For the love of Pom: An interview with Alan Kenny

With so many bleak stories surrounding the games industry, it can be easy to end up focused on the negative and overlook the vibrant, diverse and passionate community that helps to keep franchises and titles alive.

Kupocon banner by artist, Fiveonthe

It’s safe to say that a game lives and dies on its consumers, so how do you cultivate a positive fanbase and how can you as a fan do your bit to help your favourite titles flourish and attract new players?

I caught up with Community Manager Alan Kenny, to find out just what about the franchise captured his heart and how he’s worked to help create a safe and successful event that sees players fly across the world to attend.

So, what attracted you to Final Fantasy? What was your first experience?

“From many an account I’ve read online, it seems I’m right in saying ‘like many of my age, my first Final Fantasy was…’ Final Fantasy 7. I was too young at the time to appreciate the scope of the game itself, but something about it made me stick growing up, and with wisdom and maturity came a much more comprehensive understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the series.

While each Final Fantasy title is its own unique entity, there are certain core elements (from story-types, music, characters etc.) that give each one its own spotlight.”

How did you get involved and how did the event start?

“Alex came up with the idea on March 28th in 2016 and it spread upon its public announcement.

I was a member on an online forum called thelifestream.net at the time when someone made a post about KupoCon and its requirement to build up a team across Europe and North America. I decided to throw my hand in, and the rest is history.

As for Alex’s side of things, he saw an opening. He took a risk with his own money, one that could have cost him dearly – but, well, here we are now!”

Many fly from across the world to see the events

Were there stumbling blocks along the way?

“When KupoCon was first announced, there were certain areas across social media that were warning people against the onset of upcoming events. Warnings turned to nasty hyperbole, and it damaged the event’s reputation before an event could even begin.

I wasn’t in among those areas at the time, but I had seen some content afterwards. If anything, it seemed only to drive Alex’s determination to prove the vision he had was a just one. One event, and that was that sorted.

As for myself, I’ve had some highs and lows, as would anyone experiencing the roller-coaster of emotions these events bring – not bad ones, mind you – rather, the fall that follows the intense highs. Pomathon (Birmingham, Sep 2018) was among my heaviest crashes. Too soon to talk about Pomex though, ha!”

What’s been your favourite moment on your journey to making the event a success?

“It’s very hard to pinpoint one moment, or when I began to notice the growth of these events. I recall, however, at the end of the day event of the first one, The Big Pom (Newark, January 2017), a couple coming up to me and the lady explaining to me her husband had lost the loot bag. He looked proper crestfallen. I replaced everything he had lost with even more, and his eyes lit right up.

She was incredibly thankful and was talking about how much of a wonderful day they were having; she couldn’t finish before he had drawn me into one of the tightest hugs I’ve ever received. Still a strong highlight, owing to it being the first event.

To consider how we began to realise the impact our events were having, a good example would be to consider the after effect of the second KupoCon, Mind the Pom (London, March 2017). As we announced our return and tickets went on sale in the summer, we sold out in just under 24 hours.

What do you think makes a good community event?

“A community event is nothing without its people. But all events, whether they are deemed community-oriented or not, comprise of, you know, people, ha.

Of course, you can have the same set of people in either event type, and how they experience the event is down to what you do to ensure the community-orientation aspect is embodied sufficiently.

You need to engage your audience; you need to set things up so that they engage with each other.

You also need to ensure there are platforms for people to continue to engage outside of said events so that they feel excited and a part of the community, as well as aware of when the next one rolls round!”

With cards, clothing and even illustrated currency created for fans, you can see the love that has gone into the event. (image credit: Kupocon)

So what’s next on the agenda?

“Right now, we have Port Pom (Vancouver, November 16, 2019) in 7 weeks. We’ve also just announced a new guest to our line-up, Briana White, the Voice Actor for Aerith in the Final Fantasy 7: Remake.

After that we enter Generation 4 of events, starting with Freepom in Glasgow, February 15, 2020.”

Aerith from Final Fantasy 7: Remake/ Square Enix/ Sony

What advice would you give someone else looking to start their own event or project?

“As someone who came into KupoCon in its early phases, one thing I note is that our aims and visions, alongside our three pillars of our events being “immersive, inclusive, intimate” has not changed.

For anyone starting a new project, define your key goal(s)/vision(s) as precisely as you can, flesh out how you want it to be – as once you establish something and people love it, to change too much will shatter the heart, the core of it, and with that the foundations that made your event great and beloved by many.”

Do you think fans make a difference to a game’s success and legacy?

“Prior to this reply, I could have basically have structured an essay around this, which is far beyond my post-Pomex energy capacities, and, to be fair, my general capacities!

To answer as simply as I can, for a legacy series like Final Fantasy, fans make a difference, certainly in the sense of carrying on a legacy.

While there are many ways to express and explain any of this, one basic way to see this is to consider the awareness the developers of the Final Fantasy 7: Remake have of their fans and their expectations.

What advice would you give companies about cultivating a good fanbase?

“Listen, but filter wisely.

Appreciate and understand, but trust your own knowledge and instinct too.

That might sound counterproductive to some degree from a fan’s perspective, but it’s always important to remember that what one fan wants another may not (and that developers are the ones in the offices as it all goes on, after all), and the loudest voice does not mean the voice of reason or the voice of the people.

Keep fans informed, impose safer deadlines regarding announcements/releases – show fans you’re engaged and passionate, and they’ll find it much easier to reciprocate.”

Final Fantasy 7: Remake/ Square Enix/ Sony

With a wide range of different events coming up the future and tickets still on sale, why not head over to the website now and see if you can join Alan at the next Kupocon event and show your community spirit?

Final Fantasy: Remake, the next title from developer Square Enix is set to release on the 3rd of March 2020 and will see players return to the iconic city of Midgar for a remastered version of Final Fantasy 7.


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