The first day I arrived at the convention was filled with emotions. I saw many of my friends I had not seen since I left for college three months ago, so I had a very nice reunion. Day Zero was definitely a reunion day, and probably the best day to pick up a pre-registration badge if you had one. There was pretty much no line and I got my badge almost instantly despite arriving late because of traffic. We all went down to the ice cream social where the hotel serves ice cream buffet style. All of it was great, especially since they had actual hot fudge. While sitting we ran into a lot of cosplayers and normal convention-goers that we usually see, so that was fun. Besides picking up badges, ice cream social and chatting with friends, there wasn't much to do on the first day. Staff was frantically setting up, but everything seemed to be done on time so no complaints there.
Day 1 was fantastic, to say the least. I was cosplaying as Rita from Tales of Vesperia because I thought the Tales gathering was on the first day, but later I found out it was on the third day. Anyways, the first thing we did while getting up in the morning was make a bee-line for the dealer's hall. It was supposed to open at 12, so we arrived at around 11:45. The line was getting long and actually made it to the end of the hall, where people were waiting in line for registration. Staff wasn't there to regulate it, so both the lines wound up fusing in the end, but we didn't have to wait long for the dealer's hall to open, so people who were picking up their badges quickly left the line. Of course, at the dealer's hall everyone split up to find what each one of us would buy, and then buy it on the last day where we would hopefully get deals.
At one booth, my boyfriend was checking out a pocket knife, which was seven dollars. There were about twenty-four of them, so he wasn't worried about them being sold out. The problem was when we went to go buy it on the last day, it now nine dollars even though they were definitely not running low; they had sold three that whole weekend. So just a warning to fellow convention goers, check out prices as well as what you want to buy and be careful about dealer markups or the “lack of markdowns.”
Most of Day One was spent catching up on friends and visiting the e-gaming room. The game room was pretty fun although there was a severe lack of chairs. More than once, someone was hogging one of the three big screens in the room by playing a single player game, and many people sitting in the room weren't even watching the matches going on. Super Smash Brothers Brawl of course was on the largest TV in the center of the room, and had the most spectators. The other TVs were mostly filled with fighting games, the most common ones being Persona 4 Arena and surprisingly a lot of BlazBlue.
Later that night was the Rum Party, run by Pirates! Yarhar! There were a bunch of tables with various gambling games, from the standards such as Blackjack and Poker, to the odd dice game seen in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Sadly I did not play that game, since I was losing horribly at 3-card poker for most of the night. I won once at 3-card poker, and won a meager 3 coins back; I lost about 15. Before my losing streak could go further, the Captain's Challenge had begun. Captain's Challenge is where 15 people sign up and pay 30 coins. They then compete in a series of challenges provided by the captain. If they win the challenge, they get a payout of 480 coins. The first round involved wooing a pirate wench with “yer” best pirate talk, then the second round was to make sure the challenger could hold their grog, so they drank 16oz of frothing, foaming root beer. The top four then had to sword fight to the mock-death. Near the end I joined a Texas Hold 'em table and actually won two rounds, where I got a significant amount of money, somewhere in the hundreds this time. Everyone at the table was having a good time, and when the final round was played we all put our coins in, and agreed to buy and share all the wenches we could afford. We wound up buying most of them if I recall correctly, we bought three wenches and three cabin boys. I think three or four escaped, but we wound up with two free cabin boys that joined us.
Day Two was mostly video games again (Sorry I'm a gamer!). We wound up playing Skullgirls at some point, and the voice actress for Peacock showed up and asked to join in so she could practice for the panel the next day!
As for cosplays, I would say about half of them were from Homestuck. The Homestuck Gathering was put on Day Two, 12 noon, in the middle of the pool deck. That is possibly one of the worst places and times for such a large gathering. I think huge gatherings like Homestuck and Hetalia should be put on the last day, in front of the hotel where there is less foot traffic and less likely for someone to fall into a pool. But in the end, it's up to other people to make the decision. My issue with Homestuck cosplay is most of the cosplay is literally a t-shirt and face paint; one of my pet peeves is cosplay that someone has not put effort into. Once I literally saw someone walking around with the horns made out of index cards rolled up into a cone that was too big to be the proper size horns. Some of them can be really interesting and elaborate, like the Imperial ones. I saw one God-tier Vriska cosplayer whose cosplay was amazing. But for every one good Homestuck cosplayer, there were dozens of bad ones.
Overall, a lot of the cosplays that I saw at the convention were lower quality; again, one of my pet peeves is the lack of effort in cosplay. Personally, I like the challenges of the complicated cosplays, as well as the fun in making it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everyone's cosplay was horrible and mine was good, but a lot of people had some things that were just straight out wrong for the character. It could be lack of money, lack of time, I understand. I didn't completely finish my Dragon Age 2 Hawke cosplay, but instead of trying to find some kind of substitute for the part I didn't finish, I just left it off.
Day Three was kind of chaotic, being checkout day for most of the convention-goers. I went to the AMV contest, which was full of epic AMVs which I fully recommend watching, especially the Comedy and Pro categories. The only issue I had was someone with a really spiky wig sat in front of me and basically texted the entire time and blocked my view of the screen. I wound up moving, but it was still a bother. There were actually little intros between the categories for AMVs, which I think confused me as well as most of the people around me since all the videos run right after the other. Maybe next year they should put the category title in the beginning instead of the end. The AMV contest actually ran for two hours, which ended right at checkout time, so there was a rush back to the room to finish packing. For those who wanted to stay at the convention even after checkout, there was a floor where the convention would hold the bags of attendees, but the hotel lobby was still holding bags as well, so if you've never been to ALA and you're worried about checkout and what to do with your bags, do not fret!
So overall I saw no large problems with the convention, things generally ran on schedule, and the staff was super polite. Be wary of the dealer's hall though, since they apparently markup prices on the last day instead of lowering them.