I was driving to work last Friday. As I passed through strip club row (another post for another time), I noticed two full-grown men dressed as seasoned ninjas with white flowing hair, jet packs, and wooden swords. My mind lingered for a moment, searching for an explanation, but then I realized: (a) this is Baltimore and (as with most cities) there are crazy ass people sometimes and (b) I was entirely too tired and too late for work to care. I drove towards my daily dose of the mundane without another thought.
The drive home was another story. Among others, there were giant Pokemon creatures, Final Fantasy stallwarts with enormous foam swords, and extremely hot nerd chicks crossing the street from the Baltimore Convention Center over to the Inner Harbor. As an aside...seriously, there was no in between here...either the girls were that possible-librarian, She's All That-type 'nerd you always secretly thought was cute' hot or...well, let's just say they looked like they ate a few librarians, books, and libraries. Anyway, a cocktail of bewilderment, excitement, and intrigue surged through my body as I sped towards the first place I could find to park. Nerds, in full cosplay, had invaded my locale and it was my mission...nay, duty...to figure out what was going on.
This story would have been better had I gone with my original thought of wearing my banana Halloween costume. Nonetheless, with my girlfriend and our friend in tow, we made our way down towards the Inner Harbor. Everything was a mystery at this point and I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to experience, whether or not I would see any characters at all, and hoping beyond all hope that the walk wouldn't be a complete waste of time since it's further than I would generally want to walk without a reason for doing so. Fingers were crossed for weirdos. My enthusiasm was sparked up to generally optimistic when a man on a double bicycle casually rode passed us on his way down. I congratulated him on having a nice bike, to which he replied: "Bikes!" Things were looking up.
Once we arrived at the Inner Harbor, I pondered: "Where do young virgins that dress up like cartoon or video game characters like to grab lunch?" Hooters, right? Well my initial thought was wrong as we only ran into a Japanese Godzilla police officer sitting at the bar. Feeling slightly discouraged, we hopped out of Hooters and wandered into the food court. Apparently JACKPOT! was on the menu. I must admit that I am slightly nerdy, so I am knowledgeable about a few of the costumes I witnessed. I stood in awe as we were surrounded by Shredder, Afro Samurai, and...it had to have been a million different Pikachu's (but none looked like that). There was also a lot of this going on. Namely, characters that I had no clue who they were. It was remarkable. There were so many virgins that I could have sacrificed any table in the food court to please any number of ancient gods.
I'm going to take a step back here for a moment. I really can't begin to describe how surreal of an experience it was to see mythical creatures sitting alongside ninja turtles, asking a gothic knight to pass the salt while a storm trooper stood in the background looking for his own seat to impose his intergalatic will upon. The only possible similiar situation I could relate this to would be eating at the cafeteria (picnic area) at a traveling carnival. I mean that in the best way possible. In my mind, having a bite with a bearded lady, strong man, and elephant man would be fantastic. I imagine any little people (read: midgets) around would act as a waiter and hilarious hijinks would follow.
My clan (that's Warcraft right?) carried on passed the spectacle of the food court and followed Sonic the Hedgehog out of a door and across the traffic bridge, towards the Convention Center. Things started to pick up and it was like...well, like we were entering a convention full of people dressed up in anime constumes. There really is no parallel. We had arrived at Otakon. Otakon, which apparently is the convention of the otaku generation (duh), is the wet dream of people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, or video games. In essence, it is an enormous Japanese culture festival, which encourages participants to engage in their fantasies through costume, interpretive dance, video games, and discussion. In all seriousness, while it wasn't my thing, I do think it's pretty rad that so many people have an outlet and place to go to showcase their passion and interest. You can't really knock that. Well, unless someone's passion is murder or dog fighting.
Stepping inside Otakon was like going into another world. A world where people spent more time on costumes than...anything else imaginable. It was like a Bizarro Disney World, especially since we were one of the very few groups of people without any sort of costume on. Honestly, you couldn't even make the argument that we tried to dress up b/c we had no clue what we were in store for. Nonetheless, trying to get down the stairs to the floor was nothing short of an attempt to fight any and all of the bad guys from Star Trek or Star Wars, but in their Japanese equivalent. People were taking pictures of hot girls or cool costumes. I couldn't help but wonder how much of a burden it would be to carry around giant wings or an enormous foam sword that you made around the place, but I digress. One of the funniest aspects to me was the rampant jealousy that sat heavy along the sides of the conference area. If you slowed for a moment and glanced around, you could see the kids that didn't try as hard on their costumes glaring and plotting at the ones that did. Yes, there were even clicks and cool kids at Otakon. Maybe they were new, maybe they didn't have the same resources or fortitude, but you could tell that they would come back even better next year. More XP and everything!
In the next room over, was an entire multiple football field-sized arena completely set up for video game competitions. There was plenty of fighting games, a smaller-than-expected amount of Mario games, dancing games, and music games. It was in this room that so many great insults were heard. I can't really remember any of them b/c frankly, I didn't catch the punchline, but everyone around the shit-talkers seemed to appreciate what they were saying. However, on a somber note, not all of the video game units would last the entire weekend, as pictured to the right. Just like any show on TBS, I'm sure you can figure out how this one ended. However, just as it is for a rear-view mirror, objects are absolutely larger than they appear. Seriously...this sounded like a pre stomach staple surgery sprint for the last red velvet cupcake at a free dessert buffet among Al Roker, Star Jones, and Carnie Wilson. It was much what I would expect the T-Rex to sound like as it was chasing Dr. Grant in Jurassic Park. Only this time, the thunderous booming of heavy dancing was married to the bleep boop boop techno tones from Dance, Dance Revolution! as opposed to the award-winning score from John Williams. R.I.P. Dance Dance Machine.
Wiping our collective eyes as we emerged from video game town, we realized that it was beginning to get late and it was Friday. The bars were calling our clan's name and it was time to partake in some libations and merrymaking. As much fun as I made fun of Otakon here, it was a good time and I'm sure if I had been interested in any of this, I would have had an even better time. Sure, some of the costumes were outrageous. And, although I realize that I didn't understand all of the costumes, I can't find a reason why Inspector Gadget was there. Or why he was at the very least over fifty. Or why he was only hanging out with the chick with the most revealing outfit from The Fifth Element. But, his rotating hat was a big hit and I don't think Otakon had an age limit. But, this was still a little creepy, sir. Paging Peter Pan.
In the end, this Otakon convention was enjoyable. It was fun to check out the costumes, people watch, and generally just immerse yourself into a different way of having fun that I was not previously privy to. Sure, some people went overboard (and couldn't handle/contain themselves - pictured to the right) but that's the point sometimes. We all have Nerdgasms for different things and it's fun to lose yourself in them at times. Even if that means retreating from sunlight to the basement, chugging Mountain Dew while you don't have sex, and building a giant foam sword and accompanying set of wings or whatever the hell goes with your costume allusion to something that not even the other dorks understand. Fun was had by all!
Some other pictures (click to enlarge):