35 Things I Noticed During RealmsCon 2014

Zoidberg cosplayer!

Cosplay? Why not Zoidberg?

  1. OMG the Corpus Christi humidity kills me, yet another reason I need to lose weight
  2. The line for pre-registration was zero so I got my badges quickly. Always preregister, folks!
  3. Both aisles of the Artist’s Alley hallway were being used, which made it little crowded
  4. The bigger dealer area was nice, but they really need to put AA in a better spot
  5. A few empty tables here and there in AA, sadly typical
  6. The artists I knew that weren’t coming back to Realms after poor sales in the past, didn’t.
  7. Sighted in AA: body-sized “Hug pillows?”  YEAH, STILL NOT CREEPY AT ALL
  8. Filling out paper form in the reg line always holds it up
  9. No multi-arcade game machine in the game room?  FAIL
  10. GoPro cameras seem to be everywhere now for better or for worse
  11. The Zoidberg cosplayer at right was probably my favorite one of the con
  12. Note to self: leave the laptop in the CAR if you aren’t going to use it *huff*
  13. I am sorry, Jena, but a sandwich and a hamburger are most definitely NOT the same thing. Guess it’s a “guy thing”
  14. 123456? Yeah, they’ll never guess *that* hotel WiFi password
  15. Want to turn a decent hotel room into OMG BEST ROOM EVAR? Add a fridge and a microwave!
  16. Gave my niece a ride to the con, she bought a tail while she was there…ONE OF US ONE OF US
  17. Construction on Shoreline? Dammit Corpus!
  18. I always see cases of water on the cheap at Stripes convenience stores except THE ONE TIME I ACTUALLY WANT TO BUY ONE >.<
  19. You know you’re bushed when you don’t want to go up the stairs to eat on the second floor of Whataburger by the Bay
  20. Apparently VIP passes allow one to skip lines, here, what a concept!
  21. The actor playing Kirk in “Star Trek Continues” had a celebrity table and McCoy was in Artist’s Alley…typical
  22. Holy cats, we managed to fill up a panel room and then some for the “Furry 101” panel
  23. There are even a few furries present, which might have been cheating 😉
  24. According to Wolfboy adding “-ies” to the end of an animal name makes it furry “insect-ies” “shark-ies”
  25. I can’t argue against his logic, though.
  26. MASSIVE con fail for not having projectors for either one of my panels even though I had requested them
  27. Projectors were found but I had no screen so I had to project my presentations onto the wall at an angle and figure out how to darken the lights. -_-
  28. Luckily I think I could do my e-book panel without one, but still!
  29. What the fuzz was up with that guy that wanted to take a picture of all the furries jumping up in the air?
  30. I was tickled that the schedule part of the conbook was titled ”Celebrity Schedules’ and my name was on it. Oh, you!
  31. I don’t get the point of having someone watching the door at the end of Artist’s Alley, can’t they just, I don’t know, LOCK THE DOOR?
  32. Seafood restaurant, why is your salad bar backwards?
  33. There were only 8 people at my e-book panel, but those three very interested folks made it worth it
  34. Since nothing was scheduled after e-books the panel room became an improvised fursuit lounge.
  35. I lost two pounds over the weekend, perhaps I need to attend more cons!

RealmsCon 2011 : Can Less Be More?

As far as I know, RealmsCon is the only anime event that goes on in Corpus Christi.  I remember going to the first one way back when, and have had tables there these last two years.  With First Storm Manga done with, I was now free to just enjoy the show.  Having been underwhelmed with RealmsCon in the past, I decided to drive down and check it out for one day as opposed to the whole weekend.

I got to the American Bank Center at about one in the afternoon, and the setup was very similar to what they had last year; artists and panels were on the first floor and big events and guests were on the second.  It was different in that the number of artists and dealers had been reduced from 2010.  The same amount of space was being used, but things were a little more spread out.  They did things like use only one side of a hallway instead of both.  While it made the space looked a little more empty (particularly the dealer’s room) I think it was the right thing to do.  Here’s why:

I don’t know what the attendance numbers are for RealmsCon, but it would appear that they overdid it last year when they held their first show at the American Bank Center last year.  Back then, they packed as many artists and dealers as they could into the space, but it appears that they didn’t have the numbers to support all those attendees.  I overheard that both attendees and artists were pretty unhappy with that situation.

It looks like they found the sweet spot this year, because nearly all of the folks that I spoke with said that things were going well for them, sales-wise, at least.  Ideally, fewer artists and dealers meant more money for the ones that were there.

I really didn’t do much there beyond hang out with friends so I attend any of the events.  While they do have just a little bit of repetition in terms of their guests, it is nice to see familiar faces.  Of course, I have to mention that their big guest Tom Felton cancelled, which was unfortunate.

I didn’t attend any of the panels, so I don’t have anything to say about them except that Airship Isabella appeared to be running a significant chunk of them, according to the schedule.  That makes me wonder about the anime community in Corpus Christi, are there not enough folks down there that want to do panels?  Realms always seems to have issues getting enough panels to fill the event’s three days.  Last year, each presenter was given two hours, and this year there were 15-30 minute gaps in between events.

That minor quibble aside, I had a fun time at RealmsCon and there was a good crowd there.  While they had to take a step back in some ways, it was a step forward for the most part, and I look forward to coming back next year, maybe for the whole weekend instead.

RANDOM STOPS, Videogames

RANDOM STOPS: “Play Again” At Corpus Christi’s Classic Video Game Store

On any particular day on the corner of Everhart and Corona in Corpus Christi, Texas, you may find Link or Master Chief beckoning you over to a store called Play Again Classic Video Games.

Come on Down!

In business since 2007, Play Again specializes in classic video games, currently defined as everything from the Playstation 2 going all the way back to the original Odyssey.


Where it all began...

Upon entering, you see that two walls of the interior are almost completely covered with shelves of cartridges and some CDs.  The store is decorated with video game and anime memorabilia: atop those cartridge-filled shelves are board games based on popular 80’s titles and boxes for various systems both old and relatively new.


A few tables and seats by the front door invite customers to come in and talk shop, and accessories for older systems can be found in the back.

Classic Accessories for Classic Systems

Those Wonderful Toys...

Store owner Marco Castillo is always happy to talk shop.  He asked not to be photographed for this article, saying that “we are one big team and not just one face.”  With several years of working in video games, he has some interesting views on where the industry is currently at and where he feels it should be heading:

R9: How did Play Again get started?

MC: Play Again Classic Video Games got started by two friends of mine that owned independent game stores in California, where I was living at the time.  I was working at Sony Electronics in Silicon Valley and got tired of working for others and felt my life needed some new direction.  I would visit my friends’ stores and noticed that they seemed very happy and often counseled young folks through life’s big and little challenges.  I think it was that concept of helping and counseling people in this environment that was the thing that snapped me into action per se.  I can safely say that we have been in business now for over 3 years and I have helped out all kinds of people from the simplest technical problem to the deeper relationship issues as well.  While it may be an endless job I, would not ever want to give it up: its just too much fun and fulfilling.

R9: Do you play current-gen titles, or are you strictly a retro gamer?

MC: I own a DS, Wii and PS3 and will be getting a 360 since we will soon start to repair the current gen systems.  I really like the DS the most of this generation of gaming, there is just so much to choose from and companies appear to feel comfortable to make games for it that often would not make it to the larger consoles.  I really do try to play everything I can get my hands on and make it a point to try everything from the first person shooting games to the cheerleading and DDR style games.  I hear the word “hard core gamer” being bandied around, in my opinion a hard core gamer is a gamer who is willing to try any game and is not tied to any genre or system or platform.  When I used to work in the video game industry people defined hardcore as people who play first person shooter games, I really think that is a bit myopic.  I think the term should be dropped because lately it seems to me that it is taking kind of a negative tone to those types of people who have no real human social life and are becoming socially inept.  I think gamers are neat people; I wanted to create a place for gamers to come out and meet people in person and find a girl or guy and play games in person.  Call me old fashioned but meeting people and interacting with them while doing the thing you all have in common is a fun way to live life.

Ok, I see I went off topic…to answer your question I play a lot of classic games because they are quick fix get in and get out games since I work 7 days a week at the store.

R9: As an independent store, how has the consolidation of the brick-and-mortar videogame chains (EB/Gamestop merger, Gamecrazy going under, Blockbuster on the ropes) affected you, if at all?

MC: The big chains are a very interesting case to me, we really do go out of our way to try to make friends with all game stores in our area.  Since Wal-Mart, Gamestop, etc are all selling modern games, it has not really affected Play Again too much.  We often send people to our friends at the other stores when they are looking for anything in this generation of gaming and it seems to be a real friendly relationship that we honor and enjoy.

For the record, I don’t think it’s a good sign for gaming that stores seem to be closing up, it might be a sign that the industry is changing again.

We have noticed that since so many people are growing tired of sequels of games many are going back to their roots and wanting a SNES, PS1, Genesis  or any other retro system.  I think gaming coming back to its roots is a great way for us to be reminded that in the end of the day, its not just about the graphics, it all about the game play.

R9: You appear to be primarily a brick-and-mortar operation; do you have any plans to increase Play Again’s online presence?

MC: We do indeed; when I first opened I was pushed by so many to have a very robust online store and to get it opened immediately.  I had noticed that after research and falling back on my Silicon Valley experience the only way to do a website is the right way, and in this case to make it work well from the beginning.  When I first opened it was just me and one employee and we didn’t even really have enough games to satisfy the local market much less the worldwide one, but we saw the importance of getting a website done right.  In the end we held off the idea until one can be done correctly taking into consideration logistics, mailing, communication, labor and product supply.  We hope to hire our web person when we do our expansion.

R9: The industry seems to be in a bit of a rut right now, with sequels upon sequels littering the release lists.  What do you think needs to happen for the industry to move ahead?

MC: That is an interesting question; I think the rut of the industry is a many faceted problem.  I think the market has become too saturated with games and game making people.  People often call the “Golden Era” of games the times of the 8 and 16 bit system days.  I think it was a bit different back then; games simply were not coming out as fast, reusable / licensable game engines really did not exist on a very large level.  The idea of taking someone’s engine and doing a graphic mod really kept the games coming out to a smaller amount with longer design times.  I think that was the biggest strength and weakness of gaming back then, but games often were quite fresh and original many times.  With the dawning of rapid design tools like flash, games come out quicker than ever and all have that simple flash look that the cartoons of today are so unfortunately saddled with.  I yearn for the time of hand drawn animation and games on a wider scale again!

The other day I saw a commercial for a tech school that claims, “Hey you! Unemployed person, stop playing games and start making them!”  I realized that once gaming became the next gold rush, there were going to be a lot of people making them and not necessarily a lot of people becoming the overnight millionaires that many believed the Silicon Valley tech bubble of the late 90’s and 2000’s tried to be as well.  When you have too many people rushing to make money it always comes at the cost of quality and originality.  I hate to say it but I think some of the best games came when game makers were not the millionaires but the lower salary people who were doing it simply because it was what they really believed in.  Can you imagine if paintings all of a sudden became real money makers?  People would swarm in and paint like there is no tomorrow, and what would we have, a whole bunch of paint on canvases and very little art.

I personally think one of the best things that can happen to this industry is to scale back. I think it should cut the people who really should not be in that business/art field and regroup and decide that it’s ok to take time to make a game.   It will be ok not to rush it out, and its NOT ok to make too many sequels.  Its sad but we live in a “sure bet” world of: “if your game cannot project to make over $1 Million dollars than we simply wont do it.” Thus, we have lots and lots and lots of sequels and very little originality.  Seriously people, you pay good money, (often $50 – $80) for a game.  Don’t you deserve a new and fun experience every time?  It should not be an accident before we get another original game like Katamari Damacy.

R9: Is retro gaming is making comeback, and if so, why?  Is it because of a desire of younger players to find out where it all began, nostalgia on the part of first generation gamers, or a combination of the two?

MC: Humm.. I think that retro is kind of making a comeback in some ways.  We get the luxury of being able to talk to many people, men and women, young and old alike and we have found one thing: people really do want straightforward games.  You will notice I did not say simple games.  People say that to make games for families or girls and women that the games need to be simple, but I have to very much disagree.  I think families and women want straightforward games, games where you don’t have to learn complicated moves or remember esoteric key combinations to do the simplest stuff.  I think the moment some nerd figured out the dragon punch for Street Fighter II and decided that he wanted to impress the exact girls that were playing the game by thoroughly handing them many defeats, gaming changed forever…and not in a good way.

You see, the concept of women playing games or even fighting games, while may seem very foreign now, was not so foreign back in the early days of arcades.  Gaming and arcades in the 80’s were full of games like Frogger, Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Street Fighter II etc that were straightforward games, not simple or easy, and they were just fun to play for everyone.  I think we lost our way in some respects and I think many people are getting back to when gaming was just fun and straightforward.  There is a good reason that at one point it was cheaper to shingle your house with the Mario/Duck Hunt cart than it was for actual shingles, but today that game goes for quite a bit more money.  People want to return to the days of easy to get into, get in-and-out-of, straightforward gaming.. at least that is what we see in our store.

R9: How do you feel about the current trend of “new arcade” games, such as Geometry Wars?  Are there any that have succeeded in capturing the feel of the classic games that they clearly draw inspiration from?

MC: I really do like games that are an homage to the game they are honoring.  I loved Geometry Wars on the DS and the Wii. I am really enjoying the new version of Sin and Punishment on the Wii as I was a big fan of the Japanese N64 version.  I did not try a Boy and His Blob yet but would like to give it a run since the first one was such a cool game.  I think it might be harder to remake a game than just make a new one in some ways, because with a remake people have expectations and sometimes our memories are fonder than the game itself.  Go back and play some of your most well remembered games, I am betting that a few of them like movies will now turn out to be kind of flat experiences.  When we create the legend of a game or movie in our head that is often bigger than the actual game,  any remake of it will have a very rough time meeting those tough expectations.

ES: How long have you been involved with gaming?

MC: I am happy to say I am a child of the 80’s, I was a teenager during the original video game wave and was pretty much born with an Atari joystick in my hand.  I was always that kid that was always reading the magazines and saving his money for the game he wanted and never seemed to have enough for all of the ones I actually did want!  I have been doing this store now for over 3 years, and have worked in the game industry for another 3 years and in Silicon Valley for almost 10 years… I have to say its been quite a ride and one that I would not mind doing over again!

ES: Are there currently any plans for expanding Play Again?

MC: We are currently planning to expand the store into our sister store where we are hoping to give our locals a place that is focused on meeting people of the opposite gender and share the love of gaming in friendly competition in a relaxed anime inspired café gaming shop.  I am working with the person who is going to open it and it looks like everything is going well and we hope to have lots of community based events and fun things for people to do until the wee hours of the night in a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.

R9: Is there anything else you would like to say?

MC: Gaming, anime & cartoons are lots of fun, meeting people for real, going on dates and discussing things in an adult manner are the cornerstone of what we as gamers are. Somewhere down the line we have been pigeon-holed as less than that and lost our way.  I just want to help us find it again and enjoy ourselves at the same time.

I would like to thank Mr. Castillo for taking the time to answer my questions.  If you are in Corpus Christi and are looking for a long lost cartridge, need a system repaired, or just want to rekindle the old SNES vs. Genesis debate (or Atari 2600 vs Intellivision for us older gamers). then check out Play Again Classic Video Games located at 5301 Everhart Road, just one block off of South Padre Island Drive.  With a knowledgeable staff and a love of all things classic, they will be more than happy to take care of your retro gaming needs.  Play Again Classic Video games can be found on the Web at:

Contact Eduardo “RANDOMIZER9” Soliz at!


RealmsCon Day 1: In The Ghetto

Originally posted at J2GAMES.COM

First a disclaimer: I am from the Corpus Christi area.  Thus, my opinions are colored by the fact that I think Corpus Christi is a podunk town that only has only had one good thing come out of it, and that’s Whataburger.  I went to Realms-Con to preach the gospel of First Storm Manga and also out of curiosity to see what kind of con they could throw, especially after experiencing the uber-goodness that was San Japan.

It started out well enough on Friday morning.  First Storm Manga “Roadie” Javier and myself headed to the Holiday Inn Emerald Beach to set up shop.  I had expected a big hassle getting our badges because of the fun times I had running back and forth between the Municipal Auditorium and the Holiday Inn during the start of San Japan (YES I’M STILL BITTER).  The original plan was for us to use half of Chris’ table for FSM and the other half to sell his leftover stuff from San Japan.

First, we had to FIND the registration table.  This was made even more fun by the lack of signage.  As REAL men don’t ask for directions, we simply hung a left at the hotel’s front desk.  Walking down a hall, we saw some tables, and at the end, we found one with a “First Storm Manga” sign on it.  I was enthralled that we had our own dedicated table, but just a bit disappointed when I realized we had been placed at the ass end of the convention.  The only thing nearby was the video game room, which wasn’t even open yet.  My confidence would have been more inspired if it hadn’t been for the flickering fluorescent light over our table.  Great, I thought, I’ll be drained AND blind by the time this is all over.

But hey, a table was a table, and it would be all ours.

We still needed our badges, and so we headed back the way we came to find the registration desk.  As we walked around, we passed by Chris’ table, located right in front of the panel rooms in a high-traffic area.  Wow, isn’t he Mr. Cool.  We soon found the registration table OUTSIDE of the hotel.  I would later learn that they were forced outside to avoid a long line of people inside the hotel, which made sense, but at the time I remember thinking who could have thought that was a good idea.

Now for the fun part: “Hi, I’m Eduardo Soliz from First Storm Manga, and I am here to pick up our badges so I can set up our table.”  Now, technically, I was supposed to be under Chris’ table, but after seeing they had a table assigned to us, I logically reasoned that they would have badges set aside for us as well.  As the registration-gal flipped through the packs, I saw one with Chris’ name on it, which I hoped meant he would have an extra badge for his guest.  Much to my relief, I would later discover that was the case…once they figured out who he was, that is.

Badges around our necks, we headed back to the Reliant (my 2005 Dodge Neon) to get our wares and head over to our table “in the ghetto” as I would refer to it throughout the day.

Traffic was miserable at first, partially because of our location, partially because it was a school day, and partially because the video game room was running late getting set up.  The sign at the door that originally said “Open at 12:00” was quickly edited to read “12:15” then “12:30” then “12:50” and then was taken down.  We kept seeing the same people walk by over and over again as well as the occasional hotel guest walking to and from the pool.  Luckily, traffic picked up around four, once school let out, and except for a quick run to Subway and a trip to the hospital to visit some folks, the day was pretty uneventful.  We gave away almost all of our copies of Manga Madness, each with a copy of San Japanic! inside.

I kept wondering what was taking Chris so long, because he had told me he was going to be there at 3.  He showed up much later, but by that time, the other tables were closing down, so I figured we would do so as well.  We all rode in the Reliant to the two-story Whataburger By The Bay where we chowed down and discussed Saturday’s plans.

It was decided that we would move over to Chris’ table for the improved traffic, and so that we could peddle his wares (no free lunch and all that).  The move would turn out great in one way, and not-so-great in another…