GameOn Expo 2024: New Version, New Glitches, but Still Good and Growing

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GameOn Expo 2024: New Version, New Glitches, but Still Good and Growing

It’s a new year; with it, that period of time lovingly known as “con season” to all us geeks, gamers, and anime nerds/otaku begins once again. Normally I’d be kicking this off a little later this year starting around May/June, but this time a major convention got the jump on all of us with their recent upgrade.

It seems like it was only a few short months ago that GameOn Expo 2023 wrapped up in the middle of August; yet here we are in March, just 7 months later, and we get to experience it all over again. It wasn’t exactly a major secret given that they had been advertising this year’s con from the beginning of last year’s, but given the shorter time frame, it was with good reason – the biggest of those being that the con this year was held in the Phoenix Convention Center’s North building (as opposed to the South building which it had been held in since 2017, with exception to 2020-21 due to the pandemic). This effectively almost doubled the square footage that they had at their disposal, which they used to great effect this year. Everywhere you looked there was space allocated for all kinds of gaming: from D&D to board games, card games like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and a massive part of the exhibitor’s hall dedicated to console gaming with tournaments of all types and prizes. 

The arcade, which was filled with pinball tables, classic domestic cabinets, and Japanese imports, it saw an increase in size from last year; there was even a one-of-a-kind homemade cabinet as well (a “Duck Tales” cabinet that would have been right at home in an 80’s arcade). In a separate area of the hall there were skill cranes loaded with rare Pokémon and other types of plushes, both big and small. Also, a new feature to the convention this year was a wrestling ring, which saw plenty of action over the entire weekend by the superstars of Versus Pro Wrestling. Plenty of vendors and artists were in attendance as well, selling everything from stickers to shirts to figurines to jewelry (even tattoos!), and loads upon loads of classic video games/consoles and creations inspired by such.

In addition to the increases in size and gaming, the guests this year were numerous and plentiful! Boasting a whopping 85 guests this year between voice actors, musical talent, content creators, and cosplay guests/groups, there was no shortage of people to meet, take pictures, and interact with. Neil Newbon (of “Balder’s Gate 3” fame as the vampire Astarion, and Karl Heisenberg from “Resident Evil: Village”) was the biggest draw over the weekend, being only his second international convention ever; his line was packed from beginning to end throughout the weekend for people clamoring to meet and take pictures with him. That’s not to say that the other guests didn’t get the same amount of attention though – there were so many other major names in attendance that one could easily spend the entirety of the con just meeting with them! Whether you were there to see Sean Schemmel (Goku, “Dragonball Z”), Eric Stuart (Seto Kaiba, “Yu-Gi-Oh!”), Dan Green (Yugi Muto, “Yu-Gi-Oh!”), or Dameon Clarke (Handsome Jack, “Borderlands”), this was just a small handful of everyone from multiple fandoms and series present over the entire weekend.

Panels were abundant during the convention as well covering all aspects of geek culture: anime, video games, model building, and cosplay – all of it was covered in numerous forms during every possible moment the convention was running. The cosplay contest this year was a notable one given the number of entries there were in each of four categories (Youth, Novice, Journeyman, and Master), and the level of quality in each category was absolutely insane. For example, the Best of Novice award went to a guy who crafted his own Halo ODST armor from scratch. Think about that for a moment. Even better was that the room was packed with attendees cheering, which was echoed in most (if not all) panels during the convention.

Now, while I mention all of the good things that came from this con, the title of the article does mention “glitches”. They come with every new version of something; while this one was no different with some issues that popped up at the very start of the con, the staff were quick to jump on and resolve those bugs as fast as possible. Friday morning the checkpoint was set up by the contracted security (Pride Group) to accommodate a much smaller number of people than anticipated, and as a result, a line quickly formed that wrapped around the block and all the way down to the next corner of the building. The wait time averaged from 2 to 3 hours because of this…to add insult to injury, the weather for a good portion of the morning and some of the afternoon was very rainy (in the con’s defense, the weather report for the week leading up to the weekend had the weather in the 80s and sunny). It didn’t help that there was not a dedicated line at that point for disabled individuals, either. Both moods and cosplay (in some instances) were dampened and/or ruined by this – even more so for those individuals who were planning on attending panels that morning which were missed completely due to the wait. Thankfully, by the afternoon the issue was resolved, and by Saturday the lines were practically non-existent or moving rapidly when they were present after that.

The key thing to take away from all of this is that GameOn Expo continues to grow at an exponential rate, and that with new features and new spaces, there are bound to be new issues. What impresses me about this con is how they adapt and overcome these challenges so swiftly in order to make it an experience that everyone can continue to enjoy, year after year. Given that they’ve now had a chance to figure out the issues for when next year comes around, I personally can’t wait to see what GameOn Expo brings to the masses.

Until next time, ja ne tomodachi!

-Last Samurai