|Back to Sith mode. It's good to be the bad guy.|
I sort of slept maybe 3 hours a night, but that’s to be expected when it’s DragonCon, the largest event in the South. The king of conventions. The lord of the booze.
Though I will admit that there was no drinking on my part. Dietary restrictions courtesy of my doctor, and frankly it was probably for the best. I didn’t need to be drunk off my ass. There was too much to see and experience!
D*Con is an event I have wanted to go to for years. The downfall of AnimeFest and snagging a room (the most difficult part of the entire trip) allowed me to do so. Sunday, with a full 2 days left of the convention, I was already dreading having to leave and go back to the real world. I didn’t want the fun to end. And that is the epicenter of the magic that is DragonCon: fun. Because there is so much going on, to see and do, to be a part of that there is no reason you shouldn’t be having some form of fun. Even standing in line is freekin’ fun. No seriously. It can be fun. You’re either making “line buddies” and chatting up about the latest gaming news, or you’re people watching. There is a lot of cool things to see at D*Con, both in and out of costume.
Instead of a daily play-by-play, which would take way too much time, I’ll go over some of my highlights of this year’s event.
- Fastest badge pickup ever. I think we spent more time getting through the building to the registration “line” then we did walking through the line. Line is in quotes because the line did not exist. It moves that quickly. There were 15 stalls ready to go. You just needed to hand over your postcard and your driver’s license. With the card, they scan it and you get your badge with your name printed off. Done. With your license, it takes an extra 15 seconds to look you up in the system, and you get your badge with your name printed off. That’s it. I know this isn’t the only convention that has this set-up. Many comic and gaming conventions have some of the best badge set-ups out there. Sometimes it’s in the mail or a 3 minute line walk. Anime conventions, start learning from this. Spending 6 hours in a line is not acceptable for anyone. I really don’t care if the badge has my name on it or if it’s personalized. I just want A badge to get in. That’s all.
- So many cosplays! There is always something to see, which is great. And people do not lack for creativity. Want to see a 1950’s Pokémon mashup? You got it. Literal Marriott carpet ninjas? Done. I really enjoyed just how crazy and inventive people got with their costumes.
- Costume contests galore. D*Con has 6 or so different costume contests throughout the weekend. You have your standard hallway contest (which is voted on by attendees throughout the weekend) and your main stage one on Sunday. But there is also a cosplay contest for just Japanese oriented costumes, a World of Warcraft, a craftsmanship contest, Star Wars costumes, and that’s all I can remember but there might be a few more I’m missing. It was awesome to see so many different types of contests and that there were no limits on who can enter. Bring yourself and your costume and see what happens.
Speaking of, the kids contest in the main stage masquerade was mind blowing. They have 2 sections, one for the younger kids 0-5, and then the general kid group 6-15 (because being a teenager still means you’re a kid). Wow. A number of the kids who entered made their own costumes. I’m not talking about the girl that made the Katniss dress from book 2 of The Hunger Games, but the Dalek and Tardis made by the 10 year olds, and the 8 year old Steampunk original Doctor. Or how about the 8 year old who made his own Bumblebee Transformer outfit. I was not doing those thing when I was their age. So bravo to them and their parents for supporting the hobby. Also, those kids were smartasses in the best way possible. While the judges vote for their favorites, the MC, Grant Imahara in this case, brings the kids back on stage and asks them questions about their costume. First question right out the gate was to the dalak: “So, what is this plastic-looking piece here made out of?” Without missing a beat the kid responds: “Plastic of course.” It was glorious and the rest of the stage interviews were just like that. Freekin’ funny.
- The parade! It was a blast being a part of this experience. I marched with the N7 costuming group for Mass Effect cosplayers. We kept it pretty relaxed, but we had myself as Benezia, a Husk, and a Cerberus trooper representing the bad guys, and we made the best of it by pulling Shepard’s and Ashley (we had one, woo!) at random and trying to kill them. We also got to march with the official broShep, Mark Meer. Fangirl! But really, it was all about entertaining everyone, watching their faces light up when they saw our costumes, and making the kids smile. My favorite part was having the Husk and myself being force choked by a mini Vader, and going up to a young girl dressed as a clone trooper. Made my day.
- I think one of my favorite things to do at this con was people watch. Ordering a drink at the Marriott, finding a spot and just watching everyone interact and walk by. Relating back to my earlier cosplay comment, there is just a numerous amount of things to see, and sitting at the bar while you watch is the best way to experience the highlights of the con.
- Small con feel. How is that possible with something so massive as D*Con? Well a lot of it has to do with the location. Even spread over 5 hotels, it’s still in a relatively small area. I was finding myself running into friends 2 to 3 times daily, completely unplanned. Even seeing people that I never expected at D*Con while we were waiting in line or grabbing something to eat.
- The city. Atlanta is an odd place. It’s not historical like Boston or hip like Seattle. It is its own different type of unique flavor of culture. You have a children’s and coca-cola museum. Not in the same building, mind you. There are parks, but there is also a vibrant night life and loads of restaurants. There is chapel on one corner, with an Indian eatery next door. So many cultures converge here that it is a world of its own. It’s pretty cool. And I loved that everyone in the city really embraces the D*Con feel. Okay well almost everyone. There are those protestors of course. But overall, you can see the joy and excitement the citizens bring with them when D*Con is around. It’d be awesome to see more cities more involved in conventions.
- The Aquarium. It pains me just a bit to say it, but the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta beats out the one in Dallas. And I do love the Dallas Aquarium. A lot. Saturday night is the aquarium party, which opens up the place to D*Con attendees only. You get to see all of the exhibits, they have games, prizes, contests, it’s a full blown party. From entering the space, I was immediately in awe. It was also one of the few times I had a 4G signal, so I got on Facebook and posted something along the lines of “best aquarium ever, and I’m only in the front entry.” Word cannot describe how cool this place is, so I’m posting pictures in their place.
- The 1 Hour Line Rule. There’s a rule that is officially in D*Con’s book that states people are not to begin lining up for an event until 1 hour before said event starts. This is to help with traffic flow and to prevent any emergency issues from arising with doors being blocked by lines. I actually like this rule a lot. It gives everyone an equal opportunity to see an event AND allows them to wander the convention floor and experience other things. It sucks to spend your entire convention day waiting in one line. It really does. You never get to see what else is out there. The thing that I have an issue with is that D*Con does not enforce the rule. In fact, if you want to attend a particular panel, give yourself 3 hours leeway. If the panel seats 500+ people, add an additional hour of line waiting to that.
We went to the cosplay contest on Saturday afternoon about an hour and a half before it began thinking it would be enough time to line-up. We learned from much earlier that afternoon from the Q&A panel with Grant Imahara that the line for that began 3 hours before seating. We got there with an hour to go until it began and it was already full. So okay, it’s a cosplay contest. D*Con is not very anime/Japanese heavy so this has to be light by comparison for crowds. Nope. The line was already full, and was full 4 hours BEFORE the contest. For a 400 man audience. Yeah. Wow. We overheard from a staff member that one woman was at the front of the line for both the Patrick Stewart and Carey Elwes panels overnight so she could have the best seat in the house. She slept there to have that spot. While I applaud the dedication, I also have to ask about D*Con’s no loitering policy too. That’s clearly loitering, right?Really though. That rule needs enforcement or be removed. Aside, because of the sheer size of attendees, most of the lines required you to wait outside in the heat and humidity of Atlanta. Good stuff. -_-
- Speaking of lines, line management is horrible. There are very few areas in the hotel that are roped off or taped down with painters tape (something that won’t jack up the carpet), to designate where lines should be. More often than not, multiple lines would bleed into each other, which is a lot of fun when you ask staff “where is the end to X line” and they shrug your shoulders. You just have to hope at that point that you’ve picked the right line because not even the people in said line know where it’s going. No seriously. We had it happen multiple times where we asked people “is this the line for Y” and they would shrug their shoulders or respond with “I don’t know.” Then…what the heck are you waiting for? “Not sure. It’s a line.” Okay then!
Lines are a part of conventions. It’s a fact that can’t be avoided. But staff members should be out there helping direct the lines so they don’t bleed into each other. They should help ensure that lines end when it reaches the room’s capacity. They should be able to help delineate the start from the end. And not just once in a while, but there needs to be 2-3 staff members at all times helping with one line per room. No seriously. It helps out a lot. PAX has been my best line experience so far. There were always 4 enforcers on point to help people and keep the lines in order. You still had to wait anywhere from 1-3 hours to see something, but you never had to question where a line ended, or where you needed to go. There were signs. There were staff members. They told you everything you needed to know.
- Where are the signs? Now there were signs in each hotel that gave info on the general “events” that took place there. One hotel is gaming. One for main programming, etc. Those were nice. Signs for lines, and general layout info were a bit more difficult to come-by. It wasn’t bad, just a tad inconvenient. I found myself more often than not having to go to the maps on my phone or to the hotel’s kiosk. All were convenient, thank goodness, but first timers who didn’t know that D*Con had an app were probably confused on where to go. Signs. They’re a good thing.
- Video gaming. We only found a room for tournaments, but we didn’t see anything available for just general gaming, i.e. picking up a console at random and playing whatever is on there. There were schedules for tournaments and pricing, but nothing else. Unless the staff directed us into the wrong area, we were a bit disappointed that they didn’t have anything for us in the game field. There were open table top and card games, which is nice, but that’s not the type of gaming for me.
And really, that’s it. My negatives are very few and far between. Anything else has to do with the convention attendees.
Oh, and we ran into religious protestors. I was hoping to have a convention season where I was protestor free. Nearly got away with it too. Ever since A-Kon moved to the Hilton Anatole, protestors have not been able to…protest. Why? Because there is no public property in that area. Everything is either owned by a hotel or a business. There are no parks or places designated as “public” other than the roads. Given that the hotel is off of one of the busiest highways, no one wants to be on the roads. You’re causing traffic and will get arrested for it. And no Fanime for me this year, where there is always a group of them involved in the protesting ring, I was enjoying a harassment free zone.
Streak broken. D*Con happened. Ah well. As annoying as they are, they have the right to free speech and we have the right to not listen to it.
What bugged me is something that my boyfriend brought up, and I’ll paraphrase his wording on this. They came out on a Saturday, the biggest day of D*Con (as with any convention) and during the parade. The parade is something special for D*Con and draws in nearly 40,000 people from outside of the city. It’s completely free, and kids love the crap out of it. So here is this man with his signs and megaphone, yelling at everyone, calling us heathens, telling us we’re going to hell and so is everyone else who is applauding us. Really? You’re going to tell a bunch of kids that they’re going to hell? That’s low. Listen. This is a fun, family friendly event the convention along with the city of Atlanta is holding. It puts smiles on everyone’s faces. I saw so many kids cheering and waving at every character that crossed their path. It’s no different than the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade (I wonder if religious protestors have a problem with that too…) but with fantasy, science fiction, and comic book characters. The protestors have never bothered me before. I ignore them and go on with my life. But knowing that they’re affecting kids and condemning them to damnation is crossing a line that even my evil self won’t go. As I said, that’s low.
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Check out more of my cosplay stuff at my Facebook page www.facebook.com/TifaIACosplay
Avid media participant! Currently working on my PhD in film theory. But if you can't tell by the picture, I'm also a fan of cosplaying and photography. I'll be uploading photos from conventions as they occur and post updates to my blog The Geek Spot.
For any cosplayers that I have taken a photograph of, I'm more then happy to link you to your Deviant account (or website/blog/etc.) and provide you with a copy of the photograph that hasn't been cropped for website/gallery use.
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Website: The Geek Spot the-geek-spot.blogspot.com