Sunday, 1 July 2012

Convention Time: Vid Con 2012

This past weekend I went to Vid Con, and by God was it incredible. I've been to three conventions in the past so my experience is limited, especially as they were all gaming conventions of varying degrees. First I went to Eurogamer in London, then the London Gaming Con where I presented Final Fantasy: Zero at a panel and demonstration, then came the biggest I've been to; E3, which I was only at for a few hours on the final day and it was awesome. But nothing could have prepared me for how incredible and probably life changing Vid Con would be.

First off for those of you who don't know, Vid Con is a convention for online video; initially dreamt up by Hank Green and created in partnership with his brother John Green, the novelist. Both of them make up the duo of the "vlogbrothers" on YouTube. Now it's easy to dismiss YouTube as this place where people just talk utter bollocks, or show clips of Family Guy - but then you'd forget just how life changing this thing has been. It's only been seven years since it launched and in that time there are channels like Machinima that have 4,600,000 subscribers. If last generation was the generation of self-made millionaires like Bill Gates, Richard Branson or even Mark Zuckerberg - YouTube and Zuckerberg's own creation Facebook, along with other social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr and back in the old days, MySpace, have created a new generation, a generation of self-made stars. In the past if you wanted to show case your talent to the world and make money from it, you had to be damn lucky or know the right people. Now you can do it yourself and your videos will could go viral - I have friends who have 100,000 subscribers plus on YouTube. We live in an age now where the internet is integral to our lives and YouTube is one of the major parts of that. YouTube is the TV channel, that has millions of programs you can watch at any time and anyone can have a show on there - this is the future and the future is now.

So with all this in mind but not really knowing quite what I was in for, I went to Vid Con 2012 in Anaheim. Now I'm not a hardcore YouTuber; I am more so than regular people but I'm pretty low on the totem pole (for now). I tried the vlogging thing, I was too lazy to contribute regularly because I have no decent video editing software and dear lord do I hate editing with a vicious firey hatred of boiling hate. I'm mostly a commenter and a watcher of videos, and in attending Vid Con 2012 I was mostly going to meet people I admired in this community, maybe make some contacts and network a little... but I didn't know anything about this community....

Wait up, backstory time. Around about 2006 I started watching videos by this guy called... The Angry Video Game Nerd, you might have heard of him, if you haven't... who the hell are you and why are you reading my blog? Anyway, he made me laugh with his funny angry video game review parodies, from there I discovered The Nostalgia Critic, and his website and co-workers. Soon I started using my YouTube account that I'd only been using for Final Fantasy: Zero trailers and videos until now to subscribe to people. People like brentalfloss with his "What If Video Games... Had Lyrics?" series, who eventually I met in person and am still good friends with to this day, which gave me my first real glimpse behind the camera of YouTube into the life of someone with some fame online. So really my experience at roughly this point was mostly the "online internet reviewer" crowd with some similar video people thrown in there. Then I went and saw this review channel called Tardistacular, run by two lovely Doctor Who fangirls, one American Kaylee  and one British, Rosianna. I thought they were both a lot of fun and as a Doctor Who fanboy myself, I was curious. Then I heard Rosianna had a "vlog"... Wasn't sure what that was exactly, was it a mispelling of Blog, a lisp, a cute pet name for some kind of disease? I checked it out, it was her talking to a camera, talking about her life, talking about things going on in it. "What is this crap?" I asked myself wondering why anyone would talk about their personal life on the internet like that. Then I realised what it really was, it wasn't her talking about her life, it was her sharing her life with us. Sharing the lessons learned, the journey's experienced and all life has to offer in a few short minutes. This is the principal YouTube was founded upon, hence it's name YOUtube. She eventually mentioned a book "Looking for Alaska" once or twice, I checked it out, it was by John Green - some time after I returned from New York in 2009, I heard Green was doing a signing in London. I went there and suddenly I realised he was not just an author, he was so much more. He had his own Nerd Kingdom based around his YouTube channel who called themselves "Nerdfighters", other vloggers were there and I started to realise what kind of insane world I was discovering. From here, I subscribed to John and Hank on YouTube (and you should too after you finish reading this if you've made it this far). I discovered Jenna Marbles, Felicia Day and her web series The Guild and all manner of crazy stuff. I thought I knew this world...

I had no idea. The community is huge, they are old, they are young, they come from all walks of life. They cosplay, they dance, the laugh and geek out. It's crazy and I absolutely love it, every second of it. Going to Vid Con really made me realise that this is the future, that's the future audience, that's the future content creators, I was embarrassed when people kept asking if I had a channel, "Sure, I do, it sucks, wait until my web series comes out". I met Mike Diva, a singer and entertainer on YouTube, who was absolutely awesome. I saw Felicia Day sing live, I made a ton of new friends, met old friends from school who were a part of this community through their page "Sorted Food".

We stand on the precipice of a new age, where creator and fan are one in the same, where every person has a chance to create their own content, to grow, to communicate, network and collaborate. Vid Con will probably have irrevocably changed me and even if for some reason I'm not living in Los Angeles next year, I will fly out to Anaheim for Vid Con... only this time I'd prefer it if I didn't get stuck in 4 hours of traffic again please?