Friday, September 1, 2017

Convention Life

     Reading through some Facebook group posts, I saw some people posting about how they have never been to a nerd convention before. This is 2017, nerd culture is at its peak (possibly even headed on the other side of the peak), and there are over 500 nerd conventions across the country. What are you people waiting for? Being into "nerdy" things has never been more en vogue, and never will it be like this again.

     Let's do a generalized walk-through of an average nerd convention.

     Pre-Convention Prep:

     Before you get to the convention center, usually a large proper convention building though often just a convention hall in a hotel, you need to do a few things.

     First, are you CosPlaying? If you are you are going to need to make a check list for all the things that are involved with your outfit(s). Then you need to make a check list of all the things that could go wrong/break on your outfit(s). Are you doing more than one CosPlay? Rinse and repeat.

     Second, packing. You need comfortable shoes. I cannot repeat that enough. You need comfortable shoes! If you are going to a major convention (SLCC, DCC, SDCC, NYCC, or even any of the Wizard World conventions) then you are going to be spending a lot of time walking. Convention Centers are VERY big buildings and even smaller Cons are spread pretty far out, all over the place. So along with the shoes, wear socks. Even if you are only planning to do one of the two to four days (Cons average three days, but DCC has gone for four, and SDCC is four regularly) you are going to be on your feet for about 10 hours, if you want to maximize your ticket price. As for the other clothes to pack that is mostly determined by the time of year, location of the Con, and personal preference. It would probably be a bad idea to take jeans and sweatshirts to ColossalCon, just like if you plan on going out at night during Salt Lake Comic Con, you might want to grab something a little warmer as it takes place in the early fall.

     Planning your Con. Usually the convention schedule is posted somewhere between three days and a week before the Con. I'm sure some conventions are better about it, but it is mostly irrelevant. It is a good tool to make a rough plan, but schedules rarely if ever stay the same as their initial posting. Two things that people do, but shouldn't, when it comes to their planned schedule:
1) Don't schedule every last minute of your day. The flow of the Con is GOING to screw with your plan, so be as fluid as possible. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to see as much stuff as you can, because that is why you're at the Con right?
2) Don't waste your entire day waiting in line. There are going to be a BUNCH of celebrities at the convention. If you try to see all of their panels you WON'T see anything else. Con Life is about so much more than being stuck in line waiting for something to happen. Also, MOST celebs will see you for a moment for FREE if you catch them at their booth in the celebrity area of the convention. Most of their handlers will try and rush you through if you aren't paying for an autograph or a picture, but you can at least shake their hand and say hello.

     Travel to the convention. Are you located in a tiny town half a day away from your convention of choice? Do you live in the same city of said convention? Those are things to take into consideration too. Con Life can get expensive, one of the largest expenses is your place to stay. If you have friends or family, that is a great way to cut down that cost. Air BnB is a beautiful thing too, though San Diego is going to cost an arm and a leg no matter what.

     The final Pre-Convention note is sleep. This is something to consider all through the Con, but if you are driving to the con every day, or driving a long distance and staying in a hotel for the duration, sleep is your friend. Safety is key!

     Days at the Con

     If you are going to only be at the con for a single day, or something less than the full duration, then you are going to have to condense this info accordingly. Also, this is going to be based on the average three day convention length. If your Con of choice is LONGER then adjustments should be made there too.

     Orientation. This is the day that you grab your bearings. Where are the panel rooms? Where is the vendor floor? Where is the celebrity meeting area? FIND THESE THINGS. The rest of the Con will be SO MUCH easier if you understand the floor plan and how to get around. This year at Denver Comic Con was super disorienting, because there was no real clear way to get from point A to point B. The floor plan was dramatically different than years previous, and that confused most people and tons of people missed their panels and things because of it. It took me almost the entire first day to properly orient myself, and even then I still got turned around a couple times on Day 2 and Day 3.

This is also a good time, if your Con has a physical schedule (most do) that they hand out at info booths or the registration table, grab 2 or 3 of those bad boys. You will likely lose at least one of them. So make notes in all of them. Most conventions anymore have digital schedules, and they are varying degrees of useful. But they tend to rely on your ability to connect to the internet. When you are in a giant concrete and metal box, WiFi signal and 4G are not in abundance, assuming you even have access to a WiFi connection. So, grab some physical copies of the schedule and the floor plan of the convention (even if it is a convention you have been to many times before, as in the case with Denver Comic Con for me), you will be thankful that you did.

     I also like to start working through the vendor floor on day one. I don't tend to buy anything on day one, unless it is the only copy and I simply cannot live without it. As a general statement, though, purchasing is reserved for the last day.


     This is the day to see as many panels as possible, and try to make it through the majority, if not the rest, of the vendor floor.

  Ok, so, vocabulary clarification. Panels, for those that have never been to a nerd convention, are discussions done by guests of the convention. The format is pretty universal regardless of the guest, celebrity or otherwise. They take place in a room (or sometimes a section of the main floor, depending on the size of the convention) with a table and some chairs up on a stage, usually, where the panelists sit to discuss the topic, and there is audience seating facing toward the table for dregs like you and me to sit and listen. Panel topics run the gamut, from educational to celebrities basically just giving a speech and taking questions.

     Vocabulary clarification number two; Vendor Floor. This is the largest part of the Con's floor plan. It is usually broken into at least 2 different sections, artist's area and retail space. The best  stuff usually comes directly from the artists. I would suggest completing that part of the floor first. Then check the retailers.

     The reason I wait till this day to do most of my purchasing, is because the vendors (artist or retail) who don't travel the convention circuit for a living start to discount any material they haven't sold yet to maximize their sales. Get some great artwork for crazy cheap on the final day of a convention.

     This is also the last chance you have to take any pictures of CosPlayers that you keep missing, or greet any celebs that you may have been too late to their panel. Usually the shortest day of the con as well so don't let that sneak up on you. Go digging for that missing issue of Uncanny X-Men you saw on Day2 quick, because the day will be done long before you want it to.

     Night Life

     We are not exactly the best at social situations, we nerdy types, but that doesn't stop us from trying! Most nerd conventions schedule official after parties for one or all of the days, and that info is easily found in any of the literature that they likely passed along with the physical schedule. The official parties are a good time. Catch one or 2 if you can. The celebrity guests often make appearances at them, and if there is a musical guest (Aquabats @ SLCC16 or Christian Kane @ StarFest Denver '17 or Jess Harnell @ SLCC16 AND '17) there is a good chance there will be an official performance from them.

     There is also the strong possibility that local restaurants and bars (at least the ones close to the convention center) will have some sort of special, promotion, or discount for Con-goers. Ask! You never know unless you ask. I know that Denver Comic Con every year does a special craft beer specifically for the Con, and all the local joints get a keg or 2. Those kegs usually pop before the end of the festivities, so don't be afraid to ask.

     Many larger Cons draw a variety of people. Some of these types of people are promoters and things. Or local promoters and club owners will take advantage of the influx of nerdy people and do special nerd events at their venues. For the last two years there has been a "Club Cosplay" event at Denver Comic Con, and I know there is something similar at San Diego every year as well. So, keep an eye out for flyers, talk to some of your favorite artists or even some of your favorite Cosplayers, and see what is going on. It is a beautiful thing when a large group of nerds get together and dance the night away!


And finally we get to the part of Con Life that is possibly the most frequently covered by the media, CosPlay.

     There are some things to keep in mind when interacting with CosPlayers when you are not also in a costume. Show some love. Every one of those crazy people in costume has put a ton of hard work and thought into their design and the actual building of the costume. It is nice to hear that someone appreciates your diligence. If you are taking pictures, and most of us are, ask for permission. If you are respectful you will likely get to take a few pics and get some poses and things. Along that respect frame of mind, try to not bother the CosPlayers while they are eating or fixing something that broke. Its kind of like asking a celebrity for an autograph while they are pooping, it is just bothersome.

     But what about DOING CosPlay?
     Well, there are a few things there too. You are going to sweat. Unless the character you are portraying wears skimpy clothes (they exist), or you are doing a "sexy" version of something (see this) you will likely be wearing a bit more clothing than you would if you were just yourself. So be mindful. Some people only dress up for a small portion of the day specifically for this reason.

     Also, duct tape is your friend. It is the truest form of Murphy's Law, everything will break. Keep a back up of whatever you can in your hotel room or out in the car, or on you if possible. It also helps to travel in groups. If only one of you is in CosPlay then some of the rest can help with the extras and the fixings.

      Once all of the festivities have come to an end, make sure you keep all those fliers, posters, business cards, and other freebies that artists and the like passed along to you. Keep up through out the year with the artists and vendors you liked from the Con. Maybe your loyalty will get you cooler freebies next time, or the inside scoop on an epic limited edition print. If we support the small time and local artist community then it will continue to thrive and Con Life will only become more enjoyable.

     That is about it. I suppose I could go into more about sitting through a panel, and actively engaging in the conversation that some panels stir up, but that is possibly a whole other post unto its self.

     Thank you for reading. Please subscribe on all the social medias there on the right-hand side, and check out the Patreon page. Also, never forget that, if it is Generally Nerdy, then it is probably here!

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