Conventions

“Chimichanga!” rings out from some corner of the expo hall. Others echo it, and soon there’s a conga line snaking its way through the attendees buying books, action figures; collectables of all kinds. I’m surround by other-worldly creatures and people.

This might seem like chaos with all the caped heroes dashing about.

Actually, its a finely tuned machine.

My first convention was Sakura-Con when I was fourteen or fifteen, back when it was still split between two hotels. The convention has grown so much since then, now the largest anime convention in the Pacific Northwest.

As I got older, I started to attend PAX, back before there were four, back when it was the Hunger Games to get a three-day pass. If I’m realistic, its still quite the challenge to get a three or four-day pass because of how fast the convention has grown.

I started to work at Sakura-Con after high school, when I ran into a few friends. And that changed my enjoyment of Sakura-Con even more because I got to spend it with friends and helping people with their experience. I still got to be involved in the community without necessarily just being there to attend – which I had grown bored doing.

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Photo credit: Me. Rogue and Gambit at Sakura-Con 2011 or 2013?

With my experience at Sakura-Con, I was able to become an Enforcer for PAX West. Working at a convention was more enjoyable than being an attendee.

My interests were waning. I watched less anime, played more video games and read more comics. I checked out Emerald City Comic-Con, and then moved to the East Coast for school.

After a one year hiatus from attending any nerdy conventions, I dove back into being an Enforcer, only now for PAX East.

After all of the setup was done, and the following morning the crowds were lined up across the bridge, I realized I had missed this. I missed the excitement of fans, fandom, and the community. They say you don’t miss something until its gone, and while my hiatus was voluntary, I missed the nerdy community.

Being surrounded by strangers who were all there to celebrate fandom, and a hobby that had shaped their life is a comfort. Its easy to fall in conversation with strangers while standing in line because you already have a common denominator. Much of that anxiety can be swept aside because you can talk about the fandom you’re passionate about.

My friend Katie and I attended Boston Comic-Con (BCC) last year, and we weren’t disappointed with all the fun we had. We’ve talked about attending conventions together because we enjoyed talking about our love of comics, fanfiction, and nerd culture. Not to mention using this weekend to get nerdy tattoos.

And here I am on the eve of year two of BCC stoked to dive into the community.

Convention Life

A group of red-hooded figures sing about chimichangas behind us, as I wandered the aisle with Katie. We paused at a booth and skimmed through their stacks. Occasionally someone would ask if we were looking for anything, or shout a deal to entice customers. A couple hundred booths fanned out from the entrance, filling the rectangular expo hall to the brim.

That doesn’t include the attendees who crowded the aisles like ants to a dropped chip on a sidewalk. They’re everywhere.

But that’s how I like it.

I started attending conventions when I was in middle school.

Back then, it was a small anime convention held in a single hotel on the noisy flight path of the Sea-Tac airport. There were only a few thousand people then. Now its a convention that boasts over 20,000 attendees, and is one of the largest and oldest anime conventions in the Pacific Northwest.

I started attending other conventions over the years – including Emerald City Comic-Con, and the largest video game convention synonymous with my hometown. However the luster of going as an attendee had faded. I needed a new experience, which led me to working at the merchandise booth for that aforementioned anime convention.

It was all the experience I could ever want, and more. I worked on an amazing staff, who are some of my close friends. That gave me the boost to become an Enforcer at that large video game convention.

And then I stopped.

My life had changed directions, and conventions were out of my price range. I was attending school full-time, and had moved to an area I did not know. I had taken a break for nearly a year, when I felt that itch.

I needed to go.

I missed that feeling of jumping into a rousing discussion of headcanon and meta without receiving odd looks. The shouts of fans as they attempted to get the attention of that amazing cosplayer stepping onto the escalator. My only problem became I did not know anyone who shared these interests.

A perk of being an Enforcer is that I can pick up and drop attending conventions based on my ability. So I enlisted myself for the local video game convention and contacted my friend to see if she still had space in her department for a lackey. And suddenly I was in.

When I walked into BCEC out of the 10 degree chill that winter morning, I took in the hustle and bustle of set-up. The doors wouldn’t open to the public for t-minus 24 hours and counting, but it felt alive already.

I checked in, got my badge, and headed to work. Within 30 minutes of being there, I was hauling boxes and setting up the press/media room. I did sign up to be a lackey.

It was 15 degrees out. Or something ridiculous like that.
It was 15 degrees out. Or something ridiculous like that.

The doors opened with much fanfare and a line that stretched as far as I could see across the bridge.

People were everywhere. And I hadn’t felt so much at home in a long time.

There’s something to be said about feeling at home in a convention center teeming with people. But that was where I felt the most comfortable.

Conventions had become that home away from home. I was among fellow geeks/nerds/etc. Outlandish discussions were commonplace, and otherworldly outfits were the norm.

So when Katie and I decided to attend Boston Comic-Con, it was like returning to my roots.

I finally got to meet my long-time online writer friend, spend another weekend in the only part of Boston I knew and expand my convention home once more.

This weekend was everything I could have ever asked for and more. Katie and I got some tattoos that are equal parts nerdy and self-empowering as a celebration of our friendship. We met a woman who is so incredibly humble, infinitely intelligent and insightful, and beautiful. She plays the brilliant character our tattoos are based off of. Rather than hit up a bar, we stayed in our hotel, and talked over cider or Malibu about fanfiction, writing, comics, and everything imaginable.

We didn’t want to go back to our nine-to-fives the next day. The whole experience was like a dream we didn’t want to wake up from.

Unfortunately we both had drives home ahead – hers quadruple the length of mine. And suddenly after meeting up in that hotel lobby on Friday, we were standing outside a T station hugging on Sunday.

Conventions aren’t just where nerds convene, or front-running political candidates are decided. Its where friendships grow, and are fostered.

Next time I won’t wait so long.