I love going to cons.
I’ve been to all kinds of conventions – comics, gaming, costume, professional, you name it – and even though the atmosphere changes, the vibe usually doesn’t. Gathered in one place are a whole bunch of people who, as a rule, are crazy about a particular subject. I mean, absolutely nuts about it, and they’d have to be, as unless you’re a local who can afford to day-trip it, a con usually involves a couple hundred bucks in registrations and reservations and the not-inconsiderable logistics of modern travel. And that’s before you even start to consider what you’ll drop in the dealer’s room. Right off the bat, you’ve generally weeded out the idly curious, which means you’ve got a pretty fired-up population. So what do you do with them? Turn them loose for a weekend and hope that the hotel chain can survive it.
And that’s pretty much what happens – you let them go all-out with their particular passion. Seminars, demos, lectures, Q&A, workshops, instructional sessions, you name it. Not to mention all the fun that attendees can come up with on their own on the side. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to be in a crowd of people and know that, on one level or another, you have something specific in common. It creates a sort of giddiness in the air, a reflexive smile that’s shared by almost everyone you see as they walk around. Pretty intoxicating, really, the feeling that you can walk up to almost anyone at random and start up a conversation about a subject of mutual interest. Though be careful about that part, because even at a con, manners still apply, as I’ve wished only too many gamers over-eager to talk about their characters had remembered.
Of course, there is a little bit of a down side too. Over the years, one of the saddest things I’ve noticed about cons are the wannabes. I’m not saying that like some hipster kid with a Cosby sweater, skinny jeans and an $8 PBR, either – I mean it quite simply in the sense of people who desperately want to be part of a scene but can’t quite figure out how to join. You can spot them at any con, the people who are there but don’t quite fit in, who are hoping that somehow maybe the simple fact that they are in this place at this time will magically make them part of the scene. I always feel bad for those folks, mostly because they’re looking for an external solution when in most cases being part of a scene is an internal perspective first and a group consensus second. Until you get that first bit down, the second really won’t come together.
I’ve been to a couple of cons this past month, one huge and one local, and as I was leaving the local yesterday it struck me how similar they were in many respects. The same giddiness of shared interests, the same air of excitement, the same sight of strangers striking up conversations and forming almost instant friendships – it’s always fun to watch that in action. I spent a good deal of time just walking the halls, taking in the atmosphere. Because for all they mocking they receive – and certainly deserve, for all their quirks – cons are pretty amazing when you think about it.
I mean, it wasn’t that long ago when we didn’t have these sorts of gatherings, at least not for anything less than professionals and industry leaders. It was just too expensive and difficult to set it up for something like that in the hopes that a bunch of fans and amateurs would show up. We are the beneficiaries of some amazing advances in technology, travel and communication, make no mistake. And it’s awesome to watch what people do with it.
Even the old guy in the Sailor Moon outfit.