For nearly 30 years, an ambitious and thoroughly dedicated group of students and volunteers has worked to keep the “con alive” on the Rensselaer campus. Genericon, an annual student-run sci-fi, anime, and gaming convention, is the oldest of its kind in the United States, according to event organizers.
This year, the three-day event billed as “Genericon XXVII…in Space” drew a crowd of 2,500 attendees to the Darrin Communications Center. Genericon activities featured a 48-hour video game room, anime and sci-fi screenings, role playing games, a “cosplay” contest, vendors, artists’ alley, panels by special guests and fans, a concert, gaming tournaments, and more.
An anime convention is often described as “an event or gathering with a primary focus on anime, manga (Japanese comics), and Japanese culture.” Commonly, anime conventions are multi-day events hosted at convention centers, hotels, or college campuses that feature a wide variety of activities and panels, with a larger number of attendees participating in cosplay—short for costume play, a performance art in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. Oftentimes, anime conventions are also used as a vehicle for industry, in which studios, distributors, and publishers represent their anime-related releases.
Research indicates that anime conventions have a long and varied history worldwide. The original Comiket, mostly based on fan published manga called d?jinshi, started in 1975 with around 700 people in Tokyo. The Comiket of today sees several hundred thousand people, showing the lasting popularity of the medium in its home country. In the United States, anime conventions were mostly spawned from similar science fiction and multi-genre conventions of the 1980s, which featured anime content by tandem.
“Space…the final frontier, these are the voyages of the staff of the Genericon,” said Robert Wensley, a senior majoring in physics, who served as this year’s convention chair. “This is the 27th Genericon, although it’s our 29th year. When I think back to that group of college students in 1985 who came up with the crazy idea as Doc Brown built a time machine out of a DeLorean, I wonder if they ever thought we’d still be doing this 30 years later, amidst the hover-scooters and holographic Jaws ads of the future. Yet, here we are, a motley assembly of kids who weren’t even born back then, continuing their legacy.”
Genericon is home to a large number of events that cover a wide range of interests. Attendees have access to the convention’s anime, science-fiction, and video-gaming rooms. In addition, event organizers run video tournaments, role-playing games of both pen-and-paper and live action variety, and various other events such as the traditional reading of the fantasy classic, Eye of Argon. To round things out, a series of panels and lectures on a wide variety of topics is also offered.
This year, featured guests included Jennifer Lee “Jen” Taylor, an American voice actress best known for her role as Cortana in various Halo games, Zoey in Left 4 Dead, and the Xbox 360 game 1 vs. 100. Taylor is also known for her work as Princess Peach, Toad, Toadette, Samus Aran, and other characters in several Nintendo games since 1999. In addition, returning guest Antipode, a “geek belly dancing troupe” hailing from State College, Pa., also attended the convention. The group is known for fusing the theatrics of acting with a mix of cosplay, pop-culture, and off-beat humor.
Plans are already underway to host next year’s event on the Rensselaer campus.