It’s time for me to start writing my blog again, and with convention season well under way, and CONvergence (Minnesota’s ultimate 4 day science fiction and fantasy convention) right around the corner, I thought I’d share some insights about how I’ve learned to have a great time at any convention.
1. Bring Enough Money
I cannot stress this enough. You might think you won’t spend a dime, and maybe you won’t, but more likely you will. More likely you’ll spend a thousand dimes. My first convention I brought $100 in cash. I ended up spending nearly $300. And it’s not just the food and booze you will consume, it’s the stuff.
For me it’s the Artist’s Alley. You know, the handmade stuff, the anime drawings, the Benedict Cumberbatch paintings, the knit Pokemon plushies, the Supernatural mugs, the Hitalia buttons, the LoTR coasters, the Harry Potter scarves and hats and gloves, the Star Trek stickers, etc. Nerd artists have no limits and the amount of awesome one of a kind stuff you can buy is amazing.
And then there’s the vendor room. Oh sweet nerd heaven the vendor room. Prints, mugs, wallets, cell phone cases, steam punk paraphernalia, Furry clothing, bathroom rigs, wall hangs, dvds, card games, board games, figurines, wigs. And, at anime conventions especially, the delicacies you can’t find in the US. At my favorite local anime convention, Anime Detour, the Melon Bread is sold out after the first morning. The first morning. There’s pocky galore, orange kit kats, ramune, etc.
And I know from experience there is nothing worse than standing in the dealer’s room having found that one item you just absolutely need to have and having no money to buy it with. For me this happens at the steampunk booth every year as I stare longingly at the leather bandoleers.
So budget to bring a little more cash than you think you’ll need, you may not spend it, but at least you won’t leave disappointed.
2. Dress Up!
Conventions are inherently a place where you can be whoever you want to be. So be that person! If this means wearing that My Little Pony shirt you’re afraid to wear in public or getting into a full Fur suit, do it! There is nothing better than feeling free at a convention. On the first day of a con I like to be comfortable wearing this tshirt:
And my black and purple, button enhanced furry hat and wrist cuffs. Even though I don’t identify as a furry at all. Because I love it and I think it’s fun.
But it’s even more fun to dress up as the characters we love, or ones of our own invention. This coming CONvergence will be my first time ever cosplaying. I am extremely nervous for it but equally excited. And dressing up this way is a great way to get into conversations with people, about the shows and characters you love, or even about how your costume was made.
I have seen the simplest, cleverest costumes:
And much more complicated affairs. One of my dear friends, Ashley Walton, is a costumer of great feats:
Follow Ashley’s costuming adventures here.
So no matter how you go about it, get involved in the convention world by dressing the part!
3. Talk to People
Us nerds tend to be loners and introverts and conventions are really just the socially awkward come together to be socially awkward together. I am one of these shy people who wants to be connected to my friends at the hip and has trouble talking to anyone I don’t know… especially if they’re in a group.
I even have trouble asking people if I can take their picture, which is something that costumers love being asked!
But I have to tell you that your con experience will be greatly improved if you can chat with people. And really, cons are a very non-threatening place to do it. These people are your kindred spirits, they love the same things you do, or maybe they hate Harry Potter and have a ludicrous reason and you end up yelling at them in the middle of the cosplay competition… but at least you were engaging.
I find the easiest way to do this is to find people who are dressed up and wandering alone. Even better if they’re dressed up as something you know. Bonus points if it’s something you like. Ask them about it. Did they make it? Did someone make them for them? Why did they choose this costume? And you may never talk you this person again but at least you won’t have spent the whole weekend silently roaming.
Another way to do this is to go to room parties. At the goods ones, there are a lot of people jammed into not very much space, all drinking and laughing and having a good time. There is often loud German techo music or in lieu of that, J-Pop. Squish in and start chatting up your neighbor. You’ll have a blast, I promise.
4. Go to the Panels
This advice falls into the same grain as the last. It’s all about being a joiner. I’ve gone to panels where I’ve wanted to gouge my eyes out but I’ve also ended up at panels I loved. I may not have cared for the One Piece panel where we didn’t really talk about One Piece very much but I will always remember the guy who kept standing up to ask questions about Gundam Wing (seriously, this dude had seen every single version of Gundam ever made) or the guy who insisted on pronouncing anime “ahhhnimay.”
And sometimes the panels are actually games. Ever played Mafia with someone dressed up as Jesus dating someone dressed up as Little Bo Peep? I’m guessing no. But it’s awesome.
There are panels on shows and comics, panels for singles, panels on knitting, on fur suiting, panels on breaking into voice acting. And they’re fun. And if they’re not fun everyone will judge you when you get up and leave. I’m kidding. (No, I’m not.)
5. Get a Hotel Room
I have done conventions both ways and I will always be in favor of the hotel room. My reasons are many.
It’s extremely fun: To be able to afford a hotel room for 2-3 nights at a nice hotel, we usually have to stuff those rooms full. I have stayed in hotel room with anywhere from 5-8 people. The one year we had eight it was 4 people in beds, one person on an air mattress between the beds, two people on an air mattress by the bathroom, and a person in a sleepy bag on the window ledge. And crowded quarters leads to awesomeness. The food sharing, the tv watching, the late night chatting, the pranking of the rooms next door, shining laser pointers at people walking in the parking lot below.
One year we put a poster on our door that said “Free Buttsex” and then crossed out Buttsex and wrote Candy. But whenever someone knocked we yelled out BUTTSEX???
One year we had sleeping bag races down the hallway.
Never has sharing a hotel room packed with my closest friends not been fun.
Storage: You’ve just bought a giant poster, a glass blown figurine of Pinkie Pie, and 3 dozen boxes of pocky. The panel you’ve been waiting to go to starts in 10 minutes and there’s a line. The person who drove you is at lunch, with their car. If you try to stand in line like that you will be uncomfortable and everyone else will stare at you. Unless you have a room this is the fate that awaits you. If you have a room you can bolt up the stairs, store your stuff, and be back in time to get a good seat, all while unencumbered.
Rest & Sleep: If you get tired in the middle of the day and have a few hours to kill, a hotel room gives you a place to go rest. Rooms also come in handy if you get a headache or just need some space from the hordes of people you don’t know. For me, hotel rooms have been a lifesaver when I needed a break in the middle of the day at a con. Or a shower. But best yet, is that you have a place to sleep. You can stay up at the dance or playing cards in the common areas or drinking in the bar and then you can go to sleep. You don’t have to drive home at 2 am knowing you’ll have to get up at 8 drive back. Or worse yet, you won’t have to find a lobby couch or comfy corner to sleep in.
There is one pretty large downsize to getting a hotel room and that is the ability to hide. Remember earlier when I told you to go talk to people? Don’t use your hotel room as an escape from socializing in between the panels and events you want to go to. Use it for rest and sleep, use it to bond with your friends, but don’t use it to avoid other people.
6. Eat Enough
And eat decently. One of my early years of con going I got really, really sick. I was faint, had cold sweats, had a headache, and was nauseous. I had been eating nothing but crap for 2 days. Fast food, candy, and soda. The only thing I wanted was Apple Juice and so I ended up having a very odd conversation with a bar tender.
So here’s my advice:
– Make sure you get at least one full meal a day
– Drink lots of water
– If you have a hotel room bring healthy snacks, sandwich makings, and other food stuffs
– Don’t drink on an empty stomach
Okay, you got me. This is actually advice on how to help other people have fun at a convention. Unless you are wearing a painted body suit for all three days, for god’s sake shower. Shower in your room, go home and shower, pat yourself down with moist towelettes, I don’t care. Clean yourself. Smell like you didn’t bathe in a vat of the Hulk’s sweat. And don’t try to mask the scent by marinating in Axe Body Spray. You’re fooling no one. Do this for your fellow con-goer, we will thank you for it.
So there you have it, my pretty basic steps for having a badass con.