Video games, anime, movies and TV come together at SwampCon


An attendee at SwampCon, a multi-genre convention hosted by the University of Florida in the The J. Wayne Reitz Union in Gainesville, Fla. on January 12, 2013.

Ashley Crane/ Correspondent
Published: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 9:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 9:19 p.m.

While there were numerous Luke Skywalkers and Obi-Wans, cat ears — and tails — abounded at SwampCon, a free anime, science fiction and gaming convention held at the Reitz Union on Saturday and continuing today.

Facts

SwampCon continues Sunday

When: Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: UF Reitz Union Grand Ballroom, 686 Museum Road

Price: Free

Highlights:

- “The Hobbit” (animated movie), 1 p.m.

- “Dr. Who” 101 panel, 2 p.m.

- “Firefly” play, 5 p.m.

- Sci-fi Film Fest, 6 p.m.

For more information visit http://swampcon.com/

The favored cat costume is due to the popularity of the numerous half-cat, half-human characters found in Japanese anime and manga.

Many of the eventgoers dressed in elaborate costumes — commonly referred to as cosplay, short for costume play — to portray characters from comics, movies and videogames. Some of these costumes reflected well-known characters, while many were of more obscure characters from niche media.

“The reason why they move toward more obscure characters is because the recognition — the cultural capital — that comes along with showing up to these events and being identified for their obscure interest as opposed to the mass generic one,” said William Walter, a doctoral student at UF who is completing his dissertation on comics and comics culture. “So, in a sense, that helps validate their own personal investment in their subculture of interest. And these are some of the few events where not only is it acceptable to do so, but it is encouraged.”

SwampCon, in its second year, provides a venue for fans to collectively celebrate their interests as well as provide vendors a chance to sell their art and wares.

Charles Hoyle, who frequents the Florida convention circuit and attended SwampCon for the first time this year, said that such conventions represent more than just fandom.

“In my view, it gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself into the reality of the fantasy that you watch or are involved with,” he said. “Now you can see these things come to life and you can interact with them on the level as if you were there in the fantasy world.”

The convention provided 90 panels featuring 40 guests, according to Ciara Powell, events coordinator.

The panels were led by authors, cartoonists, costumers and actors who covered a slew of special topics. Other panels focused on discussions of particular media such as “Dr. Who”, “The Hobbit” and “Star Trek.”

Featured guests included Joe Haldeman, an awarded science-fiction author; Jan Scott-Frazier, who has been involved in the production of many anime series and movies, including “Ghost in the Shell;” Tiffany Grant, a voice actor who has worked on popular animes including “Full Metal Alchemist” and “Neon Genesis Evangelion;” Martin Billany, creator of “Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series;” and Kevin Galbraith, who has been featured numerous times as a zombie on AMC's “The Walking Dead.”

Multiple rooms were available for event-goers to scratch their gaming itch including role-playing, tabletop, card and video games. The event also hosted gaming tournaments and contests, costume contests and charity auctions.

Two main events on Saturday evening were anticipated by organizers and event-goers alike. The first was “Doctor Who: Fandorica Opens” a skit show written and performed by members of the UF student organization Science Fiction Consortium. The show featured Doctor Who crossing into other popular fantasy universes such as “Star Wars,” “Heroes,” and “Harry Potter.”

The second event was “Miku Miku Dance,” an animated, holographic, Japanese pop-music concert produced by students from UF's Digital Arts and Sciences program.

The event was organized by four UF student organizations — Gator Anime; Gator Gaming; Delta Nu Delta, a tabletop-and-roleplaying gaming club; and the Science Fiction Consortium — that worked together to plan the event, Powell said. Santa Fe College's Society for Nerds also contributed many of the volunteers.

Last year, organizers worked with a $1,000 budget and had three months to plan the event, Powell said. This year, organizers took the year to plan and worked with a budget of $10,000 — some of which was provided by a Visit Gainesville grant from the Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The convention also expanded its use of the Reitz Union from one floor to four floors, and organizers expected to have three times the attendance of last year's convention, which saw over 1,600 in attendance throughout the event, Powell said. By 4 p.m., 2,500 people were in attendance, according to official counts.

Andre Frattino, a graphic novelist and the artist behind the Independent Florida Alligator's “Son of a Gator” comic strip, attended the event as a vendor for his second year. He said he was impressed by how much the convention has grown. He regularly attends other conventions throughout Florida and said that he sees the benefit of smaller conventions such as SwampCon.

“The smaller conventions are more about the fans, I think,” he said. “A lot of the big conventions are about selling, making money and commerce. But the small conventions like this, everybody who is here is (here) to have a good time … and celebrate. It's about the fun of it.”

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