UBCon transforms SU into a battlefield
It's Nerf at UB's anime and gaming convention
“When you come up those stairs, you present your colors,” barked John Turner like a grizzled marine sergeant. “If you do not: we will shoot you!”
Turner marched around the second floor of the Student Union, preparing his team for war: a Nerf War. He donned a Rambo-style headband and chewed on a foam bullet like a cigar, preparing for the intensive battle.
The Nerf War is a fixture of UB’s anime and gaming convention, UBCon, which just wrapped up its 28th year. The Student Union and surrounding buildings were transformed into a haven for over 2,000 anime fans, gamers and foam dart enthusiasts from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Vendors and attendees discussed their craft, traded and sold various games, apparel and trinkets and met fellow enthusiasts.
Participants take the Nerf War seriously – many combatants go as far as to make modifications to their weapons and sometimes spend hundreds of dollars to improve the firing rate and shot distance.
“It takes a lot of prep,” Turner said. “It can cost just the price of a hot glue gun and some batteries, but I’ve seen some guns that have $400 worth of work put into them.”
There are people who take it too far however.
The war took place over two nights on Friday and Saturday at 11 p.m. Friday’s battle went without incident as over 200 people participated. Saturday, however, bullets were found that had metal BBs placed in the tips.
“We stopped everything and gave whoever did it the chance to come forward without getting in trouble,” said Joel Finkelstein, the convention director and a senior history major. “We started back up and found more bullets, so we had to shut everything down. Next year we’re going to have to come up with a system to catch this before the match.”
Attendees who came for the Nerf War also enjoyed other events throughout the convention.
UBCon snagged some high profile guests for this year including: Austin Tindle (“Tokyo Ghoul,” “Attack on Titan”) and Phil LaMarr (“Samurai Jack,” “Justice League,” “Futurama”).
Along with the standard autograph signing and Q&A session, Tindle brought his own signature show: Raunchy Shakespeare.
“I need two people prone to being horny, violent and/or both,” Tindle said from the SU theater stage.
Tindle used his skills as an actor to direct the people in their performance. He also used his knowledge of Shakespeare to explain the Bard’s words to the audience, usually in the crassest way possible.
Raunchy Shakespeare was listed as an “18+” event and lived up to the billing as Tindle rivaled Danny McBride, an American actor with the amount of expletives he threw around.
The event was a hit with the crowd who laughed at Tindle’s blunt breakdown of Shakespeare and who eagerly volunteered to participate.
The convention had several events aimed at adult attendees. Anime Crack on Friday night featured hilarious clips of obscure anime along with games where audience members had to guess the plot of an anime based on the series’ intro.
Another event, the Hentai Laugh-In, screened Japanese animated pornography to be mocked and laughed at by the crowd. The short films have no sexual meaning, rather, they are appreciated for being over-the-top and comical.
Shane Murdock, a junior media studies major, attended both the Hentai Laugh-In and Raunchy Shakespeare.
“I think the two events were total opposites,” Murdock said. “With Raunchy Shakespeare, it’s all carefully crafted sex jokes that are meant to be funny. With bad Hentai dubs, there’s nothing better than watching voice actors get attacked by tentacles.”
Phil LaMarr was an all-ages guest, fittingly, as the man has appeared in shows aimed at every demographic. In his Q&A, he fielded questions with charm and humor.
One audience member asked the voice actor if he ever used his acting voices in everyday conversation.
“I’m honestly too busy struggling with code-switching and who I am identity-wise to do cartoon voices,” answered LaMarr. “You know when you count the number of white people in the room and decide where you’re going to pitch your voice? Two people here know what I’m talking about.”
Meet and greet scheduling was an issue though, as many fans were unable to meet LaMarr at his signing on Saturday.
Fans appreciated the opportunity to hear the actor speak, but wished there had been more time allotted for one-on-one interactions with the star.
“It was awesome to see LaMarr, I always loved him on “Justice League” and “Samurai Jack,” but I feel like it was organized better last year,” said Frank Litterio, an attendee dressed as Goku from “Dragon Ball Z.” “Last year, the guests had their own tables set up where you could meet them, but people had to wait for hours this time.”
LaMarr took it upon himself to make an unscheduled appearance Sunday afternoon to meet more fans at another signing.
Finkelstein hopes to fix the scheduling issues next year by contracting more time with guests.
Attendees interacted with each other in SU 210 for the open tabletop game library. Jason Gough, who runs the library for the Indie Game Alliance, brought over 150 games from his personal collection. The convention has seen a rising interest in gaming over the years, as other attendees brought games as well.
“It seems more popular than the rest of the con,” Gough said. “It’s been full most of the weekend. There’s been 60-plus people in here all the time. People teach other a lot here so there’s no wasting time learning the rules. Anyone can just sit down and join a game. We even have some studio games that haven’t been released yet.”
Cosplayers, or costumed players, were involved with several events revolving around costumes including contests and a Cosplay Dating Game in which participants behaved in character and attempted to woo each other.
An artist and vendor’s room also offered attendees a place to spend their cash and buy merchandise from their favorite shows and games.
“It’s a crazy mix of people,” said Finkelstein. “Some play “Dungeons & Dragons” non-stop. Other people don’t go to many events and just want to see cosplay and buy stuff. For every interest, there’s something.”
David Tunis-Garcia is the arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org