Comikaze: Why Proper Con Signage is Important

Eliot HochbergCons, Miscellaneous1 Comment

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Not sure if this is a good game or not. Too discouraged to play a round.

This was supposed to be about table top games.

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A couple of games hidden amongst artist alley.

That’s why I got my press badge for Comikaze. And I really wanted to see some games. But, as I’ve experienced at other comic book conventions, games really aren’t the focus of such events. Yes, if you’re selling games, you might sell a few at a comic book convention. But they don’t really care about games. And so the gaming hall was empty (granted, I was there on Sunday, and no major tournament was happening), and it was hard to even find any games among all of the other booths. I saw three: Bad Beets, Evolve, and Politics. None of which I stopped to chat about. Partly because Evolve and Politics were at a table in a very narrow row, which dissuades me from stopping to chat with anyone. Partly because by the time I found Bad Beets, I was so frustrated with the whole process at Comikaze, that I was about ready to leave. And, while as press I should bite the bullet and learn a game, I have to bow to my inner blogger and follow my feelings.

So no, this post isn’t about games.

It’s about signs.

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Super duper helpful.

The title graphic says it all. Comikaze spent money on a sign that says literally nothing, but failed to spend money on signs that were actually helpful. It starts when you enter the main hall of the L.A. Convention Center. Comikaze is in the South and North Halls, and you could forgive them for not spending a bunch of money where they weren’t. Fair enough. But they did buy signs that said simply “Ticket Redemption.” No indication it was Comikaze, mind you. Just those words. I don’t know about you, but to me, “redeeming a ticket” means you have a ticket, and you will turn it in for something. The sign should say “ticket sales” or “registration” or “Comikaze Entry: South Hall.” There are literally dozens of alternatives that would have been more helpful. Instead, I spent 10 minutes wandering around until a security guard finally sent me in the right direction.

But it didn’t get much better.

Because while I found the South Hall, I really wanted the West Hall, and there weren’t any signs letting me know this, either. Granted, I could have looked it up on my phone. Oh yeah, I couldn’t, because there were so many others on their phones, that all there was was one bar Edge connections. I tried following the masses, ended up outside with the food trucks, and found another door. No sign on it, but I figured I may as well enter there. A little walking, and I stumbled upon the main entrance of the con. Great!

No.

Because now I had to find the registration or press badge desk. A huge sign hung above one of the pathways, but no arrow, and it could have meant “go upstairs” or “go inside” or “go down a hall.” I had the presence of mind to ask a somewhat hidden info desk, and they let me know that registration was one direction, press was the other.

I find the press area, and they are very helpful. But they don’t have any guidebooks, or really, anything else to give me besides my badge. I was told I could find guides around the con, and I eventually found them. I will also point out that I mentioned how challenging the signage was, and at every desk I mentioned it (four different desks in all), each responded “Yeah, I’ve been hearing that a lot.” So, it wasn’t just me.

Once I had my badge, I wanted to quickly find a panel I was late for. However, the signage once again thwarted me. Would it have been so hard to spend $1.50 more on another clear sleeve and sheet of paper to post a summary on one of the foam core boards in the area where the panels were being held? I eventually gave up on finding the panel after once again trying my phone, and entered the main con.

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This looks crowded. But it didn’t have to be this way.

I experienced the unnecessary crowding at the Anaheim Convention Center when I visited Wondercon earlier in the year. They pack a bunch of small tables very close together in such a way that a single wheelchair patron basically stops the whole row. Not to mention able people doing the same thing while they space out, presumably overwhelmed by the sheer amount of input in such a small space. Just one additional foot of walkway would likely solve this. I can’t work out why the organizers don’t see this.

It was completely impossible to find anything, and at Comikaze, everything is all mixed up. So you can’t make a beeline to an area you’re interested in. Why don’t they put anime artists together, then have a row of button sellers, one of plush toys, etc? It would make browsing far easier.

After fruitlessly looking for games among all of these locations, I gave up on the West Hall. That’s when I finally saw the bins with the guides. Not hidden, but not obvious either. They were off to the sides of the doors. Since some of the doors were locked, maybe they could have been put there? Or by the press and registration tables?

Anyway, I looked through the schedule of panels, and discovered nothing left of interest. My fault, I was there at the end of the con. But when I tried to find gaming, the tiny map and tiny listing of exhibitors left me uneducated. I left the useless guide behind and struck out for the gaming room.

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Big room. Few people.

Which was nearly empty. Again, I’m there at the end of the con. Maybe it was full for the Magic tournament, or one of the other events. I can’t help notice, though, that in going to comic conventions, gaming really isn’t given much attention. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, it’s not Gamikaze.

Then I was off to the South Hall, where all the people getting signatures are. This is also where I experienced the worst sign of all.

I’m aware at conventions that there is an issue with people taking advantage of mostly female cosplayers. They touch them inappropriately, or take inappropriate photos. And so there’s a phrase “Cosplay is not Consent.” There are signs which say this. And I notice them, and figure “I’m not trying to grope anyone, or take photos to get my jollies.” And I think I’m fine.

Well, apparently, I didn’t know the rules.

I notice a couple of cosplayers at a table. I don’t want or need to have them in a photo with me. But they looked cool, so I step pretty far away (30 feet), and take a photo of the whole row. They’re in the shot, so I can maybe show some friends, but they aren’t identifiable. Please note, also, they are both men.

They call out to me, and tell me I’m not allowed to do that without asking them. I explain that they can’t be identified, I’m taking a long shot, and they tell me it doesn’t matter, and that I should look at the signs.

I’m embarrassed. Because I didn’t think I did anything wrong. Then I read the signs. Apparently, you can’t take ANY photos without getting permission of cosplayers. Which means, in all likelihood, that some of the photos in the article technically break those rules. I wasn’t focusing on anyone in particular, but cosplayers appear in some of the photos.

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The actual sign. Maybe put the most important part in big letters?

What irks me, though, isn’t that they have this rule. I’m not a cosplay photographer, I can very easily not take photos. What irks me is that the sign buries the lede. It should say “No photos without permission” as the big text, and then, maybe at the bottom “Cosplay isn’t consent.”

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My design. This is the sign I’d post. Better, right?

I’m a pretty decent guy, and I think I’m pretty smart. But “keep your tentacles to yourself” isn’t the same as “ask for permission.” And as a sign designer, my rule it “Make the most important thing the biggest.” When you’re advertising, you can play fast a loose with that. When you’re sharing rules about etiquette and safety, the rule you want to get across is the most important thing. I should also point out that these signs weren’t front an center, but off to the side. If no photography is allowed without permission, that should be on every entry door, so you can’t miss it. Not doing that means I don’t think you really take this rule seriously.

This is just another example of how poorly Comikaze uses signs to communicate important information to attendees. I’m slowly realizing comic conventions just aren’t my thing. What I’m not sure is if it’s because I just don’t like them, or if it’s because of how they’re run.




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Eliot has been orbiting show business for over 20 years as an improv comedian, video director, and general guy you might barely recognize. Currently best known for his work on the comedy podcast Never Not Funny: The Jimmy Pardo Podcast. He wrote previously for MacEdition.com, and is working on a collection of short sci-fi and weird tales that will probably be published someday. He is also one of three principals in Modest Games.

Eliot HochbergComikaze: Why Proper Con Signage is Important