Lock Up Your Daughters!
A few weeks ago, my wife drove me and my 15-year old daughter, Rachel, to attend the mega-monster-sprawling gaming-anime-cosplay cradle of chaos called ConnectiCon. This would be my third consecutive year, but it was Rachel’s first, and by the way, her first convention of any kind, ever. Through her tween years, she had developed an appreciation for many things nerdy, including anime, manga, and video games. This was the year that she told me, with no room to wiggle, “I’m going to ConnectiCon.”
In fact, she had also made this declaration last year, but it just didn’t happen, because I’m a terrible father and a monstrous human being. But this time, firmly in the center of her teeniness, adamantly convicted that she knew exactly what she wanted and also that she deserved to have it, she made it clear that it would happen, that she would be going, and that she would be wearing a costume.
As I suggested above, ConnectiCon is not a small event. We’re not talking about a bunch of bespectacled buds who take over the multipurpose room at the local motel and play Risk and Munchkin all weekend. No, this is more like many thousands of people, many of them in elaborate costumes from TV, movies, comics, and warped imaginations, swarming all over the city center like nerdy ants over a brownie. This is the crucible into which I was dragging my daughter, or more accurately, into which she was dragging me.
There is an indisputable law in the universe that says, “No matter how carefully you plan, something will go gonad-crushingly wrong at a convention.” It could be something fairly small like, “I can’t believe I forgot my dice.” Or it could be something less-small like, “What do you mean you have no record of me registering for the convention?” Whether small or large, whether a minor inconvenience or incontrovertible proof of a Prankster God, it will always happen.
For me, it was a hotel reservation that went missing.
This goes back several months when the convention’s pre-registration first opened, and there was a strong indication that there would be Thursday activities. Being the obsessive lunatic that I am, I immediately booked my hotel for Wednesday to Sunday, with plans of arriving bright and early at the convention Thursday morning.
As time went by, it became irritatingly clear that the activities planned for Thursday were as follows:
- Pick up badges at 6 PM
Because I had booked my hotel through a travel site, I couldn’t just cancel Wednesday night. So I called the hotel and asked if it was okay for me to come in on Thursday instead of Wednesday. They said yes, but I wouldn’t get a refund for Wednesday because of the travel site booking. I said I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t cancel my reservation if I didn’t come on Wednesday. They said that wouldn’t be a problem, and suggested I call the week of the reservation to remind them. I did. They made a note of it. Everything was perfectly fine until Rachel and I arrive on Thursday afternoon.
“Sorry,” the front desk regretfully told me. “When you didn’t come in yesterday, we canceled your reservation. And now our hotel’s completely full. And because of that travel site, you won’t get a refund.”
The front desk did eventually sort me out, finding me a room and apologizing profusely, but that was after an interval long enough for me to spin up into a vortex of rage and panic, and consider all sorts of absurd alternatives: I’ll stay with friends, I’ll stay with strangers, I’ll sleep on the streets, I’ll rent another room at another hotel several miles from the convention and pay five times as much. The point isn’t that I got my hotel room, but rather that it was the bit that went wrong. For one tiny eternity, my stress, already hovering in the sweaty panic zone because of the impending convention, had spiked up into, “I can’t feel my legs, what’s this pain in my chest, why does this ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME, DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT!!!” Not a great place to be, emotionally speaking.
Cosplay, Cosplay, Everywhere
For a microscopic sample of the costumes at ConnectiCon, take a look at a blog I created with my daughter: Rachel @ Connecticon 2014.
Occasionally, it felt like I was the only person not in costume. These people were everywhere, all over the convention center, in and through the hotel, out and about in the city. A life-sized Oscar statuette, a crowd of varied Doctor Who incarnations, a John Stewart Green Lantern with gleaming green eyes, uncountable Spider-men and Batmen and Deadpools and Wolverines, armies of Browncoats, and representatives from every video game ever imagined, most of which I didn’t recognize.
Actually, I didn’t recognize a lot of characters or costumes there. It started to frustrate Rachel. “Who’s that?” I would say, and she would roll her eyes, and say, “That’s [multisyllabic] from [incomprehensible],” and I would ask, “What is that, an anime?” And she would only shake her head.
It’s the oldest I’ve ever felt at a convention, and this is coming from someone who’s really quite old. On the other hand, it felt kind of wonderful, knowing that Rachel knew all of these characters. It felt like coolness by association, like I knew somebody who knew people, somebody who could get me past the bouncer and into the club, somebody who would be recognized upon entering and told, “Your table is right over here.” Of course, this is Gaming Convention Coolness, not, Real World Coolness. I’ll never have that, no matter who I know.
Speaking of costumes I didn’t recognize, Rachel went as Yuki Cross from the manga and anime, Vampire Knight. Rachel’s outfit was perfect, which is what happens when you buy it online. This is a despicable sin in the world of cosplayers, where you are expected to create everything from scratch. I kept suggesting that she tell people that she worked with her mother and grandmother to make it, which is technically true—her mother located it on eBay and her grandmother fitted it using needle and thread. Unfortunately, Rachel learned honesty at some point in her life (it certainly wasn’t from me), and refused to massage the truth even a little.
It turns out that this was the perfect costume, not so obvious that she was lost in a crowd of clones, and not so obscure that she was ignored out of fear of ignorance: “So what are you supposed to be?” The right people reacted in exactly the right way, with delirious enthusiasm: “Oh, I LOVE Vampire Knight!” They’d come charging over from across the convention hall, calling her character name: “Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!” They’d beg for her picture. They’d gush over her costume. Rachel was simultaneously pleased and overwhelmed, though she did get better at striking poses for the pictures.
For the record, nobody asked for my picture.
Accruing Experience Points
I knew that this would be a different sort of convention for me, attending with my daughter. She was not interested in roleplaying games or sitting quietly for four hours while I enjoyed them. We worked out a compromise where she would head back to the safety of the hotel room while I played a couple games here and there, and then on Sunday, she agreed to play one game with me.
I’ll go into more detail about the games in Part 2, but let me say here that they were all new to me, and I loved them all.