How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Con

first

I wear your great-great-granddad’s clothes.  I look Despicable (Me).

“When are you getting here?” I furiously texted my still-working husband. “THERE ARE PEOPLE WITH TAILS AND ONE GIRL MEOWED AT ME.”

Attending my first local convention solo probably wasn’t the greatest idea, but I relish any opportunity to take a half-day from my regular cubicle job.  I ventured across the river to the local Hyatt, where Ancient City Con 7 was in full swing.   The first thing I witnessed was a very confused group of professionals in suits and skirts, carrying bags of swag and gawking at a bunch of kids running around sporting fuzzy neon-colored ears and tails.  If you ever get the chance to attend a comic con in a hotel that is simultaneously hosting “professional” conventions, make it a priority – nothing compares to the look on a suit’s face when he turns the corner and runs into a group of giggling Homestuck troll girls.  “Hey, this isn’t where I parked my car…”

Arts & Crafts

art

Savy Lim, Bryan Collins, Stephen Hayford

I love art.  I suck at it personally, but I admire the talent and quality.  Savy Lim’s TMNT Deadpool crossovers were a huge hit, as were his Boba Fett vs. Predator prints.  After apparently sprouting a hole in my lip and dribbling something all over my Adopt a Direwolf t-shirt, I beelined for Bryan Collins’ booth to purchase a limited-edition Anchored Heart shirt.  I may have spilled on purpose just to have an excuse to buy one of these ultra-soft grey tees, since I’d only admired it the entire day.  I also stumbled across Stephen Hayford’s Life In Plastics, which is an absolute must for Star Wars fans hoping to catch a glimpse inside the Death Star break room.  He and I even joked that they’re certainly not using their free time to perfect their target shooting.

Another plastics vendor, EWM82, featured a booth showcasing Tardises (Tardii?) and custom-made tabletop miniatures printed using a Makerbot Replicator.  Yes, that nifty 3-D printer everyone salivated over when they realized it cost only $2K.  I spoke with the operator, who said his small-scale Tardis replicas (about an inch tall) could take almost an hour to render, while the larger ones and the impressive Cybermen heads took several.  He demonstrated the spools that feed the plastic through the machine, where it is liquefied and “printed” out into the designated template.  The geek in me was in overdrive – I was the kid who watched Mr. Rogers specifically for the “how it’s made” segments.  Awesome swag and an education?  Sold.

Fancy Dress Party

cosplay

Black*Rock Shooter Strength costume – your argument is invalid.

It was day 2 when the contests began, and by now I’d figured out the layout and general flow well enough to discard the hotel map, which wasn’t particularly well-plotted.  The cosplay contests were entertaining, if not very abrupt after being delayed due to late entries.  Only 2 doctors in the first one, that has to be a record low.  While the show could have benefited from some background music, overall I was impressed with the level of ingenuity and dedication put into the costumes, mostly by kids who couldn’t be more than 18.

After exiting the vendor area, I saw a Jack Skellington… carrying a big key.  “Ooh! Ooh!” I shouted at my spouse. “He’s got a keyblade!  Kingdom Hearts!  I got one!”  We mini-fist bumped over my success.  I got really excited whenever I recognized a character (or in that case, a small nuance which rendered an easily recognizable character even more awesome).

The 501st Legion, our local Imperial costume organization, made an appearance, complete with a Nerf-gun shoot-the-bounty hunter game.  These guys make appearances all over my fair city, and are known for their charity and volunteer work.  My son thoroughly appreciated the personalized trading cards and is hopeful to one day witness the 700-lb Rancor replica.  He was also thrilled with his purchase of a large Gremlin (Spike? Stripe?) from the garage sale guys, who were also selling an original NES system with several games.  Tempting, if we didn’t already have an emulator on our phone.

Everybody Dance Now

pillage

Pillage & Plunder

Being somewhat of a hermit, it’s rare that I get out and enjoy live music, even though my city offers plenty of open-air restaurants and pubs featuring live entertainment.  It’s like number 964 on my list of “things I should do more often.”  So I was really glad to be able to experience Pillage & Plunder, a three-man band out of Atlanta.  We were especially impressed with their cover of the Mario theme, and their punkish rendition of Ghostbusters.  Better than Ray Parker Jr. any day.

best day

Best Day Ever

I’m sitting here scratching my head trying to remember all the music acts I’ve seen on the cruises I’ve taken.  Chances are Best Day Ever was a part of my vacation experience.  Previously appearing on Carnival Cruise Lines, this Tampa-based quintet features powerhouse vocals by lead singers Lauren Elizabeth and Stuart Best, and energetic but brooding melodies from guitarist David Day.  They stuck around to watch and support the next act, Random Encounter.

random

Random Encounter

I have a new favorite accordion player (sorry, Weird Al).  Careless enjoys the theatrics of a show, jumping and running around the conference room while playing his squeezebox.  On his head.  No, I’m serious.  The band is full of characters who hail by their gamer tags instead of real names, from pants-less drummer Moose to the energetic guitarists Kit and Konami, and the enigmatic female bassist Rook.  A family of five was in attendance, and it was absolutely adorable to watch dad and his girls just go wild running around and enjoying the show – the guitarists got in on the frantic kid-dancing as well, most definitely smile-inducing.  We purchased one of each of their cds after the show.  To give you a reference point, I haven’t purchased an actual cd of music since Warped Tour 2005.  That’s how awesome they were – I couldn’t wait to download their stuff, I had to listen to it in the car on the way home.

The Kitchen Sink

food

The four food groups – feathers, pans, D20 and cooking achievements.

Anyone who knows me knows that cooking is not exactly my strong suit.  It’s a necessity to keep my family function, but not necessarily a favorite pastime.  But that might change with What to Feed Your Raiding Party.  Although I neglected to snag a copy before the weekend was out, I did manage to scarf down a sample of Chef Jennifer “Scraps” Walker’s red-pepper hummus and sun-dried tomato toasted bread.  The husband enjoyed a tasty cup of corn chowder.  Inside the pages of her cookbook for gamers are over 75 recipes offering culinary-difficulty based XP with accompanying comics and leveling challenges for the aspiring cook.  She even breaks it down into portion sizes, if your party varies from 5 to 20 people.  With this book in hand, I can totally see hosting a D&D or Magic party, serving up hearty meals for a ravenous group of equally nerdy friends.

I have to give props to the gents from COO-Interactive Entertainment and their hilarious Dating Game show for tweens and teens.  The hosts were brilliant and quick with the quips, creating a fast-paced and audience interactive, but still PG-rated, event.  I’m sad I missed out on Dead Town, a zombie survival experience also run by COO-Interactive.  I’m not sorry I missed the flash-dance fad of the minute, the Harlem Shake.

The guys in the crowded tabletop gaming room were focused, but still more than willing to explain the ins and outs of their current game of choice to us.  We learned about some new gaming shops opening up nearby (helpful after our main one closed the following weekend), and now I’m very interested in the Firefly game from Gale Force Nine/Battlefront Miniatures.

 console

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.  Then its next player’s turn.

Bawls is still around and makes root beer!?  I haven’t imbibed from a bumpy blue glass bottle since internet cafes centered around gaming instead of gambling.  But I was delightfully surprised that they are still in full force, supporting their target market and fueling both the console and LAN party rooms through the night.  We temporarily lifted my son’s restriction to allow him a few rounds of HALO while we caught up with Donnie and Tyger of Awkward Panda, who ran the console room’s organized chaos; an intense focus on tournament play mixed with casual gaming amid an all-encompassing spirit of camaraderie.  I became inappropriately excited when I found a Super NES set up with old-school arcade style TMNT, which prompted a lengthy discussion about the bygone days of old and the staple of any 80s/90s kid – the arcade.  What I wouldn’t give to have a handful of quarters and a weekend birthday party at the Plaza Game Room again.

All I can say is thank god for hand sanitizer, because it was grossly apparent that some of the kids in the room were, uh, less than concerned with personal hygiene.  Aside from the after effects of being around hordes of unfamiliar people, or what I not-so-affectionately refer to as Convention Kennel Cough, a good time was had by all.  The few other hiccups in the weekend, such as a few cancelled events and poor signage throughout the hotel, were minor compared to the general success of the weekend.  The best part of this con would have to be the enthusiastic attendees – from the barefoot, tailed teens running through the lobby to the presenters and special guests, everyone was thoroughly excited to be a part of ACC7, no matter their role.

What I’m taking to the NEXT Con

to bring

My dancing shoes and a case full of Mountain Dew Kickstarters.  A phone charger, since mine decided to continually drain itself fighting for signal.  Some aspirin for general aches and Febreze in case I end up sitting next to someone, er, on the “no-soap” diet.  A better camera for less fuzzy photography, and perhaps a book with detailed pictures of anime characters – does that exist?   Is there a John James Audubon-style field guide to Pokemon?  Of course there is.

“So,” my husband asked as we trudged to our car on Sunday. “What’d you think?”

“Three questions: when’s the next one, what are we going as and are you okay with taking out a small loan to buy cool stuff we see?”


3 Comments

  1. thomas July 9, 2013
  2. Nick Verboon July 9, 2013
  3. Zyuwnai July 19, 2013

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