Enthused Japanese Animation, Film and Arts eXpo (JAFAX) goers arrived to the event at DeVos ready to immerse themselves into the Japanese culture and geek environment.
While some came garbed for cosplay, others came armed with their own games, one group even started up a game of Dungeons and Dragons after the vendors had closed in the main room. Vendors were as excited as attendees to share in the festivities and celebration of their fandoms.
One vendor, Sarah See, 33, of Champagne, Illinois, said she has been going to cons her whole life. With her dad being a “trekkie,” a nickname given to huge “Star Trek” fans, this was probably inevitable. See was vending at JAFAX, selling what she described as “nerdy copper work.”, this included jewelry, wands and pens. She sells her products at many cons throughout the year in different states. Not only are they a place to make money, but they offer an environment that she enjoys.
“I love the air of acceptance,” said See. “There is no judging for being weird.”
Megan Rogers, 19, of Kalamazoo, has been going to cons for five years and enjoys making new friends and connecting with old ones. Dressed as Piplup, a Pokemon character, Morgan shared her story of how she got immersed into the geek community.
“My grandma bought me a DS for christmas,” Rogers said. “I played Pokemon and it was all downhill from there.”
Another cosplayer, Alyz Townsone, 23, of Bay City, Michigan, also shared fond memories of her experience with the community.
“My dad and I went to a lot of gaming conventions together,” Townsone said. “I like seeing and reconnecting with people that get why you like certain things, there isn’t any judging.”
Ally Chapoton, 24, of Armada, Michigan, was happily sporting her cosplay of Roy from Fire Emblem and was proud to say that Townsone had gotten her into cosplay when they attended college together. Chapoton started going to cons in 2013 in college with friends in her video gaming club.
“I love seeing people take so much enjoyment and feel so happy together,” Chapoton said. “It’s great that they are willing to share tips and joy in how the cosplay was created.”
Andrew Batty, 26, of Montague, Michigan, took inspiration from both Japaneses culture and pokemon for his cosplay. He wore a kimono and a hat with a little pikachu laying on top. He has gone to at least three cons a year since he began attending in 2013 after friends in college told him about it. Batty shared the other attendees sentiments of enjoying the atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.
“Since I was younger I had an eye for the arts,” Batty said. “I love to take something from scratch and turn it into something amazing. I imagine myself in this world and create from that.”
JAFAX not only includes a community of accepting people and cosplay, but also lots of different activities. There are rooms devoted to many different purposes. One is a room full of video and arcade games, another is a lending library with about 667 tabletop games and at least 200 miniatures available to paint. One of the rooms had a band playing while someone played “The Legends of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”. Another room is devoted to a “cosplay battle arena”.
If you would like to check out more JAFAX fun, follow this link to their website to see further scheduled events. The event runs until 6 p.m. tonight.