Q-Con XX

As one of Ireland’s biggest gaming and anime conventions, Q-Con shows no sign of slowing down as this year it celebrates its twentieth anniversary. Spread across four floors, for three days the Queens’ Student Union becomes a thriving hub of activity, filled with more characters than a Mos Eisley cantina, all as colourful and vibrant as the pages of a Marvel comic book.

Whilst the obvious appeal of round the clock gaming, table top miniatures, TCG swap-shops and the indulgent pageantry that is cosplaying are what cause thousands of pop culture addicts to swarm upon events such as Q-Con XX, I wondered if the hard-working artists, writers and developers shared the same enthusiasm as their adoring fans.

As one of the special guests at this years’ convention, Edinburgh based artist Tanya Roberts has illustrated for some top names in the comic industry such as Disney and Star Wars, but her growing reputation hasn’t changed her perspective on local events such as Q-Con: "At the big conventions that enthusiasm filters down and it’s more about new games consoles and what movie stars are there. I love these smallish conventions. The level of enthusiasm is so palpable."

Whilst artists like Tanya Roberts and 2000 AD’s PJ Holden were obviously a big draw at Q-Con XX, the opportunity was there for emerging local talent to showcase their work in the hopes of gaining some new fans. Illustrator and graphic designer Christopher Ellis is one such artist, hoping to further his reputation by selling some of his pop culture inspired artwork in the bustling Artists’ Alley marketplace.

"Events like this are great for anyone interested in pursuing art as a career. It gives us a chance to meet the people who are interested in work as well as giving us a great platform to sell from."

Comic book collectors can be some of the most critical fans out there, so writer Danny McLaughlin, author of the Derry based Zombies Hi! series welcomes the chance to listen to crucial feedback from his readership: "The amount of people who come here, it gives us a chance as comic book artists and writers to actually interact with people who are actually buy our comics.

"It’s where we get to validate our own work and see how we can progress."

Just one floor below, the same mantra seems to have been adopted by newly emerging indie video game developers that are springing up all across Northern Ireland.

Ryan McDermott is a designer with local developers Zombiesaurus Games who recently launched their fast-paced side-scroller Soul Grinder on iOS.

"You can never really tell how your game is until other people who don’t have to be nice to you play it. We might put stuff in thinking that it works but a bunch of people who play games every day take no prisoners."

Considering they face stiff competition across the room from games such as Halo, Mortal Kombat and Mario Kart, it’s important that they too still consider fan feedback a crucial element of their business.

From the perspective of the artists, the designers, the vendors and the creators, Tanya Roberts was able to sum up the Q-Con ethic: "You never know who you’re going to meet here. You never know who’s going to be sitting next to you, who is going to come to your booth or who is going to commission you. It’s like a convention Russian Roulette."

May it live long and prosper.

by Leigh Forgie

Leigh took some photos while at the event, see them here.

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