Not So Big and Scary: My First Con Experience

Despite touting myself as a geek for years and being proud of that status, I didn’t realize conventions were actually a “thing” until I saw The Terminal and realized Zoe Saldana’s character was a Trekkie who loved going to cons.  At first I thought it was a joke, a cute little character development the writers of the movie decided was a unique way to set her apart.  Yet the more I looked into it, the more I realized that conventions were indeed a thing.

I didn’t make it to my first con until this month.  Call me undedicated to the world of geekdom, but I preferred to be able to afford food, clothes, and a roof over my head instead of spending all the money on a temporary hotel roof, plane ticket, and convention eats.  Fortunately, I got a press pass to attend my first con, Anime Nebraskon, and I stayed with a cousin, so that helped my decision to attend by a significant factor.  I’ve decided I really like press passes.

Yeah, I am not 100% sure who that is, but the name sounds familiar. The character, not the state.

Anime is a realm I never got into.  Watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and marveling over the beautiful artwork in the Final Fantasy games were the closest experiences to anime that I had ever come.  And yet here I was attending a con based solely around this genre; I felt lost as I looked at the weekend program.  The only anime-related session title I recognized immediately was Legend of Korra (that saved my skin a bit), and after perusing the program more closely, a few more titles seemed vaguely reminiscent from what I’d heard friends and Internet people talk about.  I fortunately found other sessions to attend like one about Rooster Teeth hosted by a community member I’d met on their website, as well as a fantastic session by voice actress Stephanie Young about what types of female characters voice actresses often play when they have a lower vocal range.

The best thing about the sessions and panels I did attend was that Anime Nebraskon, though one of the larger conventions for this Midwest area, still boasted small enough numbers that each session I sat in on did not seem like there were too many people for the moderators or hosts to interact properly with them (unless you were talking about the celebs like Stephanie Young and Steve Blum, and then of course the rooms were packed to the brim).  One guy even hijacked the “How to Create a Podcast” session when the real host failed to show up after 15 minutes of waiting, and since the hijacker said he did a Brony podcast, he decided to just teach the rest of us 10 or so attendees what he had learned from his experiences.

Avengers cosplay group – I like the drinking Tony Stark.

Also, I was very glad I had decided to dress in appropriate attire, and by appropriate I mean at least one geeky item of clothing or accessory.  For the first day, I decided to wear my Star Wars Her Universe Han and Leia t-shirt along with my Imperial logo earrings.  The second day, I plastered on dark eye makeup, wore my old Freelancer Tex shirt from Rooster Teeth, and dressed it up runway-style, with skinny black jeans, black boots, black military blazer, and a maroon fedora; I called it my “If Tex Were a Bad-Ass Fashion Model Instead of a Bad-Ass Killing Machine” look.

Unfortunately, by the time I found out about getting a press pass to Anime Nebraskon, I didn’t have time to make a costume, and no costume I owned seemed fitting for an anime convention (a self-created Amazon warrior via slave Leia costume, or Galadriel from Lord of the Rings).  I was wrong.  Though the majority of attendees were indeed in anime-style costumes, there were more than a handful of gaming characters there like 2-3 different Master Chiefs, Marvel and DC characters (including an epic grey Spider-Man who told me it took him over a year to put the entire costume together), and even some very realistic Jedi Knights and Clone Troopers running around.  Next time I’ll have to remember that pretty much any geeky costume will do.

BEAUTIFUL Master Chief armor. It lit up and everything.

I’d have to say the best part about the entire Nebraskon experience was the way that the convention organizers created a positive experience for all the attendees.  All the Nebraskon staff were willing to help out when asked a question or two, and many even seemed energized instead of drained by the crowd around them.  Though most people roll their eyes at or even jeer security staff, none of this happened that I could see, and most attendees were very respectful when security asked them to move closer to the wall or keep moving so as not to block other attendees’ pathways.  In addition, the con organizers made sure to put this sign up all over the convention center:

That’s right, it’s not.

With all the issues surrounding sexual harassment of specifically female cosplayers, this sign was refreshing to see.  What was more refreshing was the fact that I saw it enforced by the staff and security and respected by the attendees; I never once saw a guy take a picture of a girl without her permission, even if she was in full armor of some sort.  From what I’ve read, many cons, especially the larger ones, only wish they could expect this type of civility amongst their costumed patrons.

Overall, Anime Nebraskon offered a wide range of sessions and panels to attend for its intimate size, lots of time-intensive costumes to admire, and a positive, no-hassle atmosphere that makes me ignore the fact that only pizza was offered as the on-site caterer (yes, there was only one).  Would I attend Anime Nebraskon again?  Yes, most definitely.  However, I’ve now been bitten by the con bug; the experience only made me eager to make it to some of the larger and most famous ones out there.  That means you, PAX and San Diego Comic-Con.

* PLEASE NOTE: ALL PICTURES ARE COPYRIGHT BREE BROUWER.  CONTACT HER WITH PERMISSION TO USE THEM ELSEWHERE.

Oh, yeah: there was “YMCA” dancing on stage at the cosplay contest, too.

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