So I survived my first time being involved with a con rather than just attending. I have to say the experience was incredible, and more than a little humbling. I remarked about this on Twitter but I’ll easily reiterate that any adults out there who feel they have a strong passion for their favorite hobby or fandom have forgotten the fervor teenagers can have for theirs. If nothing else, it was a shot of reality about how pervasive the enjoyment of geek culture has really soaked into our youth. It was incredibly fun seeing the kids immersing themselves into their favorite things and standing side by side with others and their fandoms to experience those as well. All of this fun was had with zero judgment.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving for set up was that our venue was much larger than I expected. Honestly, my expectations for this entire thing were on the small side. I had never been to this particular library branch but the sister branch in my area, though not tiny, isn’t what I would call spacious for a con. Well, turns out that they have a large space at the Spencer Branch off of the actual library with large meeting facilities. So my fear of “where are we going to house the over 250 pre-registrants” was unwarranted. I was shown to my booth in the exhibit hall and was then shown my Panel Room.
In hindsight, asking for a booth in the exhibit hall was something of a misstep on my part. I didn’t fully grasp what that hall would be, again an underestimate on my part…I had this issue a lot. It was a true blue Vendor Hall, and there wasn’t a shortage of Vendors either. I had nothing to sell and my intention was to just be available for anyone to continue conversation on a one on one basis after my Panel ended. This worked out great, mind you, but it also caused a little confusion for some as they assumed all my awesome RPG stuff was for sale and I had to keep clarifying that it wasn’t. I felt bad that I kept disappointing folks.
My panel was pretty awesome. Unfortunately, it was housed in one of the smallest conference rooms but at first I didn’t consider this an issue because I had this nagging feeling that not a single kid would show. Because I felt like my panel would utterly fail, I was actually kind of happy to be hidden away in the smallest room. I was wrong (thankfully) I ended up not only having a full room, but they even had to bring in more seating! I think it was at this point I decided to stop inwardly second guessing myself and just go full fledged into enjoying whatever came my way here.
The room, though small, ended up being pretty close to the perfect size. I started out just explaining what Tabletop RPGs are, using my typical comparison of a board game mixed with acting and cooperative storytelling. After that I realized pretty quick that everyone just wanted to sort of dive in so I let them all know they could page through the books at their leisure and I walked around answering questions about different systems and got a little more in depth about certain rules and even the different tools certain games utilize to work. They found it pretty cool that the game Dread, for instance, uses a Jenga tower rather than dice. The whole thing was far less formal than the larger panels I’ve attended at cons in the past but let’s be honest, these teens didn’t really want to just sit there and listen to me talk. They wanted to pal around with their buddies while checking out this “RPG stuff” to see if it was any fun.
My panel was first thing in the morning so I then headed to my booth where I fielded more questions from some of the kids who followed me out there and even met with some kids who didn’t get the chance to make it to the panel but still wanted to chat with me. I had a lot of fun sitting there, and it gave me a good chance to look around at some of the other vendors & con guests as well. I can say with certainty that roughly 70% or more of the attendees were there for Anime. I’m an anime fan as well, I certainly enjoyed my fair share of it growing up and still do to an extent but I do not recall knowing a ton of other kids liking it all that much growing up. Another strong showing were the many Dr. Who fans. That show has a serious following among our youth. It’s actually kind of crazy how many Cosplay Doctors were there! Honestly, the many many cosplayers at this con were awesome.
I ended up leaving around midafternoon as the kids interested in my shtick had waned away and, like I had mentioned, my booth was confusing to some since I had nothing to sell. Some of my more unique experiences include meeting one of the co-creators of Geekway to the West, who’s name I either failed to get or (to my shame) forgot, and meeting Mike Wilkerson of 2 Guys Talking, a local Podcasting network. There’s a lot of great Podcasts on his site, you should check them out. By far though the best thing about the con was interacting with some really great kids and hopefully introducing them to this hobby I enjoy so much. Allthough, I know at least one girl knew about D&D, she was excited to let me know that her grandfather loves the game ha ha! Who knows maybe they’ll give it a try some day. I already have some ideas for how I’ll handle next year, were I to be asked to return (here’s hoping)!
Lastly before I leave this post to rest I have to thank the event’s coordinator and creator Maggie Melson. Thank you Maggie for giving me a chance to do something as unique as this, it was honestly a blast! If anyone wants to check out the Twitter feed from the con the hastage was #TeenFanCon. There are a bunch of cool pics people took there too! If anyone has any comments or suggestions for what I could bring to the table next year feel free to hit me up below!