This is part one of a three part series where Michael reviews his experiences as ConBravo as a media guest.
ConBravo was a blast this year, and one of my favourite parts of the convention was the large array of panels and discussions available for guests. I was only in for the Saturday, so I had to miss out on a few things that I would’ve really like to attend (Normal Boots Q&A, brentalfloss, more tabletop gaming), but I did get to check out a couple of really interesting events. I’ve summarized them below!
JonTron Fan Q&A
Probably the only event I attended simply because I was a big fan of the starring attraction. For those who don’t know, JonTron (Jonathan Jafari) was one of the original Game Grumps, and recently rebooted his very funny, eponymous web show. He drew a gigantic crowd at the convention, and if I didn’t have a media pass I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to see him.
The fan Q&A was put together very well by the ConBravo folks, and I quickly learned a few things about JonTron’s fanbase:
- They have an encyclopedic knowledge of his aggregated works.
- They like to give him presents.
- They want to hug him. A lot.
A lot of the questions were fluff along the lines of “what is you favourite video?” and “can you sing for us?”, but I did pick up on a couple of fun facts that casual fans of the show may not be aware of.
First off, JonTron works on his web videos as his full-time job. Being a somewhat of a cynic, I always assume that web personalities are part-timers, and hold down gainful employment in some other industry. Jon made note of the fact that YouTube has slowly morphed into a “respectable industry,” and in addition to some scant ad revenue he receives, additional funding through promotions with companies such as Audible. It’s good to know that being a content-creator on the web is not strictly for hobbyists!
And it’s good he’s working on his content full-time, as Jon mentioned that a new video can take him 80-100 hours to complete. This not too surprising for those who have worked in the video industry before – a simple seven minute documentary can take months to produce – but the audience certainly seemed astounded by it.
Another thing that I found interesting were Jon’s thoughts on his works in comparison to those of the Angry Video Game Nerd, and some other early YouTube vloggers. It becomes apparent that Jon (and some of the other Normal Boots creators) consider themselves to be offshoots of the AVGN, and have really made an effort to add new elements to their programs to differentiate themselves. Established tropes of JonTron’s show such as Jacques the bird and various special effects were all added by Jon to help give the program a distinct look.
Overall, a very enjoyable Q&A!
Storytelling in New Mediums
The full title of the panel was Storytelling in New Mediums: Video Games, Web Animations, Vines, and Beyond, but that didn’t fit in the title space above. It featured Derek Burrow (Chasing the Muse), Joey DeSena (Clan of the Gray Wolf), Satchell Drakes (Normal Boots), and Manda Whitney (WeTangent). This was a fairly small panel, consisting of about 50-75 audience members.
The panel moved along slowly, and for the most part was not overly engaging. Most of the discussion consisted of the panelists talking about games they liked and disliked for various narrative reasons, with Gone Home (see above) being brought up an awful lot. When things started to swerve more into game theory concepts such as linearity and environmental story-telling things picked up a bit, but not by too much.
The most interesting moment in the panel sprouted from a discussion about Fallout 3. It was mentioned that the game had a strong emphasis on a father-son plot-line, which is fairly common in AAA video games. As a counterpoint, someone from the audience asked if the panelists could think of any video games that prominently featured a mother in a starring role. The result was pretty much crickets chirping.
I’ve posed the same question to several people since the event, and I have yet to receive a definite answer. It’s important to be aware of these sorts of narrative shortcomings in the games industry, and I’m glad the storytelling panel enabled at least a small group of people to think critically about it.