Frequent readers of this section (hi mom) may be aware that last month we ran a piece that had a less than enthusiastic response to this year’s EGX hosted at Earl’s Court. The presence of the event was dominated by some huge names in the game industry, as well as a figurative avalanche of announcements, demos, and trailers. Despite this, the event left this reviewer under whelmed and utterly exhausted. A massive sales pitch passed off as a trade convention, EGX presented a microcosm of every bad practice or unsavoury characteristic of the modern video games industry. All it needed was a small group of bullies going around harassing women in the name of ‘ethics in video games journalism’ or Phil Fish to show up.
How then, does this relate to MCM Comic Con? Well, because despite not being an exclusively video-games centred event, MCM is a trade show done right. Focussing on communities that prop up the video-game market, in addition to unloading products on eager buyers, MCM provides attendants with the feeling that those who care about playing games are as much a part of this convention than those who care about selling them.
As is standard for a trade show, MCM offered attendees the opportunity to get some hands on experience with upcoming titles, as well as the chance to bag new releases and merchandise. Industry exhibitors include WB Games, Namco Bandia, Capcom, 2K Games, and Konami with a variety of titles available on trade stalls as well as upcoming titles such as Persona Q and Adventure Time: The Secret Of The Nameless Kingdom being demonstrated. The fact that lines to play upcoming titles are vastly shorter than those at EGX is not hard to notice. The majority of time at the convention is spent actually playing games as opposed to killing time on Angry Birds in the line for Sunset Overdrive. MCM suffers the same problem as EGX in that with most of these games so close to release date it feels cheap to have to pay for the privledge of sampling the game, but this problem is easily remedied by the fact that there is so much more going on at MCM.The added bonuses of independent craft stalls and row after row of comic exhibitors more than makes up the relatively low price of entry.
Perhaps the biggest draw for gamers this year, and covering almost the entire back wall of one floor, the MCM eSports tournament showcases a weekend long League of LegendsTournament, attracting teams from all over the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland competing for a €5000 cash prize. Taking place on a large, open plan stage, with a spatial seating arrangement, the tournament attracts a constant flow of foot traffic from inquisitive parents and excited preteens, to e-sports enthusiasts and convention patrons looking to rest for ten minutes and take in some competitive entertainment. Announcers are on hand to provide insight to the more confused spectators, although with conversation concerning the status of the game at a general hum throughout, it is hard for someone to get entirely lost. Partnered with MCM eSports with show stands flanking the gaming stage are tech companies XMG and AOC, displaying some of their latest and most powerful products for tech enthusiasts to salivate over.
A less hectic video game related attraction is the Pokemon stall. Situated right in front of the doors in the smaller trade floor, a miniature Pokemon museum stand greets convention attendees just making their way in. Showcasing artwork and game trivia going all the way back to the first generation. It is nothing spectacular, but the little effort that has been put into celebrating a game that is not currently being pushed forward for consumers to buy is certainly a welcome thing. The fact that staff were on hand to give out free Pokemon trading card booster packs also helps.
Certainly one of the reason for MCM’s much more welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere that other conventions is its location. Earl’s Court is scheduled for demolition in the coming years, and it is easy to see why. The place is rundown, devoid of sunlight, and the layout means lines snake through decrepid underground tunnels. Not the sort of place you want to show off your latest high profile product. The ExCel Centre on the other hand is what every convention centre should aspire to be. Large hangers facilitating massive show floors are intersected by long, window filled concourses where groups can easily gather, filled with all the amenities you would expect from a centre hoping to house over one hundred thousand people over the space of two days. Backing out on to the river, it also features an out-of-doors concourse, meaning that if the crowds become too much (trust me, they did) a respite is not far away. Location wise it may be a bit more off the beaten tourist track in East London, but its proximity to the DLR and London City Airport means that getting there is not exactly hard. This also has the benefit of being able to avoid having to explain your life size Gundam costume to American tourists and disgruntled commuters on the Central Line.
Another attraction this year, so big of a draw in fact that it needed its own trade floor, is the YCS, or, Yu-Gi-Oh Trading Card Game Championship Series. Hosted over the weekend, the series provides a competitive play space for Yu-Gi-Oh players (apparently they like to be called duellists) as well as a more casual gaming arena, with the opportunity to network and trade cards. With random duels taking place all over the trade floor most non-duelling convention goers seem to avoid this area, perhaps to avoid stepping on and ruining someone else’s game.
With all of this running alongside events such as Vidfest UK, showcasing some of the countries’ biggest online video talents, PopAsia, a trade fair celebrating all aspects of Asian popular culture and the Euro Cosplay 2015 championships, as well as a variety of celebrity showings and major Hollywood exclusives, MCM offers less of a specialisation in fan-related conventions, but the broad appeal installs a sense of shared community that ensure that for the whole weekend, the geeks remain happy.
Offering a collective where people can get their hands on niche products they are passionate about is a must for convention-goers. Here, they are also given somewhere they can actually enjoy the media they are consuming. MCM London 2014 was just as exhaustive for this review as EGX, but this time, for all the right reasons.