London is a place where everyone is accepted, in as much as nobody pays you much attention no matter who you are or what you’re wearing. This is especially apparent on a few days every year where the Tubes are dotted with people in unusual, colourful cosplay. It can only mean one thing: a convention is happening.
This time it was the Anime League’s London Anime and Gaming Convention, which has been running since 2010 in one form or another, but since last year it has started to really take a foothold and gain both size and momentum in the annual calendar of con-goers across the nation.
This year, the convention expanded into another building, this one completely dedicated to gaming while the main building of the Rocket Complex was used for mostly anime and cosplay. The beauty of LAGC, however, is that despite its swell in size it still manages to maintain the feel of a convention run by fans, for fans. This is a place devoid of the hard sell of the expos and the corporate identity; this is a place for people to connect about the things they love and come together as a community. If you’re looking for the fast-paced, gigantic buzz of Comic Con, then this probably isn’t the convention for you – but if you just want to find some people to chat to that enjoy the things you enjoy, then you can’t go wrong here.
For me, the highlight of the entire convention was the indie developer room, where I spent much of the weekend trying out a bunch of fantastic games. The titles and personnel on offer were a great mixture, and included some mobile game devs such as Lighthouse64, who make Block-sei – a kind-of 360 Breakout with ever-spawning enemies and a focus on getting a high score; and BoomCo Games, the makers of the fantastic Apocalypse Neighbours – a bright and colourful asynchronous multiplayer game that mixes the classic deathmatch fun of Worms with the more modern destructive joy of Angry Birds.
Then there was a wonderful collection of different PC and console games, such as Substream by Ben Bradley, a fun third-person sci-fi space shooter where the terrain changes dependent on the music – kind of like if you merged the gameplay of Star Fox with the idea of Audio Surf; Nature’s Zombie Apocalypse by Aniode Games, a twin-stick top-down shooter which pits a selection of animals against the ravenous hordes of the undead; Skara: The Blade Remains by 8 Bit Studios, a promising looking multiplayer melee deathmatch that is attempting to merge the skillful combat of the Souls series with the anarchic fun of the likes of Unreal Tournament.
Other highlights included Gunnihilation by Robo Pixel Games, a fast and bright twin stick bullet hell platformer that almost plays like an extremely fast version of Metal Slug with a dash of Smash TV; The Last Time by Big Cow Studios, a Tim Shafer-inspired pixel point and click where the narrative unfolds differently depending on your actions so that every play through is different to the last; and Snowman Scuffle by Rupert Key, a frantic four-player party game that pits snowman against snowman in a free-for-all battle to the death – with other party games planned.
Meanwhile, there was plenty more on offer in the gaming building, including tournaments for plenty of competitive games such as Mortal Kombat X, Ultra Street Fighter 4 and Super Smash Bros. to name a few. There was also a great selection of retro games available to play, an arcade room including a Donkey Kong cabinet courtesy of the Heart of Gaming arcade and a bunch of great stuff for sale, including some amazing modded GameBoys from Retro Active and some t-shirts and other game-related merchandise from 8-Bit Planet.
On top of all this, there were panels, bands, parties and talks aplenty, including a few special guests such as Mike Pollock, the voice of Doctor Eggman, and professional cosplayer Ani-Mia, who did a great job of promoting a positive attitude towards cosplayers and cosplaying in general. Cosplay was everywhere at the convention, with everyone expressing their love for their favourite characters or series. Here’s a few that caught our eye over the weekend:
(All photos courtesy of Bronwyn Clark, Master of None Photography)