FanExpo 2011: A Weekend in Review

Sunday, August 28th marked the closing of Toronto’s FanExpo 2011. had a huge presence at FanExpo this year, with 5 of our staff attending at least 3 days out of the 4.  It was a fun, exhilarating and exhausting weekend, and thankfully we have pictures documenting the highlights!

From the get-go, it was amazing to see all the people in full costume standing in line to get into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  Outfits ranged from anime characters to Trekkies, Ghost Busters to Storm Troopers, and the horrifying ghouls to scantily-clad vixens. When asked, most of these attendees said that they indeed made their costumes, sometimes spending months sewing and thousands of dollars on the intricacies.  Now that is dedication, my friends.  Mind you, I’m sure many passers-by could say the same about those of us standing in line, shuffling along as police and Expo Crew herded us towards the entrance.  Come on everyone, on the count of three: one, two, three, baaaaah!  As our esteemed editor says, “one of these days we’ll get the vast majority to bleat in unison”.

There was so much to see and many games to play – it felt like we walked for 10 hours straight each day! We visited all of the gaming booths, including Ubisoft, LG (which showcased Microsoft games), Warner Brothers, and Disney Interactive Media (just to name a few!).  Aside from games, there was the Artist Alley at the back of the exhibition hall filled with colourful prints, sketches, hand-crafts and unique items. Conversely, by the front entrances were the many vendors selling comics, books, toys, vintage video games, swords, stuffed animals and collector’s items.  Anyone who wasn’t careful (i.e. didn’t set a budget) could end up spending a lot of money in a short period of time.

Each day started off with an early morning, as we joined the masses raring to be amongst the first to get into the convention centre.  Ubisoft was the booth to visit first thing, where energetic music blared and thumped from the Just Dance 3 stage.  I don’t know about you, but listening to tunes that you can dance to definitely wakes me up – no matter how bleary-eyed I am! Ubisoft’s dancer on stage made the game look easy to follow, and her enthusiasm called out to audience members to try it long before she beckoned them over.  I decided to save the world from yet another wannabe-dancer flailing about, declining the invitation to join them on stage.

For me, the Disney booth was also an early a.m. visit, as they had two Disney artists drawing anything from Classic Mickey to Wall-E for free.  Even at 10:15, the line for the sketches made for a 2 hour long wait (at least!).  However, I can’t complain – the illustrations were definitely worth the wait!  Luckily, I had friendly strangers to chat with, which made the time pass bearably.  As we got closer to the various consoles Disney had set up, we got a chance to play Disney Universe, which people seemed to pick up quite easily!  At long last, I happily walked off with Mickey doing his hocus pocus on a broom ( à la the Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Stitch, and a cute portrayal of Bambi and Thumper’s everlasting friendship.

While I stood in line for my Disney sketches, the rest of roamed the floors, playing games to their hearts’ delight.  They got to try Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City at the Warner Bros. booth, Twisted Pixel’s The Gunstringer, Halo: Anniversary, and Ubisoft’s Rocksmith (think Guitar Hero, but with a real guitar) and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

Aside from the FanExpo proper, was lucky to be invited to Konami’s Gamer’s Day event held at Real Sports Bar.  The venue was perfect, with its big screen TVs, comfy lounge and amazing food.  There, we were wined and dined with fellow attendees. With drinks in hand, we got to play some of Konami’s new and upcoming games.  My favourites were Karaoke Revolution Glee Volume 3 and Puddle, whereas the others seemed drawn to Zombie Apocolypse: Never Die Alone, Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker and PES 2011.  The Kinect game, Leedmees, was something we unanimously felt was exceptionally fun and would be a great party game.  Why am I not talking more at length about these games?  Why, I wouldn’t be able to do them justice here!  Keep an eye out for First Impressions articles coming soon!

Overall, FanExpo 2011 was an amazing experience and filled with pleasant surprises.  In addition to all the games we played, we got to breathe the same air as Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Gallactica’s Kara Thrace), Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1), and Freddy Kreuger…ahem, Robert Englund.  Our editor, Will, was able to interview Elias Toufexis (who lent his voice to Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Assassin’s Creed).  We ended the weekend with tummies filled with too-expensive pizza, wallets empty, hands straining with over-flowing bags of goodies, and our aching legs and feet begging for reprieve.  Yet, the sense of satisfaction we feel has us looking forward to FanExpo 2012.  358 days and counting!

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