Tag: conventions

Consent, Cosplay, and Cuddles

Courtesy The Mary Sue

I don’t think I’m very influential.

This site tends to get just under 100 views a day. Some days it’s lucky to hit 50. So in some ways, this may simply be preaching to the choir. I’m aware of this. But I also know that some of the people who read this are folks I don’t know personally, and may help spread the word to people who would otherwise be unaware of the following. So with that in mind, and simply wanting to promote positive behavior as much as possible, let’s talk about consent at conventions.

Convention season is in full swing. It’s great to meet people there. You may even be compelled to shake hands or even hug someone.

Make sure they’re cool with it first.

You may think it’s fun to give someone a ‘surprise hug’ but the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of people who have had bad experiences when it comes to being touched. An unexpected brush or contact can bring all sorts of unbidden memories and emotions roaring to the surface of the mind, and nobody wants that to happen. We gather in these placed to have fun together, not to hurt one another. It doesn’t take a lot – “May I shake your hand?” “Would you like a hug?” – but it will mean a world of difference to people if you act with courtesy and wait for consent.

Courtesy The Mary Sue

This especially applies to cosplayers. A lot of people spend months preparing costumes to show off in large public places where people have shared interests. They do it for fun and to celebrate their fandoms. They, too, deserve the respect of being approached like a human being, rather than sized up like a piece of meat. If you catcall a cosplayer, or worse, impose yourself physically on one without your consent, you’re being part of the problem.

Remember: cosplayers are not wearing their costumes for you. They’re doing it for them, and they deserve to be proud of that without having to worry about getting creeped on by strangers.

Courtesy The Mary Sue

Everybody needs contact, reassurance, even cuddles. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. As long as there is communication and consent, we can make our gatherings positive and memorable experiences. We have to work together to do it, and we have to look out for one another. That doesn’t just mean communication between the parties involved, but also communication with those that can help.

If you see something questionable, if someone’s getting hurt or being made to feel uncomfortable, tell someone. If you yourself are put in a position of which you do not approve, tell someone. Staff members are there to help you. There’s bound to be one disconnected from all of the goings on who will not only hear you out, but speak up on your behalf. Yes, there are bad experiences, and yes, sometimes things go sour even when you try to do the right thing.

What’s the alternative? Give up entirely?

If we all did that, if we all just gave up when things got frustrating or didn’t turn out the way we wanted, we’d get nowhere, and communities would crumble, all the good and positivity they create dissolving into nothingness and leaving this world a colder, more empty place. I think that dissent can be a good thing, and those who have a legitimate beef that goes unheard have the right to say what they have to say. My point is that, if we’re all working together, offering consent and speaking up for one another, it shouldn’t have to get to that point. Things can and will get better, but only if we all contribute towards making it so.

We all have to work together. One person, alone, can change very little, but again, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Ghandi once said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” The more we work to make the collective experience better for everyone involved, the greater our influence on the flow of events and the lives of others becomes. We can, and will, change both how our communities work, and how they are perceived by others. And believe it or not, it all hinges on asking one simple question.

Can I have a hug?

(Images courtesy The Mary Sue; featured Enforcers are RGB, Ysterath, oogmar, and NotHanz. Original images hosted by Auspex on her Tumblr. Many thanks to Uhura Jones for pointing out the shortcomings in the above post.)

MEPAcon Fall 2010 After-Action Report

Courtesy MEPAcon

In Pennsylvania’s northern reaches, amongst mountains wreathed in fog and criss-crossing freeways, the Ramada at Clark’s Summit feels like a secluded retreat from big-city civilization. It’s a nice hotel in an interesting position, and twice a year it plays host to the Mid-Eastern Pennsylvania gaming convention, a.k.a. MEPAcon. This was my first experience at this event, and it definitely will not be the last.

I arrived to run a demo of Maschine Zeit, a session of the StarCraft board game and to break in the diplomatically-oriented rules of Conquest of the Empire. None of those things happened. Going through the experience of sitting at empty tables inspired me to remember proper ways to survive a convention. In spite of this disappointment, however, a great time was had.

The raffle, auction and other goings-on Saturday night informed me very much of the sort of people who attend the convention. It’s hard not to feel at home amongst other gamers who hiss at new editions of Dungeons & Dragons, laugh at jokes about random number generation and cheer for plush Cthulhu dolls. I took a trip into the forgotten mists of the very early 1990s with a session of the video-driven board game Nightmare and tried out a trick-based card game called Spooks. I found myself wishing two things: that I had arrived sooner, and that I had brought my wife.

Sunday brought the aforementioned empty board game tables but also a rousing game of the co-operative struggle against the Great Old Ones, Arkham Horror. I also took a break to try a new card game The Werewolves of Millers Hollow, a.k.a. “Are You A Werewolf?” The expansion New Moon was included and I did not have the wherewithal to call it the “Team Jacob” game, an opportunity my bride would have capitalized upon.

Finally on Sunday I had a fantastic encounter with beloved spec fiction author C.J. Henderson. The experienced pen behind occult detectives and the adorable “Baby’s First Mythos” gave this struggling author some much-needed advice on bridging the gap between unpublished and published. Many of his words bubble in my brain, and I’d like to stir the internal pot and relate his words in some fashion soon. I highly recommend checking out his work. He’s also inspired me to spruce up this webspace a bit.

With an overall drive time of just under two hours, even using a non-turnpike route, and very reasonable registration fees, I plan on making time to properly enjoy the next MEPAcon in April of 2011. I plan on bringing Maschine Zeit and StarCraft once again, along with Ninja Burger as a scheduled event and pick-up games of Chrononauts, Spammers (my prize from almost winning Nightmare), Three Dragon Ante (if I can get my hands on a deck) and possibly Magic: the Gathering.

More than anything else, I’ve been inspired to write more fiction and columns related to these genres and hobbies, continue running and playing old-school tabletop games and find ways to include the missus as much and as often as possible. Big thanks to MEPAcon’s excellent staff, the fine gents at The Portal Comics & Gaming and the folks good enough to put up with me. I look forward to seeing, speaking with and playing at the tables of the great people I met in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Surviving a Convention


It’s been a while since I’ve attended a convention of any kind. Gaming and other geek conventions differ from writing conferences and business convocations in several ways. They tend to be a bit more fun and free-form. It’s easy to lose track of time, belongings or personal needs & hygiene in the encapsulated environment of a hotel ballroom converted into a parlor for the celebration of geekdom. And when you’re away from it for a while, as I was, it’s easy to forget a few of the basics.

Hopefully, this will be helpful for others as it could have been to myself, say, yesterday. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’ve got my butt-shades on.

Bring Your Own Food & Water

A few dollars spent at a grocery story can go a long way in extending your convention enjoyment. A few bottles of water, some snacks and the means to make easy food like sandwiches or maybe a salad will likely cost you the same as a meal at the local fast food joint. Not to mention the greater degree of control over your consumption means you can make healthier choices.

For the record, the next time I come to one of these shindigs, I plan on picking up a six-pack of water bottles, some baby carrots and almonds, a bag of chips or pretzels, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly and marshmellow fluff. Because fluffernutters are awesome.

Be Prepared

Gamers can be a fickle, impatient lot. Go over the convention schedule, know what you want to do and where you have to be at what time to do it. Otherwise, you may find yourself administrating an empty table.

If someone else failed their time-comprehension check or they have a loved one hacking up a lung, it doesn’t hurt to bring some entertainment of your own. A laptop or portable gaming system can amuse yourself, but conventions are supposedly social occasions. For the sorts of conventions I’m discussing, bring card games: Fluxx, Chrononauts, Three-Dragon Ante, etc. Feel free to toss a couple Magic decks in your luggage as well, just in case another planeswalker appears.

For Cthulhu’s Sake, WASH

This hasn’t been much of a problem of late, but I remember attending a few conventions where someone decided to keep the fun going all night long and neglected to take ten minutes to wash some of the funk off in the shower. It’s common courtesy to not stink up the joint, after all. I tossed a stick of deodorant in a plastic bag just in case I found myself rooted to a table for hours and completely lost track of time. That didn’t happen, but it falls under the “Be Prepared” rule.

Tomorrow I’ll give more thoughts on my current con experience, and Tuesday we unbox the Dungeon Master’s Kit before I subject my victims players to its contents.

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