Flanders Expo in Ghent, Belgium
Here is what F.A.C.T.S. stands for:
This weekend was the 20th edition of the F.A.C.T.S. convention, and for the first time I wasn't going as a retailer but as one of the regular visitors.... ahum I mean ground forces! After missing out on Celebration V due to some personal issues I was really looking forward to visiting a nice and decent convention. Since I've been there a lot of times and it has been growing ever since the first year it was kind of a sure thing to get a nice convention vibe. I was really anxious to go and the two-hour drive didn't bother me one bit. I got there nice and. Even though I was 3 hours early a line was already forming. the vibe around the entrance was ecstatic. Which was partially the blame of the special guests that were here, but I will delve into that later.
F.A.C.T.S. is widely regarded as THE best convention in Europe, and gains more interest and visitors every year. This year was no exception and they even enlarged the convention floor with half as much space as last year. With this in mind I walked in the first hall, which was the gaming area. I was immediately attracted to the nice woman of the Nintendo stall but ditched them quickly when I found out there was a playable demo of the multiplayer function of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. I only played it for 10 - 15 minutes but it has the potential to become something big if they sift out the bugs and minor problems. Since I didnít feel like getting slapped by a woman again the Nintendo boothbabes were no longer an option and I moved on.
The Playstation stand had the videogame Vanquish, but it was dwarfed by the Just Dance 2 and Michael Jackson: The Experience stages which had scarsely clad women who were willing to show of their hot curves with dance moves I haven't seen before. Although the gaming area was pretty cool it wasn't filled completely with stands and even had some unused space in the hall, which gave it a bit of a weird and cold vibe. The Playstation Move stand wasn't ready at the time but was already interesting enough to come back to later today. The new gaming area had some potential to become very fun but since I was early it was just speculation. Time to move on to the next hall: Cosplay, Dealers and Special Guests!
Walking in the second hall made my heart skip a couple of beats with all the merchandise that was there. I am not easily impressed by merchandise but there were some amazing things here and I decided to quickly check for little ''treasures'' and later inspect the stands for real. While I was walking between the stands counting the money I could spend in a worse case scenario I started to notice that most of the dealers had accidentally brought the same new things. This is a good thing if you want bargains, but I was hoping for some older stuff to complete some series. Even in the third hall the merchandise was mostly the same as anyone else had brought with a few exceptions aside off course. No lost treasures here so lets just start with the closer inspection of the stands. It seemed a lot more dealers were here and a lot of the regulars had bigger stands.
The aisles between the stands were nice and wide but not too wide to make it awkward. The dealers were as always nice and polite and already smelled a potential customer in me because I already had half a bag worth of flyers. The merchandise halls were evenly spread with stands from official shops and private sellers, which were nice, and didnít make me skip a few aisles. Since I am well known in the merchandise business a lot of dealers wanted to have a chat with me and before I knew it the doors opened for the early birds. Ten minutes later I was already engulfed in visitors. I don't have the specific numbers but I do have the feeling a lot more people showed up this year, which is of course a good thing. I bought some stuff, made some pictures and checked my program to find out the first special guests were already signing.
The guest list this year included: Billy Dee Williams, Kristanna Loken, Jewel Staite, Robert Picardo, Dwight Schultz, Dirk Benedict, Doug Bradley, Noah Hathaway, Dave Gibbons and a few more artists. Trying to be a ladies man I visited Kristanna Loken first and quickly found out that was a smart move. She is really hot and I don't even remembered what she signed but I am never washing it again. Haha! She was a beautiful woman and was very nice and took the time to have a chat. Billy Dee Williams on the other hand was a different story after waiting for an hour at the designated spot they finally told us he left the Hotel too late and was stuck in traffic. Apparently it could take him another 30 minutes to get here. Since this was only his second visit to Belgium and I already lost count of the people waiting for him I decided my spot, as number five in the line was pretty sweet. Twenty minutes later he showed up and the atmosphere in the area immediately changed from anxious to overload, a lot of people were highly enthusiastic to meet him and started to push the line a bit. When it was my turn I decided I wanted two signatures of Lando and when I commented on him being treated very well by being placed next to Kristanna Loken he laughed out loud and I noticed he is still the Lando Calrissian we all know and love!
The other guests didn't really interest me that much and I wrestled my way on to the cosplay stage. When you enter the convention as a cosplayer they give you a slight discount that made a lot of people decide to go as a cosplayer. Was it just me or were there a LOT more hot chicks in as few clothes as possible this year? Most of the costumes were regulars at the show but there was also a large amount of new cosplayers. The restaurant area was improved as well and offered a lot of different options. They even had salads, which is quite unusual for a convention. While on my coffee break I noticed how crowded it was getting and since I already had seen most of it I decided to get some comics and a couple of gifts and call it a day. As I was walking to the exit I stopped at the gaming area and found it buzzing with people dancing, screaming and even crawling to impress each other. I visited the Playstation Move stand to see if it was really that great. Everything I ever said about it being crappy I take back, it works so much better than the Wii and the Eye-toy combined. The only question is do you want to look like a retarded monkey while playing a videogame.
After an exhausting weekend and a long trip home (yes a 2-hour drive is insanely long for us) I can look back at another great F.A.C.T.S. convention. Where other European conventions are pestered which dropping visitor numbers and increase their prices to still get their cash, F.A.C.T.S. just does what it has always done and probably will always keep doing. Kick @#$ and chew Bubble Gum. I said it last year and I will say it again. This is the only reason why someone should visit Belgium instead of the Netherlands during October! Until next time United We Find and Coleman Trebor signing off!