Sunday, September 16, 2018

STGCC 2018 Recap - Diva Reviews the Good and The Bad of This Year's Convention

The Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention (STGCC) 2018 wrapped up its 11th year last weekend, and despite Red Dot Diva's misgivings before the show, she did manage to have quite a lot of fun at the show.

It was much more low-key than previous years, and there are a few reasons for that, like late announcement of guests, high ticket prices and a lack of new show ideas, but Red Dot Diva will get to more of that later in this article.

After taking some days getting over the STGCC hangover, and speaking to other geeks about what they thought of the show, here's a general recap of the good, the bad -- and some ideas on a way forward to a more vibrant convention.


Movie/ TV presence via Sony Pictures SG and HBO Asia
It seems that Reed is finally getting the idea that fans absolutely LOVE being part of their favourite movies and TV shows. So, having Sony Pictures SG set up a two-booth event promoting their upcoming movies, "Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse" and "Venom" at the showfloor, was a superb idea.

People could watch the trailers, take photos with cosplayers, or with props...

... or even use a Facebook app, like getting "Venomized"!

It was an interactive way to get people to do stuff and post cool pics on their social media, and win some nice swag in the process. There should be more of these interactions and experiences, so people have things to do on the showfloor itself, if they are not at panels, meeting guests at their booths, or buying stuff. What about a VR experience, or perhaps a mini escape room or puzzle?

HBO Asia also joined the convention for the first time, and had a bare bones setup (befitting the theme of snow zombies, heh), but still, you should see the excitement on fans' faces when they could meet The Night King up close. If they find being at the show worthwhile, maybe HBO Asia could decide to do something more impressive next year? Red Dot Diva knows they do very awesome promos on their own when they are showcasing their popular series like "Game of Thrones" and "Westworld"!

Oh, and Reed?? If you are reading this, PLEASE ASK Netflix to join in next year. They produce a long list of geeky shows - "Daredevil", "Iron Fist", "Stranger Things", "Riverdale", "Voltron", it goes on and on!  Red Dot Diva thinks the media company can probably cough up with a budget enough to inject more WOW into a pop-culture event like STGCC. Maybe, they could even bring some celebrities over? A Diva can dream...

Screening Room
The Screening Room - which offered anime and Dr Who episodes - was also a good idea. Being able to watch these episodes was a nice way to geek out together on some really comfy bean bags. However, the sound system was bad, which marred the experience for those who spent some time in the room. So, yes, please do have screening rooms, but with better sound and speakers.

What about even having a larger scale event hosted by movie companies, where there will be sneak peeks of upcoming shows, featurettes, and/ or trailers?? The VIP ticket holders can have priority access based on whose in line for the session, and a certain set number of seats will then be allowed for the rest on a first-come, first-served basis.

Better Layout (Generally)
Compared to last year's labyrinth of frustration, STGCC 2018's layout was more open, had enough space for traffic flow, and easier to navigate. Red Dot Diva did not have problems finding her bearings and there were no annoying barricades or "WTF-cul-de-sacs", other than the mysterious barriers to segregate Artist Alley from the main show floor. More on that later.

Having the Akiba (Japanese content) stage at the far corner of the hall was a great relief. That took away most of the noise from the general area for several hours, so that this year, Red Dot Diva could at least chat with the guests and her friends without yelling.

The spacious corridors and spaces (in Artist Alley, especially) made the show less claustrophobic and more comfortable for browsing and shopping.

Ryan Meinerding as Guest
Having Ryan Meinerding as guest in this year's convention was a huge score, in Red Dot Diva's opinion. Majority of this year's guests were returning names, and it was refreshing to be able to meet someone whom the fans have not met before, and who is also involved in the insanely popular Marvel superhero movies.

At his Spotlight Panel on Day 2, Ryan Meinerding shared about his career, and insights as to what went behind the scenes in terms of visual design. He took the audience through a series of photos and slides, and  offered a different aspect to art and design work. It really was one of the best things at this year's show.

Other than his panel, Ryan Meinerding also spent a lot of time interacting with fans at his booth and Walk of Fame, and graciously signed art prints, collectibles and posters on both days. More of the same, please!

Red Dot Diva would love to have movie costume designer guests, prop-makers or voice actors as well. (Having said that, it was a brainwave to have cosplayer and costume designer Olivia Mears as a guest too. She was such an inspiration, and her costume designs for Poison Ivy and Wonder Woman was Gorgeous to the Max!)

Easier Availability of Affordable Food
Right in the middle of the hall, just outside of Artist Alley, was food stall Pastamania. The ice-cream company Udders was set up next to them. It was fantastic having some moderately-priced food and drinks, like Kraftwich and pasta sets nearby, so that busy exhibitors did not need to run all the way out of the hall or toward the food court at the other end for some nourishment.

Red Dot Diva got really hungry and tired in the midst of Day 1, and it was super convenient to be able to grab a sandwich and drink within 10 minutes. Oh, and she got a Princess Leia toy with an extra $1. :D

YAY! LEGO Booth!
It was great having LEGO at the show. They added fun and colour to the convention, and provided free builds so it was a section where parents could give their kids something interesting to do. Adult kids could also spend some time away from the busy areas of the convention and enjoy building something.

The Harry Potter Hogwarts, Hogwarts Express and Quidditch match builds were awesome, although Red Dot Diva felt a little greedy and wished there was a life-sized build of Harry Potter or Dobby or Hulk or Batman or something. That would have been a cool photo opportunity.

More Western Pop-culture Cosplay
Red Dot Diva noticed that there were a lot more Western pop-culture cosplay on the showfloor this time round! More comic book superheroes, supervillains, and characters from Disney movies or well-known shows. 

The costumes spotted by Diva were also more colourful, more elaborate, and definitely more tongue-in-cheek. She missed the Kung Fu Hustle cosplay by Aunty Shirley and her crew though, which was a bummer.

Great job, cosplayers! You guys have levelled up a great deal. Red Dot Diva cannot wait to see what you all get up to for next year's convention!


Need More Variety in Content/ Guests
The announcement of guests for this year's show was later than usual. Then, it turned out that almost all were returning guests. That's not to say that they are not welcomed here. They are very lovely, talented folks, and Red Dot Diva love their work. It was so good to say hello to Agnes Garbowska, Mark Brooks, Stephanie Hans and Adi Granov in person again. (As for Simone Legno, he visits us a few times a year, so he almost has a geek PR status. Hahaha!)

The local geek community is small, and in orded to get people to attend the show year after year, Reed needs to expand their horizons, refresh their contact list, and start inviting other guests whom local and regional fans would pay to meet. There are so many fantastic comic book creators out there, but there are also several conventions held in USA in a year which these artist and writers would have already committed to attend in advance, so building up rapport and inviting them early is necessary.

After 11 iterations of the show, fans want a celebrity guest at STGCC. When similar conventions in Indonesia and the Philippines are able to pull this off, it is a shame that Red Dot Island, known for its safety and glamour (blame "Crazy Rich Asians"), is not able to invite a celebrity guest for their "pop-culture event of the year".

This goes hand in hand with the show's content. It is also about time that Reed does a re-think about it's "East meets West" idea. It no longer works effectively. Fans of Western pop-culture here have only ONE event a year to cater to their geekery, and STGCC is it. For those who love Japanese culture, anime and manga, there are several of these scheduled throughout a year. Even if there are Japanese creators, the guests could be those who are also familiar with Westernized audiences, titles such as "Akira", "Ghost in the Shell" or "Attack on Titan". Red Dot Diva thinks resources could be fine-tuned to fit this audience rather than for both. If the content is focused, fresher and more exciting, regional fans would pay to attend the show as well.

Moreover, if there is a decision to not focus on Japanese content, the awful techno/ J-pop racket that almost everyone hates, will be gone too. Less headaches for everybody!

Barricading of Artist Alley
Artist Alley was barricaded because GGXP ticket-holders, who pay a difference price, had access to that as well. There were supposed to be wristband checks on this but Red Dot Diva never saw that being done on both days, during the morning nor in the afternoon. Perhaps it was futile once the crowd thickened and people started moving around the exhibition hall.

According to some vendors, the physical barrier did deter more people coming into the area, which may have affected traffic and sales, especially on Sunday.

Lacklustre GGXP
Red Dot Diva did not even wander around GGXP this year. Tabletop gaming finally made it to the show, but due to the noise from the AKIBA stage nearby, it was not easy to hear the game masters. So, while moving the mini stage helped the comics section and Artist Alley, the gamers suffered through the din.

She also heard from friends that there was a terrible lack of gaming content and not enough video games featured at GGXP. With many empty tables there, most people were at the GGXP to rest or to play with their Nintendo Switches. The Warhammers folks had a good time though. Red Dot Diva saw photos of many happy kids painting and getting their own figures.

Like the "East" side of the show, Reed should really consider removing the gaming section completely if they cannot get notable names to participate and make that work in an interesting way. It has become an afterthought. Besides, there is already Gamestart Asia, which usually takes place a month after STGCC.

Main Stage Was Too Low
In previous years, the stage was built too high and too far away from the seats, so a fan's experience sitting at a panel was like being in SDCC Hall H, but not having Hall H calibre. Conversely, this year, the stage was set too low. There was a huge speaker placed in the middle which blocked view of the guest on stage when you are sitting in the middle or toward the left. All you could see mostly were heads or half of their heads, and then, had to rely on the projection screens. Those sitting on the right side of the stage, had a better view.

The staging also looks tired - Red Dot Diva is not sure if it is the lighting or whether the projection screens should have been bigger and clearer.

Higher Ticket Prices
The one-day ticket price of $25 (at the door) was too high for many who were fence-sitters and not sure whether to attend the show the next day or not. The price is also steep for older students as they may not have enough budget to buy stuff any more.

In any business, it is a tricky management issue balancing selling price and cost. There is also the psychological factor concerning "value for money" regarding purchasing decisions. This year, it is apparent that the comic book fans were the winners. They got to meet veteran and talented artists/ creators and could buy art or get their items signed in person. But if repeat guests continue to be the way in future shows, even these fans are going to get bored with the same old, same old. The core niche crowd that STGCC caters to year after year will be less willing to accord value to the rising ticket prices, unless something innovative happens.


Here is what Red Dot Diva thinks.

Like a phoenix that regenerates and rises from the ashes, STGCC needs to be extinguished. The key objectives need to be torn down and re-examined closely, and a new set of goals and ideas be thought out.

The name itself - STGCC - would need to change. It is becoming as clear as day that the Japanese content only works partially, the Toy section is failing (there were no headlining guests except for Simone Legno), and the gaming part was more XB (Extremely Bland) than XP. Putting emphasis on the so-called "Westernized" content may be the way forward.

And who knows, maybe consciously/ sub-consciously, Reed knows it too. Because, during the show, a new branding and name was seen on buttons, crew t-shirts and even a sticker wall.

It's called Singapore Comic Con. Did you spot this during the show?

Despite all the issues that are there, Red Dot Diva knows that the local Western pop-culture / geek community truly wants STGCC (oops, soon to be SCC?) to work and succeed. Heck, it is the only one we have!


If you have signed on the STGCC mailing list, you should have received an invitation to provide feedback of this year's show. Please do send in your comments!

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