At the beginning of this month of April was the gaming convention Pax East. Pax East is known for its showing of many games, gamer gear, and its wonderful staff called Enforcers (that I’m a part of). Also for this Pax my friend Mariya, who is known as Fenix Fatalist who is from and flew from Kiev, Ukraine to experience Pax East.
More international (meaning non-US based) people are coming to US conventions not just as guests but coming because they want to experience the event themselves and meet their friends. It’s a rare when it happens but it’s special when it does. I had the pleasure as acting as a part guide to Mariya as well as learning all sorts of wonderful and unique things about Ukraine and pop culture there, and just how much is similar. There are some business concerns, some geopolitical ones that we in the US don’t have but overall pop culture is a global connector.
There is a lot similar across pop culture in both the positive and the negative. In the negative there are trolls everywhere through when you speak multiple languages they will send hateful messages in multiple languages. But the positive is so much more. Properties and concepts such as gifs translate globally because there have been lots of shared media across the planet. A lot of this is due to the internet infrastructure and mobile phones. While we were having dinner on Wednesday we were using our phones to show and share concepts containing pop culture humor as well as show photos of other works and those of friends and people we admire when it comes to pop culture.
Sometimes we might mutually know someone or their works but other times we don’t, in pop culture depending on how people are tagged and shared means you may or may not to see them. Mariya for example had not heard about some popular cosplayers I follow or some brands like our founder Tony’s Hero Within. She showed me the same. She also told me about how she has been working to build her cosplay business and studio in Ukraine and I had the pleasure of listening to several original compositions which would be the kind of thing you could hear in the epic games we love to play.
That’s another thing you find as a uniter that we in pop culture have a large set of skills and talents and we always want to learn more and do more.
Thursday was the cosplay day and Mariya had brought with her was Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s a cosplay you instantly recognize her for and for the character as well. As you can imagine a lot of people wanted to get pictures with Aloy, but more than that other cosplayers who knew her or knew about her works were extremely excited to meet her.
Two were two particular examples of this. One was at the Bandai Namco booth where we met with xxfruitcakexx who was working with Code Vein. Xxfruitcakexx was excited to meet Mariya because she knew Mariya’s works and it’s always fun to meet people with passions you share from around the world. This lead to some awesome photos including my favorite:
The second being at Riot Games Cospitality Lounge. It’s hard to imagine that a few years ago the concept of the Cospitality Lounge didn’t actually exist. While some reports on the originator of the Cospitality Lounge vary it was certainly made well known by Riot Games. In various countries and also plenty of cons even in the US there isn’t a Cospitality Lounge where cosplayers can fix their cosplays.
This is a concept that is pretty surprising to those who don’t have it and Mariya got plenty of ideas from seeing just how Riot Games set it up and what they brought, but the best part was when Riot Jynx and Mariya met. Like a lot of us in pop culture we connect and cultivate friendships online with people we might not have met in person yet, especially if they are far away and this was the case with Jynx and Mariya.
Before we met up with Jynx though there was still fun to be had on the expo floor such as with ThinkGeek who sells the Aloy Statue.
Something that I did expect a bit but was still surprised to hear is that it’s actually kind of hard to get figures from Thinkgeek and a few others directly to Ukraine. Given the expansion of pop culture you might expect certain things to be easier, but I know this will become easier over time given the expansion of shipping services.
People were very excited to take pictures of Mariya with the Aloy statue including Thinkgeek.
After some more expo hall exploring and some more Pax exploring (in which we found more Code Vein things to have fun with)
we got a late lunch at the food court, where I learned another interesting thing, is that Ukraine doesn’t have many Mexican restaurants and she wanted to try it. I found that surprising because I would expect it would just be there like it is in most cities, even more interestingly there are a good amount of Japanese restaurants.
I mostly work the night shift as an enforcer so after this we split off for the day after checking some things in schedule of things we’d each like to see and do.
Friday and Saturday were pretty busy for both us. Pax schedules, programming, meetings, and things to do kept us both busy but towards the end of Saturday we some more time to meet up before Mariya left for her flight back home and we talked about the wonderful weekend.
Mariya has come to the US before once for Anime Expo and found that this was just as exciting if not more so. The people she met, the experiences she had, it was an inspiring time that makes her wants to come more to more US shows such as NYCC and if possible SDCC.
You might be wondering what was so different about the pop culture and overseas and while it might surprise some, in many respects there’s a lot that’s the same. What might be different (especially if you follow creators, artists, cosplayers, etc.) is the language and sometimes the hashtags used. Because a lot of us are English speaking we might not see something especially if the tags are in Russian or Slavic languages which use Cyrillic script (which most people don’t have activated on their phones) like with Korean, Japanese, Chinese, etc. you see a whole new aspect open. You can see the characters you know made into beautiful cosplay, fan art, and more. You might not think that in some countries they would know the same characters and stories that we do.
We in pop culutre have friends everywhere, we just have to meet them sometimes.