There are many large-scale gatherings for geeks and cosplayers in South Africa, but there are a few that stand out every year. The first two on most people’s to-do is obviously rAge and Fan Con. ICON would be an easy third on the list, offering people – geeks, gamers, cosplayers, and comic books fans alike – a wide variety of activities, merchandise, live panel discussions and a sea of board games being played in the background.
ICON is in its 25th year now, the longest running of its kind, opening its doors this long weekend from 16-18 June 2017 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Johannesburg. The weekend also features a few special guests as panel speakers, including Pathfinder co-creator James L. Sutter and world-famous cosplayer Linda ‘Vampy Bit Me’ Le.
No doubt the biggest draw for the convention were the amount of board games and players around the venue. There were three notable areas in which a variety of tournaments and friendly games were being played. By the afternoon, almost all the tables and seats were taken. In addition to this, there was a substantial amount of vendors selling a few games and even craftsmen painstakingly creating figures on the spot. What I also enjoyed was that most of the stalls, creators and players more than eager to share their knowledge, even at the most novice of levels, myself included. Honestly, I haven’t been hit with the bug to join, but I can see the appeal, and appreciate all the effort put into those creating games, figures and boards, some of which were on display at the convention.
While there were a number of cosplayers at the event, it never reached the scale and detail you often see at rAge. This, however, was still the first day of proceedings and there’s bound to be a lot more as the weekend progresses. One thing that did strike me as curious was that not all cosplayers were as open to posing for photos, for media or fellow guests, something I had not seen at other events previously. Some of these, though, were quite shy, with only a handful or less being a little rude about it. I would have loved that all cosplayers at the convention to be as gracious and friendly as the majority. I would expect that anyone willing to dress in cosplay would be open enough to engage with passes by. This isn’t anything to do with the convention itself and I only make a note of it because it struck me as very strange.
Another big attraction on the day was the Lory Park stall, which featured a few live animals, including a snake, cockatoo, bearded dragon, and a Madagascan hedgehog. Everyone was welcome to pet them if they were so brave. I gladly took some time to play with the cockatoo, listening to it repeating a few of my words, as well as the hedgehog. There was no way I was grabbing the snake or bearded dragon. It wasn’t unfamiliar to hear a few shrieks from that corner throughout the day.
In many ways, ICON would appeal a lot more to the average geek, focusing largely on comics and board games, as opposed to the more commercial gaming conventions. As such, you won’t necessarily attract the same crowd or numbers, but it does make it better focused to meet the needs of the market. There’s no wonder then that ICON is now in its 25th year, as it caters to the more niche crowd. This was my first attendance at ICON and something I would love to come back for in the years ahead.
Venue: Hall 2, Gallagher Convention Centre
Dates: Friday 16th June / Saturday 17th June / Sunday 18th June
Times: Friday, Saturday: 9am – 6pm and Sunday, 9am – 5pm
Tickets are still on sale and start at R120 for a one day pass. A weekend pass and limited VIP tickets are also available.