Saturday, September 22, 2012

Reminiscing The Journey To STGCC 2012!

09.22.2012 – It’s been exactly twenty days since the Singapore Toy, Game, and Comic Convention wrapped up which was last September 2, 2012 held at the Marina Bay Sands. Up to this day I returned back to Manila the following day after the event ended the experience being there did not sink in.

After coming back from that following weekend I got struck by a fever and having a sore throat. The constant follow up stories from that trip was left in the draft in all the blogs that’s related to the coverage. It left a sort of cliff hanger for those who followed my personal journey.

The only person who I haven’t met in this convention who was part of the first one Reed Expo handled in 2010 was sick in bed since he was part of another convention in Florida prior to STGCC.

To sum up the whole experience it was definitely a grind from the day my good friend RG and I flew out from Manila at 6:30AM to arriving to Budget Terminal in Changi Airport at 9:30AM everything was non-stop without catching a breath.

When we arrived Singapore’s road was wet and some of the roads where under repair on the way to the Media Preview which we got exclusively invited at the Marina Bay Sands. To make it short on the day of arrival everything was so fast to catch every moment of meeting new friends I only met online in the past two years that I felt I was still not “feeling” it.

In my perspective everything was “work mode” because of the tight schedule and the window of opportunity to talk to everyone was pretty slim. But I finally met some of the people from Ni9mer PR and Reed Expo behind the email who recognized me. I also met Andie, Tina, and the rest of the new faces I came to have good conversations in-between that Friday afternoon during break time.

When RG and I arrived at the conference room we just caught up with the opening remarks and then everything was blurring of photograph shots from the event. Tina was late but I finally met her who I would consider a long-time friend.

Leinil Yu and his wife saw me among the crowd who was in front taking their photos along with Andy Diggle and Tristan Eaton. We would talk in tagalog without noticing we’re not in the Philippines and it was one of those moments I felt “home” in this event seeing another fellow Filipino was something. But after this event everything was EVEN more like I never left the country because all of my friends from this particular industry were also in Singapore.

Overall the Media Preview Day was a great press launch for the invited guests to see what STGCC 2012 have in-store to fans and those who will have do a live coverage for their respective medium.

The sneak peek of exclusives as well as guests was definitely great and it gives everyone the chance to bring the news. There was a rotation of round table of interviews for everyone to get a chance to talk to the three artists as well as the two Japanese cosplayers who are also the highlighted guests for this year.

In-between the press launch they served coffee and parties for the guests and media from print, TV and online. You’ll notice that the guests and the invited media where like talking casually outside the conference hall like they have been friends.

I personally liked the interactivity given in some events I had experienced that they treat their guest overly exaggerated like rock stars which has no room to be like themselves. Unlike in STGCC which just let you have a little “human” interactivity with the guests like Andy, Tristan, and Leinil. The same goes to Japanese cosplayers in Touya Hibiki and Kousaka Yun.

I was never had that “fan” mentality calling them “idols” or “sir” before their name which is not the way to be a professional in dealing with personalities.

Probably in some culture of the Philippines most of the fans given the respect had a high regard to call their favourite artists “idol x” this or that.

But if you are a supporting blog or media going to these kinds of events you still have to apply professionalism. Fan gushing aside if you treat them like real people they would let their hair down and be casual about it especially foreign artists albeit online or in person. I just like the courteous way how to treat them in that manner which I learned from my previous corporate day job.

After the round interviews and the random snaps of photography from that day I was aching to go to the hotel and rest since we left Manila there was no “sleep” in the context of preparation for this.

It was unexpected that they had announced the Media Preview a few days prior to the day of the trip but it’s what the event needed for the media to bring the news what to expect.

But the one thing I would like to do that day was take pictures of the set-up of the event downstairs which are not allowed for the media but for the exhibitors only. It’s understandable that they had to keep it as a sort of surprise to everyone but would be great if the selected media has access to it?

It was this night we came back to Marina Bay Sands twice after going back to our hotel to see the set up but just to build anticipation it’s good to see how this went well.

The following day was the event itself and the long lines have almost diminished arriving at the convention centre at 10:30AM. There were cosplayers and convention visitors seated in both sides of the very wide corridor that reminds you one-lane of Edsa.

Unlike the last time I was at STGCC this is VERY different and would consider this a first since the previous event was organized by a different company. At first glance the doors opened my perspective was different still on “work mode” unlike back in 2009 where I was definitely got overwhelmed to the point of insanity.

They have computer workstations and an area where you can have coffee or devour a bunch of Dewberry cookies.

The not-so good part of the Media Village is that the wifi connection doesn’t work properly. There was one time RG was trying to upload some photos but connection got dropped. What I did was transfer all of the outbound material to a flash drive and then upload it to one of the computers that they set up.

Sometimes you have to have to be “adaptable” for these kinds of situation which worked for me to deliver the news to those who followed the event back in the Philippines.

But hopefully Reed Expo and Ni9mer would improve on this regarding the Media Village access to wireless connectivity. The rest of what made the Media Village as an integral part of the event is great which THE FIRST of its kind is in an actual convention and not to forget where they conduct one-on-one interviews with the guests.

Every convention has its strength and a bit of downside but at STGCC you will rarely see that as how this event was dubbed the “Coolest Event of the Year” and this one delivered to have a stamped at being “An Actual Convention” because not only valued the retailers and sellers. But also put the guests in high regard with their “Walk of Fame” concept as well as panel discussion with the guest on stage.

It would be great for some of the guests to have an auditorium to hear some of the discussion compared to an open stage built for live performance and cosplay runway.

Just like the Media Preview it had a bit of privacy and more interactivity for the fans to ask questions but given this is the first day like the one with Andie Tong, Leinil Yu, Mark Torres, and Gerry Alanguilan with Andy Chong handling the moderation. The stage is open that you can’t keep up with their conversation but it’s good to improve its venue.

Mostly the first day was a very long day simultaneously happening all at once that you have the Hot Toys booth and there’s Play Imaginative. You got Falcon’s Hanger with their exclusive Thundercats action figure that you can only get in this event.

The rest of the retailers and sellers where legit to be part of this event but what caught my eye is that this event is not just about selling. They have exclusives to release for this event only and that’s considered having an identity on its own. In the late afternoon Ariel Atienza and I visited the farther part of the convention floor which is the Artist Alley.

They are a bit hindered from the loud noise on stage since STGCC 2012 only have ONE STAGE which is separated with a huge wall to block some of the noise activity where the guest artists had their panel discussion.

The Artist Alley is not just a hole in the wall to say “we have artists” as guest and mostly this is where the independent scene from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines show their works. You got a group of people, who make costumes or do make up for cosplays, then there are independent vinyl toy makers and designers, graphic animators, and then there’s Leinil Yu and Doc Carlo San Juan the creator of Callous Comics.

It’s not like they were invited to have a booth there just to say the convention had an “Artist Alley” and STGCC has taken care all of the guests down to the convention visitor who bought an entrance fee for one day ($15 SG) to two days ($25 SG).

The second day has fairly set of usual routines from the first day like the “Walk of Fame” and the Media Village schedule for the guest to be interviewed by the people doing coverage since Media Preview.

We only arrived late in the afternoon on day 2 due to that I have to make personal errands buying some souvenirs for my close relatives. We went to the Great World City Mall to check the only LEGO Pick-A-Brick Store in Singapore which cost us a cab ride from our hotel to that place.

So after the mall trip we went on the last day of STGCC and as always we had a very tight schedule as we only slept less than our usual hours. I missed the panel discussion with the toy designers from Hot Toys which turns out to be these good looking Koreans.

I mostly had to make a sacrifice for the second day since the amount of time was short on this trip. But unlike from 2009 I get to see some other places in Singapore that I never got the chance to see.

The last day was quick and I spent most of the time shuffling from the 8-Bit Media booth to the Komikon Booth and in-between going to the Artist Alley with Lyndon Gregorio and Ariel Atienza. The independent scene here is not just comics but a variety or works ranging from costume making to toy design with a bit of animation that you would rarely see in other events that they would call it a “convention.”

Besides the exploration of the Artist Alley I finally met a long-time friend who I occasionally see online in Otto Fong who I find his works would definitely inspire the younger generation through his comics. The creator of Mr Fong’s Adventures was definitely a great treat to meet finally in person.

Singapore has a “Cultural Convention” that merged with toys, games, and comics convention not only as a business venture because they know their visitors are fans so they took care of that. They aimed to give special importance to their visitors and guests the way a convention should be and just like back on my first visit in 2009 I still miss this event every year knowing I might not come back next year or the following one.

Overall the experience and that long preparation to come back paid off on a high note STGCC lived up to be the Asian Pop Culture Event that merged Eastern and Western influence under one roof. It may not be a perfect one to compare with SDCC or NYCC but it definitely had its own voice and with slight improvements it will be the convention I highly suggest visiting.

The only part I was surprised that they cut out on the budget is the souvenir program which has the artists, schedules of events, panel discussion and some special promos in some of the exhibitor booths. Back in 2009 they had a souvenir book now it’s in a flyer/map format.

I didn’t notice until I was packing my things going back to Manila that there was this part of the Program Guide which had some freebie information for every booth exhibitor. Given that they all had to put everything in the guide the fonts and details are too small to notice and I wasn’t able to have the guests sign the program guide with their photos in it.

Hopefully they would bring back the Program Guide in booklet format as a souvenir for the visitors. Even though they don’t have the stuff to sign with their guest artists at least they have something for them to sign in their program that they can keep.

This is similar to what I get from a friend who is based in the US attending the Wonder Con, Super Con, and the upcoming A.P.E this October. Hopefully STGCC would improve on this part that should be a standard goody for those who paid the entrance fee.

What I hope for in the future that the Philippines would have its own Pop Culture convention which none of these other events have with the usual template.

We are not far from having one it’s just the mind set and dedication which lacks to know what the fans want in an actual convention given there are long time events that have the same routine every year without even run a survey to find the need to improve and come out something fresh and new.

Conventions like these are rare to experience and it’s not about the business side which is showed here in STGCC 2012. I would definitely will miss going to this event knowing the last one was from three years ago and to become part of this event this year was definitely adds up to the portfolio that WE WERE THERE and never was just part of the media to have our logo on the first list of the supporting blog.

I would acknowledge everyone from Reed Expo and Ni9mer for being such gracious hosts in our entire weekend inquiring our needs and who do we want to conduct an interview. To all the new friends we met there it was great having us.

I hope someday I can come back and experience this again not under a very tight schedule and to see more of Singapore which I find a truly developed and very much disciplined country.

Congratulations to Reed Exhibition and the team behind its success knowing I did not have the chance to meet one of their own who was absent in those days. Hopefully I would meet this good friend who first invited me in 2010 which he still owes me coffee.

Thanks to Ni9mer and their representatives who consistently messaged me through email with regard to the updates. I hope to hang out with everyone one day after this event I know they really did a phenomenal making this convention possible.

Well here’s hoping that this is not the last STGCC I have come to visit knowing it should be… But you’ll never know that I might come back.

It’s all in good timing just like this year.

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