Convention season is upon us, gentle geeklings! Actually that statement is false, but false in a good way. Time was, the bulk of gaming, sci-fi and anime cons fell into the spring/summer range, with a few straggling into fall. Such is no longer the case; any weekend can see the opening of another geeky con somewhere. In fact, if you were to find a weekend that was entirely geek-con free, I would eat my hat (Disclaimer: Hat may or may not have been made out of tasty bacon minutes prior.) Despite this, June always feels like the start of the season for me and as arbitrary beginnings go (and for the purposes of having a blog post today) it will do fine.
It is no secret I love conventions. You can do all the gaming, all the sci-fi movie/Doctor Who watching, all the “running starkers through the wood armed only with blue woad and a foam sword” you want. But until you have attended a convention in the company of the (sadly) unwashed masses of your fellow geeks, you have not truly embraced all that is dorkly in your nature. Your hometown dorks are comfortable by dint of long association; even the ones you can’t stand are less annoying because of prolonged exposure (much like taking small amounts of a poison to develop immunity). A true geek needs to get out among the unfamiliar, expand his/her boundaries. That means gaming with new people, watching screenings you might not pick for yourself, and yes, forcing yourself not to turn away from the 300lb hirsute man dressed as Sailor Moon (he sounded like he was wearing snow pants…*shudder*).
If you have never been, conventions can be a fun and crowded, noisy, tiring place. But there are some things you can do to make con-going easier and more awesome. So take a seat, rook; it’s Training Day.
Book Your Room – The vast majority of cons are held in or near hotels. If the con is in a hotel I can not stress enough how important it is to get a room in that hotel. There is nothing better at the end of a long con day than knowing you are an elevator ride away from your room, instead of a bus or cab ride away. If cost is an issue, or if the con is held in a non-hotel setting, then get as close as you can. You will rue the day you decided to save $10-a-night on the hotel room that is a 30 minute drive from the event, especially if you forget your dice or autograph book in your room. And if possible, get a hotel room with a kitchenette. Being able to cook a few meals over the weekend or even just make sandwiches, will save you some time and money which you can then put to better use at the con.
Pack your bag – Hikers don’t go out without the proper gear, and con-goers shouldn’t either. Specific equipment, like dice or Spock ears, will depend largely on what type of con you are at. But I’ve compiled a list of general-purpose gear that all geeks should carry, just to make their con experience a little better. To save space I’ve posted the list on a separate page, entitled Con-Goer’s Survival Kit. Feel free to adjust the list based on your individual needs, but don’t go too crazy in packing for every contingency. Remember two things: you will be carrying this bag everywhere, all day; and you will want room to stash various purchases throughout the day. Pack accordingly.
Eat – It is tempting, when caught up in the rush of a convention, to want to avoid the things that take away from your con-time. And meals are usually the first casualty of this time-stretching attempt. I won’t tell you that you have to peal yourself away for three squares every day, because I know you won’t listen. So what I will suggest is, make sure to have a good breakfast and a good evening meal. A good breakfast packed with proteins and fibers will get you most of the way through those long morning sessions; the snacks you have packed in your bag (you have read the list, right?) will get you through the rest. And most cons slow down around dinner time anyway, so why not take that time to have a sit-down meal with some of your fellow geeks? Good dinner with fellow dorks can lead to new friendships and great con stories, two of the best reasons to go to cons in the first place.
As for the middle of the day, keep that flexible. That may be the time to grab a quick something from the vendors, or chow down on the protein bar and fruit in your bag (you really should read that list). But lunch is probably the one meal you can afford to skimp on if necessary, as long as you packed those healthy snacks to offset the unhealthy ones we both know you are going to buy.
Drink – You are likely in some sort of convention-hall set-up. Air-conditioning is running, air is being circulated and re-circulated, and as a result you are in a fairly dry environment. You need to hydrate. And nope, sorry, downing a dozen energy drinks is not hydration (plus, yikes!). You need water, rook. Luckily you have a water bottle, right? So fill it before you leave your room, fill it again at breakfast, and remember to fill it throughout the day. All this filling of course implies that you are drinking from it as well. While it may result in a few more trips to the washroom, you will feel much better at days end and will likely not feel as hungry throughout the day; turns out that a lot of the times we “feel hungry” we are actually just dehydrated.
Wheaton’s Law – Well known among geekdom by now, “Wheaton’s Law” was coined by the majestically-bearded Wil Wheaton as a simple codification of behaviors designed to ease relations between people. Or in his words, “Don’t Be a Dick!” Pretty simple, right? Look, rook, you are going to live amongst hundreds, maybe thousands of fellow geek-kind for an entire weekend. And a convention is not the internet; you are responsible for your words and actions. So why not be responsible for good words and actions? Just think how much more awesome the weekend would be if everyone followed Wheaton’s Law, and kept it wholly. Or life for that matter.
Try New Things – You are likely attending the con in the first place because it has a bunch of stuff you like. But look past that stuff for a second, and plan to try some things you would normally avoid. Why fill your weekend with the things you can already do at home? So go to that anime panel, play a game you would never have tried, LARP like a wild man! After all, what happens at the con stays at the con (internet excepted, and remember Wheaton’s Law) so get out there and get Geek Silly, my friend!
Talk it Up! – I have never heard a convention say, “No, please, we don’t want any more attendees, stop telling people about us!” So if you had or are having a good time at a con, talk about it. Blog it, post it in your FB feed, Tweet the hell out of it. Cons take a lot of hard work by a huge number of people, and good cons should get all the support and encouragement you can give them. And in between tweets, take time to thank the volunteers and organizers. Your notice of their hard work will be appreciated.
Okay, rook, that’s all for now. Get on out to that convention. And hey, hey! Let’s be geeky out there.
Do you have any con-going tips or tricks? Don’t be shy, share them in comments below!