Conventions aren’t just for die-hards any more. Since the explosion of comic book and video game fandom these gatherings have been rapidly expanding to cover all sorts of hobbies and fandoms, from Gundam to Supernatural. If you’re a newcomer to the scene you might find your first convention a confusing blur of sound, colour, and lots of people of both sexes dressed as the Tenth Doctor. This feeling never passes, but there are some things you should keep in mind on convention weekend to see you through with fun memories (and a still-existing bank balance…)
Shower and deodorant are your friends on the convention trail. I can’t stress this enough. Convention halls are very crowded, very sweaty places no matter what time of year it is, and the added stench of yesterday’s body odour is the last thing you want added to the mix.
Some of us shower everyday, some of us may not, but if we all pull together as a community and promise to shower for the benefit of all on this one special weekend in the year we can build a better, less smelly world.
2. Free Hugs
Free hugs used to be more popular, but you’ll still find the odd well-intentioned sign among the crowd. Usually, they will be younger people just coming into the scene or older hands who still remember 2009. However, if somebody comes at you with their arms open ready to embrace you, do not feel you have to indulge them, especially if they haven’t been observing point number 1 up there.
Convention halls can sometimes distort people’s concepts of personal space, so make sure you treat others with respect as well. No messing with bits of other people’s costumes.
3. Packed Lunches vs Convention Food
If you’ve ever been to a convention centre before, you know how expensive the food stalls can be. You’ll usually be far away from anywhere else that serves food, and unless you came prepared you’ll have to pay £9.00 for a meal in a box.
Before you leave, put together a lunch for the day or even grab a meal deal from the supermarket on the way to the train station – the money you save can be spent on artwork or anime figures instead!
So you’ve just spent all your money on a samurai sword within minutes of walking through the doors. What are you going to do for the rest of the weekend? Non-stop panels? Convention cash machine queues can be legendary, provided you can find one, and not all vendors take card.
Set out a maximum amount and keep it with you as cold hard cash so you can see how much you’re spending. Enlist a friend to slap the money out of your hand before you blow it all on Pocky.*
If you’re buying mostly second hand items the last day is the best – sellers are more willing to cut prices to avoid taking stock home with them.
*[Note: Pocky is a Japanese candy that’s basically tiny breadsticks covered in chocolate.]
Sometimes at anime conventions, a bright-eyed idealistic group of cosplayers will try to film something called a “Caramelldansen”. This is a group ritual where everybody is supposed to dance like this:
Caramelldansen may have been popular in 2009, but Caramelldansen is no longer cool (if it ever was). If you are asked to participate in one, just say no.
At any general convention without fail there will be a silent group of Stormtroopers in proper movie-grade costume. Nobody knows their origin or their purpose; they do not speak, but they usually like posing for photos with cosplayers as if they were detaining them for the glory of the Empire (if you ask nicely).
Be on your guard here. Any other friendship group might be a mix of characters from all sorts of different media, but the Stormtroopers? They travel in packs.
7. Panels – don’t be that guy/girl part 1
So, you’ve finally made it in to a panel to hear one of your favourite actors/artists/Pony engineers speak. You’ve had your hand up for an eternity, your arm feels like it’s about to fall off your shoulder, and you get missed again. The runner holds the mic towards the next questioner, and they ask this type of question:
Guy, please, they were in that show years ago, your favourite actor was on set being paid to do a job, you can’t expect them to even remember those details! Do you remember every little detail about your job? Actually, don’t answer that.
So yeah, I understand you’re enthusiastic and know a lot about CSI: Hoboken, but please don’t be the guy/girl that asks the most stereotypical “geek” question imaginable.
8. Panels – don’t be that guy/girl part 2
On the other end of the panel spectrum, there’s this type of question:
“Hey Lucy, love your work and I just have one question: what would Xena do if she was turned into a pigeon*?”
Oh come on, I paid good money for my time with Lucy Lawless so I could listen to her insights on the making of classic hit action show Xena: Warrior Princess, not to hear a damn pigeon question out of nowhere. This kind of random contribution is cute when it comes from anybody under 10 – less so when you’re a 25 year old cosplayer.
I understand it’s hard to come up with meaningful questions and you want your face to be remembered by your favourite guest, but please don’t be that guy/girl.
*this is based on an actual question I actually heard at an actual Con.
Are you getting ready for a convention coming soon? Have you been to one and found our advice useful? Let us know in the comments below!