This past weekend, I attended my first legitimate convention. Not San Diego Comic Con, but Connecticon.
I say my first legitimate convention because I had attended smaller shows before. But, really, those events were more dealer shows than conventions. Connecticon is a legitimate convention. Four days of games, events, panels, and dealers. I went with the full weekend pass, which was Thursday through Sunday, though Friday through Sunday were the main days of the convention.
The convention itself was great. Even with San Diego happening the same weekend, there were still some great guests and some cool panels. And while I did manage to have a lot of fun at the convention, I am not entirely sure that I was the best convention guest. It was a bit of an eye opener, and I know that there were a lot of things I could have done to make my personal experience better.
First and foremost, I should have realized that could have gotten more involved in the events. Yes, I did attend some panels and played a lot of games. But, there was one thing I could have done to make my experience a lot more enjoyable: I would have been a lot more outgoing. I had always considered myself socially awkward (a “sheepish people” as Pair of Dice Paradise’s Chaz Marler calls them). The convention seemed to push all of that to the forefront. I was not a just socially awkward. No, somehow, I had managed to push that well beyond that. The best way I can describe it would be “socially inept.” My personal experience would have been so much better if I was willing to just break out of my shell and say something like, “Hey, you’re just getting started and I wanted to learn this game, do you mind if I sit in?” or “Hey, that’s an awesome costume, do you mind if I take a picture?” or even something as simple as, “Hey, my name’s Dave.”
This became such a problem that I actually considered sitting in on a panel dealing with social anxiety and conventions, except that I was too self conscious to attend the panel.
My social ineptitude was so strong that I am pretty sure I missed out on a few cool things about the convention, like the Nerd Prom (which I waffled a while about signing up for it until it was too late to do anything about it), or the informal dances (which I managed to convince myself that someone of my age would not really could take part in).
Which brings me to my next point: organization. I do not mean the convention’s organization. They did a fairly good job with it, even printing out a program for attendees with nearly all events listed (I say nearly because, like any event, there are always updates cancellations and changes). But, even looking online prior to the convention, I still did not have an absolute game plan about what I wanted to check out. I had a few ideas, but nothing solid.
The program was a great tool. It did list a lot of the events with descriptions, times and even a time table with locations. It was great, but it did haze problems. Because of the shear number of events, panels, games, and everything, things were sectioned off. Main events were shown in one part, game events in another, RPGs in a third. Because of this, it was sometimes a bit difficult to keep track of what was when especially when there were changes to the schedules. Thankfully, Friday, someone mentioned there was an app called Guidebook that has the convention program available. The app, available on iTunes and Google Play (the person who told me about it said he had an Android phone), took the convention program and made it available on any device, even offline. This program allowed me to see all the events available (updating when needed), and allowed me to make a schedule of the events I wanted to see and let me know if there were conflicts with other events I wanted to take in.
Which made me realize one other thing: There was no way I would be able to take in everything I wanted to see. In any convention (and I am pretty sure that San Diego is the same way), you will find that some of the events you want to attend or participate might just conflict with other events you want to take in. I soon learned that I just needed to prioritize what I wanted to see more. Doing that, both the program and the Guidebook were a great help. For me, there were events I absolutely wanted to take in. There was The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse RPG on Thursday, which did conflict with the Nerd Prom (that I had not signed up for anyway), and the voice actor movie reading on Friday (definitely worth it), and a Learn to Play Mansions of Madness session later that night.
I also learned that flexibility is very important, especially when you are dealing with games at conventions. I becomes a good rule of thumb to assume that a game will always take longer than whatever the box says it will take Since a lot of the game presentations were “learn to play,” there was a lot of explanation about the games as well as set up. I always needed to keep that in mind just in case I started a game session what was very close in time to another.
Still, I learned that I needed to be flexible with what I picked, especially when I get actually got involved in something I did not expect to, like a Dresden Files RPG session… or two. This was Saturday night and Sunday morning, which threw my Sunday schedule into a tizzy. I had planned on attending a panel of fighting with Medieval weapons that morning (it was research for writing). But, the previous night had been so much fun (which had me playing so much out of character), that I had to come back to see how it ended. I was worth it to know that I ended up talking a monster into unconsciousness, and discovered a new RPG that I wanted to play.
This was probably the most outgoing I had been that weekend. And, sadly, that was because it was the character that was outgoing and not me. Maybe it’s something I need to work on if I go next year.