I've been attending Dragon Con for quite a while: 2016 was my eighth visit. The first couple of years I only went on Saturday, then added Sundays to the mix. This year was my fourth year of attending all four days. In all that time, I've learned quite a bit about being a con-goer, but I think I learned more this year than I ever have before.
That's somewhat surprising to me, in retrospect. My intention was to take all of my experience of past conventions and make 2016, the 30th anniversary of Dragon Con, my most eventful and memorable year yet. To do so, I was going to stay in one of the host hotels, the Marriott Marquis, and go all out on costumes. But those two things combined led to all kinds of...well, let's call it learning opportunities
So that's the view from the balcony outside our room at the Marriott. A little dizzying, but kind of pretty. And loud. Oh, so very very loud. The funnel shape of the hotel served to push ever last beat of the music and every last drunken shout right up to our door. Which would have been a lot of fun if I was drunkenly shouting right back down. But I didn't...which leads to Dragon Con Lesson Number 1: Drink more!
Seriously. I ended up spending a lot of my time at the convention dealing with check in and check out, finishing costumes, trying to coordinate with other people, and all kinds of other things. And it meant that I simply did not take enough time to enjoy myself. Not to say that drinking is the only way to enjoy yourself (far from it), but it serves to illustrate that I did not allow myself to relax, at least not until sometime Sunday afternoon, after most of the con was already over. So next year, as bad as it sounds, I'll actually try to be a bit more selfish, and focus on having my own bit of fun.
To be sure, a good portion of the stress I felt was self-imposed. As I said, I had dedicated myself to trying to put together some really solid costumes this year. In years past, I have done very little cosplay myself--instead focusing on helping others do theirs. But I learned two important lessons about doing my own costume. First, I feel awkward in costume. So going forward I will make sure that future costumes I wear make me feel more comfortable.
But much more importantly, Dragon Con Lesson Number 2: Finish your costume!
That's a picture of the lightsabers I built this year for a group costume. (If you are so inclined, you can watch me build them on my YouTube channel) What's important about that picture? It was taken with the sabers laying on the floor of my hotel room, late Thursday night, after I had finished building them IN THE FREAKING HOTEL ROOM. It was a huge amount of stress to put on myself at the last minute. And because I had to finish them, my "emergency tool kit" grew to basically become "all of the tools and extra parts I own". That meant taking two extra large heavy boxes that I shouldn't have needed.
And dealing with all that extra baggage leads me to Dragon Con Lesson Number 3: Plan Better!
Having never stayed in a host hotel, I didn't have experience with just how difficult and how much stress was involved with checking in, checking out, and dealing with the crowds. I had always heard the phrase "Go down to go up" but I didn't really understand what it meant until it came time to get back to my room Friday night. Now don't get me wrong, I expect to deal with crowds at con. But being forced to carry two 40 lbs suitcases down 26 flights of stairs in order to avoid a 1.5 hour wait for an elevator spot, just so I could make checkout time and a (delayed) scheduled meeting to retrieve my transportation, which ended up being parked 3 blocks away instead of in the hotel parking lot was kind of tough. Sitting here writing almost a week later, my arms are still sore.
So next year, none of that crap! I know when I will arrive at the hotel (as early as possible Thursday morning), I know where I will park my car (with the freaking valet, not halfway across the city), and I know when I will pack up my things and prepare for checkout (Sunday afternoon). Helping to plan all of these logistical annoyances will only give me more time to enjoy myself (See Lesson Number 1)
So as I write this, I realize I'm being pretty negative and making it sound like I had a bad time. I, in fact, had an amazing time. Why? BECAUSE DRAGON CON, THAT'S WHY. For example, those lightsabers? They went towards making this costume possible:
That's our Powerpuff Girls/Jedi mashup. I have never been involved in a costume that got a response like this one did. People absolutely loved it! Any time we paused to pose for a picture, we would have to stand there for 5 minutes while more and more people came over and took their own pics. It was a ton of fun, even as I stood there awkwardly in the back (did I mention I'm not very comfortable in costume or getting my picture taken?) But it truly made me feel very proud, hearing people tell us how much they not only loved the costume itself, but the idea of it as well.