We were invited to Sabakon so I thought I’d write about the venue and overall experience.
Sabakon bills itself as an anime, video gaming, and pop culture convention. Its a convention that is ran for fans, by fans. I think a lot of conventions start that way, but eventually become more about the business, but not Sabakon. Sabakon is a chaotic, fun, mess of a convention that sprawls throughout the venue it’s at, which this year (like several years in the past) was Alexis Park.
Don’t expect an orderly convention hall with long lines and a vague corporate/airport feel, this convention is spread throughout a Las Vegas resort requiring navigating between one side of the resort to the other in order to see everything the convention has to offer.
As it’s name would suggest, there is a strong Japanese focus to the convention, which unfortunately often discourages some fans who love “video games and pop culture” but have no interest in anime whatsoever. I think it’s safe to say at this point that anime is as richly embedded in pop culture as pop culture has been infiltrated by anime, and I highly recommend people who enjoy these kinds of events to come check it out. This convention isn’t for everyone, but I think its for more people than they would think. Panels about cosplay, voice actors, and podcasts are there in addition to the more Japanese-themed anime panels. Cool toys and collectibles are available of all sorts of fandoms, not just anime, and the artist alley has as many authors and doodad makers as it does anime artists.
A short aside about the artist alley. Something I really was pleasantly surprised about Sabakon was how the artist alley took up a space as large as the vendor hall and to many visitors to the convention I’m fairly sure people had no idea that the artists were individuals selling their creations versus the vendors and their products. I like that a lot and think it says a lot for the community of Sabakon.
The community aspect of Sabakon in general was super cool, but I can also see how some people might feel like its too disorganized or feel “more” lonely because of how many people are having fun in groups which can make loners feel even more lonely. All I would say to those lonely introverts is to recognize that most of the people visiting the convention are fellow introverts who struggle to branch out and form social connections just like themselves. It takes time to get to the point of recognizing people and being recognized, but don’t take it personal when someone doesn’t remember you or doesn’t do more than talk and leave. Many of us get burned out by being around crowds and desperately need some alone time and we don’t recognize when we hurt someone’s feelings by what is perceived as a “brush off”.
There was plenty of space walking through the halls, and the timing of the convention (so late in the year) made it much cooler, allowing for those heavier/warmer cosplays that didn’t work when the convention was held closer to summer with the harsh Las Vegas heat. Personally, this was the best Sabakon I’ve been to in years with the perfect ratio of casualness, temperature, and cool stuff to see and do.
Thanks Sabakon for having us, can’t wait for next year!