The thing that I love most about Dragon*Con is that it is a convention for fans by fans. It isn’t an industry event. While we are more than happy to have the industry support us, they don’t guide the programming or run the panels, and I know personally that we’ve left money on the table rather than allow someone else dictate have more control than we were willing to give.
And the fans make the con. Seeing people who love stuff loving that stuff is incredible. There is no better feeling that being at the front of a room, looking out at a sea of faces and knowing that they love what you are giving them because you love it too.
But more than just sitting in panels and listening to the guests and staff talk about stuff, Dragon*Con also hosts a number of workshops that an attendee can sign up for (at additional cost – we have to pay the instructors something for their time). I’ve personally done one of the 2 day writing workshops and it was well worth the price.
Some years I don’t pay much attention to the workshops when I know I won’t have time, but this year I just happened on the page and noticed they’ve got some really cool stuff.
Acting Workshop – Writer, director and actor Amber Benson is doing 2 days of classes about the business of active, improv, character building, and scene breakdown.
Artist Workshops – David A. Cherry is doing a series of 2 and 3 hour classes on acrylic painting, life drawing, photoshop for illustration & game art, and game asset creation in 3D Studio Max. He’s also doing a smaller personal project review of illustration & game art.
Astronomy Workshop – 2 days of astronomy fundamentals, stars, planets, common science fiction science issues, misconceptions, jargon and more, presented by a panel of astronomy and education professionals.
Benjamin Radford Scientific Investigation Workshop – 2.5 hours of Ben Radford explaining in detail how to investigate mysteries and miracles.
Belly Dancing with Phoenicia Workshop – 4 sessions to teach you to belly dance. (This one is free with your con admission.)
Tai Chi Workshop with Erin Gray – A 1 hour introduction to the theory and practice of Tai Chi and Chi Kung.
Virginia Hey Meditation Workshop – An hour of discussion followed by an hour of guided meditation.
Writer’s Hourly Workshop with Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston – 15 one hour sessions covering many topics in the world of writing.
Writer’s Two Day Intensive Workshop with Jody Lynn Nye – 2 days with one teacher, covering many aspects of crafting stories, ending with a personal critic of material you submit prior to the workshop. (This is the one I did, but back when Ann C. Crispin was teaching it.)
It’s just cool to me that this kind of stuff goes on. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the things a lot of panels cover. The costuming track alone does so many on crafting costumes…
I’ve never been to Comic Con, and one day I might just to see the spectacle, but it seems to me it’s the sort of con where you go to see your favorite stars and maybe get an autograph. Dragon*Con, to me, has always been a con where you go to hang out with other people who love the same stuff (or different stuff) that you love and maybe run into one of your favorite stars who have come to hang out too.
If you were eagerly awaiting my day by day posts for Dragon*Con that I’ve done for the last few years, I’m sorry. I decided this year not to do them. I probably could have, but instead chose to focus on actually being at the con. To find out what I was doing there, head to the MMORPG Track website and find the 7 posts I did about our programming.
Personally, I had a blast. Our Saturday WoW Meet & Greet (the Darkmoon Faire) and the MMO Gathering of Heroes party were insane. Lots of happy people and I was very proud to have helped make that happen.
Hotel reservation already made for next year (yes, the Sheraton and Hilton are taking reservations already) and I look forward to a year worth of planning to make 2012′s con even better.
Each year at Dragon*Con, I like to think I notice things that can make the next year better. So, here is what I got from this year.
Costumes do, in fact, make things more fun.
I’ve been going to Dragon*Con, off and on, for … a lot of years. I know the first year I went was after high school (graduated in 1992) but before leaving college (graduated 1998). I’ve been about a dozen times and before this year the closest I’ve come to wearing a costume is to wear a t-shirt relating to something in fandom. This year, however, I put on a tattoo shirt, one of those mesh things that makes it look like you have a full chest, back and sleeves of tattoos. So simple, and yet it was the start of about a dozen dozen conversations. That shirt will be making an appearance next year, and I’ve resolved that I will have a costume for every day next year. I’ve said that before, but this time I mean it.
Food in the room doesn’t have to be crap.
In previous years, the wife and I have brought down snacks and sandwich stuff (peanut butter & jelly, cold cuts and condiments), but this year we had a George Foreman Grill and hotdogs. Next year we’ll probably expand that to burgers, both beef and veggie, and maybe more. The biggest revelation, however, was that we didn’t have to actually bring down food. There are two Publix stores within easy reach of the hotels that we could just hit up for supplies after getting downtown. Next year, when we get down there on Thursday, we’ll just make a store run rather than haul all that stuff with us.
Bitter people are going to be bitter.
Some folks apparently like to be angry. They’ve decided they hate something (even if it is entirely hypocritical) and not a thing you can say will change their mind. Once you have identified a bitter person who is entrenched in their bitterness, just walk away. And if you can’t walk away, try to steer the conversation toward something that will make them walk away or at least to something they aren’t bitter about.
Working staff can be fun.
I imagine that working registration and dealing with people who hate you because they blame you for the long line has got to suck. But working a track can be an absolute blast if a) the rest of the staff is cool, b) the track is something you are interested in, and c) you don’t mind missing large chunks of the con. Now, this may be my opinion and entirely biased, but the MMORPG Track staff is definitely cool. And I love MMORPGs. And I’ve been coming to con enough that I’m not really “missing” those chunks as much as I’ve seen them before. Besides, the con is practically 24/7, so there is always time to see the sights. Anyway, I had an absolute blast and look forward to working staff again next year.
Internet access is highway robbery unless you do something about it.
Every year at con, I always want to be able to check email or browse the net, or even post my blog entries. The host hotels typically charge around $12 to $15 per day for access. This year, I was pointed toward Boingo. If you happened to be staying in or spending lots of time in the Marriott Marquis, then signing up for Boingo’s $9.95 a month plan right before con and then cancelling it after is far far cheaper than paying the Marriott prices. I don’t know if there are equivalents for the other hotels, but I tend to always stay in the Marriott. I usually end up spending $60 on Internet access during con, so spending $10 instead was a nice savings.
And that appears to be all that I learned at this year’s con.
Day Four is done, and the con has drawn to a close. The MMORPG Track’s final panels ran smooth, and it was great to have about forty people come by to tell us what we did right and wrong and looking forward toward next year at the Post MMOrtem.
Today, the day after, is about sleep and unpacking and staying off my feet as much as possible.
This year was my first on staff with Dragon*Con and the MMORPG Track, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Not only are the track staff a great bunch of folks, and it helps that I really enjoy the subject matter, but just being a part of the staff just feels great. I lost count of the number of times people asked me for help on where to find things or what was going on and I was able to help them out. (It is also a testament to my many years of attendance and that I’m a giant schedule/map memorizing nerd that I knew what to answer most of the time.) Plus, there are bonuses. Like, you know when you are walking through the tunnel and you see some people stopping to take photos even though there are signs that say not to and you can’t do much but maybe yell at them? Well, when I saw that, I just walked up, put my hand on their shoulder and said, “Hey, great costume, and you guys deserve to get photos, but you can’t do it in the tunnel. Please take it to one of the hotels on either end where there is more room.” And the best part? They listened and moved. Not once did anyone ever give me a tough time, they just said sorry, smiled and moved. Sure, a bonus like that doesn’t get you to skip lines, but it does earn you the gratitude of the dozens and dozens of people who were stuck in a slow tunnel thanks to the photo takers. It feels good to help make the con a good experience for the people who attend. I’m really looking forward to being a part of it again next year.
Well, maybe… on the last day, the wife and I got some Chinese food and I got quite possibly the best fortune ever.
click for full size version
Yep, that says I will be the President of a small country. So, I might be busy.
And we comes to Day Four of Dragon*Con, the cruelest of Dragon*Con days. Why? Because most people don’t stay through Tuesday, seeing as how everything is done by 5pm (the panel schedule is so light that most people won’t find much to attend), it means they have to check out. By noon. Or 11am. Or whatever hour their hotel kicks them out. And many people when faced with the dilemma of having their luggage sit in the holding area under bellhop guard or just proceeding out to the car and heading home will head home. Checking out means Dragon*Con is over.
Where will I be today? In the Sheraton, Savannah room, hiding. We run a panel on legal issues in MMOs, another on Guild Wars 1 & 2, and our last panel of the con is where we talk about how the track did: what rocked, what sucked, and what we missed.
But what about yesterday? The Guild panel was great. Sandeep (Zaboo) and Jeff (Vork) are both great guys, oh and Sean Becker too (the director). After that I took my annual tour around the exhibitors and dealers halls, things were bought, pictures will be posted in the aftermath post tomorrow. I enjoyed the rest of my afternoon in my hotel room, trying to stay off my tired little feet. But after not going to and later hearing about the Kingdom of Loathing party, I knew I had to go. Plus, you know, last night of the con. Essentially, it’s like going to a room party in a hotel, only you don’t have to have a secret handshake to get in, we post it in the schedule and invite everyone! Day Three was a smashing success.
And look at that… I didn’t stumble into bed until nearly 5am and my 8am post is only 45 minutes late. I am a con warrior!
Day One, 8am post… Day Two, 8am post… Day Three? Not 8am. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Today I’ll be work the Guild Q & A with Vork and Zaboo and then I’m done. The track has a few nifty things for the MMO-inclined like a Global Agenda panel, EVE Online, City of Heroes, a session about guild management and more. Then of course, we have the Kingdom of Loathing party tonight, which was great last year so I’d expect it to be great again.
Now, let’s talk about Day Two… We had almost 600 people show up to see us show off Cataclysm. Then nearly 200 to hear Sandeep Parikh talk about The Legend of Neil. 180 came to hear about the best WoW Addons. At 5:30, we did the WoW Meet & Greet with fun and prizes, which I don’t have numbers for because I worked the camera instead of the door. This was such a blast, especially the dance content due to the insane guy who actually did the WoW Troll dance. Then we had over a hundred people for a second night of machinima. And then… At 10pm we opened the doors on our MMO Gathering of Heroes. I don’t have any final numbers, but I hear over 1,000 people dropped by throughout the evening. We danced. We drank. We danced some more. I stumbled back to the room around 3am. It was a great day.
Day Two is often less painful that Day One… except when you need to get up and dawn thirty. Gooooooood Morning, Dragon*Connnnnn! This is not a test! This is MMO!!! Time to rock it from Azeroth to the realms that are free! Today I’ve got lined up another long day of working panels. Starting with the Live Snarkcast in the Savannah room then I’m off to the World of Warcraft Q&A in the Capitol Ballroom. Next, a Q&A with Sandeep Parikh and his work on The Legend of Neil. After that it’s back to Savannah for WoW Addon Kung Fu, back again to the Capitol Ballroom for the WoW Meet & Greet and Trivia, and finally once more to Savannah for a Machinima panel. Tonight is also the big MMO Gathering of Heroes party which is sponsored by SOE, AQ Worlds and Comcast Xfinity. I’m not working it, but I’ll probably be there.
So how did Day One go? Every panel went great and we had attendance in numbers from 50 to 141. The only small turnout that I worked was the Funcom panel, which we expected because Funcom wasn’t able to attend, but we love them so we ran the panel anyway. I didn’t stick around for the Guild Q&A with Vork and Zaboo because I needed food and sleep, and I decided to spend the rest of my night wandering the con.
Ahh… Day One of “Oh my, this is early…” If you are down at the con and looking for me, I’ll be in the Sheraton in the Savannah room most of the day. There is the MMO Track kick off at 10 am, then the MMO Roundtable at 11:30 am, Funcom 101 at 1 pm, New MMO Showcase at 2:30 pm, and MMO Failures and Flops at 4 pm. If all goes well, at that point I’m off for the day, but I’ll still be sticking around for The Guild with Vork and Zaboo at 5:30 pm in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton, then back down to Savannah for Breaking into the MMO Industry at 7 pm and Machinima at 8:30 pm. After that, you’ll probably find me in the lobby of the Marriott or maybe at the Zombie Prom.
As for yesterday, I showed up, got badge, gave blood, and then met with the track staff. We set up, got given a lecture, and then ate some food. All is good and right with the world.
It’s Thursday, where are you? If you are local to Atlanta and pre-registered for Dragon*Con, your answer should be, “Reading this on my phone from the line.” because pre-registration badge pick-up just started. Pre-regs get a nice solid 6 hour jump on everyone else this year, so hopefully that will help with the lines.
Preparation for con is always a big deal. You have to make sure you pack everything. Technically there are a few shops around, but mostly tiny stores with seriously jacked up prices. There is a Publix about 8 or 10 blocks away, but since public transit in Altanta is pretty crappy, you’ll likely be hoofing it, in September. ”Hot and humid” just doesn’t really describe Atlanta well enough. Long hikes in the city are uncomfortable at best. But in addition to packing everything, you also need it to be manageable. You don’t really want to be juggling a dozen suitcases. You’re best bet is to pack one case (with wheels) of regular clothes (shorts, t-shirts, socks, underwear and toiletries – deodorant, toothpaste, even soap and shampoo if you prefer your own over the hotel stuff), a cooler (with wheels) packed with food and stuff (don’t bring ice, all the hotels have ice machines – and unless you specified in your reservations that you had to have a fridge for medical reasons, you won’t get one, so you’ll want a cooler if you want to keep anything cold), and then a case (with wheels if possible) for costumes and stuff that can’t be packed into the regular clothes.
You might have noticed a theme there. Wheels. Trust me, lugging around heavy cases just isn’t worth it. Every year I see some poor schmuck hauling around a half dozen old no-wheel-having suitcases, or standing in line waiting for a bell hop, or leaving the cases at the front desk to have them delivered to the room at some point in the future. Meanwhile, the wife and I roll on by and head to our room. The cooler is even more awesome because of the extending handle means we can even stack a couple things on top of it (like sodas or a box of extra snacks) with ease.
And of course, if you plan to buy anything, make sure you have a way to take it home. (If you aren’t local, there are, I believe, a FedEx and some other shipping store in the hotels or close to the con, and don’t worry about them being closed for the holiday, most of the time you can leave a package with your hotel with shipping instructions and a tip and they’ll send it off for you on Tuesday.)
Anyway… enough about packing… you might be wondering, “If the con begins on Friday, what is there to do on Thursday?” Well, lots actually. Plenty of fan groups will have unofficial gatherings on Thursday night (this is why you should find the sites/forums for the various tracks and fans groups, and keep up with them throughout the year), and there are a few bands playing. Plus, the lobbies and hotel bars will be hopping with people, both out of costume and in.
What will I be doing on Thursday? Well, for one, since I’m staff this year, the MMO Track is having a little party where the director lays down the law, people can swap shifts and we can let our hair down a little more than we’ll be allowed to during the con itself (not to say we won’t be enjoying the con, but staff is expect to not show up for shifts completely plastered). Check out our schedule from this nice rundown provided by Krystalle over at Massively. I’ll be wandering around the hotels pretty much all day, though when not with the MMO crew (or perhaps even with them) I tend to be in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, not only because it is the hotel I’m staying at, but, in my opinion, it is the best hotel for seeing and being seen. Perhaps I’ll see you around…
Just as aside… in previous years, I posted at the end of the day with what I did. This year I’ll be posting in the morning with my plans for the day and my reflections on the previous day.
I’m excited. Are you excited? I mean, how often do you get to go to a place and congregate with more than 35,000 people of similar interests to your own? I do it once a year. And how often do you get to be a part of making an event like that happen? I’m hoping this year is the first of many.
This will be my first year working as staff and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Sure, I could just go to con like I usually do and see some panels and go to some parties, but this year I’m helping make the magic happen… as long as by “magic” I mean “standing at the door counting people and occasionally telling them the room is full” which is likely to be the extent of my action. It’s not like I’m running the panels (although, you never know) … I’m more of a Kleezantsun. Yeah, I just went there. But it is an apt description. Dragon*Con is a convention for fans by fans. It isn’t run by companies or marketing firms, it’s run by us.
Anyway, PBS is going to be airing Four Days at Dragon*Con on Saturday the 28th at 9PM.