Do you ever wonder why we’re here?
I wondered a bit as I stood in line for a line for The Patch panel, unable to see past the con attendees who loomed above me on all sides. A volunteer corralled us, repeating lines learnt by rote. “This is the end of the line for The Patch. Line up here if you are here for The Patch. Please be aware that if you are past this point you will not be guaranteed entry.” Through the forest of people, I eyed the line for X-Ray and Vav across the way. Would I have a better chance of actually seeing something over there?
This was Red vs Blue creator Rooster Teeth’s first international convention, held at the Australian Technology Park over the weekend. And as with any new endeavour on such a scale, there were bound to be problems.
American production company Rooster Teeth holds over 8.4 million subscribers across its YouTube channels, with Australians their largest fan base outside of the US. Their annual internet and gaming convention, RTX, has grown from 600 attendees in 2011 to 45,000 in 2015. This weekend the convention left Texas for the first time to come to Sydney.
Kicking off with a keynote speech by Good Game’s Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen, the weekend featured signature and photo opportunities with internet personalities, panels, live Let’s Plays and live podcast recordings. Panels ranged from pure gaming and entertainment, to insights into working in gaming media and how to build an online community. The usual booths selling anime and gaming paraphernalia were present, and Australian indie developers showed off their games in the Exhibition Hall (including Jared Hahn, developer of Mori; Craftven, developers of Lupinball; and Shadowplay Studios, developers of Projection).
However the main attraction were the personalities from Rooster Teeth. First made famous by their machinima series Red vs Blue, Rooster Teeth has since branched out to Let’s Plays, shorts, cartoons, gaming news, game shows, podcasts and most recently their first feature length film, Lazer Team. Attendees flocked to the convention hoping to get a signature and maybe even a photograph with personalities such as Rooster Teeth founders Burnie Burns, Gus Sorola, Joel Heyman, Matt Hullum and Geoff Ramsey; voice actors of anime RWBY Lindsay Jones and Barbara Dunkelman; and stars of Lazer Team Gavin Free and Michael Jones. The promise of being in the live audience for their favourite online shows and shaking hands with their internet idols had eager fans chomping at the bit.
However, though the event kicked off with an air of excitement and enthusiasm, the Twitter hashtag was soon filled with complaints.
It's fucked up that you can see more of #RTXAU by watching the live streams than actually being here
— Shanyn (@The_Real_Shanji) January 23, 2016
Though the Theatre Room and Panel Room were air conditioned, the Centre Stage and Exhibition Floor were sweltering. “Stay hydrated” was the watchword, replacing “have fun” in the volunteers’ lexicon. The most popular panels were held on the Centre Stage, turning the area into a muggy mass of sticky limbs. At one point I turned around to see someone in a fursuit staring straight at me, stretching open their sleeve to air their hairy armpit at one of the few cooling machines. That memory will haunt my dreams.
— Taishi Yamamoto (@tyama2_FH) January 24, 2016
Only three places sold food at the convention, the ‘Food Trucks’ on the map being more ‘Food Truck’. A few free cups of Nuka-Cola were handed out to those in line at the Fallout Chillout Zone, but the line for food was even more off-putting than my hunger, so I went without.
— James Lynch (@supman34) January 23, 2016
— Britt (@BrittA2211) January 23, 2016
There were also many complaints of a lack of seating and people camping seats at the Centre Stage. While attendees were ushered out of the Theatre Room and Panel Room at the conclusion of a panel, forcing them to join the back of the line if they wished to see the next event in that room, the crowd at the Centre Stage was stagnant. This is largely understandable, as moving such a large mass of people all at once onto the Exhibition Hall floor would cause chaos. Nevertheless, as a result many people camped out on their seats and refused to move between panels. Those luckless people who missed out on a chair were forced to crowd around the periphery, sitting on the floor or standing for hours. I lost my seat when I succumbed to the need for a bathroom (curse you, hydration). People who attended with friends were at a distinct advantage – I witnessed three attendees rotate two chairs between themselves, allowing them to see the booths or get food and then return to their seats. The situation inside the age-restricted Doom Bar was not much better.
— laura (@zomgitsalaura) January 24, 2016
Gus had a prolapsed anus.
However the biggest complaints were regarding the queues. Though queueing is to be expected at a convention, lines folded back upon themselves multiple times at every panel and signing, as well as to get into the venue itself. Attendees were forced to line up for hours, skipping several other panels while in line, with no guarantee their patience would pay off. There were literal lines for lines. On the second day attendees began queueing to enter the venue before 7:00am, despite the doors opening at 10:00am and the first panel starting at 10:30am.
— Samuel (@SammyAdams88) January 23, 2016
#rtxau 8 hour event. Need to queue for 3 hours for one signing. Haven't even attempted the store…
— The Queen (@jhadderstweets) January 23, 2016
— Hunter (@clmncy) January 23, 2016
— Joshua Tyndall (@Tinyjoshua) January 23, 2016
One of the worst lines was the queue for the queue to get into the Rooster Teeth store. Some people lined up for hours only to find that when they finally made it into the store what they wanted was sold out.
After an hour of queueing, we are FINALLY in the queue for the RoosterTeeth Store. #RTXAU
— Seanchaí Dorcha (@Seanchai_Dorcha) January 23, 2016
— Izzy (@Hoveroad) January 24, 2016
— aussiemuser (@aussiemuser) January 24, 2016
Many fans missed out on signings despite waiting for hours. I do not know the exquisite pain of standing for hours on end in the hopes of meeting an online personality only to be turned away, because I pre-empted my disappointment and stood for hours at the panels instead. It was just as well – lines were capped as soon as they opened, the first ones of the day filled before the majority of the crowd had even been allowed to enter the building. To those optimists who stood in line, I salute you.
#rtxau I went to line up an hour early for Ryan signature line and it got capped with in seconds. I think we need a bigger venue
— Depthe Bonney (@DeptheSierra) January 24, 2016
waiting in line for 2hrs to not get to a signing, not enough room for signing area + rude guardians. the #RTXAU Experience
— Ally (@alistair_mccoy) January 24, 2016
Disappointed con attendees attributed the brunt of the issues to the VIP system. Rooster Teeth sold 100 $400 VIP tickets (though there are rumours that a glitch caused more to be allocated). These tickets granted entry for both days, early access to the floor, access to a VIP party and access to a VIP line for signing. In effect, it allowed VIP ticket holders to skip lines, meaning that many non-VIPS did not get to meet the personalities despite arriving early and lining up for hours. There were even reports of VIPS meeting multiple personalities, while regular con attendees ended the weekend empty-handed.
— Christopher Franz (@cwpfranz) January 23, 2016
Just because the VIPs spent more money, doesn't mean us normies should be ignored completely. #RTXAU
— Matt (@AH_Matticus) January 23, 2016
The VIP system also meant there were many empty seats reserved for VIPs. A fleet of comfortable-looking blue chairs sat vacant at the front of the Centre Stage while others were forced to sit on the floor or stand around the perimeter, jostling for vision. I left the Prop Hunt Let’s Play after my neck began aching from craning, reasoning that I would get a better view by watching the recorded Twitch stream at home.
— Squallina (@squallina) January 23, 2016
— Peter Burns (@Pierreth) January 23, 2016
— Michelle Gorry (@MichelleGorry) January 23, 2016
— Becca Davies (@Becca_Deeee) January 23, 2016
— Rachel (@robbiesbitch) January 24, 2016
The volunteers made efforts to ensure as many people got signatures as possible, however their methods made some VIPs unhappy.
regular attendees have been told that we have to wait 4 our funhaus signing bc of a "complaint", and now only VIPs are being let thru #RTXAU
— Ally (@alistair_mccoy) January 24, 2016
apparently VIPs are unhappy with much fairer "3 regular and 3 VIP" system, so now we have to wait for all the VIPs to go thru first #RTXAU
— Ally (@alistair_mccoy) January 24, 2016
Other organisational issues soon became apparent as well, causing confusion amongst both attendees and volunteers.
Apparently lots of guardians didn't show up to #RTXAU this year so we were stretched thin. Hopefully next year will be smoother for us ?
— ･ﾟ✧Erin✧ﾟ･ (@Muffarino) January 24, 2016
Disappointed with the lack of info and clear signage while waiting for signings at #RTXAU. Asked a guardian & got directed to the wrong line
— Rachelle McDonald (@Rachelle_Erin) January 24, 2016
Can the origin booth turn down their speakers so we can hear what's going on in the center stage? #RTXAU
— Tim Jellema (@Tim_Jellema) January 24, 2016
To their credit, the personalities at the event handled the situation with grace and made an effort to see as many fans as they could. The heat became a running joke at the Centre Stage panels, and several impromptu signing and photograph sessions were held on the floor. You had to be in the right place at the right time, but fans were appreciative.
— C R (@DJAllbad114) January 23, 2016
Shout out to the RT staff who hold signings outside their allocated times. They're so kind to all of us #RTXAU
— Susie (@buttb1scuit) January 23, 2016
Unfortunately they too were crowded.
— Steph (@stfny) January 23, 2016
A less prominent issue was the Diversity in Gaming panel. Though the panel was well-intentioned, the diversity panel’s ironic lack of diversity was glaring, being comprised of three able-bodied white LGBTQA people, two of them male. While the panellists did mention issues of race and gender, the panel as it was comprised would have been better titled ‘Sexuality in Gaming’. It was uncomfortable listening to three white people tell the audience how to combat racism while not even acknowledging the position they were in.
It was also notable that RTXAU had a diversity panel and a Ladies of Rooster Teeth panel, and has been making noises about addressing diversity in their productions, yet their first big feature film Lazer Team – the vehicle through which many will be introduced to them – was terrible regarding diversity and representation of women. As a result, the noise appeared to be just that – noise.
Many people were disappointed and unhappy with the convention, and some left early as a result.
— Nucif (@nucif) January 23, 2016
I just want to go home, im tired and upset #rtxau
— Tiffany Ward (@AgentNyx) January 23, 2016
Is it just me noticing or are a lot of people leaving already? #RTXAU
— Theodora (@_theodorah) January 23, 2016
All of us were there because we love Rooster Teeth. Both fortunately and unfortunately, Rooster Teeth has many, many admirers. I don’t wish to be overly negative – I still enjoyed myself. Witnessing a live filming of Rooster Teeth’s Off Topic podcast was a joy I had not previously contemplated experiencing. I just wish my enjoyment wasn’t “despite”. Though RTXAU was disappointing in some respects, many attendees still had fun and left hoping that the issues this year were only teething problems. Let’s just hope that organisers take their fans’ feedback into account for next year.
RTXAU will be back on 3-4 February 2017, at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour. It will have air conditioning.
— becca (@beccaRAR) January 24, 2016
Top image: The line to get into the building.