Daisy Brookes – Ekko Cosplay

I want to start this one off by saying I really didn’t think I’d manage to attend EGX this year. For context, I was in hospital for a week and only discharged three days before the con and honestly, I wasn’t feeling my best. But we all know I’m about as moronically stubborn as it gets, so Sunday rolled around and I just couldn’t stop myself from getting in to cosplay and heading down with Gemzus Cosplay, who many a time now has been my carer at con.

Applying for a carer pass before the con was fairly easy. They asked for the booking info for the ticket Gemma had purchased and it all went through easy-peasy. Emailed back with a link to two “Virgin Media” passes. Not exactly what I thought when they said carer, but I thought maybe it would be easy to differentiate at the con! Oh how wrong I was.

I know I said LFCC was pretty abysmal for access and help but let me tell you, EGX really has taken the lead for worst con of the year so far when it comes to helping out its disabled guests…

As it turned out, there was no extra help or carer pass per say, you were just given an extra admission for free. There was no specific way to tell who might need help from the crowds of hundreds traipsing the halls of the Excel. I asked at the ticket desk for an extra help band and was looked at with utter confusion. The volunteer just handed me a third entry band and ushered me away. Not a good start for someone who wasn’t exactly feeling their best.

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In my Dead by Daylight cosplay at the PlayStation stand

Still, we forged on, wandering the hall, checking our stands and games. If you’ve never been to EGX before it’s worth noting that the majority of this event is for testing demos of new and upcoming games. The only way to be in with a chance of testing these demos is to queue, and boy were the queues long. The new Avengers game, set for release next May, stayed at a near constant two hour wait, not really something someone with an ambulatory invisible illness is able to do.

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We spoke to many volunteers at various games about what they had in place to help disabled people and not one of them had anything set out. No chaired waiting area, no virtual queue, nothing. Just go and stand and wait for hours on end, and if you can’t do that then too bad.

Some areas had “fast track” queues for attendees who had bought tickets that made them eligible. A couple of times we were told we could try waiting in those queues instead, but after forty minutes I reached a level of unbearable pain and we had to give up our place in the queue. Forty minutes in my opinion, does not qualify as “fast track”.

For regular attendees of EGX this may not come as much of a surprise at all, but for someone like me who’s only ever attended one before, I was appalled at how little there was in place for disabled guests. I fully understand that queuing is necessary for this kind of event but to have no adjustments whatsoever is just astounding.

As per, security we’re unkind and unhelpful. Most were unwilling to offer advice or point us in the right direction. A couple even laughed and joked about the fact that both Gemma and I were limping a little. We’re both awaiting operations on our legs and struggle not to limp, it’s something I always feel super self conscious about and to have a security guard point it out and then joke about it is always so gut wrenching.

There were spots to sit at towards the back of the event. The cosplay area had some benches that were full during talks or the competitions but otherwise clear and there were a few stools and bean bags at the coffee and food areas but other than that, free and accessible seating inside the event was kind of non existent? Sure you could pull up a chair and play one of the many available table top games, but only if you could find a free space.

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Seating in the cosplay area

I only attended on Sunday and was able to exit and enter the event at all of the opened doorways to the halls but after speaking to some other people, I was told that this hadn’t been the case all weekend. Thursday and Friday attendees were forced to walk all the way up to S9 for re entry, which for those of you unfamiliar with the Excel is one hell of a trek. No allowances were made for guests on crutches and folk who provided evidence that they really weren’t able to walk that far.

Like I’ve said in so many other event reviews, exit and re entry to Cons is something that makes a huge difference and being forced to wear ourselves out marching through barriered pathways like cattle is one of the most frustrating ways to spend our precious energy.

The Excel itself is a fairly accessible building. Lifts and toilets are all very well signposted and easy to find, as there are quite a few throughout the building. The other perk to the Excel is that the events held there are always all on one level. No steps or stairways to work around, just flat halls that are easy to get in between. With plenty of food options, places to sit and parking (albeit disgustingly expensive parking) below the building itself, it’s a damn near perfect venue.

That being said, if an event isn’t organised with disabled guests in mind, it still isn’t going to hold up for them. So whilst the perks of EGX are that you get to go and try out an array of new and exciting upcoming games, unless you’re fit enough to stand for hours on end, it’s not really a viable experience for you. Sadly you’ll be left disappointed and bored by the lack of things to do that don’t involve queuing your life away.

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One of the few things with no queue and still having to stand!

On the whole I found myself done with the con after a few hours. Having given up any hope of playing any of the games I’d thought of playing, Gemma and I just found ourselves aimlessly wandering, hoping to get some free swag and playing whatever didn’t have a queue, which was usually the pinball machines. I’m aware EGX isn’t usually heralded as a convention for cosplayers, but I honestly don’t even feel like I attended a con. More like a dark room full of angsty people who were completely unwilling to help. Honestly, I think next time I’ll pass…

Next time: MCM London Comic Con, access or not?

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