It’s now been one week since I attended FanExpo Canada in Toronto, and I’ve had some time to reflect back on all the madness and excitement. There was a lot going on at the convention, which took place in the Toronto Metro Centre over the course of four days.
Most of the open floor space was taken up by vendors and artists, while the rooms were used for panels and Q&A with the various celebrities in attendance. Just seeing all the displays took a significant amount of time, not to mention the full schedule of panels that were available. I was there three full days and still didn’t manage to see everything. From what I was able to check out, here are a few things I enjoyed about FanExpo, and a few I didn’t.
I arrived at FanExpo on Thursday evening, which ended up being a good plan because I managed to play games at all of the gaming booths without having to stand in the insane lines all the other days. Besides playing a few games I had already played before (PUBG and World of Warcraft), I got to test out Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a game I have preordered and have been waiting impatiently for.
The controls were similar to the last two games, which made picking it up at a random point in the story pretty easy for me. The section I played included a puzzle mixed with the climbing, running, and jumping typical in Tomb Raider. The movement in the game is smooth, to the point where it felt like I was actually running and climbing. There were points when I got a bit too close to falling that actually had my heart racing. I didn’t have a chance to get much feel for the game story, but the scenery for the area I was in was fantastic, and the graphics were truly stunning. It made me excited to see more. The volunteers in the Xbox area were also very helpful and noticed when I was a bit stuck, coming over to give a few hints.
For fans who wanted something more old school, there was also a Retro Arcade with a bunch of old arcade games available to play for a quarter. That was a fun place to hang out and get away from the crowd.
Besides all the game booths, my favourite parts of the weekend were browsing Artist’s Alley (spending too much money), and seeing all of the amazing cosplay. I was particularly impressed with a few Lara Croft, Critical Role, and Master Chief costumes. There were also a wide range of guests signing autographs: tv, film, and voice actors, comic artists and writers, cosplayers, and internet celebrities. There weren’t many voice actors from games I was a fan of this year, but I did get to meet a few authors responsible for comic books I enjoy. I had a great conversation with Jim Zub about his Dungeons and Dragons comics, and with the authors behind the recent Assassin’s Creed comics series. There was also a range in panels and other activities that would meet most interests.
Unfortunately, most of the panels I wanted to see were either at the same time as the Dungeons and Dragons game I was in, or had lines starting two hours before the actual event. Lines were one of my biggest complaints, but unfortunately a long line is a staple of any convention. I would have even paid more for the ability to reserve spots in panels that I really wanted to see, to avoid missing so much time in lines. On Friday and Saturday the Xbox and PlayStation areas were completely packed. Just getting from floor to floor sometimes ended up taking ages.
The only other complaint I have about the entire event was a few organizational problems. There were a few occasions where I went out and was not let back in, either because no one mentioned that the doors closed for everyone at 7, or just poorly marked doors and stairs. At one point we were sent up a staircase that took us outside and had to wait half an hour to get back in. Those are the types of oversights that I’m sure come with any large event. At one point the building was overcapacity, but a vendor told us later on that this year wasn’t even as bad as it has been previously.
Overall, my experience was very positive! I learned a few lessons that would make my experience smoother in future years, like not leaving the building once I was there, and making sure I got in line for the things I really wanted to do well in advance. Also, early morning and late evening are the best time to check out the booths and vendors, before the crowds get crazy. Taking part in an event like FanExpo is a really great way to connect with other people who share interests that cover every corner of the nerdy universe, and I hope I get the chance to do it again.