Beginners Guide to All Things Geek
My Top Five Survival Tips for Conventions
By Candace Zahnzinger
Ok, I am sure your first question is who am I and what authority do I have to give anyone advice on this topic? Well, I am Candace Zahnzinger, and I am a geek. I, like many others, was a geek long before it was socially acceptable. I have been gaming for almost 20 years now and attended more gaming conventions than I can count. The local Renaissance Faire was established the same year I was born (coincidence? I think not). I’ve gone to anime conventions, and I am the store manager at Medieval Starship, a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store). In my free time I like to paint miniatures, write, read and play games, ALL GAMES. So yes, I am a geek. For a small chunk of my childhood I even had the taped together glasses.
Your next question might be, well who is this guide for? Almost everyone. Geek culture is taking the world by storm and is no longer a stigma to be overcome. If you are a person who just wants to torment those of us who are proud to let our geek flag fly, it’s not for you. However, if there is a small shred somewhere within the depths of your soul, a glimmering childlike spark that can’t help saying “… and knowing is half the battle,” anytime someone says “Now you know,” then stick around and read a few of my handy tips.
1. Let the proverbial dice fall where they may.
What does that mean? It means don’t cheat or cheat others. What does it matter if you fudge a dice roll at a gaming convention? In the grand scheme, it means nothing, but if you are lying or cheating to get ahead during a GAME, you are seriously doing something wrong. Wait, but if I find something on the ground or on a bench though, and no one is around, I can keep it right? Don’t be that person. Every convention has a lost and found or a check-in desk, turn it in. Even if it is the coolest prop you have ever laid eyes on, or the plainest, TURN IT IN. When someone discovers that they misplaced a piece of their costume or gaming paraphernalia, it can ruin their entire experience. There are rare cases when it is within your power to change the course of someone’s day. This is one of those occasions. WWCKD
2. Treat others with respect.
You might think this is self explanatory, right? It is, and yet, with each convention, each faire, it always is an issue. This is the golden rule. We learn this in Kindergarten. In the time it took me to type that sentence, someone just had their dreams trampled on by some thoughtless individual. It takes nerve, real nerve, to put yourself out there for the world. People who dress in costumes for faires & conventions deserve respect. Not for pretending to be something they aren’t, rather for embracing who they are inside. Many convention goers spend hundreds of dollars, possibly more on their costumes. Many painstakingly craft every piece by hand. But, she’s only wearing a corset! So what? Many anime/comic characters have interesting garment choices. You try fighting crime in a miniskirt and pigtails… in heels, no less. You can look, please look. Admire the craftsmanship that went into the pieces of her costume, that doesn’t mean you can harass or touch. Same goes for the ladies too, just because he may be Batman with the infamous “nipple armor”, show respect… and no tweaking.
3. Push yourself – just a little bit
Going to conventions can and should be fun. They have more potential for fun though, when you step up your game. Make a new piece for your costume. Try the new technique even if everyone told you it was crazy. Get into your persona even more than last time. Do the extra gaming session or the Q&A panel. Try the new game you have been hearing all about. This brings us to…
4. Go outside your comfort zone
Yes, you can go to a convention or faire and be the same person every time, do the same events every time. Odds are you will meet the same people, and you’ll have fun. It’s safe, but unlikely you will have a mind blowing time. Everyone is at a convention for the same reasons, to share their love of this one genre. Step outside your little bubble, meet someone new or try a new genre, maybe both… if you’re feeling extra bold. You never know when a staggeringly, unforgettable moment is just waiting for you to find it.
5. Have Fun
Considering this is all about gaming conventions, anime conventions and renaissance faires, you would think this wouldn’t even need to be a “thing”. Yet here it is, and I saved it for last. It is, in my mind, the most important tip of all. If you are going to these events and aren’t having fun, something is wrong, very wrong. I understand that conventions have prizes. Costume contests can have big cash awards and for some that makes it a job. If you aren’t having fun though, trust me it will show. I have heard quotes implying that people should only dress as something or someone that they have the body type to represent accurately. That’s a load of kryptonite if you ask me. If you are 300lb female, and want to be Superman… be Superman. Just don’t be Aquaman… Aquaman sucks. I’m kidding, you can even be Aquaman. If an alien can grow up to be a super-villain, then you’ll be just fine.
Are any of these hard and fast rules? Of course they aren’t. They are just a few tips that I have learned over many years of experience. Will any of them win you awards at conventions? Nope. Sorry, I am not the one who gets to judge. You might just make some friends… which are probably better then awards anyway. These are meant to be good common sense guidelines for newbie and veteran alike. Hopefully, if you keep these tips in mind, you will be well on your way to an enjoyable convention experience.
So if you learned anything from this, I did my job. If you didn’t, but you enjoyed some of the references I tucked throughout, I did my job. If you would like to keep up with some of my musings you can follow me on:
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