Conventional Wisdom

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This year I went to an overwhelming number of conventions.  A lot.  A total of 12 this year, with two falling on the same weekend.  Since I am wrapping up my convention season and I learned a lot from the experience,  I figured my blog would be the best avenue for discussion.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to visit as many conventions as I could.  I figured it would be a fantastic endeavor considering I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere of cosplay, being surrounded by people with like minds and having the opportunity to travel.

And travel I did.  I visited Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Kansas City – along with some common stops within Arkansas to watch my local conventions grow.  On average, I was in a different city at least once a month this year, and I couldn’t have been happier with the experience.

Company, Not Quantity

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One thing I made sure to do while traveling this year was to  visit cons both large and small.  I went to the largest North American convention, Anime Expo and likely one of the smallest, Anime Con Arkansas.  I had a blast at both.

In both cases, I enjoyed myself so thoroughly not because of the number of people attending (or lack thereof), but because I surrounded myself with quality people.  I went to Anime Con Arkansas with some of my best friends.  We sang karaoke; we hobbled around the convention hall after getting cut off of Fireball shots at the Flying Saucer –  we enjoyed ourselves despite having relatively nothing to do at the convention.

While the Arkansas convention scene was usual, expected and comfortable, I went to Anime Expo nearly blind of the territory and without really knowing the people I would be staying with.  I returned still blind, since I lost my glasses in the Pacific Ocean, but invigorated by having made new friends that share the same zeal as me.

Conversely, there were a few cons I visited this year that I observed mostly alone.  While I wouldn’t even begin to say I didn’t enjoy myself at these conventions, there is something to be said about having partners in crime.  Whether it’s helping a friend with his passion for art or simply contracting a solid crew for your convention, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have someone to share in the experience and make it all the more memorable.

Passion For The Community

Over the years I’ve been a cosplayer, a photographer with shaky hands, a dealer’s room enthusiast and an art salesman assisting a friend.  Next year, I plan on being a panelist.

The point being – whatever your convention passion is, live it and breathe it.  As a cosplayer, I strive to be a good representation of the character I am cosplaying as, even if it is obscure.  Especially if it is obscure.  As a photographer I took pictures of moments and not just costumes – some of my favorite photos and videos are from Nan Desu Kan, where so many random gatherings happened that I was able to enjoy despite flying solo.  At several cons this year, helping a friend sell art gave me unimaginable joy.  The short interactions with people, the enthusiastic remarks (even if some become predictable) and the knowledge that I am helping a friend while enjoying myself – I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Learn your passions and explore them.  Then find new ones and enrich your life.

The Broadening Convention Demographic

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One of the trends I’ve noticed and celebrated over the past few years, especially after having visited so many conventions this year, is the widening of the age group considered acceptable at conventions.

When I visited my first convention (A2F in 2008), I thought my group of friends was an outlier in the convention scene.  College adults who enjoyed anime and wearing costumes.  But while that still is the case to some extent at A2F – to a fault since its demographic is aging past its target audience – it is certainly not the case for the majority of conventions I attended.

Most conventions are adopting more adult activities and I’m not just talking hentai night.  Late night readings of bad fan-fiction.  Lounges to drink and talk about anime.  There’s way more (interesting) things to do as an adult at a convention these days, and most conventions are beginning to follow suit with offering the expanded content.

Onward and Outward

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I’m not sure if I will attend the same volume of conventions next year, but I’ll definitely be a serial con-goer.

My goal is a little broader for next year – both in scope and in reach.  I’d like to visit at least the top 5 largest anime conventions in the United States next year, but also revisit Japan for Comiket.

One of the things I have learned about myself over the past year  is that I love travel.  New places bring life to me like nothing else – and the experience is energizing.  I would not have discovered this if not for the pull that conventions have had on me.

So get out there and live your passion.  Anime, comics, anything.  You’ll definitely learn something about yourself in the process.

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