I loved every aspect of Gen Con. I’d spend all year planning my costume extravaganza (four days’ worth!), take off work, and then throw caution and sanity to the four winds and get my serious geek on with other very serious geeks indeed. I loved taking the time to talk to every single vendor, game developer, artist, and author, especially the independent ones. I’d spend my entire year’s worth of savings on Swag. I squeed at celebrities and cooed at the kiddies dressed up as their favorite characters. I hit all the parties I could and then, at the end, I’d pass out on Sunday night in full-on Con Coma made of Exhausted Geek Happy.
Needless to say, this means I was incredibly excited to jump back into the Con scene. I decided not to dress up this year, mainly because this is Florida in August, and who wants to pass out from heat stroke walking from the parking lot to the Con? I also bought our tickets well in advance, so score 2 for the Writer Monkey.
This was also the first time the Con was in the Tampa Bay Convention Center, what turned out to be a lovely venue. Parking is cheap, and convenient. Score 3!
- 11:00 am: First impression is…OMG the people! The traffic in downtown Tampa is bumper to bumper, and the geeks are swarming over the Convention Center like freshly-hatched baby Aliens over an unsuspecting supporting player. Or an unannounced Nathan Fillion. *checks phone for updates* No. *disappointed*
- 11:15 am: We bypass the epically insane line crawling out the door of the convention center alternately sweltering and melting out in the Florida heat. HA! The Tech Monkey and I swan on in through the nearest entrance. After all, we’ve already bought our tickets. Approximately thirty seconds later we are halted mid-swan by another line, wherein we are told by an annoyed convention staffer that no, this is the line for everyone, we were just lucky enough to find the apparently Sooper Sekrit line out of the heat. We join the line snaking its way through a dark room until we end up at the opposite end of the center. Why did we bother purchasing tickets ahead of time if we’re still standing in line anyway? Am smugly proud of my fellow geeks–everyone is courteous and calm, and excited to be here. This is the perfect opportunity for photo ops with people in some really cool costumes. Lots of Doctors, always a bonus.
- 11:45 am: Oh that’s why we’re standing in line. It’s the line to get into line. We just came in from the opposite end of the sun-stroked masses finally making their way in from outside in yet another line to get into line. This is because convention organizers thought that one booth each for cash, credit card, and pre-orders would be sufficient. With two staffers working each. Two. Seriously, the crush in here has to be seen to be believed. Holy Wow, Batman!
- 11:55 am: Our booth staffer levels up to being my own personal hero by giving us two-day pass bracelets so we don’t have to go through this again tomorrow. Of course, a weekend two-day pass should have been an available purchase option to begin with. I had to buy two one-day passes for each day. By noon we’re in the Exhibition Hall. For some reason only one of six or eight doors is open for all the people coming and going. Expecting fans to arrive with a battering ram at any moment to crack this bitch open.
- 12:15 am: I spy my first Epic Convention Swag Find of the day–a primo edition of a Sandman comic, signed by Neil Gaiman and authenticated/certified. My desperate squees go unheeded as I am carried away by the floodtide. It’s soon clear that no one, including a lot of the vendors, were expecting this level of Epic Mob. And there were still thousands of people in line behind us. The stank up in here is going to be of troll proportions by the afternoon. There is very little room between the aisles, and before long an announcement on the loudspeaker assures everyone they’ve opened up another room so people have a place to sit out of the crush. Wait, they had more rooms available? Then why the hell aren’t we utilizing All The Space?
- 12:20 pm: The Stars of the Con are announced. Maisie Williams! Lauren Cohen! Chad Coleman! Rory McCann! Jason Momoa! W00T!!
- 12:45 pm: The lookalikes they have for photo ops are seriously good. Thor is a dead ringer, as is Jack Sparrow. Hopefully they’re here tomorrow.
- 1:30 pm: We’ve only made it through half of the exhibition hall, but we’ve hardly had a chance to see anything because the sheer Wall of Geek forces us past before we can quite stop. Manage to talk to a few people and collect a few business cards. One dude is showcasing hand-crafted Vampire Hunter and Wizard kits that are beyond Awesome. Complimented him profusely. Another group of guys crafts affordable weapons and other geek paraphernalia. They are displaying, among other things, some really well done Thor hammers for $80. The Tech Monkey and I decided to break for lunch before hitting the second half. Ask a staffer where there’s a decent place to eat because we have yet to spy a program–he has no idea. We venture out on our own, and end up at a packed bistro attached to the Embassy Suites. Even the manager is serving tables. *Quest completed!*
- 2:30 pm: We make our way back to the booth where I saw the Sandman Comic. On the way we spy the Official Convention Booth with Official Convention Programs. HA! again. Surely my comic’s been snatched up by now? No! Apparently the Wall of Geek has worked in our favor. This time the Tech Monkey shoulders his way into the fray like a champion and waves it aloft as I follow in his heroic wake. It’s only $40! It takes us approximately ten minutes to find the guy running the booth as there’s no table with noticeably Vendor Type Person. Hand him a reasonable portion of my hard-earned birthday money. Swag acquired. *Quest completed!* We now hit the remaining portion of the Exhibition Hall.
- 2:45 pm: We find the DVD and Vintage Game Guy. You know the one–he sells professionally packaged fan films and parody porn among the swaths of mass marketed filmery, and you’re never quite sure if he’s legit or not. Usually not, but it’s still fairly high quality stuff. And what’s this? He’s even got live performances of Wicked and Book of Mormon! And…and…is that really what I think it is? Actually in the wild? YES! The 1978 Star Wars Christmas Special! EEE!!! Epic Birthday Swag Acquired!
- 3:15 pm: We finally make it to the artist booths, and BEHOLD! There’s room to maneuver in them there aisles! Also find the proprietors of one of our local game stores selling dice sets and a few games. Proprietor Guy is thrilled and much bemused at the turnout and the amount of merch he’s sold–he only expected to hand out flyers. Buy Official Con Dice, because I do at every con. *Quest Completed!*
- 4:00 pm: My feet are killing me. My back hurts, as does my bad knee, which are directly related. My head is swimming, and I’m out of water AND Kleenex. The Tech Monkey and I agree it’s time to go home to Rest, and return to our adventures on the morrow. On the way out we see places to eat and relax, which Con Staffer didn’t know about. No mentions of nearby eatery, drinkery, and official places of Rest in the program, either. HA! The Tech Monkey and I agree that Con Organizers need to recruit geeks to draw their maps and point out areas of interest. Especially for those of us whom Con Food does a number on.
- 4:30 pm: Arrive home. Collapse on couch surrounded by flyers and swag and Ninja Katz. Pass out in deep satisfaction and a severe case of Con Coma. *happy*