Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DragonCon: A Beginners Guide and Checklist (Updated for 2012)

Below is advice I've collected from many friends, blogs, and my experiences over the past few years at Dragon*Con. Feel free to let me know if I missed something.

Things to bring:
  1. A Lanyard or some type of rope/necklace to hang your badge from. The badges only come with a clamp clip by default and those are easy to get knocked off. You lose your badge and you're toast and out another $100 for a new one.
  2. Backpack or Messenger Bag - You WILL find something you want to purchase
  3. Camera - Trust me, you'll need one
  4. Extra Camera batteries and memory cards - See #2
  5. Money - Walk of Fame Celeb autographs go from $35-$50 which includes the Glossy 8x10 photo you pick for them to sign.  This is in addition to all the incredible art you will find in Artist Alley.  This is your chance to get some original pieces directly from the creators.  
  6. Manila or Plastic Folders - to store autographed photos in while inside your Backpack
  7. 8x10 photos of any celebs you REALLY want to meet in case you bump into them walking around - Most will sign something for free in that situation but be brief, quick, and try not to cause a scene. The last thing they want is a huge crowd pouncing on them when they were just taking a break from a panel or something. NOTE: It is not necessary to have these for people on the Walk of Fame, they'll have many to choose from and its included in the signing fee.
  8. Cellphone/iPhone/Laptop/Camera charger plugs - when you take a break to sit and People Watch you will want to use the time wisely and feed your devices. The last thing you want is to meet your favorite celeb for an impromptu photo op and have your device die on you.
  9. Costume - DragonCon welcomes ALL types of cosplayers, if you feel like it then go for it. There will be all types of costumes from cardboard and duct tape to high end professional looking stuff.  
  10. Bottled Water - The Con has water stations all around but plastic cups are sometimes AWOL (Thanks Stephen)
Things to do:
  1. The Parade - The Parade is one of the biggest events you'll find. It is usually at 10a on Saturday but always check the schedule to be sure.  Hundreds of cosplayers braving the Georgia Heat and Humidity to march and display their costumes.  You'll see full Stormtrooper brigades, a Spartan Army, Zombies, Predators, and more Super Heroes than you can count.  NOTE: If you have seen the parade before and not too interested in being in the heat THIS is the time to hit the Walk of Fame.  Many celebrities that have insanely long lines have no lines at all due to everyone being at the parade.  
  2. See Celebrities (Walk of Fame) - Many celebrities from all eras of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, shows and films show up to this Con. They do autographs in the Walk of Fame (Hilton) and are there to hang out and interact with their fans.  It is not uncommon to see them walking around from place to place.  There is no fee to just meet them but if you want an autograph it'll cost you anywhere from $25 to $75+ depending on the celeb with the average price for last year (2011) being $40. 
  3. Panels Panels Panels - Once the schedule is posted (probably in a few days) you can check it for a Panel of your favorite show, celebrity, writer, or group.
  4. Gaming - There are groups that meet to play various different games from D&D to CCG to whatever strikes their fancy
  5. Book Signings - many authors will be present to sign their books for you. Some have copies for sale but you'd be better off planning ahead and taking a copy with you just to be sure.
  6. Meetups and Tweetups - If you're not on Twitter you're missing out on a valuable tool for knowing about gatherings and events that celebs decide to do at the last minute. Many of the Dragon*Con attendees or their followers are on Twitter and may post up something like "I'm hanging out at the Hilton Bar for the next 30minutes if anyone wants to come hang" Some Meetups are planned in advance and may require a fan club ticket or something so check the schedule and get on Twitter and get it on your phone so you can stay up to date.
  7. Parties - Some groups host parties for their user base. Some are private Invitation Only events and others are just open to whoever hears about them. There is always a party going on somewhere at Dragon*Con. and are having a Party at 1p Saturday the 4th in the main lobby of the Hilton to the left of the Concierge Desk. Marian Call will be playing a set for us so definitely get this one on your TO DO list.
  8. Shop - The Dealer Room is FULL of both easy and hard to find props, shirts, comic books, art, clothing, and anything else you can imagine. If you are a collector this is your Graceland. If you are looking for a little something to put on your desk then you can find it here too. Some Dealers put their stuff on sale Monday so they have less to carry/ship home. Don't count on it but sometimes it happens.
  9. People Watch - you will do TONS of this whether you want to or not. You won't be able to help yourself. When you're taking a break just find a good seat and enjoy the show.
  10. ENJOY YOURSELF - No matter what your job/position/status/etc in life you'll fit in at Dragon*Con.  Have a great time and meet all sorts of new and interesting people.
Where to hang out:
  1. The Sheraton host many panels and events and is the main location for badge purchase and pick up so not a lot of hanging out goes on there.
  2. The Marriott Marquis is the main central point of Dragon*Con. On Friday and Saturday nights this is the place you want to be. It will get CRAZY crowded as the night wears on so if you plan on hanging out for a long time and you find a seat NEVER leave it unless someone holds it for you. Seats near a plug are GOLD and you should acquire them and guard them as best you can.
  3. The Hilton is where the Walk of Fame is. This is your autograph for a fee location. Lines are plainly marked on the floor with tape so stick to the line you are in so you don't get some fan boy frothing mad at you for cutting. The longer the line, the bigger the star. I found last year that at the beginning of his allotted time, Joe Flanigan's (Stargate Atlantis) Line was long, like out the door long so I skipped it. After making a few rounds and getting other autographs the line was down to 8-10 people and I got right in. Patience and Timing are key.
  4. The Hyatt is where you find the Artist Alley and Art sections. This is where your favorite webcomic artist, comic book artist, or artist in general will be set up. In the area outside the Artist Alley you will find many good photo ops of costumes and groups setup that do some serious cosplay.
  5. The Westin has been slowly becoming the Browncoat and Steampunk event/panel hotel over the past few years.  Look for those type of panels and events here but always refer to the published schedule to be sure.
  • NOTE: The Hyatt in the past has pulled out some draconian "fire hazard" rules and has goons walking around to get in the way and stop you from taking pictures in their Main Lobby in the evenings. If you happen to be going through their Main Lobby and see a good photo op, be incredibly fast or they goon squad will show up and pull their power trip on you.
  • NOTE: Panels and Events take place in all of the 5 major Host Hotels, the above list is just for general info of what else you'll find at each
What to Expect:
  1. A visual treat you won't ever forget.
  2. Crowds - LOTS of crowds
  3. Good ol Georgia Heat and Humidity.  If you venture outside be warned.  Heat will hold you down while Humidity beats you to death.  
  4. Costumes of all shapes, sizes, and topics. Some people get VERY creative with skills that rival Hollywood as well as people that spawn thoughts of OMGWTFBBQ MY EYES!!!!
  5. Lines - the more famous or currently "hot or in trend" the celeb, the longer their line will be. Count on getting in line an hour (or hours) before a particular even if you want to be sure to get in. EX: if you want to hear an Adam Savage talk you better be in line 2-3 hours ahead of time. In 2010 I went an hour ahead and the line was already wrapped around a full city block. Only 1/3 of those in line would actually fit in the auditorium so I had to skip it.
  6. Meeting new and interesting people
  7. If you are in costume people will want to take a picture of you. If you have a "squire" to take the picture for them so they can be in the photo it makes people happy. Squires also come in handy for holding said necessary gear. (Thanks Stephen)
Cell/iPhone Battery Saving Tips:
  1. Turn off WiFi - odds are you won't be in range anyway and if you are so are 20,000 other people
  2. Turn off Bluetooth - unless you're using it it's just a battery sucker
  3. Turn off 3G and use Edge - face it, the cell network is going to be HAMMERED during the con. 50,000 people in such a small area always saturates the cell network. You're not going to get 3G speeds anyway.
  4. Stick to text messages to stay in touch - repeatedly trying to make a call that doesn't connect just pushes your battery closer and closer to death with each attempt. Text messages are short burst and will often get through just fine even when the network is clogged or sluggish. They just queue up and send when they can.
Avoiding ConCrud:

You know what I'm talking about. You're in closed spaces with 50,000 other people, many with questionable personal hygiene habits or a complete lack there of. You're GOING to be exposed to someone else's germs that should have stayed home but Noooo, they toughed it out to avoid missing the Con and showed up with a raging fever and illness. A few days after the Con you start to feel the scratchy throat, followed by a headache or runny nose and then BOOM! ConCrud sets up residence in your body for a few days making you wish you could find the specific person that triggered it and flail them to death with their own severed limbs. If you could just get out of bed that is.

To battle and hopefully precent this you'll want:
  1. Hand Sanitizer - Face it, you'll be touching all sorts of handrails, doors, and elevator buttons that you have no clue what might be on from a previous touch. Use it regularly.
  2. Multivitamins/Vitamin C/Zinc - whatever your preference, dose up on your preventative medication of choice starting a week before the Con so you have a good base built up and maintain that regimen throughout the Con.
  3. HYDRATE!!!! - As mentioned many times above. STAY HYDRATED! It helps your body flush out all that unwashed geek germy crud thats floating around.
  4. Take regular showers - wash off all the germs as often as you can. If you're heading back to the room to drop off some Art or a purchase or just changing costumes, take a quick shower and rinse off the funk. (I know, this isn't an alien concept to most people but after going to a few Cons you too will realize its never advice that is followed by all)