…and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. To see everything come to fruition as it did, I can only go back to the very beginning of this journey and remember what it took to create the MECC (Mass Effect Cast Cosplay).
First off, I may be listed officially as Talent Coordinator on the MECC team, but so much credit goes to Karissa Barrows, the woman who lead the entire project. She organized all the donations, communicated with our talent, put out plenty of fires, made sure the costumers were on the same page, even took some time to fly out of state just to get cosplay measurements from the talent. So much of this event happened because of this woman, and I can only say that I am honored to be her friend.
Karissa and I started chatting over a year ago on Twitter, and we bonded immediately over our mutual love for Mass Effect. Before long, I was asked to help with the MECC. I have never tackled a challenge like this, so I was on board. How could I say no to possibly working with such gifted people AND raise money to give to St Jude’s? I didn’t, and I am beyond grateful for that. After countless days of asking for donations, holding raffle events to raise more donations, figuring out where to even hold the panel, we finally found a home at PAX East 2014.
I won’t get into all the details as far as leading up to the actual panel because I want to write about the relationships that were formed within this community. Though we had a few actors unable to make the panel, we did end up with an amazing group, and I couldn’t be happier to have met them. I had no idea what to expect. I never met any of these people before, and I was hoping and praying that I would do a good job in accommodating them when they arrived in Boston. Let me tell you all, Kimberly Brooks, Keythe Farley, Rana McAnear, and Luciano Costa are absolutely wonderful people.
I helped Kimberly (voice of Ashley Williams) for most of the weekend, and she is beyond generous and sweet. One of my favorite memories with her was helping her with Twitter and teaching her and Luciano about hashtags.
One of the most surprising things to learn was that Luciano and Keythe never really had a con experience before, and we were determined to make sure they had a great time. We are happy to report that all of them thoroughly enjoyed meeting fans, chatting with them, and getting to know the community more. Luciano and Keythe were moreso blown away by the loyal fandom that is tied to Mass Effect and Bioware. It is no surprise, but I must reiterate that Bioware truly has some of the best fans ever, and to share that bond with the people that are hugely responsible for such love, was amazing to witness.
People flew in from all over the world to be at the MECC panel, and that even caught us by surprise. Karissa expressed that she was worried the panel wouldn’t be successful. Can you imagine her surprise when I told her the line for the panel started forming two hours before it even started? Karissa booked the main theater, a space that could hold a little over three thousand people…
There was such an overwhelming show of support for MECC that I am astounded my mascara didn’t run down my face. While our guests were prepping in the back room, I HAD to take an opportunity to say hello to everyone in the room. I asked everyone to say hi, and hi they did say. All I could do was tell all of you how much I love you because it is true. Karissa and the team are not official representatives of the video games industry, yet we nearly packed that theater. Nearly three thousand people attended a panel that was created by fans, and this shows what an awesome community we are a part of right now.
Some fun shots:
We also had some of the best cosplayers ever! Everyone was so lovely, and I was glad I was able to snap a few photos here and there. Right after the panel, the actors and models did a photoshoot. All funds went directly to St Jude’s. Just look at that line! We were again surprised by how many people showed up.
Dave Hulegaard (community manager for Mass Effect and Dragon Age showed up and offered some support. He is one of the sweetest guys, and he absolutely loves talking to fans of the games. I highly encourage you to shake his hand and give him a hug if you run into him at a con.
Here is Luciano interacting with fans. He told me that this moment was one of the best memories for him to take away from the weekend. He really loved messing around and having fun with everyone. He was also blown away by how many people were Kaidan fans.
Very cool friends of mine were dressed up for the occasion, and they also donated quite a bit to make sure this event happened. We are beyond grateful for their generosity. Eric in particular was such a powerhouse contributor. The MECC panel, he said, was such a highlight for him that all the donations were worth it.
Kimberly is one of my favorite ladies in the world now. She’s such a strong, sassy, and loving person that everyone who meets her is lucky to know her.
And of course, I had to take a pic with the Thane mask. We were selling raffle tickets to give away this baby, and boy were people ecstatic for a chance to win this gem. Karissa, her father and uncle worked so hard on this part of the cosplay. It is such a great testament to the absolute loyalty people had for this panel. Just between us, we didn’t even finish painting Keythe’s pants until four hours before the panel. But we finished it, and he rocked it! I actually caught myself swooning a bit when he took the stage in full cosplay. Karissa’s dad and uncle, your skills are awe-inspiring!
PJ Shepard and Garrus body pillow. I wanted to kidnap them both.
This fan flew in from Ireland! IRELAND. She was a real sweetheart and she was so passionate about Mass Effect. I completely fell in love with her accent.
One of the most pleasant surprises was getting to know Keythe Farley a little bit more. I dare say that he is one of my top favorite people of all time now. Not only is he very charming and funny, but he is very genuine as well. He is very experienced in his craft, but even he found himself in a position of being mentored when it came to convention experience. He had a blast, trust me, and it was all thanks to the ME fans that came out to see him and the others. He was very touched by some of the Thane stories that fans were telling him.
And this is what happens when you leave your phone around Luciano, unattended and unlocked.
With the sales of the photoshoot combined with the total accumulated from raffle tickets sales, we managed to raise … THIS MUCH for St. Jude’s and this was just on Saturday! Donations are still coming in, and we have one last giveaway to offer MECC fans. From now until April 20th, we are accepting donations of $15 or more which will automatically enter you to win one of the few SIGNED lithographs that were donated to us from the lovely Jessica Merizan. Every $15 increment is one entry, and it will be after April 20th that we announce the final total that we have raised for St. Jude’s. Donations can be submitted here.
The MECC panel was incredibly humbling, and it really proved that anything can be done so long as you push toward your goal and you don’t give up on it. There were quite a few walls and obstacles we hit, but seeing the final product was such a reward and was completely worth overcoming those hurdles.
Let it be clear that this was only possible because of you, the fan. Mass Effect has “ended” as it has been a while since the launch of ME3, but your loyalty to the ME world, and your love for those who helped create this wonderful game hasn’t wavered. In fact, that love and loyalty may be back even stronger than it was before. One of the things I love so much about this community is the recognition that everyone on the Bioware teams receive. It doesn’t matter if they are voice actors, composers, artists, writers, builders, face models, level designers, producers… the community acknowledges everyone that had a part in the game’s creation. That’s what makes you, the community, awesome.
Karissa, Sara, Preston, Amanda, Brooke, Scott, Raquel, Melissa, Phil, Mitch, Liz, Thomas… you guys are amazing, and I am so happy to have worked with you on this project.
Karissa asked me to cut together a thank you video for the panel and it can be found here. Not only does it contain thank you videos from contributors to MECC but it does contain my feelings on what Mass Effect means to me. At first I didn’t know what to write or say, but when I wrote down “Mass Effect isn’t just a game…” it all came together and I hope that you feel the same as I do.
Thank you for spending the weekend with us, thank you for giving us a chance to bring the MECC to you, and thank you for keeping the ME world alive. And a very special thank you to Kimberly, Keythe, Rana and Luciano for taking time out of their schedules to come out and create lasting memories with us. I’m Commander Shepard and you are my favorite community on the Citadel.
Game on, my fellow commanders. Game on.