Written by Chris Kwock (@kwock)
I went to Dragon Con for the first time this year and I have to say it was amazeballs!!! For those who don’t know what Dragon Con is, it is one of, if not the largest, Sci-Fi conventions out there and it happens every Labor Day weekend. No matter what your geek fandom is, you’re bound to find someone with similar interests. Often times SDCC and Dragon Con are compared to each other as far as which one is better to go to. While there wouldn't be any exciting release announcements or anything come out of Dragon Con, it is more of a cosplayer’s con. I also got the feeling that it is kind of like a melting pot; fans and cosplayers seem to come from all over to partake in this crazy weekend. There was so much going on there and I’m still getting over my high from it all. So bear with me while I try to get everything I want to say in some kind of organized fashion.
This was a huge convention and I mean HUGE. There were people all over the street at some points and the hotel lobbies and floors were very crowded. I am proud to say after the first day of looking at my phone to get my bearings, I was okay navigating through all the hotels and helping fellow lost con-goers. The convention spanned 5 hotels and I heard they may plan to expand further! All the hotels are within a couple blocks of each other and 3 of them are connected via a sky bridge that can sometimes get very crowded. Host hotels get sold out really really fast, like within minutes they are gone. Some hotels are already claiming that their first batch of rooms is sold out and it’s only weeks after Dragon Con!! However, there will be another batch being released later on in October 2013. This past year we were able to snag rooms at the Ritz which is 2 blocks away from the host hotels. I absolutely loved staying there, everyone was super nice and I could actually get an elevator most of the time! Quick thing to note: if you stay at the host hotels be prepared to wait and play the elevator game or take the stairs. I remember I was in a full elevator and one of the floors we stopped on we were all sorryyyy full, and the girl was all, "It’s fine, this is like the 5th one now."
There were tons of panels and events that go on throughout the weekend; I think the earliest I ever got back to my room was 2am. Dragon Con is sometimes aptly named drinking-con; there were lots of hotel parties and tons of cosplayers crowded around various hotel bars. While the latest I left the Marriott floor was a little after 3am, there was a rave that went on til 6am. They had concerts and dances that happened on different nights and sometimes on the same night at the same time, so you’re going to have to pick and choose which fandom you'd want to do more. Some examples of the dances they had: Yule ball (Harry Potter), Avengers ball, Whovian ball to name a few. There was also a parade on Sunday…and it was a huge parade!! I skipped the parade because of all the people crowding the sidewalks; I wouldn’t be able to see anything! *grumbles about being a short Asian* Instead I went to the dealer’s room and with all the people watching the parade, it was still pretty crowded.
The dealer’s rooms (yes plural) and artist alley were separated in two different hotels. At the Westin there was the dealer’s room on the 1st and 2nd floors. The busiest place was the lightsabers booth who had a consistent crowd of people there. They had lightsabers lined up in an array of colors, showing off the myriad of different hilts that you could choose from. At the table they could custom make a lightsaber for you to your liking: you pick the hilt, the blade length, crystal light, and what kind of effects you want with it (sounds for lighting up, when you swing and hit it, and something I never seen before having the lights flicker when you hit). I am not 100% sure what dictated whether you were in the dealer’s room or the artist alley but definitely t-shirt and “stuff” sellers were in the dealer’s room. There was an occasional artist selling their drawings and drawings on card stock. I wish there was a little more space between vendors, with so many people stopping to look at booths, sometimes it is hard to go around. The artist alley had many artists selling prints and custom works. Lots of great artists there and it was where the Cosplay for a Cause booth was too. Unfortunately I didn't get to spend a lot of time in the artist alley and missed out a bunch. I was planning to spend a lot of Day 4 there but they had closed early.
Time to talk about badges! My experience was relatively painless actually! They opened badge pick up at 10am on Thursday, but I didn't go in the morning because I was still in bed from being out til the wee hours in the morning (yes even on Day 1 there was a lot to do/hang out with at night). Some friends went and it took them around 45 minutes. My first attempt to look at picking up the badge was around 11am and the line was wrapped around the corner of the building! I decided to skip it to go get food and site see a little. It was a good thing too because right after deciding not to stand in line, I heard someone say the printer was down which was causing the backlog. Finally I came back around 4pm and asked multiple people having badges how long it took them to get it, and they were averaging 40 minutes so I went to brave the line. It took around 20 minutes to get into the hotel and another 15min after getting into the hotel to get my badge. They were very organized and had volunteers and stickered lines to divide people up for pre-reg, will call, same day pick up and one more I can’t remember. Also while standing in line in the hotel lobby, a guy selling water was also selling beer!!! They had a cut off time on Day 0 of 8pm, an hour earlier than posted, but to make up for it they opened at 8am on Friday. There were Dragong Con volunteers on a megaphone informing incoming people of the news and an alert was sent out on the app earlier in the night.
Did I mention they had an app?!! They have an app for the IOS and Android devices which had a listing of all the panels and events going on. They have a list of panels, events, maps, and you can search things going on by event guests which can be added to your schedule. On top of all this, you can add friends to it and share schedules between each other if you so choose to. The only junk thing about it is that you have to make a friend code for each friend you want to add. They don’t give you a "This is your code to share with all your friends"; each person you want to add needs a separate code. I added all the potential panels that interested me and all the photo shoots I was doing and planning to attend.
Panels!!! I um..sorry I didn’t attend a single panel. There were some that I was interested in and while the lines weren't as crazy as SDCC (they clear the room after every panel) you still have to wait for at least an hour for the popular ones. My ultimate purpose for attending Dragon Con was to shoot everything I could so my schedule was literally full of photo shoots during the times of panels that I wanted to attend.
If you are cosplaying make sure you go to the group photo shoots!! You will meet so many people to shoot with and share the same love for the character/series. It is great. Also when you see other people with the same outfit you can pick their brain on how they made it as well as geek out with each other over the character. I missed a lot of the giant photo shoots because the amount of people and photographers all cramped together didn't sound appealing to me at the time.
Speaking of attendees, they were some of the nicest people I've ever met. Everyone was really nice and accepting when I asked them to take a photo and all of them were very appreciative. I think I made one girl’s day when I asked her to have her photo taken as Red Riding Hood; it was a sound of shock before accepting. Photographers were nice about trying to give each other room and were apologetic if they bumped you or were forgiving if you accidentally bumped them.
While I have prefaced earlier that it is a drinking-con, it is still a very family friendly con. There were lots of families with their young kids walking around, some in cosplay, some not. I saw a lot less kids come the evening when majority of the drinking occurred but during the day there were a lot about.
Okay enough rambling about the con itself, time to talk about cosplays! I saw so many cosplayers from a wide range of genres and an even wider range of age!! Just goes to show that you don’t just grow out of cosplaying. Dragon Con is mainly a Sci-Fi con so you’ll find a lot comic book, TV show, video game and movie characters. This isn't to say that you won’t see some of your favorite anime characters as well; they just won’t dominate most of the scene like at an anime convention. The top places for cosplayers to hang out was the Marriott, Hyatt, and to a lesser degree, the Hilton floor, and during the day…Marriott 10th floor is definitely the photographer hang out spot! One of the awesome things I saw while on the 10th floor was the 300 group gearing up to walk the Marriott floor, they had a guy showing them what they were going to have to do and pose the standard stances from the movie with the spear and the shields. There were just so many cosplays there! I was out and about all day and most of the evening. I still looked at other people’s pictures and say to myself, "I didn’t see that person!" If you want to see a more of the cosplayers I took photos of you can check out my page here.
Dragon Con was definitely an experience and I feel everyone should go to at least once! Be prepared for hot weather, awesome cosplays, and just hanging out with your fellow geeks. Looking back I’d have definitely mainly shoot during the day and early evenings, but save the later nights to hang out with friends and possibly drink a bit (the whole trip I had one drink from the bar. Oh and prepare for Vegas club prices). One more thing I forgot to mention before closing, they have an Aquarium event for attendees, it was definitely one of the highlights of my trip and the lighting and everything there was just unreal. Also they have a whale shark!!! There really is a lot more things to talk about that goes into this whirlwind of a con, but the main take away is that it is a really awesome con to attend and I’m so glad my friends decided to go.
Chris Kwock is our newest LFTDFriend. He is photographer from Hawaii, passionate about cosplay photography and is extremely talented in capturing the best of cosplayers. See his Facebook page for the rest of his photos!