August 6, 2019

Matsucon 2019 – I play Pokémon Go everyday

Hello geeks!

Matsucon came and went and it went really fast. So for those not in the know Matsucon is an anime convention in Oulu, Finland. This was my second time at Matsucon (the previous time was at 2017) and just like last time I went as a con worker again. Matsucon was held during 3-4 August and just like all previous times (as far as I know at least) it was held in Pohjankartano, which is a great building to hold a con in.

Let's go!

Matsucon banner next to the info desk.
I went to Matsucon alone this time. I was supposed to wake up early as fuck on Saturday morning (4:30 Swedish time) but of course I had somehow not heard the alarm go off so, err, thank god I had not put on the airplane mode overnight like I usually do cuz mom called me 5:30 like "are you coming? I've been waiting outside for 5 minutes" and I was like oh fucking shit I was still sleeping! So the morning was stressful. Thank lord I had prepped everything the previous day so I basically just had to take all my stuff, feed the cats etc and then I was done. 

So I got a ride to Kemi train station. When we arrived I noticed there was no train already waiting on the rail, which seemed a bit weird seeing we were behind our schedule and the train should have been leaving within like 15 minutes. But then I looked at the actual train time table thingy and had an "of course" moment; VR (the Finnish train company) is jokingly often abbreviated to Venaa Rauhassa which translates literally to something like "wait in peace" or more freely "take your time". Almost every Finnish person knows this joke and most of us have experienced it too.. and so did I this time. Tbh I don't like joking about VR too much because my late maternal grandfather worked for them his whole life as a safety equipment installer, so it's a bit emotional for me as, when his memory failed him because of Alzheimer, the few things he would remember and talk about was his work.

Late train, supposed to originally leave at 7:25 local time.
Luckily the late train didn't screw up my work shift as I had the first shift as a ticket seller at Matsucon, which meant I had to be there at 10 for the briefing and information. The con officially opened at 11 if I remember right.
So when I got to Oulu the clock was like 9 something and I went straight to my aunt's place to eat some breakfast and dump some stuff that I didn't need at the con. I also noticed that the nearby park next to where my aunt lives had three gyms extremely close to them on Pokémon Go (I didn't play when I last visited) so I popped my mons in the gyms and then headed for my aunt's apartment. I quickly ate some breakfast (didn't have time at home) and then walked towards Pohjankartano, which was only like a 5 min walk from there.

Matsucon main entrance.
View when standing outside, facing away from the main entrance.
As a con worker I entered through a side door, not the main door pictured above. The merchandise sellers etc were still putting up their booths and I went to look for the person responsible for the ticket workers. I found my target and soon enough got my volunteer badge.
After some information on what to do at my work station I was left with another person to handle the ticket sales. Tbh I had a nightmare about this a few days before the con but luckily it was nothing like that. xD

Matsucon entrance view after opening.
I learned later that I was seemingly the only ticket/entrance volunteer as the only other person had cancelled. I also heard that Matsucon had fewer con workers this year than the previous year overall but that they still managed to run the con sufficiently; this explains why pre-con the volunteer recruitment closed and then opened again and how people were added even on the last days before the con – they really needed anyone they could get and thus I'm happy I came to help!

I was never alone at the entrance by the way, as one of the "yleisvänkärit" (general volunteers, basically workers who were put at whatever station that needed them) was always there with me, so we were 4 people during the first hours of Saturday and then 2 on the other, less active hours. The biggest rush was during the first hour of the opening on Saturday – we sold out all Saturday tickets during that first hour and it became evident very quickly that probably the double would have been needed as long after they were sold out we still had customers who would have preferred to buy just the Saturday ticket instead of the weekend ticket. And I even heard that this year more Saturday tickets were available than last year and still it was far from enough – and we actually had a lot of excess/unsold weekend tickets. :/ I can wholly understand that Matsucon wants people to come on both days and thus most available tickets were weekend tickets but to be honest, at every con there will always be a lot of people who only have interest to go on the main day for whatever reason (even on big cons, not just small ones) and often one day is enough to experience a convention to a satisfying degree (basically the "I've now seen everything and gotten a general idea/feeling of the event" feeling). Especially smaller cons like Matsucon, Kummacon etc can be "seen" in as little as a couple hours if you don't plan to attend any programs and just want to check the merchandise and the general atmosphere of the con. I'm not saying this with any ill intent, I'm just being realistic because this is typical human behavior and can be seen even on concerts, festivals etc that people just want to go on the day that they deem is either the best or fits their schedule. I'm guilty of it myself. ^^"
So yeah, I actually felt bad having to tell customers many hours after the Saturday tickets sold out that "sorry we don't have one-day tickets for Saturday anymore, they sold out already on the first hour". Many were visibly disappointed but bought the weekend ticket anyway (despite only being able to attend on Saturday) and others walked out, not buying a ticket at all. I often had to mention that the price difference is only 5 € to get a customer to buy the weekend ticket instead of just leaving. It was especially noticeable on younger people (children) because there were a few, if I remember right, who seemingly couldn't even afford the 5 € price difference between the Saturday and the weekend ticket; they most likely had been given exactly 12 € by their parents and they expected there to be one-day tickets (not gonna lie, I would have expected the same) and then suddenly didn't have enough money to even get inside. :'( Imagine if it would have been their first con...

This was my workplace for the weekend. Mikael was great company!
Our job was also to sell Matsucon merchandise.
On Saturday I had little time to actually explore the con. My only free time was more or less just enough to go see the Valitut Lapset (lit. chosen children) Digimon stage play, which I really wanted to see. Quite frankly it was the only program that I didn't want to miss and so I'm really happy that I was given time off to go see it. You see, Matsucon was the only convention in northern Finland to which the Valitut Lapset play even came to, the rest was in the far south which is out of my range. So aside from helping out as a volunteer my main reason to go to Matsucon was for the stage play.

The Digimon play lasted from 13-15 and it was in the main ceremony hall. It was forbidden to record or photograph the play so I have obviously no photos of it, but if the play is eventually recorded and uploaded on Youtube I will add the link here!
I was actually wearing a Digimon themed shirt during Matsucon (yep, I didn't cosplay and just went casual for comfort's sake) and it was funny because one of the volunteers watching over the hall's entrance actually commented on my shirt being very fitting. xD The play was really good, I loved every second of it!! It follows the story from the first season of Digimon up to the point where Angemon defeats Devimon for the first time. Of course a lot of things was omitted out of time restrictions (two hours) but it was very easy to follow, well-made, genuinely funny and just extremely nostalgic for all of us 90s kids who watched it on television during the good old days, lol.

Matsucon had this information/advertisement screen.
It showed a map of the con building, for example.
First floor view, near the entrance and stairs.
View from the stage in the main hall, first floor.
View of the main hall, seen from second floor.
All merchandise sellers were in the main hall on the first floor, just like is usual at cons held in Pohjankartano. It's the best place for merch booths, no doubt. The area is very well lit because of the massive glass windows and it's roomy because of the open design. I didn't have time to check all the merch sellers thoroughly but I noticed that there were several sellers which I had either never seen before or sellers which I recognized from bigger cons but that rarely, if ever, attend small cons. Positive surprise! I also felt like there were more merch sellers than average for a small con?

This was a local specialized tea company, never seen before!
Helmets, props and such. Not sure if info booth, commissions or display? xD
Bard & Jester leather shop, not a common sight in the north!
(I remember seeing them at big cons like Närcon)
That happy Gengar was really cute, not gonna lie.
Can we like talk about how much I secretly wanted that Magikarp?
... and that Growlithe.
But I have so many plush dolls already I'm running out of space lol.
More plushies. I heard some of the Ginga plushies are soon sold out.
Urumi had a lot of figurines and collectables as usual!
There was a table filled with keychains, gachapons and such.
Lisan Otuspaja was a new sight!
The booth above was super cool and featured dog ears, dragon tails and mermaid headpieces etc for sale. I ended up talking with Lisa, the owner, a lot and she does fursuit commissions and was really nice to talk to! Her booth was only at Matsucon on Sunday as on Saturday she was part of the Digimon stage play and that was seemingly the reason her booth even was at the con. Thankful for that, I'm heavily considering to commission her at one point as I've been wanting to try fursuiting for years now! Such a nice person. ♥

And here were mostly figures and merch of sci-fi, fantasy and video games!
No con without Pocky. Except I feel that Pocky is overrated. xD
Manga Cafe is a regular, Asian sweets and drinks.
All my purchases this year was from the Artist's Alley, which was located on the second floor in one of the, err, can I call it a corridor? There was a lot of pretty things for sale at the AA, just like always. It's often the first place I go and check once I get to a con, but because of work I only had time for a proper look on Sunday as I arrived a bit earlier to the con and thus could do my purchases before my shift started, which was at the con's start but luckily some sellers had their tables ready and could sell those 30 min before the official opening. x)

Artist's Alley general view.
SaQe-Art's table, I've bought from this artist many times over the years.
Always a pleasure to see at Artist's Alley!
Close up of the table. In love with the new unicorn merch!
A part of Elontaival's table. That Thanos glove thou.
Matsucon had a green room for all volunteers and panelists etc. It was located on the third floor. Whenever I felt hungry I went up there to eat some bananas, I almost lived on bananas tbh because for some reason I don't really like eating bread (and there was nothing I like to put on bread anyway) when at cons. The green room was pretty okay but I kinda wished there would have been candies and/or chips too and not just bread and fruit because sometimes you didn't want to actually eat but just wanted something sweet or salty. Thankfully some biscuits came later so that made my day! Olen häpeilemättä läski. :'D
I didn't see any warm food either, I think Matsucon 2017 had micro burgers? It's not a big deal but something quick and warm would have been nice because, as I've implied I had like no work breaks (save for one to go watch the Digimon play) during Matsucon's most active hours so I could not go out to eat in town either as it would have taken too long. I still managed to not be hungry though as I went to the green room to chug bananas whenever I felt the hunger start to kick in. I understand I got long work shifts (in comparison to the con's total open hours) because of the lack of volunteers so it's totally understandable but it was a bit meh to only have free time on both days during the "con is almost over for the day" last couple hours as this made it so that I felt like I had to stress, fearing some booths might start closing down before I get around to them etc. Luckily this didn't happen though and so I'm pleased enough with what free time I got, although it would of course have been sweet to be able to roam around when there was a lot of buzz, hype and cosplayers walking around.

View of the green room.
Biscuits, yum! My day was saved lol.
Still extremely thankful though that I got the last hour off from my second Saturday shift because it collided with the start of Pokémon Go's Ralts community day (which was revealed on extremely short notice when compared to previous community days), which is incredibly precious because of how meta-relevant Gardevoir is and the rarity of Ralts in the wild to begin with. So the last 3 hours of Matsucon's Saturday I spent chasing Ralts in Oulu city and thus almost all the photos, shopping and exploring had to be done on the last hours of Sunday instead.

During the community day I went quickly to my aunt's to eat warm food, drop off my bag and then I headed back out again. It was really fun to play a community day event in another city because everything was new and I actually saw a lot of PoGo players in all different ages and it was really refreshing to see how accepted it was to play in Oulu centrum. No kids screaming at me how I'm such a nerd and loser for playing Pokémon. It felt like every second person who walked past me was also playing PoGo and it made me feel all fuzzy inside, aaaaaah~

The rest of the day I watched my aunt play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Wii U until like midnight and then we went to sleep. It was so cozy!

Sunday morning I woke up with some time to spare. At least I got to sleep more than 4 hours like on the night before, lol. When I was preparing to head out I saw that there was a Rayquaza raid starting at the nearby park so I headed there before going to Matsucon. When I was done I saw another Rayquaza about to start at a gym near Matsucon so I ran over there and raided that one too with the locals, as it hatched just in time to allow me to play it and then head straight to Matsucon to start my shift.

There was a Matsu Cafe.. somewhere outdoors seemingly.
Saw this sign but have no idea what it was? Seems nice though.
Sunday was a lot more chill than Saturday but we still sold over 100 Sunday tickets, which seemed to be a new record as the ticket sale responsible was mega excited. xD There were actually surprisingly many visitors even on Sunday, a lot more buzz than I initially expected there to be! It's nice to see that even smaller cons can keep visitors interested to come on the lesser day of the two.

Matsucon had a karaoke room. Of course people were singing
the Digimon opening after the play ended. xD
Video game room. Would have liked to play a bit but oh well.
CRYO's roleplaying game room.
On the second floor was also the secondhand shop, it's basically that congoers take with them stuff that they want to sell and then the shop sells them during the con. I've thought about bringing stuff there too as I have quite a lot of items that I should sell and shortage of space is a real issue, lmao.

Matsu's secondhand booth. "Kirppis" as we say in Finnish.
The amount of uncommon Pokémon plushies in this box
surprised me! Was hesitant to buy though because not sure if fakes or real.
Once my Sunday shift ended I took the last open hours of the con to snap all these photos and check the merch sellers. At this point a lot of people had already left and so it was pretty quiet – the general con excitement mood was vanishing as I saw people packing. Well at least it made it easy to scout the shops as I didn't have to elbow my way forward or peer between people's backs. Once I was done shopping I left the con as I felt like I was too tired and out of energy to really feel like a visit to the video game room anymore.
My train left 18:30 and this time it wasn't late at least.. in fact I almost missed the train because I underestimated how long it took to walk there! I saw the train arriving to the station when I was quite far away and I was like "oh shit" and ran a fair amount of the distance. Luckily I made it on time with like 5 minutes to spare but still. That was sweaty.
Also, the train was filled to the brim with young men doing the military service. I've never seen so many on a single train at the same time, it was stupidly hard to find a free seat and even harder to find a person who wasn't wearing green camo gear. xD

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As my closing words I want to say that Matsucon is heading in the right direction. It's a really pleasant and safe-feeling small con that doesn't feel all that much like a small con. Despite the shortage of volunteers I didn't run into nor hear of any obvious shortcomings regarding the overall quality of the con. I'm hoping that Matsucon will stay for a long time, especially now with Kitacon seemingly gone for indefinite time it's important that the north holds on to the remaining cons that we have! I will definitely attend as a con worker in the future too and help out in any way I can. I might not be as active of a congoer as I once was but at least the local events I want to support. ♥

My con loot! The items on the right side are for friends.
Thank you for reading my summaries! Take care~

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