Fun fact: Years ago, I thought DragonCon was only a convention for fans of The Dragonriders of Pern. Surprise, surprise.
I mentioned making my Very First Con trip to D*C earlier this year, and someone expressed surprise that out of all the cons I could pick for a first time, I went with the largest con in the Southeast. Every year DragonCon lures tens of thousands to downtown Atlanta, filling the streets with cosplay classics like World of Warcraft or newer memes like “margarita savior” (that is, Jimmy Buffett) from Jurassic World. This is our Comic Con, sprawled across five hotels and a not insignificant chunk of a major metro area.
Maybe it wasn’t the most responsible choice for a guy with anxiety issues, but it was definitely a good one.
This weekend, as part of my coverage for Geeks with Wives, I’ll try to bring you a day-to-day diary of a first-time con goer’s first trip to the biggest and broadest ranging con in the South. Diary day one: overprepping for newbies, or, how to make sure you’re everybody’s best friend at parties.
1. POWER UP: ONE MAN SHOULD, IN FACT, HAVE ALL THAT POWER.
I am so aggressively committed to being the guy who can charge your stuff in a pinch that I have genuinely forgotten to bring necessary items like, say, socks, in favor of checking and re-checking that I brought both a micro usb charger and my own phone charger.
This year I tossed in a power strip. On my first trek through the Sheraton, Hyatt, and Marriot host hotels, I passed so many folks hoarding outlets that I knew I’d made the right decision. Who wants to be the guy who has to circle three floors to find a space to charge? Nobody.
You want to be the guy who walks up, whips out six extra outlets, and immediately makes five friends. I cannot guarantee it will make you cool. But I can guarantee it will make you useful, and being useful makes becoming friends very easy. Impress people with your foresight to buy you time to charm them with your sparkling wit.
2. DOWNLOAD THE APP. USE 5% OF THE APP.
If your con comes with an app, download it. Fill out your profile. You will use exactly one feature on your app: the schedule. I downloaded the DragonCon app a week early, and it’s been incredibly helpful for flagging panels I want to go to and figuring out a schedule that won’t overtax my meager reserves of social energy.
You probably won’t use the app for anything else, and there will undoubtedly be a flurry of great features and some built-in social networking. But the calendar is enough. Don’t be too good for that 5%, especially if you need to carefully mete out your “big crowds” time like me. And don’t be afraid to overbook yourself on that calendar app: if the line is too long for your first choice panel, you’ll be glad you already marked down a second.
3. WEAR SENSIBLE SHOES.
“This is literally the dumbest advice anyone has ever tried to give me,” is what I know you are saying to yourself right now. But you need it anyway. If you’re not cosplaying, wear good shoes. If you’re cosplaying someone in a suit or casual clothes, wear good shoes that pass for cosplay appropriate shoes. I tried to wear cool “comfortable” shoes today and after three hours decided to wear my half marathon training shoes for the rest of the weekend because I know they won’t hurt me after eight miles. Fellow first timers, nobody cares about your feet except you, so just wear the good shoes.
4. ANXIETY BONUS: YOU COME FIRST.
I’m not kidding about this anxiety business. More than ten people in one room weirds me out. And yet here I am, in a con whose attendees span probably a dozen hotels in downtown Atlanta. If you have medication, take it diligently in the days (or weeks, or months) leading up to your con. Pack it first.
Schedule quiet time into your calendar. Reserve energy for the trips to and from the hotel, because the sidewalk will be crowded. Don’t be afraid to make new friends who can help you navigate your favorite tracks. Don’t be afraid to pass on a party if going means you won’t be in a good place the next day. We all want our first con to be amazing, but it’s not worth risking bad memories by disrespecting your own limits. And don’t be afraid to ask others to respect them as well!
As I write this, there’s a crew of tabletop gamers across the room. Cosplayers are heading out to explore the hotels and the satellite events downtown. New guests are checking in, already displaying their badges. I’m not from a tiny town, exactly, but this is a totally different energy than what I’m used to, and honestly it’s pretty rad knowing I am definitely the least knowledgeable nerd in a given room (which isn’t exactly a high bar).
This is going to be a tough weekend, but I know it’s also going to be one of the most exciting and interesting weekends of my young nerd life. Keep an eye out at Geeks with Wives for our DragonCon coverage this weekend — and if you’re attending too, share your own great pics and tales with us on Twitter @GeeksWithWives!