I got to go to Dragoncon this year. After years of hearing about the costumes and the parties and the panels, my schedules finally aligned just right to allow me to go. Granted, I had to fly in from the rig at 6pm and turn right around to fly out to Atlanta at 9am the next morning, but remarkably everything went off without a hitch.
Now, I’ve been to Gencon a couple of times. I’ve been afloat in a sea of 30,000 gamers, cosplayers, and other assorted geeks. I thought I was ready for the Dragoncon experience, but boy was I wrong.
First off, the walking. Oh my god, the walking. Gencon takes place almost entirely in the Indiana Convention Center. It’s an enormous building, but it’s all in one spot. Panels are usually an hour or so in length, but game sessions typically run three to four hours long. It might take a few minutes to walk from one thing to another, and if you’re going to a game session you’ll be sitting for a while. Dragoncon, by contrast, is mostly nothing but panels that are spread about across four or five hotels in downtown Atlanta. Three of the hotels are connected by covered footbridges, but you still might have to walk blocks to get from one panel to another. That doesn’t take into account each hotel having multiple floors of events, either. If you go to Dragoncon, bring some good walking shoes because you’re going to be using them.
Then there were the costumes. Gencon had its share of cosplayers, but Dragoncon is one of the premiere con destinations for cosplayers. You’d see a good number during the day but they really came out at night, parading around and gathering in the hotel common areas. Just about everything I saw was brilliant and I’ll be posting a gallery of the best of them shortly.
Dragoncon is aimed much more at the general fandom crowds than Gencon, so the programming was a lot different. I got to see George Takei talk, attended several writing seminars (some of which were actually useful), attend a showing of the Dr. Horrible Picture Show (probably this generation’s equivalent of “Rocky Horror”), got to hear some famous authors dish out some excellent advice, go cosplaying myself, and generally wallow in the fandom for a holiday weekend.
There were a few hiccups, of course. I wasn’t prepared for all that walking, some bits of my costume got left behind and I had to improvise, schedules were just too full and some cool things had to be missed in favor of other cool things. But all in all it was a fantastic time, and I’m hoping to get to go again next year.