Even to this very moment, I can’t believe that I managed to pull off such an endeavor.
With all the planning, background chaos, money issues, and other variables, I made it to Baltimore for BronyCon 2014.
You can ask my friend, TJ, who tagged along with me for the convention. On his end, it was practically the riskiest thing he’s ever done in his life, considering his batshit-insane parents. Though that’s about halfway correct. I won’t delve into that for many personal reasons.
But enough about that… how was the con anyway?
> [ Day 1: Arrival ] <
I woke up every 10-20 minutes staring at my phone’s alarm clock. If there was one thing I was sure about, it was the fact that I couldn’t trust myself to sleep for more time than I could’ve alotted. I’ve already had issues where oversleeping has caused more problems than it should, but this time, I didn’t want that to happen.
Eventually, I mobilized at around 3am, doing the usual rounds - showering, shaving, packing, and just triple-checking everything. However, what I wasn’t expecting so early was a race against time. You see, my bus was due to leave at 5am, and I left at 4am. The MTA was not my friend here, especially during these dead hours.
I was watching the schedule like a hawk, trying to pinpoint the time intervals and my chances of making it to the bus before departure. No dice. The bus left, and I had to wait until the next one in order to get to Baltimore in a timely fashion. At least the kebab I bought was pretty good - I bought it as breakfast to break a $50 bill so that I had change to pay an extra fee to get on the bus.
Skipping past the actual trip which was about 3 hours of me listening to an audiobook of Blake J. Harris’ “Console Wars” (a really great book, mind you), I arrived and waited for about 30 minutes for TJ and Malachi to pick me up. It was good to see Mal again after a long while since the end of the semester, so we all chatted about our respective summers, and other things.
TJ had to drop off his suitcase so we tried to find our Holiday Inn, which was the furthest from the convention. We mistakenly went to the closest one, though I stopped him in time since his bad directions are quite legendary.
Skipping ahead, we made it to the Baltimore Convention Center, stepped through the doors, and entered a sea of congoers heading in many different directions. It was my impulse then to take out my camera and start filming. We made a beeline for the artists’ alley (official called Blank Canvas’s Marketplace) to take a look at all the wares which were being sold. We’re talking t-shirts, plushies, ties, little trinkets, posters and prints, packs for the new MLP CCG, art commissions, 3D printed ponies, pin-up calendars, the whole shebang. For a guy on a shoestring budget, it was daunting.
For TJ, it was concentrated paradise. It was his first convention after all, so I indulged him to get lost in it and take in the sights. Our first stop was at the “Welcome Princess Celest” table where we saw our friends, Frist and Sarah. Frist was the artist behind the ask-blog, Cheerilee’s Chalkboard and was there to sell art and the like. We didn’t speak much, but TJ really enjoyed his short time talking. I wanted to ask for a commission, but my time in the artist’s alley was largely in service to what TJ wanted to do, rather than my own needs. Besides, I only had like… $50 spending money? Was broke all summer, since jobs in NYC are a pain in the arse to get.
Mindless mumbling aside, we check out the area some more and bump into another old acquaintance, viwrastupr. I remember Viw from /r/MLPdrawingschool, and he was nice enough to draw my OC for me in a pretty great scene - playing a video game with filly Rarity and filly Luna. My own was a colt too. TJ bought a few prints from him, with one of them being a small gift for Malachi. While at Viw’s booth, I caught sight of DustyKatt (dustykat) (the “manliest brony in the world”) and asked for a quick selfie. I caught sight of him many times during the con, and he was such a nice person.
TJ and I decided to head upstairs to take a little break… but then I checked Twitter and remembered that other friends of mine were at the con. Especially people that I wanted to meet. One such person was DJ Calcos (djcalcos). I rang him up, dashed on over to the Bronies for Good table, and after a while, there he was. We must’ve hugged for like a good minute or so since this was the first time that we’ve ever met in person. I’ve talked to him on Skype, visited his Twitch streams and all, but never got to meet up. BronyCon was that day.
Calcos did me a favor by leading me to another table that were selling these “#HorseFamous” and “not #HorseFamous” ribbons for $3 a pop, since he had one adorned on his badge - which already had a ton of other ribbons. I got the #HorseFamous one just because.
Cal and I said our goodbyes, and I met up with TJ again to survey the marketplace once more. We got to meet whitedove-creations at her booth, and we were both mesmerized to see her plushies up close and personal. They cost a lot, but hey, these were INSANELY good quality that you rarely got anywhere else. While at the booth, TJ and I got another selfie opportunity with Sabrina Alberghetti (a.k.a. Sibsy), one of the show’s storyboard artists.
TJ was on the hunt for fairly priced plushies still, and we struck gold when we found the 4DE booth - they were selling Twilight and Pinkie plushies for $20 each, or we could buy both for $30. TJ was immediately sold, but I didn’t come around until later since they were selling out fast (though that didn’t happen until the second day).
We also bumped into a guy who I recognized from the con last year - well, in photos. It was a guy who counted all the other black people he met at the convention, and I was number 38 on his quest.
That count steadily increased over the course of the con, and the last I saw, it was at 191.
Moving on, we decided to find a panel where we could sit down and watch the proceedings. We found an MLP plushies panel where WhiteDove and SpaceGalaxy were the panelists. TJ and I scoured to find seats, and when we sat down, he noticed someone that he was searching the con for subconsciouly - a plushie maker by the name of zis-zas. I personally didn’t know him very well, but TJ was quite a huge fan of his work. There was also a raffle that was about to start, but we didn’t get tickets since we were late. However, a fine fellow who was bound to leave decided to give TJ his raffle ticket since he couldn’t stay towards the end. We admired the generosity and thanked him profusely. By the end of the panel, we made a beeline for Zis-Zas and TJ got to take a picture with him.
After that panel, we did some more walking to find the Baltimare Arcade. They really did nail the arcade feel - it was dark, the only lighting came from various projector screens, and the atmosphere was very lively as there were games galore - Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, Fighting is Magic, Street Fighter x Tekken, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Rock Band 3 (with a ton of pony songs in the playlist), what appeared to be Dance Dance Revolution (again, with pony songs in the playlist), and other classic games on small monitors, ranging from classics on Super Nintendo, the Sega Genesis, and the Nintendo 64.
Compared to the old game room style they did in 2012, fangames were by all means a faded memory - only Fighting is Magic was there to represent fan games, and that itself was a distant memory of days past since FiM only was “complete” due to people outside Mane6.
My own game, Pinkie Pie’s Perilous Platforms had no chance of sticking out, so I opted to go directly to the people… somewhat. TJ and I had to charge our phones, so we stopped in the Level 300 hall and I made an impromptu setup of my game - I didn’t get many people to play (only 2 that I can really recall), but there were many wandering eyes from various congoers who passed by and saw the game in action. I even got to talk to a father whose son was learning to code and looked very impressed at my work. I gave him some words of encouragement and they went on their way.
Right next to me were a couple of musicians that were playing some folksy-like music, and from out of nowhere, acracebest and @jaxblade decided to do a little jig. It was hilarious, yet phenomenal as they were totally in sync with each other. I got it on video, so that was quite a memory. Afterwords, we got a selfie in with the both of them.
We bumped into them again, and Saberspark was with them. Too bad he was making a beeline for the con center for something important.
Meanwhile, we got some lunch at the Pratt Street Ale House across from the con center, and then decided to go to our Holiday Inn (the HIExpress on Russell Street).
Please note two things: first off, it was the furthest hotel from the convention center (a good 30 minute walk away), and that we were in a city that we were very unfamiliar with. It was… an experience. Along the way, we took in the sights, saw a homeless guy who apparently was a Redditor, and after long enough, we made it, checked in, and promptly lamented at the fact that we had assumed that the walk would be pleasant. WRONG.
At the hotel, I unpacked my bag (which had all my stuff) and plugged in my Ouya to the TV. We were both grimacing at the fact that our feet hurt, and we never wanted to walk that length ever again. Thankfully, we learned that there was a shuttle service from the hotel to the convention center, so we avoided walking to the hotel for the entire weekend.
We went back to the con for the musician’s panel, which was a riot. So many fun moments and it was just a good experience. We were also there to meet an old friend of mine, DinsFire64, since we were constantly tweeting each other but not finding each other at the con. Eventually, we did. From there on out, we were hanging out with Din and other folks that I remembered from Reddit.
I also found Omnipony again and had a small chat with him since I haven’t seen him in person since that August 2012 meetup in NYC where I also met IbeConCept.
We had dinner with them, and I also got to say hello to the lovely Strumpet-chan! I remembered her from Summer BronyCon 2012 with her Rarity cosplay. I never got a chance to take a photo with her, but it was nice to chat with her for a short while. We had lots and lots of fun at dinner, and eventually (after some fun at the hotel), we went to Bronypalooza. Most of the night was about rock/metal and there were a lot of great performances from Cyril the Wolf and Tarby. Even Calcos went on stage to perform, and that was pretty rad too. Like many others, everyone was ready for the EDM section and it was beyond amazing.
I didn’t stay to the end, sadly, but what I witnessed was great enough to stand on its own. Also, I still highly rate DJ Tetsuo’s set at the con because of how fun it was in the crowd. It was then that we called a taxi (we used Uber, since the con gave out a code for a free ride), and promptly crashed for the night.
> [Day 2: Adjustment] <
We only had about 6 or 7 hours or sleep, but it was bliss in the queen-sized beds we had in the Holiday Inn Express. At $119 a night, who was I to complain?
The breakfast was pretty solid, and TJ revealed to me that he didn’t have the best sleep because my phone alarm woke him… at 2:30 in the morning. What happened was that I forgot the alarm I set for catching the bus on Friday morning was still active, so at that time… it was blasting Run, Shoot, Kill and Cry by The Living Tombstone. And that song is LOUD.
I’m surprised I didn’t wake up to a knife in my back for disturbing his sleep, but I promptly deleted the alarm and muttered words of apology. We took the shuttle to the con center and made a beeline for the “do’s and don’ts of fanfiction” panel. It was mostly good - I mostly absorbed the good writing tips that the panelists shared, and at the end, we assembled a giant tower of hats upon one of them.
We looked around the artist’s alley again soon after - we bumped into Frist, who was dashing to the VA autograph room to go meet Tabitha St. Germain (the voice of Rarity). We could only talk about about 10 seconds, before we sent him off his way. His Spike cosplay was a pretty nice touch, and after small talk with Sarah, we looked around at other booths we might have missed.
I went over to the Athena’s Wink booth to talk to my friend winkonthings, and showed her my old Rarity hat that I bought from them at BronyCon 2012. As it turns out, the hat is practically one of a kind as she doesn’t make them like they used to.
Besides the small talk here and there, we took more pictures of cosplayers - a guy dressed as maid Discord from the S4 opener was probably the highlight of that impromptu photo taking session. We also noticed that some of the booths were swapped around - Katie Cook, Andy Price, and Tony Fleecs (the guys behind IDW’s MLP comic) were now present.
We then went to the Baltimare Arcade to see how things were going. I was pushed into a game of Rock Band and while I am terrible at the game (yet amazing at Frets on Fire), I managed to do an okay job. At least I got good song choices.
TJ then dragged me out of the arcade so that we wouldn’t be late for the Super Smash Ponies panel. It was… an experience, I suppose. It felt rather disorganized and monotone, though the game looks solid in action. I just wished that they would’ve done a better job of selling the audience on the product outside of “yep, Smash with ponies”.
They announced a launch date of January 1st, along with a reveal of 3 new characters: The Great and Powerful Trixie, Octavia, and Derpy Hooves. There were obviously more in the works, but TJ and I didn’t stick around for the rest as I was slowly but surely getting bored. Kind of sad, but that’s really the way I saw it. Fangames were definitely underrepresented at the con, and the SSP panel only reinforced the notion that the Hasbro C&D scares of past have cut down a great creative force in the fandom.
Shrugging off those thoughts, TJ and I walked around a bit more and we spotted DJ Tetsuo and Silva Hound. I decided to ask for pictures, and thanked them for their great sets (though I sadly missed Silva’s on the first night).
We eventually grabbed lunch at a Subway and returned to the hotel room to chill for a bit. It was probably our only real downtime at the con, so we spent it figuring out our plans to head back home, playing multiplayer games on my Ouya, and watching a part of the S4 finale before returning to the con center.
We stopped by Bronypalooza to see Poni1Kenobi sing Colored Lights, as well as seeing dbpony, Mic the Microphone and IbeConcept (w/ emceeflowny) perform their sets.
We eventually met up with Din and the rest of the guys at a nearby Days Inn. The room belonged to an old friend of mine from Reddit - Igor from My Little Ties. I haven’t seen him for a while, but on the off-chance that I was on any pony subreddits, we’d say hello and exchange a few words. This time around, I got to see his Oculus Rift kit for myself, and it was an amazing experience. He set up this game where you fall from a space station and earn points by falling through certain zones. It was quite a rush and it felt all too real.
The guys decided to return to the Holiday Inn, chill for a bit, then headed back to the con center for Bronypalooza where we caught ourselves in the middle of DJ GARNiKA’s set (which was fantastic by the way). The hits kept coming as we jumped up, threw up hearts and screamed our lungs out. Close by us, we noticed that braeburnedart was partying so hard and was having one hell of a time.
I got a picture with him, which was damn lucky due to the lights coming on at the right time.
(Yeah, we were also photobombed by an unknown assailant.)
The night was just great - Omnipony came out and rocked the house, Tetsuo, Garnika and f3nning busted out a “#SAVORY mix”, and to close off a spectacular show, Alex S. came out and absolutely floored the audience with his new tunes.
Meanwhile in the audience, I bumped into folks from Horse News - they were pretty awesome, and we all gathered for photos. I didn’t bother asking them about the potato salad incident that got some of their press passes revoked, since I was almost certain they were there to have a good time rather than dwell on day-old drama.
The night ended with a quick, yet quiet rendezvous at the Holiday Inn to charge our phones while assessing the aftermath - being drenched in sweat from head to toe, having aches and pains from jumping so much, and much more.
TJ and I called a cab, got to our hotel, and immediately called it a night.
> [ Day 3: Departure ] <
The last day of the con - everyone’s last chance to get some great merch from the artist’s alley, exchange contact information with people that they met, and getting photos with any other #HorseFamous people.
TJ and I checked out after breakfast, and called our last cab of the weekend to drop us off at the con center. There wasn’t much that we could do since we were leaving the con pretty early.
I decided to bump up the time of my bus to accommodate the schedule, so there was no harm done, really. After waiting in line to get into the marketplace, we had our last chats at various tables (Athena’s Wink, Welcome Princess Celest), I got to see Igor’s Oculus Rift MLP project (which looked quite amazing), I bought a few cheap things (like a mousepad with Doxy’s art from the 2013 Canter Calendar) and we were just taking in the sights of our last day.
I felt a bit sad that I couldn’t locate a few friends to say goodbye to (like Calcos), but we did get lucky when we found Din and the rest of the crew on their way to the con center. We were actually heading there to say goodbye, but this was lucky enough.
We caught up with Malachi, gave him his gift, and we were off - leaving Baltimore, over 9,500 bronies, and 2 1/2 wondrous days behind. Post-con depression sucks, but I would have to get over it eventually. Not like it could’ve lasted forever, right?
I said my goodbyes to the guys, gave TJ a hug and thanked him profusely for the trip, and I was left on my own. Thanks to one of the Megabus workers, I got my ride bumped up to an earlier hour (for $5), and as quickly as I made it to Baltimore, I was back in NYC in almost no time.
The train ride back was interesting as I bumped into two friends of mine along the way. I got an eyeful for the pony stuff I was carrying (both mine and TJ’s), and I made it home, wondering if I had even left at all. It was truly that surreal.
> [ Epilogue ] <
And that’s all she wrote.
BronyCon 2014 was quite an amazing experience unlike any other I’ve ever had, and I’d really, really love to do this again.
Thankfully, I’m already working out plans to return for the 2015 con, and hopefully by then, Perilous Platforms will be completed.
Besides that, I really do look forward to next year - a weekend of fun, friends, and festivities galore.
See you all in 2015!