Anime, sci-fi, video games, or even Harry Potter. Fan conventions are a rainbow of passion and esoteric geekery, each one a nexus where hundreds to thousands of people gather to celebrate whatever may sway their swing, whether that be anthropomorphic fur-suits or scoring headshots in next-gen first-person-shooters.
When you find yourself at one of these jubilant menageries, it’ll be easy to get swept up in the energy of fandom and excitement. There will be dozens of things to do at any given moment, all of them calling to you like phaser-crafting sirens, and you’d probably enjoy yourself with any one of them.
But there are 8 things you should do above all others. 8 paramount quests, if you will, to get the most out of your con-going experience
Now, cosplay is not always for everyone, but there’s no way to know for sure until you try it. From my perspective, cosplay is an unmatched way of engaging a convention. Making a costume manifests that collective energy and passion into something tangible, and there’s no feeling quite like the satisfaction of putting your mind to something and seeing it completed. Well, almost. Having other people see you cosplaying their favorite character and wanting a photo is a boost of Red Bull proportions.
2. Wander the Conspace
One of the most pleasant things about a fan convention is the omnipresent festivity. Everywhere you go you will likely find something memorable, with cosplayers posing for photo shoots and meet-ups, and attendees of all ages playing games (like the infamous Glomp Circle) at every turn. Grab a camera and give yourself some time to just wander and see what there is to see. Get out of the hotel room and get your money’s worth!
3. Check the Schedule (Before and After Arriving)
Most conventions are three to five days of nonstop activity. If you just jump in headfirst, you may end up in an overwhelmed daze with chocobo chicks fluttering around your head like Roger Rabbit. The best thing you can do is plan your weekend out. Conventions will usually post tentative schedules weeks before the event, so give it a look and familiarize yourself with what you’d like to make time for. Then, when you actually arrive at the con and are given the swag bag with the finalized schedule and other goodies, look it over again and check any changes.
Knowing the schedule is the best way of preventing PCWS: post-con withdrawal syndrome (a very serious disease leading to the overconsumption of Pocky and binge-watching Netflix).
4. Visit the Dealer Hall
Exhibitors Hall, Artist Alley, call it what you will. Most conventions have a place where vendors set up booths to be perused and looted by merch-hungry con-goers. You may not have anything in mind that you’re eager to buy, but if you have a little disposable cash on you, by all means give the Dealer Hall a visit. You may just find something to complete (or kick-off) that wallet-purging collection of yours.
Now, you’ll laugh and think this step doesn’t need mentioned, but then it’ll happen. You’ll be walking through the conspace, when suddenly a smell like cheese grown in someone’s old trench-foot-filled boot finds its way into your nose. That’s it. You’ve been swatted in the face with the dreaded con-funk (or HOBO). Trust me, showering always needs mentioned.
6. Eat Real Food
Another seemingly unnecessary rule, but man wasn’t made to live on Doritos and Bawls alone! Make sure you eat food with some sort of nutritious value. Conventions choose their locations wisely; you will usually be able to find restaurants, grocery stores or convenience stores within a couple blocks of the con. It can be easy to get caught up in things and forget to feed yourself, but make it a priority. Don’t go days with nothing but artificial cheese powder in your stomach. Fuel yourself with actual food.
7. Make Connections
You’ll meet some pretty awesome people when you go to a con. The last thing you’ll want to do is return home after it’s over and realize you forgot to swap contact info. Even in the age of Facebook, trying to find people without contact info can be a Sisyphean bummer. So, if you hit it off with someone, make sure you get an email address or a friend request. Your social life will thank you.
8. Be a Gracious Attendee
This is by far the most important rule of them all. Fan conventions are more or less ambassadors of geekdom. We are the faces by which people and cities judge the entire subculture. When a convention books a space, it is the attendees’ duty to show that space (hotel, convention center, etc.) that the con is a good thing, that con-goers are pleasant to be around and worth having back for another year. When con attendees trash the local parks and disrespect the local employees and businesses, it reflects poorly on the whole community. Be a gracious attendee. Show respect so that the convention can continue to grow and provide awesome experiences for years to come.
Be excellent to each other.