Monday, July 23rd, 2018

PortCon prepares for event months in advance

Posted on April 14, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

Online Content

Byline: Amanda Melanson

Portland is known for its diverse artistic and creative culture. From painter, to sculptures, to writers, there is never a dull moment in Portland’s art scene. However, it goes above and beyond a physical medium. Many people in Portland also have a strong a love of video games, sci-fi and animation.

Each year, South Portland holds a convention called PortCon hosted at the DoubleTree near the Maine Mall in the month of June This is hosted by convention staff consisting of the chair, Julie McCubrey and other management and leadership staff members who volunteer their time and efforts to make PortCon a great space for self expression and creativity. Although the event isn’t happening for another two months participants are already eager to express their inner creativity for a unique and interesting art form.

PortCon’s attendees often spend months in advance creating costumes, planning activities and pre-registering for the event to be first in line to enjoy the festivities. Those who wear costumes are called ‘cosplayers’ – a portmanteau of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’. Participants will work together to create incredibly detailed costumes to portray their favorite characters as accurately as possible.

Cosplay itself is a larger community that spreads far beyond Portland and is viewable on a global scale in places such as Japan and more local venues on the east coast such as Boston, which hosts conventions such as Anime Boston and Pax East. According to McCubrey,  preparing for events like this are a bit like dressing up for Halloween, but it is something that can be done year round at various conventions across the states.

McCubrey explained that when Portcon was first created in 2002, the ultimate goal was to do things a bit differently from other conventions that were created to be more ‘purist’  in nature.  The “purist era” was about conventions specifically catering only to Anime fans.  Thus, PortCon’s concept of geek culture was born from that desire to be, “more inclusive and welcoming of fans of all mediums.”

Since PortCon’s establishment, most – if not all – conventions are all inclusive of video games, sci-fi, anime, card and board game fans. Members of the community can come to a convention dressed in costume if they’d like and can sit down for a game of Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering – a popular card game that is often a staple of stores such as Bull Moose and Weekend Anime of Westbrook – or chat with their friends.

Geek culture as a whole is overwhelmingly welcoming, but there are some instances such as fans on the internet who become overzealous, creating incidents such as ‘GamerGate’, an incident where various prominent members of the video game industry are harassed by members of the gaming community because they are female. While it is true that there are some larger issues in Geek culture, this is not the norm.

Sean Keukelaar, a resident of Portland who has attended PortCon and other New England conventions in the past, stated that that as PortCon has  become more popular, it has become more aggressive. “As with everything, the bigger the event gets, the more jerks show up in the crowd. You hear stories about the rampant misogyny that still plagues the community at times. The issues it stems from are left over from when the community was more dominated by boys and girls were still in the closet about their nerdiness.

There is a lot of judgment that has found it’s way in and people are ‘testing’ others to see if they’re ‘true fans’ of things. I think it’s a problem that badly needs to be addressed, especially with the double standards given from men to women.”

McCubrey also explained that because PortCon is a smaller convention – boasting a roughly 2,000 attendee headcount year after year – arger conventions have a larger support and because of that, PortCon is more casual. She also noted that by having anime conventions such as PortCon around, it helps business and creates an image of normalizing geek culture and the cosplay community.”\

McCubrey and Keukelaar both voiced similar sentiments about the importance of conventions in the Geek Community, with Keukelaar stating that the culture is important because it allows people to find others they have things in common with easily.

“I think that it allows for creativity and expression without having to worry about being judged for where your inspiration comes,” he said “I think it has spurred a lot of artist and fashion designers to get involved, between fanart and cosplay and has given a venue for those people to make money doing the things they love and not just doing it on the side for a handful of people who might enjoy it.”

The PortCon community also does its part to help drive donations to charities and foster camaraderie in the community, while keeping in check those who might create troubling situations by, “reminding the community to have manners.”

PortCon attendees are welcomed every year to participate, regardless of whether they decide to dress in costume or not.- This year, the event will take place from June 23 to the 26. USM students wishing to attend can also register as a group and be given a discounted rate.

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