The Con Game 2 – The Outsider
I think most people, should they head to a convention for something and not be a fan they’d feel like an outsider. I mean, if you go to a Star Trek con and don’t know who Data is then you will probably feel a bit out of your element. It doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy yourself but it doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun, just not as much as the people who are the big fans there. Over the years I have been to a lot of conventions, both as a vendor/artist and as a fan, and while I didn’t always fit in, I never felt out of place. The feeling that I wasn’t out of place though changed this weekend when I went to Youmacon, a big anime convention in Detroit, with my girlfriend and her brother, who is the anime fan. Youmacon is a huge fan event that is more about the fans than the guests or celebs and you can tell. See, I am used to attending conventions that are either all about their profits or that want to be about the fans but don’t go the extra mile. Not so at Youmacon. Again, I came there as an outsider and didn’t participate in the core of the weekend – the masquerade, the panels, the games, but from the outside looking in it sure looked like the fans were having a good time. I am not used to seeing a convention inhabit so much of a hotel that they were on 1. several floors and 2. had all but full run of the place. I am used to the weird looks given to fans by the hotel, or the condescension. Heck, here they had a Youmacon band playing in the open lounge that is part of the lobby. Pretty boss. Pretty surprising.
It isn’t fair to judge a con just by walking around it. I didn’t get a feel for what was done wrong and can only say what I saw that was done right, but I can give my impression, that’s fair. What made me angry was that our regional comic and also the horror convention are leagues behind what the people at Youmacon are doing. Sure, it would be cool to see more celebs there but, honestly, I am guessing it’s a bit harder to get them since a lot of them, but again, it seems like this convention is more about the fans and catering to them. What that seems to mean is giving them more interactive events, workshops, and gatherings and just more ways for them to interact. It drove me nuts to see how this convention embraced the uniqueness of the fans and made them feel welcome. The only jerks I ran into were really the vendors, who are, as a friend put it, basically carnies for conventions. Otherwise, the people seemed ok, I mean, you get the usual snobs, the weirdoes, and the ultra-geeks but shoot, those are at every con I have ever been to. All in all, a pretty impressive showing.
Which is not to say it was perfect. Gah, that was a confusing convention. For something that big and spread out they needed signs, a lot of them to direct you. And people to direct you, for sure. Oh, and phew, this, like all other cons anymore, was so pricy, so so pricy. Yipes. From an outsider’s view though, I admired the passion put into the show and the fun that people had. Too often I go to conventions and the people working it are jerks, the people running it think they know best, and either it’s too much emphasis on the immediate ‘WOW, look at the guests!’ and too little on the experience. You spend so much money going to conventions that it’s nice to have a reason not just to go but to stay. That’s where the vendors make the money – when the guests stick around and wander around a few times because they are waiting for other things to start that they want to do. The comic based cons I have done are all about – get them in, get them through, and get them out. The horror con wanted to keep people around but didn’t offer enough reasons to keep them there. So what did I learn from going to Youmacon as an outsider? That there are still some cons that care about the fan and want to make sure they are happy. I tell you what though, seeing how many come here, it’s crazy to think that the comic cons don’t cater more to the anime fans. Crazy. OH, and the fan among us had a great time, so there ya go, the best thing I could say.