Animazement 2013, a three-day convention held on Memorial Day weekend, has steadily grown the past few years it has been held. 8,855 attendees came to Raleigh this year, roughly 10% more than last year. Predicting this growth, Animazement’s layout at the Raleigh Convention Center (RCC) and Marriott City Center dramatically changed this year, streamlining traffic, making the increased attendance have less of an impact, and providing more space for exhibitors and guests to present their work.
During previous years at Animazement, the game room closed when the RCC did. This year’s relocation of the Game Room, from the RCC to the Marriott, gave gamers 24 hour access to the game room. The space previously occupied by the game room, close to the Artist Alley and Dealer’s Room was dedicated to fan panels, requiring less walking between very popular locations. The segregation of fan and guest panels allowed lines for guest panels to avoid crowding the rest of the convention space. The Artist Alley was expanded into the balcony in front of the fan panels, simultaneously using unused space and preventing evil attendees from dropping things on other attendees below.
I did notice major crowding on Saturday. Animazement’s growth, along with its more compact layout, led to crowding along the Artist Alley / Dealer’s Room walkways at peak times. The Dealer’s room is one place where Animazement could easily improve, as vendors only use about half of the allocated space. It seems like Animazement could space the dealers further apart and alleviate traffic problems.
The rest of the space is used by RCC-provided snacks. I thought this arrangement was awkward: the location of the food should be placed closer to the entrance of the Dealer’s Room. Very few people actually took advantage of the refreshments in the Dealer’s Room.
Animazement’s late night dance room was halved in size compared to 2012. I ventured inside there on Friday night to look at the crowd and get glowstick dancer photos, but found it rather difficult, as the dance room was over three quarters full on Friday night. I tried again Saturday night, but realized it was even worse, as the dance was completely packed. I later realized that many attendees that didn’t make it into the dance went outside the RCC’s main doors and set up their own dance.
Cosplay Chess at previous Animazements had been run as a fan panel, with a chess board in the middle of the panel space and spectators sitting on the ground around the board. This year, Animazement made Cosplay Chess a main event, giving the incredibly popular event a stage and good seating. Instead of having to follow the action by trying to figure out who was who by balloons floating from pieces’ heads, a computerized display with the chess board made it very clear what was going on.
Responding to feedback from fans in 2012, Animazement hosted a formal ball for the first time this year! Held away from the rest of the convention at the Marriott, it was supposed to be a classier dance than “the late-night one”. A strict dress code was enforced, required dancers to be in formal dress, or a formalized version of a costume in order to enter.
Feedback from formal ball dancers was mixed. The music selection could have been more classy, the dress code could have been more strict. For running a new event, I could forgive Animazement for its mistakes the first year in running a formal ball.
For me, my overall impression of Animazement 2013 are mostly positive. I feel like the panel selection was weaker than it has been in the past, and the schedule being released as late as the day before the convention gave many of us very little time to prepare our schedules. However, the convention itself ran more smoothly, even with a with a large jump in attendance this year. The post-convention feedback threads are very positive, other than some issues stemming from a miscommunication about the the photography policy. I can only hope that Animazement continue the great work they did with the improvements this year!
Full disclosure: I staffed Animazement this year.