Previously, I wrote about my Thursday before the real Dragon*Con weekend began. In this entry, I’m going to focus entirely on our (one of my best friends, Colin, my brother, and I) experience at the largest sci-fi/fantasy convention in the southeast this year. We were lucky enough to nab a room in the Marriott. As many D*con veterans are well aware of, this is regarded as the best hotel to be in due to the central location, great cosplay, and fun night life in the hotel. Thanks to my mom and brother’s hard work, we were able to acquire two rooms; we got one room for us and one for a friend’s group. Booking a room in the Marriott is harder than getting the blue ribbon special item on Black Friday. The phone lines get so hectic… it’s like trying to snipe a bid on e-bay while on dial-up.
In order to hit the con, as I mentioned in my previous post, my mom drove Colin and myself down to Medical Center (metro Atlanta area) at the time she goes to work in the morning. In other words, we had to get up at the crack of dawn. It’s cool though because coffee exists. Colin and I hopped the MARTA train down to Peachtree Center and hit the con bright and early. The first thing we did was catch breakfast at the Metro City Diner before heading into the con and exploring. Since we got there way too early before any panels started, we decided to hit up the game room in the Hilton.
Due to the length of the trek from the Diner to the Hyatt, obviously we had to take a pit stop along the way to street pass. Anyone who has a Nintendo DS knows that the best place to fill up on street passes are conventions; you can fill up your region map with people from all over the world!
In the basement of the Hilton, it was only $5 to get an all-access weekend pass to the board games. It was a humongous basement with lots going on: virtual battle mech gaming; magic tournaments; miniature tabletop gaming; miniature painting; and, of course, board/card games galore! We nabbed a game called Galaxy Truckers because Colin spoke highly of it. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but we soon got into it and played two full rounds of the game. Several folks stopped by as we were playing to praise the game and some were even nice enough to help give us advice on how to play.
After we had had enough Galaxy Truckin’, we headed out of the FRIGID, cold-ass basement of the Hyatt to see what else was going on. It just so happened that there was a big Fallout cosplay shoot going on right outside behind the Hilton. I was extremely excited and we went out there to admire all of the costumes and take tons of photos.
It was really an amazing bunch of costumers and I was in awe at the uniqueness and variety of each person’s Fallout costume. After I took at least 50 photos of everyone there, we headed in to go to the “Designing Awesome Video Games” panel, featuring: Chris Avellone, Creative Director of Obsidian Entertainment (who accidentally went to another panel instead and never showed up); Mike Capps, President of Epic Games; Ian S. Frazier, Lead Designer at BioWare Montreal; and Jonathan LeCraft, Senior Game Designer at Blizzard Entertainment. Didn’t get any pics during the panel due to us coming in late and having to stand in the far back corner, but they talked about obstacles they tackle in the industry, how to work with large companies to make a good game, and a variety of other topics that involved working with video games.
The following panel was much more interesting and engaging for me though which was called, “Women in the Video Game Industry”, featuring: Seraphina E. Brennan, Community Manager for Turbine Games; Pilar Gut Rod, working in Video Production for Riot Games; Cameron Harris, Senior Editor for BioWare Montreal; and Ann Lemay, Writer for BioWare Montreal. After introductions and some brief chatting, it was pretty much an open-mic Q&A panel. So, having been in the gaming industry for about 6 months, I rushed over to the other side of the room to be first in line on the microphone. I asked how they felt about integrating into an industry that is currently predominantly male and, for those from BioWare, how they felt about the LGBT decisions made in Mass Effect and other games in general. The second question wasn’t as important to me, but for the first one they had so much amazing advice to give me about being a woman in a video game studio. Every panelist had advice or a story to give me about how they handled situations, found allies in their studios, and held their own in their respective studios. It was very eye-opening and boosted my confidence.
My brother managed to catch up with us before this panel, so afterwards we decided to finally check into our Marriott room and get our stuff in there before going back out into the con. The room was so nice… it felt good just to lay on the giant, fluffy beds for a few minutes. Again, we stayed in the room for about 30 minutes just clearing Street Passes before going out. The view from our room window was also just beautiful. The sky was beautifully lit just before sunset and we could see majority of downtown and even a little bit of Georgia Tech Campus (where we all went to school).
After catching dinner at High Velocity, one of the best and only places to grab some grub at the con, we hit the Comic/Art alley for a bit.
I definitely spend most of my money in the Comic/Pop art and Artists’ Bazaar every year. I used to spend money on more baubles and t-shirts at conventions, but those get old really quickly. Unless you’re looking for a specific collectible or deals on games, there’s no real sense to buying a lot of things you could just find online or anywhere else at a convention. I wound up grabbing some prints from one of my favorite artists who shows up annually, poopbird. I can’t seem to remember his real name at the moment, but he does an amazing variety of work from various series and he’s just a great guy. He also does tattoo work in Georgia; you can see his work if you follow poopbird on instagram.
I wound up finding a great Metallic Star Wars print of the Empire Strikes Back in the artist’s alley that I wound up buying for my dad as a birthday present. I didn’t even know Metallic prints existed until I saw it and they explained it to me. I was happy that my friend and brother were just as excited to spend hours looking at and buying art as I was.
Just a sampling of the art/prints I acquired pictured above. The first was a print created by the Illustrator of Archer for seasons 3-5 and current, Adam Toews. The second was one of only a limited run of hand-painted pictures of Meatwad by the man who animated Aqua Teen Hunger Force for… 6 years I think it was? They were sitting side-by-side in the pop artists’ alley and it was a thrill to meet both of them.
I met Courtenay Taylor and Kimberly Brooks in the “Walk of Fame” which is where all of the celebrities can be found at various time schedules to sign autographs and take photos with you for whatever they decide to charge. When we showed up in the Walk of Fame initially to find Courtenay Taylor, we found out she wasn’t going to be around for another couple of hours, but Kimberly Brooks was there and she was a wonderful person to talk to. I asked her about the voice recording processes she went through with Bioware versus Irrational out of curiosity and found out that the recording she did for Ashley Williams in Mass Effect was a much longer, more intensive process than doing Daisy Fitzeroy for Bioshock Infinite. Irrational basically did it over a conference call. I asked her who directed her. She said she wasn’t sure, but after a few guesses, I think that she spoke directly with Ken Levine who was telling her all about the character and what he wanted. But I digress!
We definitely came back to the Artist’s Alley more than once. There were many times we had our hands full with purchases, or got hungry, and had to make trips back to the room before going back for more. I love that aspect of Dragon*Con; if you need to go do something, whether it be refueling or attend a panel, you always have more time and another day to return to finish where you left off with everything to see and do.
Every year in the Artist’s Alley, I visit my favorite artist, Aedan C. Roberts. He is a Manhattan local and shows up every year with phenomenal art. I’m not the best at describing art, as I am not extremely learned in the jargon, but his work features bold colors depicting surrealist, often LGBT or robot-themed, scenes. He often features the male body or cartoon-y elements. He is just a sweet person, too, and I love to chat with him every year before buying something of his. Also, he cosplayed as “stripper Finn” from Adventure Time this year and it was the best thing ever.
After hitting up the Artist’s Alley and spending all of our money on art, I think we decided to return to the frigid cold gaming basement to play more board games. We really wanted to get Galaxy Truckers, but we never got lucky as it was always checked out by someone else. What I did see though was Sentinels of the Multiverse. Since neither my brother nor my best friend had played it before, I thought that would be fun to teach them.
From my brother, going clockwise, we played with Legacy, Tempest, and Visionary. We decided to fight Baron Blade, who was a good villain to fight as beginners. The goal of the game is to work together as superheroes to defeat a villain of your choice. It’s a fantastic co-op card game and I love how it allows you and your party to make decisions together in the heat of battle to overcome really intense situations. Needless to say, we beat the crap out of Baron Blade, and we all laughed and high-fived in such triumphant joy after the fact. Games that can create moments like that are fantastic. It develops such a feeling of camaraderie between players that it makes you all feel like you’ve really accomplished something when it’s all over.
Saturday morning, Colin and I got up bright and early to have breakfast before hitting the Parade which started at 9 or 10… I forgot already. I had been attending Dragon*Con for about 5 years, but never got to see the parade. So, this year I was determined to get out there early, grab a good spot, and watch the parade. For those who have not attended Dragon*Con, or those who have and have a hard time figuring out food, the Hyatt hotel is a great place to go for breakfast. It’s a little bit pricier than just going to a Starbucks or something, but in my opinion Dragon*Con is a vacation when you gotta TREAT YOSELF.
The Dragon*Con parade was great to see. We were right on the curbside where everyone walked past, so we had a perfect view of everything that went by. There were groups of everything: Game of Thrones, Mandalorians, Doctor Whovians, Stormtroopers/Star Wars, Mass Effect, Ghost Busters (lots of them), Zombies, Pirates, Steampunks, you name it!
The parade lasted for about two hours. My voice was completely shot from doing Rick and Morty impressions all Friday, but that didn’t stop me from cheering and whooping at the great costumes I saw. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of attending cons, it’s that these costumers work so hard, it’s really great to show them your appreciation whether it’s with a polite compliment or aimless cheering during the parade haha.
Saturday was the day we decided to hit up the dealer’s room. The dealer’s room is where you can buy everything from dice and comics to leather goods, collectibles, and replica guns from just about any sci-fi/fantasy show you can think of. Last year, Dragon*Con 2013, was the first year that they moved the dealer’s room from the lower floor of the Marriott Marquis to the America’s Mart near the Westin/across from the Hyatt. It was great when they did that last year because the space is much more open, less claustrophobic, and affords for a larger capacity of people. It was also better last year because nobody knew where it was, making it extremely easy to get into and browse at your leisure. This year was different; everyone figured out where the dealer’s room was, and even at mid-noon there was a huge line just to get in to the dealer’s room.
What they don’t tell you… is that you can actually just go into the Starbucks next to the entrance into the dealer’s room, foregoing the line, and walk right into it. I know it made us horrible people for doing so, but to be fair we did buy coffee from the Starbucks and the rear exit just HAPPENED to lead into the dealer’s room. Not to mention there was also a side entrance on the other side of the block you could have entered instead of waiting in the giant line that nobody seemed to know existed.
Anyway, we each had goals for things we wanted to acquire from the dealer’s room this year. For Colin and I, we wanted to find replica Star Trek: The Original Series uniforms to wear that night and on future occasions. The other thing my brother and I wanted was some new dice.
The variety of goods in the dealer’s room is always astounding to me. There’s always the ‘usual’ stuff like autographed prints, lightsabers, leather goods, corsets, and nerdy t-shirts, but I personally like to pick up collectibles such as toys, good deals on comics or board games, and some geeky jewelry or other trinkets.
After spending hours perusing the dealer’s room, and successfully finding the Star Trek shirts we sought after, we decided to recuperate at the room and yet again hit up the board gaming room! After seeing all of the board games in the dealer’s room, there were several we wanted to try such as Castle Panic, Bears!, and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards.
They were all great games. Bears! was short and hectic, a very fast-paced game. Castle Panic was all about defending your fortress from the waves of orcs until you got through the ENTIRE bag of orcs. We didn’t think we were going to make it, but we totally did and it was extremely gratifying when we survived with two castle walls remaining! Haha. Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards was very cool; the art looked like if you took the style of Superjail combined with Rick and Morty or Adventure time. It was all about creating powerful spells by combining three cards to defeat the other wizards (players). I don’t really remember who won, but it is definitely worth picking up.
After changing into our Star Trek garb for the evening and refueling at Velocity yet again, we checked the schedule for what parties were going on Saturday night. The options included The Last Party on Alderaan in the Marriott, The Dilithium Crystal Ball in the Hilton, or some other party that I can’t remember the name of in the Sheraton. We sure as heck didn’t feel like ‘trekking’ all the way to the Sheraton, so we decided to check out the Last Party on Alderaan first. By the time we got there, it was way too packed and there was a mob of people waiting outside to get in. So, we said screw it, let’s go to the Dilithium Crystal Ball instead.
I’m so glad we wound up going to the Dilithium Crystal Ball. There weren’t a ton of people there which is common for the Star Trek parties at Dragon*Con frankly, but those who were there were having a great time. Some people just sit and watch, some like to stand there and drink, but there was a small crowd of people dancing and having a great time. The DJ was killing it with good music. I wasn’t drinking that night, but I was having a great time dancing with my friend and just enjoying the atmosphere. I was able to meet up with a good acquaintance of mine from college and talk with him for a bit. There were also some drunken guys on the dance floor who amused us for a while before spilling my brother’s drink which was not amusing at all. The guy didn’t even realize it.
The party seemed to be dying down at around 1:30 and we wanted to see what else was going on, so we began to migrate back towards the Mariott to see what was going on with the Alderaan party which was supposed to be ending at 3am.
We were able to walk right into the Alderaan party when we got there but much to our demise, the party itself was awful compared to the Dilithium Crystal Ball. The music quality was poor, quiet, and nowhere near as funky. Not to mention no one was really dancing even though there was about three times the size of the crowd as the previous party. It just seemed like the result of a train wreck; maybe the party was great before we got there and it was just gasping its last few breaths of life the moment we arrived. Who knows. We left when the DJ started asking everyone how drunk and/or high they were before throwing free t-shirts at the audience after playing a do-wop song from Rocky Horror. Yikes.
Saturday night is also the best night to see costumes, as the Mariott has the largest unofficial designated spot for people to stand and pose in the costumes they labored over. Pictured above, the Samus costumer is standing in the area I’m talking about. The other two photos feature a Max from Max Payne 3 and Aiden Pierce from Watch Dogs in front of Velocity.
We eventually got tired and decided to cash in at around 2 or so. Once we got back to the room, we all showered and tried to get in a game of Magic before sleep, as we were too amped up from the night to go straight to bed. Let it be said for the record that Magic is a lot harder to play at 2:30 in the morning and is also good at getting you ready for some shut-eye.
I awoke before everyone else on Sunday due to my incessant insomnia at the time. I got some oatmeal and coffee from Starbucks before browsing the Dragon*Con app to see what was going on that early on a Sunday morning. I decided to hit up a panel called, “The History of Japanese Cuisine” in the Hyatt because I like Japanese food and history, so I went! The presenter was very well-spoken and it was quite educational. We didn’t get around to a heck of a lot of panels during the con, so it was nice to go to this one and just listen for a while.
For lunch, we all met up with our cousin and her husband, who were cosplaying Hotline Miami, at Mellow Mushroom. It was a little bit of a walk (about 10 minutes) but nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the convention area for a change. It’s nice to be able to catch up with family at Dragon*Con. Funny story, I had run into my cousin at Dragon*Con the year before and we were mutually surprised to see each other because we hadn’t in at least 10 years or something like that. They were wearing costumes from Payday 2, so I couldn’t see their faces at first, but then she recognized me and took her mask off! So, since then, we’re making a point of meeting up each year which is fantastic.
Sunday was the day that we hit up the Walk of Fame I mentioned earlier. I did get to meet Courtenay Taylor and it was absolutely amazing to talk to her. She told me all about how much she related to Jack as a character, and then went into detail about her life in high school, how she was a bit of a delinquent herself, and how she liked how Bioware was pushing the envelope in developing characters with such depth in their recent products. We talked a lot more about trends in the industry and she wound up swapping Twitter information with me. I was star-struck and just chuffed to bits at that. I didn’t take a photo with her, but I will never forget having met her. I told her the impact that Jack as a video game character had on my life and I think she really appreciated hearing that.
After the Walk of Fame, it was back to the board gaming room yet again! We had gone to the dealer’s room to pick up some things and my brother wound up buying the Adventure Time Munchkin game. While we were looking for a space to play on (it was packed!) we saw this giant Settlers of Catan board that was set up for the SoC championship apparently. It was awesome; it made me want to buy the game, as I often miss playing it.
Adventure Time Munchkin was a great game. Played just like Munchkin, but the adaptation wasn’t half-assed at all. There were some features in it, like special character abilities, that made it feel like a different game than just regular Munchkin. I wish I hadn’t been so darned tired while I was playing it, but we still had a good time getting our butts kicked by my brother.
Sunday flew by in a flash. I barely remember what we did on Sunday aside from more Dealer’s room, eating, playing board games, and just walking around really. I did wind up taking a nap for several hours during mid-afternoon. Pro tip: if you ever feel sleep deprived at Dragon*Con, seriously just go and take a nap. You will thank you, your body will thank you, and people around you will seem much less irritating.
Definitely got to run into a lot of friends on Sunday and say hello. Even though there were around 60,000 attendees this year, I still somehow manage to run into a majority of my friends for a brief conversation and/or hug.
Sunday evening, I really wanted to meet up with my buddy Joe Peacock to have a drink and take him up on a Tetsuo drawing I had commissioned him to do at an AWA years ago. Unfortunately, he got tied up somehow and wasn’t able to meet up with us in the Hyatt, but we had a lot of fun hanging out at the Hyatt bar on Sunday night just people/costume watching.
We checked in early that night at around 12 or 1am. Monday morning came sooner than expected, and we were quite reluctant to pack up our stuff to leave. We left on Dragon Con TV, which can only be viewed from a room in the Marriott, and were amused by the fake commercials and Venture Bros panel as we packed up our swag.
We made a few last minute stops on Monday after putting our stuff in the car. My brother wanted another thing or two from the Comic/Pop art alley, so Colin and I had a seat in the Hyatt and listened to Emerald Rose play. Emerald Rose is known as a Filk band, a type of music genre, culture, and community tied to science fiction and/or fantasy.
It was pleasant to sit there and listen to their Northern Georgia style. It was like being in a tavern in some RPG listening to some bards play. We were also just happy to sit because it was Monday and we were simply dead tired by then.
We tried to hit up the board gaming room one last time, but found out it was closed early on Monday. So, with nothing left to do, we decided to head back up to Alpharetta to meet up with Friends and Family before Colin and I had to head back north the next day.
And so, our Dragon*Con came to an end. We came home, put on some Rick and Morty, and proceeded to look at some of the great stuff we bought as we relaxed on the floor of my parents’ living room. The Monday ended with Mexican food and Magic games with good friends of mine I rarely get to see. Already planning for Dragon*Con next year! It’s never the same experience each year I go, and I always get to see or do something different. This may have been one of the best Dragon*Cons yet, if not the best. I hope some of you reading this had a great con as well. See you next time, space cowboy.