Last Weekend I had the amazing experience of visiting the Cardiff Anime and Gaming Con at the Mercure Hotel. Situated just two minutes from Queen Street station, this event took place over two days and was home to anime artists, avid gamers, cosplayers and fans all under one roof. Saddled with my notebook, a pen and my love of all things nerdy, I headed to the event to see just what was available.
The Welsh Gaming Network was provided with a press pass to the event by Animeleague, who run Anime and Gaming Cons across the UK, including London, Bristol, Cardiff, Leicester, Norwich, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. There’s still time to check out the next convention in Bristol on October 6-7th and we’ll be keeping you updated with 2019 dates for Cardiff once they’re released.
Cardiff Anime and Gaming Con took place in a hotel spread over four floors, with each floor holding a distinct theme for the attendees. The ground floor held the Trader Zone, a large hall filled with merchandise from all the favourite shows along with imported DVD box sets, manga and the like. The first floor was reserved for the main stage, where talks and panels continued throughout the day, discussing topics such as working with EVA foam for cosplay, building a manga/art portfolio amongst other great panels. The second floor had a location for the cosplayers themselves to hang out and relax, and a tabletop gaming room where a rather large group of all ages were playing a mixture of RPGs like dungeons and dragons, card games like Yu-Gi-Oh, and party games such as Cards Against Humanity. While I didn’t get a chance to play myself, I would have loved the opportunity to explore these groups more as they were all having a great time. Finally, on the third floor was the arcade area. Two rooms filled with every console you can imagine; from the NES to the Nintendo Switch, Playstation to the Mega Drive/Genesis, all there to play for free. While I was not here long either, I did get a chance to play some Goldeneye on the n64 and swiftly got my behind handed to me. Finally, there was a dedicated room for PC gaming, with 10 top specced machines preloaded with games such as League of Legends, PUBG, and Tekken 7. One thing was clear to me, throughout all of the floors, there really was something available to everyone who attended.
As I explored the many floors of the event, I stumbled upon the Cosplay lounge, a relaxed atmosphere for cosplayers where they are able to take a break from taking photos with other attendees, have food, and patch up any technical issues their outfits that inevitably occur. It was here that I found something that I can only describe as straight out of my childhood dreams. Here I found several gentlemen in light tunics and baggy trousers holding replica lightsabers, offering signups for some event. Naturally, I had to wander over and see for myself just what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, my childhood dream would become a real opportunity. LudoSport, as they are known, are a community that have been training in potentially the coolest martial art in the world, as these folks learn the art of Lightsaber combat. After a short moment to find all attendants, we proceeded down the lift, and out into the empty parking area next door.
LudoSport at the Cardif Anime and Gaming Convention
We started the event by learning a basic stance, and then working on some basic attack and defense maneuvers. Building upon these components, we started to have some mock duels, focusing on our awareness of space and the way in which we defended against certain attacks. The class was only a short taster session of around 30 minutes, but during this time it was a fairly intensive workout, I can imagine they would work up quite the sweat during longer session. We finished the session by having a 1-on-1 duel against the leader of the group, Josh. During this short duel, he showed us the correct etiquette for a duel, such as how to salute to your opponent and then set us free. After the duel, I had an opportunity to sit down with Leader Josh to get his thoughts on the event, and then a little bit more information about the history of LudoSport. So LudoSport has existed for 14 years within Milan, Italy but has only entered the UK about 3 years ago. Josh had been there from quite early on in the UK scene and really displayed his energy for the group as they open more groups, including one in Cardiff itself. Josh’s ambition for the group was quite inspirational because he wishes to take the group outside of just the locals who join the group by working with schools to get children excited about exercise in a fun and creative way. In Josh’s own words, “If I were a kid and I went to school and they said that we were going to do lightsaber combat, I would lose my mind. And I think many other children would be the same”. The ambitions of the company as a whole are very similar, with quite high goals of one day becoming an Olympic sport! Certainly high goals but with the recent resurgence in popularity for the Star Wars franchise, and the spread of alternative sports for the general people, I would be delighted to see them succeed.
Photography and Cosplay at the Cardiff Anime and Gaming Convention
During my time at Anime Con, I also spoke to another patron; someone who often gets overlooked when the aftermath is upon us, a photographer named Raymond, whose Instagram can be followed at @PixelWizardPhotography. After graciously giving me some time to interview him between throngs of cosplayers lining up to get their own photoshoot. Five minutes with Raymond showed me exactly why I love being in such company as this con. During the interview, he showed such a tangible excitement to show off the cosplayers in the best light. When talking about the photography and how it began and why he did these photoshoot, his answer took me by surprise.
“For me, it’s about seeing these people transform. Society can be cruel if you like something that isn’t the norm and anime is a perfect example of this. I grew up in the old days of being a geek and it definitely wasn’t popular then. To see these young people find acceptance and community as they’re finding their way in the world is fantastic and I love being a part of it”.@PixelWizardPhotography
Raymond gave me an example of a gentleman who he did a shoot with when he first started who suffered from social anxieties and wasn’t confident in his cosplay. Fast forward to this year and he had completely changed his attitude while cosplaying, almost as if he was using the outfit as a persona to display the confidence that he didn’t necessarily have prior to this. As Raymond described his experience with the cosplay scene as “…like a minefield as a photographer. I like to edit the cosplayers, fit them into their world, adding elements to the photos to make them feel alive in that universe. And these cosplayers know their stuff. They know what should be there and what shouldn’t and are quick to explain why. And I love that”. Touching upon the overall feel of the event, Raymond was vocal about his respect for the cosplaying community. “These guys have the balls to go out into the world, dressed as their favourite characters and say to the world ‘This is Who I Am!’ and be proud of it. It’s amazing to see”.
I would like to give a big thank you to both Josh and the Ludosport Cardiff team, and Raymond for taking time from their busy schedules to talk to us. If you are interested in LudoSport, you can find more information on their facebook page here. Likewise, Raymond’s work can be found directly here, and if you join either, tell them who sent you!