booths was listening to fans talk about what titles they were anticipating as we head into the Holiday season.
Long-time Sugarfriend and occasional Gamesugar contributor Shaun Hatton was also on-hand, joining the rest of the EP and Reviews on the Run cast for panels and autograph sessions. Proving once again that he has the energy to power a few city blocks, Shaun was on the floor the entire weekend, signing autographs and sitting on panels as well as organizing Saturday’s Nerd Noise Night concert – all during the same week that he released the album for the upcoming indie game They Bleed Pixels. As an example of someone who has always inspired me to resist cynicism and carve my own trail regardless of where it may lead, Shaun also provides a pretty solid point to end this brief recap of a weekend that has played a large role in revitalizing and reminding me to continue pursuing my own passions – long story short, never give up on pursuing what you love, regardless of how daunting the road may seem at times.
You can catch more pictures from the weekend via Gamesugar’s Facebook page.
Were you at FanExpo this year? Tell me all about it below.