"You can actually make a journal entry about this later, but when you get the chance, I would like to see a compare and contrast between RTX Austin and RTX London based on your personal experience." - RT User Kingbee
A lot of people have been making journal posts about the latest RTX and with good reason as it represents the third iteration of what is now truly a worldwide convention. I've kept my raw emotions and thoughts to private social media (doesn't sound like the right phrase does it?) and so what I aim to do in this post is not just give you my in-depth thoughts on the past weekend itself but then, as Kingbee so kindly asked, is give you a direct comparison to Austin. What I hope to achieve from this is to encourage those who have only been to Austin to at least give London a try in future years and of course to encourage those who have only had the chance to go to London that branching out is well worth the money invested.
Hosting a UK-based convention in the ExCeL seems like the right choice in this day and age especially if you want said convention to grow year upon year. You certainly got to appreciate the scale of the building with RTX as the total experience only took up what seemed like less than a quarter capacity of what was on offer. There was a hair salon convention happening at the same time literally across the way. Panels were divided between three locations; Hanger N10, the Platinum Suite and Centre Stage located in the Exhibit Hall alongside the Signatures section. It made for a very compact convention in comparison to RTX Austin which utilises many different areas allowing the 60,000-70,000 attendees to not clog up a certain area. For a first event, RTX London shadowed the numbers set by RTX Sydney this year with around 15,000 attendees so space needed was not a problem - it's fair to say the initial allocation of said space was however.
It was really the biggest negative I can recall from the weekend that queuing remained a relatively persistent issue for the Events Team and Guardians alike and from my experience as a Guardian in Austin I felt their pain. The Saturday morning saw die-hard RT fans all over the floor around the entrance to the popular Platinum Suite panels turning up well before queues were set to open in order to try and nag a spot. Pre-queues (yes that is a thing over here) forming as a consequence, first-time convention goers (boosted in confidence by the Rooster Teeth factor) understandably got angry that they had no guarantee of seeing a panel unless they waited at least over an hour in line. Meanwhile Centre Stage had the potential issue of attendees blocking up a large open area intended for resting attendees and travel to the Signatures section. More popular panels such as the Off Topic coming later in the weekend with no designated standing space caused concern.
All props go to the aforementioned Events Team and Guardians for putting in countermeasures seemingly over lunch time on the Saturday in response. The Platinum Suite was where the biggest line troubles lay and so queuing was moved to a hanger (N2) which proved a smart and effective decision. On top of that tape was quickly placed down in the Exhibit Hall to create open walkways for Guardians and attendees not looking to watch Centre Stage action. Even the RT Store got a queue extension. Furthermore, all queuing would now open when the previous panel's line had been loaded into its assigned room allowing everyone to be on the same page. Previously it was a free-for-all with myself caught up in the disappointment of Always Open's situation where hundreds were turned away an hour before panel start. Go and thank all who helped run the convention if you haven't already - they did an outstanding job in the face of complaints and lessons will most certainly have been learned for next year.
From here all comments are incredibly positive. Registration being in its own hangar meant that RT Staff had a fantastic place to set up impromptu signings. The RT First stall and the resting zone in the Exhibit Hall were both also utilised with expected results. Henceforth the rather popular 'Capped' meme was born. It made for great banter between attendees and Guardians. As for Signing Sessions I've got to give massive props to the keepers of my heart in Signatures. This team rocked it all weekend with the limited space they had and plenty of curve balls thrown into the mix. The actual Rooster Teeth content was on point and so were the attendees. Say what you want but the complainers were loud in their minority - the beautiful thing about the British is we can laugh at anything and we did so whilst showing RT just why they made the right decision to come to London. I had the pleasure of not just seeing so many old faces but plenty of new faces too, some of whom knew me but not vice versa! That was a scary but humbling experience in itself.
Possibly one of the most refreshing things about RTX London however is the main factor I'm going to promote as the reason to come, going back now to the question proposed by Kingbee. People were in London and wanted to explore. Unlike Sydney and Austin you actually have to travel to find different and great places to eat, to find the sights to see. It encourages people to make friends and be proactive as they travel to a new part of the world. Now I'm not saying you can't do that in Austin or Sydney - but having just been to Austin this year I feel like although I love the city I've seen most of what it has to offer. I've lived in London for 23 years by the 27th this month and I still feel like I've still yet to see everything.
The food question was fascinating to me as of course Austin prices are stellar value when it comes to portion size. From all of my friends who had come to London for the first time however the thoughts were the same - the food tasted absolutely fantastic. So turns out my worries were kinda moot actually. The food is worth the price, I'm just used to it at this point!
Flipping over to the other side of the coin now, why would you want to go to Austin with London in place? Well simply put apart from the fantastic food and the opportunity to explore a new place the convention is much larger and far more polished. Friday in July was a wobbly day as new procedures were put into place but apart from that you get a lot more staff to say 'Hi' to, there are a lot more panels and of course far more exhibitors on top of the fact you have an extra day to enjoy! It's the 'full fat', home town experience which I'd recommend anyone do whether they have a local RTX or not!
RTX London will get better year upon year. Just look at the improvement between RTX Australia and RTX Sydney to see what could happen. For a first effort though I came away from this weekend delighted. The RT Staff portion was excellent, the community aspect was outstanding and my experience with the Guardians was delightful. If you've ever fancied visiting London then there are much worse ways to do it than around an RTX event.