ByAna Valens, writer at Creators.co
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

I recently attended AnimeNEXT, and it was an absolute blast. For the uninitiated, AnimeNEXT is an annual New Jersey anime convention that regularly hosts all things anime and geeky, from booths to panels to artists to dances. And there are plenty of gaming events to check out during AnimeNEXT. There's even a Japanese arcade where you can play games like Dance Dance Revolution and Street Fighter V.

Of course, if you've never gone to an anime convention, attending one might sound a little overwhelming. But as geekdom has drawn closer together over the past decade, anime conventions have embraced video gaming and made room for gamers to enjoy their hobby at cons. You no longer have to be an anime fan to get a blast out of an anime convention.

If you still don't understand why, don't worry. Here's our four secret reasons why video game fans should start attending anime conventions.

The Merchandise Is Killer

[Source: AnimeNEXT]
[Source: AnimeNEXT]

Anime conventions regularly host a dealer's room, and the merchandise you can find in there is absolutely incredible. There are weapon replicas, art books, hats, messenger bags, t-shirts, video games, retro consoles, figurines, scarves, jewelry, and more. There are even body pillows... if you're into that sort of thing.

And most dealers host a wide range of franchises at their tables, too. For instance, at AnimeNEXT, many booths had Overwatch t-shirts and toys to pick up. Others had Metal Gear Solid t-shirts. Nevermind the fact that Overwatch has nothing to do with anime, and Metal Gear Solid is more familiar to gamers than weebs.

Dealers were still selling plenty of gear. That's because exhibitors know that anime fans often love video games, too.

So, yes, if you want a killer D.Va "Nerf This!" t-shirt, or if you need a baseball cap with the Foxhound symbol on it, do yourself a favor and go hit up an anime con's dealer's room. You're bound to find one.

There Are Artists For Commission

[Source: AnimeNEXT]
[Source: AnimeNEXT]

Speaking of which, most anime conventions have an artist's alley to check out. And these artists tend to show off a wide portfolio of games, series, and styles for interested buyers to check out.

There's plenty of reasons to go visit the artist's alley at your con of choice. For one, most artists do on-the-spot commissions, or take paid requests for after the convention. Which means if you want someone to draw Big Boss from Metal Gear Solid V, you can almost always find an artist to fulfill your request. Sometimes you can even receive your drawing on the same day.

Other times, you can pick up finished artwork to take home and hang up in your room. At AnimeNEXT, for instance, many booths featured illustrations of video game characters on display. You could request a drawing of Ryu at one table, and buy a Mercy keychain at another. If you're a patron of the arts, anime conventions are a dream come true.

Gaming Events Usually Feature

Anime fans love gaming. More specifically, anime fans love JRPGs and retro gaming. Remember, some of the best anime-themed video games were released during the 1990s and 2000s, meaning that many weebs have a soft spot in their anime-loving hearts for the Sega Genesis, SNES, and PlayStation releases of yesteryear.

This means that anime cons regularly feature panels, booths, and events dedicated to the gaming industry. One AnimeNEXT panel explored the console wars, and its impact on '90s gaming. Another part of the convention, the video game room, featured Japanese arcade cabinets for players to check out. And the convention even hosted open tournaments that players could sign up for, from Street Fighter V to Super Smash Bros. So yes, even eSports made a humble appearance at AnimeNEXT.

Anime cons have really branched out into gaming over the past few years, and it's worth hitting up a convention for their events and panels if you have the spare time.

It's Cosplay Heaven

Ask any anime fan, and they'll tell you right away: anime conventions have amazing cosplay. Some of the most dedicated cosplayers in the world are convention attendees, and these professional designers love to embrace all sorts of characters: from Overwatch's Widowmaker to Metroid: Other M's Zero Suit Samus Aran. In AnimeNEXT's case, there were so many D.Va cosplayers wandering around. Too many, even.

Just kidding. There's no such thing.

But in all seriousness, if you're a cosplay fan, anime conventions are a must. They're great opportunities to take photos with cosplayers and see your favorite characters brought to life. And if you're into cosplay yourself, anime cons also give you the perfect opportunity to strut your stuff. As long as you abide by the con's weapons and clothing guidelines, that is.

Still, cosplay at anime cons is some of the best around. So grab your camera and zip up your costume, because there isn't an opportunity quite like this anywhere else.

Have you ever visited an anime convention before? Tell us your favorite con stories in the comments below.

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