Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dragon Con 2015 is in the Books. So, How Many More Days is it Until Dragon Con 2016?



Freaking awesome.

That’s the only way to describe it. Dragon Con 2015 was just freaking awesome.

We got in early Wednesday morning because of Dragon Con volunteer commitments I had on Wednesday evening. Check in at our hotel was quick, easy, and largely without a hitch. We tend to stay a ways down the road rather than in host hotels because it’s a little kinder to our wallets and *bonus* our hotel of choice is right across the street from the Five Points MARTA station. That tends to make getting in to Dragon Con in the morning is a snap.

Wednesday evening after I finished my volunteer assignment is when I noticed the difference between this year’s con and previous years’ cons. Thursday is no longer the new Friday, Wednesday is. There was a nice crowd, some in full costume, already inhabiting the atriums of the host hotels Wednesday night and already working hard at getting their party on.

There was also a lot of activity around the host hotels that was absolutely con related. People were zipping in and out of the local eateries in full Dragon Con revelry mode, and, again, some of them already in full, elaborate costumes.

Thursday- being my only marathon day of volunteer duty -was a little hectic, but I still had a number of breaks during the day to stretch my legs and see the growing crowds forming in the main social centers (okay, bars) in the hotels. By that evening the convention crowds were out in full force. The Dragon Con vibe and energy was already turned up to 11, and it was impossible to not walk around with a huge grin plastered on my face. 

Friday morning kicked off the convention proper, and from there it literally becomes a blur. Seriously, by Monday afternoon I was referring to things that happened “last night” when they actually happened on Friday or Saturday night. But it was a good blur, one filled with cool stuff, fun times, and friends old and new.

One highlight memory for me had to be from the gaming area hidden away deep in the bowels of the Hilton. My son has spent the last few years wanting to go down to the gaming area to play some of the (actually really cool) games they’re playing down there. He’s also had a massive desire to play the mech battle video game they have. The two problems in prior years were his issue with wanting to make up board game rules as he was playing them and the cost of the mech battle game vs. his aptitude for such games. Well, at this point he still has the first issue to a small degree, but he’s much better with video games these days. The price for playing was still a bit steep by my estimations, but it didn’t seem as much like throwing away money at this point.

What followed was hilarious. I only played it the one time the first day we tried them, and his eventual number of kills vs. the number of times he was killed in the game were better than my one go at it, but the hilarity was in how he played it. Basically, your goal is to kill other mechs while trying to not get killed. If you’re killed, you respawn in the fight zone and once again enter into the battle with guns and missiles blazing.

I let him play the game solo the first round we tried it. I took a seat just outside the roped off area and started chatting with others while watching the live-feed video monitor showing clips of the battle. About a minute or two into the game, everyone started noticing a sound emanating from the far side of the row of video game pods. It was the sound of screaming. One of the volunteers working the game area walked over to the pod, slid the door ever so slightly open, took a quick look inside, and slid it closed again before walking away laughing.

My son was getting so into the game that when engaging the other mechs he was loudly screaming an assortment of battle cries ranging from the simple “Yaaaah!” and “Yahoo!” to “Geronimo!” with the last one in a really bad English accent. Yes, he’s a huge Matt Smith Doctor fan. He could be heard by people playing board games on the first few rows of tables. It almost became a game with the volunteers to try to cheer him on and amp up his excitement levels as high as possible on the next two rounds he played.

Outside of another trip to the gaming area, my kids planted themselves (and thus my wife) firmly in the Puppetry Track whenever I was putting in my volunteer hours. I can’t say enough about how great the Puppetry Track is or about how great it is that Dragon Con has been growing the parts of their show for the younger geeks out there.

Of course, the Puppetry Track isn’t just for kids. My wife and I made it to the Late Night Puppet Slam and laughed ridiculously loud at humor that would have fit right in at a drunken college party. Well, we mostly laughed ridiculously. By that point of the con the hours were hitting me and I started crashing before the end of the show, leading us to leave before the finish. But there was that nice moment where one of the acts worked very hard at waking anyone up who may have needed a boost of adrenalin by literally bringing the stage crashing down. No, it wasn’t planned as a part of the act. Oddly, it only made later parts of her act funnier. However, thanks to one of the only PG skits in this year’s Puppet Slam, I’ve now had yet another segment of the original Star Wars forever changed in my brain. Changed in a funny way, but still completely turned on its head.

Speaking of laughing, we also made it to the Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show. Well, actually we initially only made it to the line for the show. The room was filled to capacity with a rather sizable chunk of the line still outside of the room. We finally made it inside with about 15 minutes of show left. I may never be able to view Manimal or Back to the Future the same way again…

I think I had only one moment where I may have had a total geekout moment and babbled like a fanboy idiot, and that was when meeting (twice) and talking with James Randi and his husband Deyvi Peña (better known for years as Jose Alvarez.) As a longtime fan of The Amazing Randi and having had for years now held a huge respect for his life’s work, it was one of the big highlights of my con this year.

Looking over the other Needless Things recaps of Dragon Con 2015 so far found here, here, here, and here, it looks like some of my additional planned recapping would be a bit of a duplication of the prior posts. That being the case, from this point forward I’ll (quite uncharacteristically) stick to the short version.

It was (officially) four days (but actually unofficially six days this year) of pure geek joy. No matter how busy I was at any point in the con, no matter how tired I was at any point in the con, you likely couldn’t have gotten the grin off of my face without a jackhammer. There was spectacle, there was a small ton of events, and was a lot of that great, amazing, and unique Dragon Con vibe and energy. More importantly than all of that, there was a lot of time spent with old friends and new.

Looking over rough drafts and the final run-through on this, from the stuff that’s been scrapped to the stuff that made it in, something annoying occurs to me. For me, recapping most cons is easy. Recapping Dragon Con is actually kind of hard.

Yeah, it’s easy to say that I did panel ‘X’ in the Horror Track where they discussed ‘Y’ to the great interest of the audience or that I meet celebrities A, B, and C, but such descriptions always leave something out when it comes to Dragon Con. There’s an intangible to Dragon Con that I’m never able to satisfactorily describe with written words. There’s a vibe and energy there that just makes everything at Dragon Con that much more fun. It’s the thing that makes so many attendees and guests say, and not just while at Dragon Con itself, that they love doing the various conventions every year, but it’s Dragon Con that they really look forward to year after year.

The best way to recap Dragon Con for those who have never been is probably to not recap it, but rather to give a simple instruction. Just go already. Go get your memberships. Get them early while the costs are lower. Join a group on Facebook like Dragon Con Newbies so that you can ask questions in a group that will answer them to the best of their ability about how to make the most of it and maybe cut some costs here and there. Go, spend four days (or more) at DragonCon and find out what’s missing in the written words that you see flooding blogs and social media every year in the days and weeks following Labor Day.

Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek. When not doing geek things here or at conventions, he can be found here https://jjchandler.wordpress.com/ or here https://twitter.com/TheJJChandler on the World Wide Web.

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