Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Geek on the Street: Reporting Back from Walker Stalker Con NY/NJ

The Official WSC Logo
Many of my fellow Geeks on the Street are Atlanta residents, so this one might be of particular interest: Walker Stalker Con, an event born in your city about a show that takes your hometown as its setting.  The Walking Dead, the primary fan property honored by WSC, has become so popular over its six seasons, that the convention has expanded its horizons, hosting events as far afield as in London and aboard a cruise ship from Miami to the Bahamas.  If you love TWD, then this is definitely a “don’t-miss” sort of an event.

I am going to use this convention to throw two very real aspects of the convention-going experience into relief: one positive and the other… less so.  I think this show is a perfect example of one of the truly amazing and unique experiences that only fan conventions can give while still serving as its own possible cautionary tale of the peril that can come with attending conventions. 

The Vampire Diaries Panel at WSC
THE POSITIVE!  Let’s start with the good stuff because, in truth, the positives of conventions will ALWAYS outweigh the negatives.  WSC offers something even a huge show like New York Comic Con cannot: multiple opportunities for autographs and photographs with top-name stars from the program being honored.  One of the key reasons that this show can do that is that its focus is tight: it is really only about The Walking Dead and maybe one or two other, horror-related, television programs (I was actually there to meet the stars of The Vampire Diaries).  Because the con does not need to cater to the fandoms of lots of different shows, it can attract many of the most desirable names associated with that show.  WSC makes the guests very accessible; they sign autographs for many hours at a time, have pre-scheduled photo sessions, and even give Q&A-style panels, to give attendees the chance to get their burning questions answered.  The prospect of shaking hands or having your picture taken with a favorite television character is really a treat and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience.

THE NEGATIVE!  Now, this may all sound amazing: I get to spend the weekend with my favorite
The crowd waiting for Photo Ops at WSC
stars from my favorite show.  Yet, remember, thousands of other “number-one-fans” of your “most favoritest” actor are thinking the same thing.  And this show definitely reflected that: IT WAS PACKED!  There were people everywhere and wait times, even for pre-paid and pre-scheduled appearances, could be quite long.  People definitely got antsy as the afternoon wore along and the crowds were often quite stressful to navigate.  It was certainly easy to give in to the temptation to get irritated and complain, even though, again, we were all there to do something truly incredible.

My point here, my fellow Geeks, is that we all need to remember our basic nerd etiquette.  Crowds are actually one of the keys to what makes cons so great: we want to share our most beloved properties with others who love them as much as we do.  So, what Walker Stalker Con reminded me is that the burden for creating a #GeekPositive experience at a convention rests firmly on our shoulders, as the attendees.  We need to be patient, we need to be kind to volunteers, and we need to be friendly, courteous, and mindful of our fellow geeks.  The outcome of the convention experience rests as squarely on our shoulders as it does on those of the show’s runners.  Remember, we are all there to have fun and everyone should get to have that special, unforgettable experience for which they have paid and traveled.

Awesome WSC Holiday Tree
I hope these reflections will be useful as you geeks hit the streets for your next celebrity meet-and-greet experience at a con. Until next time, this is your official Geek on the Street Dr. Kelly wishing you a Glorious Geek Day!

Article by Kelly I. Aliano, PhD

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Exploring Fallout 4's Massive Sea:

By:Jessica Dillon

With the recent finding of the harpoon gun model everyone has one question on their mind. What is going on below the waves in the Commonwealth's ocean? I hate waiting for answers so I decided to make a separate save and "borrow" a suit of power armor that still had full power from the brotherhoods airship. After avoiding some fire I jumped into the sea directly in front of the airport and started walking. The movement once you get below water is actually EXTREMELY SLOW and takes about an hour to get anywhere decent in distance. I also had to glitch the water by tilting my camera at an downward angle to go from the normal murky look to a beautiful underwater scene. I did this search for few hours and covered a very large amount of area and here is what I found.

 First off the good news for those of us hoping for some ocean related DLC. There is a lot of sightseeing to do down here, from basic seaweed patches to the various sunken airplanes and boats to what looks to be destroyed submarines. There is a lot of work put in down here. At one point I even came to a ravine that had some very carefully placed capsized ships. There are also some arcs made of rock that you could walk through every so often as well a pipe line with lights on it that I followed for a bit out of curiosity. Weirdly enough  the map actually is cut short while you are underwater. If you try to walk to the edge you will be stopped with the "you can not go that way" message. While this could just be a launch bug maybe it could be that they where testing something and didn't completely fix it back in beta? There are also barrels like the ones you'd loot if you where just on normal land in random spots, possibly suggesting that something may be going on down here in the future.

Now for the disappointing news. I did not find much of anything that looked like it was accessible at this time and there is no way to really explore the ocean other than saving and walking in each direction since you can not jump high and it's extremely easy to get stuck. I also found no sea life other than the basic seaweed what so ever, not even a run of the mill fish school. The most movement you will even find is the occasional tire floating from virtually nowhere to the surface. On top of that the only way to see is the glitch. I checked at several points to see if there was natural visibility and even near the pipelines lights there was nothing but ocean dinginess. I did get to forcibly jump my way into wreckage as well and it had nothing at all in it not even the normal crates or barrels seen in wrecked trains.

I also looked around on the surface as well to see if I could find anything interesting. There isn't a lot here other than a few random old boats still floating around. I did however find an old boat with a large gutted dolphin like fish on it (I will name it Snaggletooth for article's sake.) This is the only creature in the game that does not have a name marker or looting option that I have found. Afterwords I found more weirdly placed Snaggletooth's in a few other places while playing pointing towards the fact that it's probably a pretty common catch around the commonwealth. I definitely think this points to a possible underwater DLC and makes me wonder if maybe some things are already in the game and just swam around me thanks to my very limiting situation. I can at the very least say exploring the sea was in it's on way very fun especially each time I saw a new shape in the distance.

Whether you are excited or the lack of sea life has bummed you out here are some points to remember. New Vegas did have  different breeds of fish which means sea life is existent for sure and affected differently by radiation in the fallout universe than other creatures. Most importantly for this game Snaggletooth proves there is strange sea life living in Boston. The sea floor also isn't just a flat boring surface it has things going on even if you can't interact with them. There is also the big plus of power armor working to some degree underwater. If that's not enough there is the existence of the Aquaboy perk that let's you explore and breath underwater rather easily. On top all this if we don't get anything official I'm sure we already have a creative mod lover working on adding some interesting content as you read!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Game Review: "Emily is Away"

As soon as I finished Emily is Away I tweeted at developer Kyle Seeley and told everyone I knew to stop what they're doing and check this game out. It captured my nostalgia and took me on a roller coaster of emotions I haven't felt since I was in high school. The game explores your relationship with a girl a named Emily over five years, as you get ready to leave high school and experience college.  It's a coming of age text-based adventure game that takes place entirely through a simulated AOL Instant Messenger, original sounds and features included.  
At the start of each chapter, you can pick a new icon that's typically relevant to that year.  You can also change your font color and background to something really obnoxious if you want. AIM was at it's peak during my formidable years so it instantly grabbed me and I felt right at home. While Emily is the only person you actually talk to in the game, you can see the away messages for everyone on your friends lists, complete with song lyrics and emo messages. If you grew up with the chat program, the nostalgia will instantly hook you.

For everything you say in the game, you get to choose one of three options and Emily will respond accordingly. Certain selections can effect the outcome, allowing the game to have different endings. Your relationship with Emily my be totally different than mine. These choices will usually be noted with fading text that says things like "Emily will remember that."  I don't want to get too much into the actual story as to not spoil your experience with it.
Where this game really got me was in how it made me feel talking to Emily.  Yes, I do know that I was essentially talking to a bot. But this game still took me through all the anxieties and emotions I had when talking to girl on AIM in high school, analyzing (and often over analyzing) each thing to say.  Does that sound too harsh? Should I play this cool? What ARE my plans this weekend?  These are all things to consider that could ultimately effect your relationship with Emily.  Then the texts pop up, "Emily is typing..." or "Emily is deleting."  What was she deleting?! What was she going to say??


If you grew up in the era of Windows XP, buddy icons, and moody song lyrics in your bio, you can certainly appreciate the care that's been put into rebuilding that. If AIM wasn't part of your vernacular, that aspect may be lost on you. But with the story that's here to experience, that shouldn't matter. The basic themes here are ones that transcend time and are applicable to almost anyone who's grown up. It's easy to recreate AIM with all of its nostalgic bells and whistles. Using it in a meaningful way is difficult and it's something Seeley absolutely nails here.

Emily is Away is available for download at emilyisaway.com for PC, Mac, and Linux.  It's available for a "name your own price" model, but you should toss over a few bucks.  He's certainly earned it.

Review by Rich Belsan

Monday, November 16, 2015

Geek on the Street: Reporting Back from L.I. Who 3, 2015

The Official L. I. Who Logo
There are very few creative properties that can sustain a fandom for decades on end.  Shows get cancelled, movies get replaced with reboots, and books may lose their luster after too many sequels or the passage of time.  Yet, we as geeks are uniquely lucky in that many of our favorite creations have not only seen their original versions stand the test of time, but we continue to see them refreshed and revitalized for new audiences.  Such is the case with Doctor Who, which, in the humble view of this one Geek on the Street reporter, is one of the finest television shows ever created.  This past weekend I had the pleasure to share that love with a few thousand fellow Whovians at the annual Long Island Doctor Who convention, L.I. Who, now in its third fabulous year.

BB-8 loves Doctor Who
This convention, much like BronyCon, proves the power of an individual fandom.  Unlike some smaller conventions that struggle for programming as a two- or three-day schedule drags on, L.I. Who 3 had rich offerings, filled with interesting talks about the show’s development as well as dozens of spotlight panels on stars from the show itself.  The convention did a wonderful job of balancing nostalgia for the Classic Who series, which ran from 1963-1989, with a film produced in 1996, with the fervor for the current New Who program, which relaunched in 2005 and has brought a dedicated younger fandom into the Doctor Who fold.

Like many geeks of my age bracket, I came to Doctor Who with the new series, yet watching the new show sparked our interest in watching the classic program.  So, for me, L.I. Who 3 had almost endless possibilities of panels to see, celebrities to meet, and experiences to indulge.  And, because of the shows middle-range size, I was able to get autographs from every star in attendance that I wanted to meet.  I was even able to get a photo op with the Eighth Doctor himself, Paul McGann.  These sorts of up-close-and-personal interactions with the show’s stars, as I have said before, are often impossible or incredibly time-consuming at larger or non-fandom-specific shows. 
A Panel with Paul McGann

To refresh a point that I make again and again, Geeks on the Street: if you love a particular property, seek out fan events focused on that one topic.  I guarantee that you will not be disappointed!  This show was one of the MOST #GeekPositive experiences that I have ever had.  I met one of my favorite companions of all time from the show, Katy Manning, who played Jo, and she treated us with such warmth, hugging and kissing each person in her line and taking time to chat.  Every fellow fan that I encountered at the show or even in the elevator was friendly and chatty.  And the programmers themselves left nothing to chance,
Katy Manning
creating a seamless and pleasant convention-going experience.

I also want to use this show to talk about the pros and cons of VIP experiences at conventions.  I am a mega-nerd, so I often treat myself to large convention packages (often at the expense of other leisure activities like vacations).  At a show like L.I. Who the perks with our VIP package—entitled the Master’s Plan—were massive and very cost-effective, including two nights in the convention hotel, a personal concierge, a free comic book, a free autograph and photo op with a celebrity guest of our choice, front row seating for main panels, separate lines, and exclusive events.  However, I did not do a good enough job learning these perks in advance and inadvertently paid for a photo op that could have been free and waited in a line that I could have skipped.  Make sure if you purchase a VIP package that you are well-versed in what it offers you.  Along those same lines, make sure it is offering you something worth the price tag.  I have often been “sold” on a package because of particular swag perks and then end up with just a tote bag and poster that I never look at again.  My point: focus on VIP packages that include convention experiences and not just “things.”  Most takeaways are not as valuable as the actual goings-on at the show.

Although not the Doctor, this PhD doctor hopes you all join me for a journey through time and space soon.  Until next time, this is your official Geek on the Street Dr. Kelly wishing you a Glorious Geek Day!

Article by Kelly I. Aliano, PhD

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Geek on the Street: THE New York Comic Con: A Retrospective

It has now been about a month since my absolute favorite event of the year: New York Comic Con, presented by ReedPOP at the Jacob Javits Center for four days each October.  Much has already been written about the incredible goings on at that show and, rather than repeating that all here, I thought I would take this opportunity, a month later, to reflect on what makes the show great.  This way, I can help advise you, my fellow Geeks on the Street, on how to have the MOST #GeekPositive experience imaginable at a show of this size and scope.
Entering the Show Floor at New York Comic Con, Javits Center

In that vein, then, I have decided to boil down (if such a thing is even possible!) the specialness of NYCC to five key areas:

(1)  Incredible Celebrity Guests: huge national conventions, like NYCC and its west coast cousin, San Diego Comicon, draw some of the biggest names in nerd—and mainstream—entertainment imaginable.  At this year’s NYCC, for example, I was able not only to attend a spotlight panel of my favorite comic book writer Scott Snyder, but I also saw the entire casts of both of Marvel’s Netflix series, Daredevil and Jessica Jones.  These sorts of guests might not appear at your small-town, local show, but they come out for these large, media-apparent events.  If you are attending a convention on the scale of NYCC, you MUST make the time to catch at least one of the big name panels.  It is a really special feeling knowing not only did you see the stars of a beloved program or movie, but also that they probably shared some exclusive or advanced content with you, just for being a fan.
Drawback: Lines for actual autographs and/or photo ops can be tremendously long and the actual meet-and-greet moment might be quite pricey, especially for A-listers.  I actually was not able to dedicate the time for any celebrity autographs this NYCC, as there was just too much else to do to spend potentially hours in a line.  That being said, Artists’ Alley, which is the bread and butter of conventions for us comic book nerds, did allow me the opportunity to meet such comic book top talent as Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

More than 100,000 people attended NYCC 2015
(2)  THE CROWDS!: For four days in October, I always feel as though I have approximately 100,000 friends who share my love for popular culture and want to express that passion via costumes and collectibles.  NYCC draws an absolutely massive number of human beings and, despite how sprawling the Javits may seem for any other annual event, the building is continuously jam-packed with this sea of amazing humans.  Most people you meet at a convention are friendly, be they NYCC first timers or seasoned pros, like myself.
Drawback: THE CROWDS!  You are perpetually sharing personal space with strangers.  Everywhere you turn, there are bodies.  You are probably bumping into someone at any given moment… you get the idea.  There are lots of people.  It can be hard to move.  But hey, at least the people are cool!

(3) Quality and Variety of Vendors: You can find just about any nerd swag for which you are searching at NYCC.  I was able to score a couple of SDCC exclusives for which I had been searching since the summer, as well as an original, complete, in-box Kenner Hall of Justice playset.  There are vendors selling everything from collectibles, which is my particular “take my money, please!” indulgence, to handmade items to t-shirts to posters to comic books to… the list goes on and on.  If it is pop culture related and you want it, chances are it will be for sale at the show.
Drawback: Things tend to be a bit pricier than they would be from another venue
or show during the rest of the year.  For example, we noticed a number of recently
released Star Wars items going for double their original price, even though they are not limited edition.  Be savvy about your NYCC purchases; the Show Floor is AMAZING, but try and use it to snag those one-of-a-kind, won’t-find-it-anywhere-else kind of things, not just a toy or t-shirt that you can get anywhere.
Looking down on the Show Floor entrance

(4) Expansive programming: There is so much going on at any time at NYCC.  Often, when we would get shut out of a panel we wanted to see, or were just plain too tired to keep walking around, we would duck in to a panel we didn’t know anything about.  And, every time, that panel turned out to be great!  We saw the premiere of a new WGN entitled “Underground” about slavery and the underground railroad and really enjoyed it.  We also caught part of both the panel for MTV’s upcoming Shannara Chronicles television show and the Disney Infinity Marvel panel and, just from a few minutes in the audience, were committed both to watching the telly program and purchasing the video game.  The bottom line: at a show on the scale of NYCC: just about anything you see is going to be awesome!
Drawback: Although there may be MANY things you want to see, thanks to the
Charlie Cox & Deborah Ann Woll from Daredevil
on the big screen during the Marvel Netflix panel
depth of the programming schedule, it is quite likely that you may not get into desired panels.  I, for example, am a huge X-Phile, but I had to choose between that panel and the Daredevil/Jessica Jones event.  We went with the Netflix panel, as we knew that that would be the hottest event at the con.  Still, I was saddened not to be present for The X-Files panel.  I had my moment of mourning, but I was determined NOT to let this disappointment throw me.  During when I would have been at the X-Files panel, I saw an incredible DC Comics panel instead.  So any disappointment can be turned into a victory pretty easily at a show of this size!

(5) That Once-In-A-Lifetime Feeling!: There is nothing else quite like being at a show like New York Comic Con.  My entire year is planned around being able not only to be at this show, but to being able to commit it to completely: in my availability, financially, with enough stamina to withstand four long, full days.  No matter how many years I attend—this was my sixth NYCC—I always leave the show on the last day wanting more, already making plans and anticipating the next year.  Each show is special and unique, yet also familiar and a favorite tradition.  Much like Christmas, I do my best to keep the spirit of New York Comic Con with me all the year through.  The show is just that remarkable of an experience
Drawback: There is none!  Come out to New York—the greatest city in the world!—and attend our incredible convention.  I promise: you will not regret it.
Celebrating the 10th NYCC in Panel Room

Looking forward to meeting my fellow Geeks on the Street at next year’s amazing, unforgettable, crazy, fantastic New York Comic Con! Until next time, this is your official Geek on the Street Dr. Kelly wishing you a Glorious Geek Day!

Article by Kelly I. Aliano, PhD