Come party with Gacucon in Miami at Dave-n-Busters Dolphin Mall


Sailing January 2017 on Carnival

Update: GaCuCon kicks off tomorrow night from 5-10 at Dave n Busters Dolphin Mall in Miami! Here's the info

There's a gaming cruise? Of course there is, don't you think there should be? After all, there's EDM cruises, clothing-optional cruises, psychic cruises, disturbing Cruises, and finally now there's a proper gaming cruise. Essentially, it's a floating convention that sails from Miami with stops at Key West and island of Cozumel. Rarely have I found this type of double-dipping: a tropical vacation and a gaming vacation in one. On the wacky premise alone I've already committed to attending.

Here's the map of Gacucon at a glance:

Let's see if I can follow the general idea here from these tiny little orange icons.  

The general idea is that we .... uh ... we get paper map that leads to liquor, we should prepare for squinting, followed by a champagne toast, then we meet Wolverine, he gives us sporks, then we get more liquor, play Pac-Man, find the Holy Grail, and then we go home.

I can definitely get behind this. 

Who's who:

No stranger to the gaming community, Andru Fratarcangeli (left) is one of the guys that organizes MakeGamesMiami and GameTreps (as in entrepreneurs), a local meetup group with 275 members.  Naturally, he's bringing war chest of indie developers and unique content to the cruise. He's joined by Frank Velazquez (center) is Chair of South Florida's International Game Developers Association, and Juan Nunez (right) who helped manage Miami's ballpark-sized Tech Bash (20,000 people) who also gets street cred for working at the original Alienware. Three vets each with 10+ years of punching their weight in the industry. That's also two out of three beards, c'mon Juan. (I can't grow a beard either) 

These guys teach, preach, live gaming. I had the pleasure of attending one of their meetups at MAGIC Wolfson Campus and I was blown away by the facility -- I had no idea this was here. I would have killed to attend a school like this when I was living in Miami. Jealous.

Destructoid: I see the booze icon repeated three times on this map.

Juan: There seems to be an intersection between liquor and Miami gamers (laughs) Obviously, we're targeting an older crowd. It's a 21 and over event.

Destructoid: In your words, what is GaCuCon and what is it not? Break it down for people that attend other gaming cons and might want to look at this as an alternative. Like, give me the hard sell, specific dates and all.

Juan: GaCuCon is a convention that feels like a true vacation. We're a multifaceted gaming event being held on January 25th - 30th, 2017. It includes a 1-Day opening event in Miami (on land) on January 25th, 2017 followed by the 4-Day Cruise. We want the cruise to be the ultimate experience for gaming fans and enthusiasts wanting to connect with like-minded members of the community. Both segments of GaCuCon on land and sea include events for video gaming,  table-top gaming, game development, game technology, and game media. 

While the GaCuCon team has many gaming experiences planned throughout the cruise (such as game themed scavenger hunt, contests, LAN competitions and more) guests and attendees can also take part in all the happenings on the ship.

Destructoid: I always come back from conventions destroyed from all the walking. Like I need a vacation from the convention.

Juan: Of course. You take off work to go see the greatest PC rigs, the most hyped up new game, hands on with the latest console, see the most unique cosplay outfits and more. That's the good side.

But it's within the confinement of a large convention center, where long lines await you, and even the price of a slice of pizza is more than you’re normally willing to spend. Not to mention looking for accommodations early on before all the nearby hotels are full, and in some cases you get stuck on the bad side of town; well over a mile away from all the action. 


Destructoid: True story, one of our editors got mugged at E3.  If that happened we could find the bastards and make them walk the plank.  What else is there to do, the non-gaming stuff? Like obviously we don't have a giant Activision booth or the obligatory Twitch/Wargaming afterparty, but there's still after hours stuff on cruises, right?

Juan: Exactly. You can go off and do other stuff. The ship has comedy shows, bars, clubs, restaurants, movies, scuba diving, spas, mini-golf, art exhibitions and the casino are all at one’s disposal. 

That's also including all you can eat and drink, at any time of the day.  

Destructoid: I can order lobster milkshakes all day? That's a very serious question that somebody's going to ask in the comments.

(Everyone) All day!

Destructoid: You mentioned wanting to cover every "pillar" when we first spoke, can you talk a little bit about that?

Andru: "Sure. GaCuCon kicks off at a Miami mixer, followed by what is essentially a floating LAN party with guests from every pillar of the industry. Including game developers, gamers, game media and game technology, to celebrate all the things that make gaming awesome.

Look, it's not going to be like a PAX -- at least not on year 1, we're realistic. We're focusing on making it a lot of fun for those that come, and making sure they're likely to recommend the event the following year.

Destructoid: Who is signing up? How's it going so far?

Andru: It's going really well. Most people attending are already in South Florida so they are happy to get something local. Some are people that can't take vacations in December, so the end of January is turning out to be great timing for them. For us, January doesn’t conflict with majority of cons that happen in our country since it’s still too cold everywhere else other than good ol’ South Florida. That said, most people are probably going to wait until the last minute since it's a larger ticket price up front considering that it’s a cruise. It sucks for our planning, but is the nature of the beast so we will see spikes around October - December.

Destructoid: Sure, people in New York and Chicago can get out of cold weather and fly down and you guys are going to be walking around half naked getting suntans between tournaments. So, safe to say, this con will be mostly a Miami crowd?

Juan: For locals, they don't have to worry about the traditional costs to attend a convention, and gaming aside you're also getting a trip to Cozumel. There's really nothing like it, when you add up the costs.

And there's a monthly payment plan with Paypal Credit, so we're very accommodating.

Destructoid: What kind of cruise is it, who is the company? Some people might have the perception that because it's the first year the ship will be one of those rusty ones that sail out of the northern ship yards. Will I get crabs?

Juan: You order crab!  The ship is incredible.

Andru: We've partnered with Carnival Cruises, which is of course one of the major cruise lines. The boat is the Carnival Sensation. It's really nice. We just took a tour of the ship and want to go back and take more pictures.

Frank: We'll be adding more photos to the web site later. I'll send you some.

Destructoid: Fancy. So I guess even if like 100 people sign up there's still another two thousand people on board frolicking. No empty con syndrome.

I guess I expected some dark, dimly lit boat, you know? Gaming conventions are generally in these cave-like environments. Your photos have, like, sunshine. We're not allowed to have sunshine at videogame conventions, I think that's punishable by death in parts of Seattle. 



Pro tip: Don't bring your laptop to the Jacuzzi. 

Juan: "Eeeeeeexactly."

Andru: Throughout the cruise we have dedicated spaces including a room for the exhibitions, a staged area near one of the bars for special guest speakers and on the game pub nights we will be setting up consoles, tvs, etc. around for our guests as well.    

What sucks about a first year event is we don't have much of our own (photo) content yet unfortunately. 

Juan: Year 1 is difficult because there's a lot of wait-and-see, but without having put on a convention everybody has a different idea of what it looks like. But we have so much room and the ship is really, really nice. 

Destructoid: Let's talk about the dirty side of gaming conventions. What are you guys doing about gender balance, and that one creepy dude that ruins it for everyone?

Andru: This is one of the best parts, we will be a portion of the normal cruise goers so there will be a balance of men and women for those who want to mingle outside of the guests that generally skew mostly male for these events.  

 Destructoid: Can we hear more about the local game devs participating?

Pictured: The Soulkeeper is a AAA-looking Dungeons and Dragons VR game, with sword fights and dragons busting through the roof to burn your face. I played the alpha at the MAGIC campus demo day and it was very polished! I tried to get Yami from Twinfinite to play it but she threatened to barf on me

Andru: We are encouraging all the local devs to participate at least in the land event to demo their game giving them at cost or as cheap/free as possible to get them involved at the land event. For those who go on the cruise we will let them set up and show their game as well. Same for any indies who attend the cruise really since we want to emphasize developer participation without charging them an arm and a leg so we think it's pretty great value for devs to show off their games. 

So, if you are a game dev, youtuber, competitive gamer let us know!

Destructoid: Some of the new games we can expect to be playable for those interested in the LAN aspect?

Andru: We are waiting on this info from our PC partners to announce what content they want to setup but you can bet Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament, Team Fortress 2 and StarCraft although a month before the event we will poll our guests to narrow their interests to make it as relevant to them as possible. As for new LAN games, those are slim pickings now since everything requires online authentication or play which is a shame since LAN gaming is so much fun. We are keeping our ears to the ground for now on hot LAN titles that are newer like Rocket League which is at least up to 4 players per computer if I remember correctly.

Destructoid: What was the venue for the land VIP event / are there pictures of that I can use?

Andru: Soon to be announced!  Look for that update shortly on our site.

Pictured: Winter in Cozumel LOL

Destructoid:  Can you break down what goes on day to day onboard?

Andru: Like any con, we have scheduled events throughout each day. We've posted a schedule at the bottom of the home page, and we're adding more speakers and bookings every month. The goal is to make enough events without detracting from the normal cruise activities like exploring Cozumel, Mexico or Key West. So our events are mostly planned during the travel times outside of major shipboard or port activities. We want everyone to enjoy the con and cruise together without feeling like they are sacrificing either experience. 

Juan: There's also more info on our press release on Gamasutra. Many words, many words.

Destructoid: Pokemon Go in Key West! I don't think people still play that though. It's going to be me and some 13 year old elbowing each other into the ocean for Slowpoke.

How's the signal on the ship?

Frank: Like any cruise, sometimes the signal will be better than others. Hard to say.

Destructoid: When the signal dies you'll find me at the Atrium (pictured above).  It looks like a slice out of Vegas. Does it actually look like that in person?

Juan: There's a full casino and everything, they have all kinds of stuff onboard.

Destructoid: For the price and the amount of time, the cruise itself is not a bad deal.  I've paid that to stay in a terrible hotel when I book last minute.  Maybe it would helpful would be some specifics about the cost compared to other gaming outings on your web site?

Andru: We're working on that. There's some info comparing prices to normal conventions.

Destructoid: Anything else you wanna mention? Is there a condom sponsor? ... Can Destructoid be the condom sponsor?  No seriously, I actually had those made once

Andru: We’ve also got a video game in the works to give our guests in honor of the event, game culture and because it's just fun to do. It is an homage to some of the best games or parts of game culture. We are bundling into our cruise guests package and plan on doing this each year like a form of living game that acts as a GaCuCon year book so to say. Each year we will get creative with the game as it grows alongside the event. More information will be released about the game but rest assured it will be a fast paced arcade style game for up to 4 players on one PC. (If you want to show something from the game even though its super early in development we have some more stuff) Actually, check out the main character, named GaCu, that is a kaiju of sorts on a quest to become the biggest baddest monster there is. Here is some of the early concept art for him in this first year made by a very talented artist by the name of FuShark:

Early concept for the main character - GaCu the Kaiju

Tetris themed level concept art that will be based in Mayan Ruins like level inspired by Cozumel, Mexico where the cruise stops by. 

Destructoid: Thanks boys. See you in January, I want one of those first year shirts!

And there you have it.

GaCuCon seems to stand on its own, a curious, totally different departure (terrible pun) from conventions.  Who knows? Maybe this will grow into a massive thing in a few year's time. PAX started out as a tiny GameWorks meetup, after all. 

Miami's tech community is mostly straddled to its tourism, but there's no shortage of gamers here. A massive crowd of 51,000 people turned up for Supercon a few months ago. South Florida is home to some gaming companies like Origin PC, Alienware, and the world's most secretive Alternate Reality company, MagicLeap, not to mention mobile and indie studios. Miami is also the financial hub of the Americas, so there's no shortage of capital to build a greater gaming community here. But, as a first year convention GaCuCon faces a tall hurdle of convincing early adopters to rally behind it's vast ambitions and a leap of faith onboard.

As a native Miami tech nerd I hope to help push that a little forward if I can by covering this event. Somebody's gotta invite their friends and help tell great stories. We'll do a little Destructoid meetup, maybe a panel, and I'm gonna blog about it. Two feet from the pool.


+ + + Check out the official site: https://www.gacucon.com/

Disclosure: Destructoid is a presenting media sponsor and green cocktail pusher

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Niero Gonzalez
Niero GonzalezMeat Vessel   gamer profile

I keep Destructoid weird. Also I'm a playable character in Retro City Rampage, look: (along with the whole 2009 Dtoid Editorial team) Sometimes I have a villainous mustache My dog CoCo chec... more + disclosures



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