Gaming Theme Brings Big Gaming Win to San Japan: 8-Bit.
This past weekend I attended my first San Japan, which also happened to be my very first anime convention ever. Making my usual push for pictures and interviews, I stumbled upon a door in artist alley that led to Ballroom A. As I walked through that door, it was as if I traveled back in time to the days when video arcades ruled these lands. Of course with this year’s theme being video games, the gaming section made absolute sense. As I continued to walk through this giant diversion (see what I did there), I grew all the more impressed.
The 30,000 square foot hall was filled with all kinds of games that included modern as well as vintage factory arcade games, large tables with consoles set up, Japanese slot machines, giant television screens for tournaments complete with play-by-play commentators and a live audience. There was also a retro gaming section with a wide variety of games attendees could check out. The most amazing part was 90% of the games on the floor were free play.
I spoke with Ricardo Lepe, Gaming Director at San Japan who has been with them since their Zero Day Anime, which was before their conventions during the mini-con days. Ricardo, who has been involved with the gaming aspect and has some history helping with game rooms for the convention told me that the con chair (David Henkin) pretty much handles the pre-planning for the gaming, but once the con starts, he essentially just hands it over to Lepe and asks him to just take it over from there.
When I asked him about the preparation and challenges that are faced when organizing an event like this, Lepe went on to say, “The team has to make sure all the equipment works and has what the con goers want and need to play to ensure everyone is having fun. I also like to make sure everyone has space and that nobody is too crowded and that everyone is comfortable. We really wanted to push gaming this year because it’s the theme for this year’s con. Ninety percent of the games you see on the floor are free play, with only the Pachinko games being pay to play.” (Pachinko is a Japanese mechanical arcade game that is part pinball machine, part slot machine). Tokyo Attack is another popular game that is from Japan, and the vendor who brought it down is really proud and stoked about this game because nobody has this latest version. As you can see, the fans at these conventions know what they want, we bring it to them and they love it.”
I also spoke to vendor John Castleman who was running the Pachinko Corner tables over the weekend and asked him about his overall thoughts on the gaming. “It is really well done and I would rate it really high. They pulled all the stops out this year and it’s seriously like twice the size of what they’ve had in the past, it’s a very different experience this year.” Samantha (who was helping Castleman out this year) went on to say, “They (San Japan) has a nice group that has brought in a lot of exclusive Japanese arcade machines that are really fun and I’ve never played before, it’s really cool seeing them around.”
I honestly do not have anything to measure the overall gaming section at San Japan against, this being my first time here and never attending a convention that was exclusively gaming make my overall analysis a little difficult. I just know that it was clearly evident that everyone in the gaming section was having tons of fun. With so many other amazing events and panels going on throughout the weekend, those who were fortunate enough to spend some time inside Ballroom A were witness to an awesome gaming experience!