DragonCon is an annual sci-fi, popular culture, comics, gaming, science, media, etc… convention held in downtown Atlanta over Labor Day Weekend. This was my 6th Con trip and it’s grown every year I’ve been. The first 3 times I (star)trekked to Atlanta was in college, and you could typically sneak into the back of a Jonathan Frakes panel just before it started. These days, you have to line up 3 hours ahead of time to get a seat in a star studded panel.
Honorable Mention: The Blood Drive.
I can’t donate blood but shout out to all the nerds, geeks, and dorks that do. You are saving lives!
- Thousands of Fandoms, 1 tribe
This year, about 80,000 of us took over Atlanta. Eighty. Thousand. People of all fandoms, genders, orientations, races, and backgrounds came together for a whirlwind weekend. Whether it’s Marvel vs DC, Kirk vs Picard, or the Books vs Movies, everyone has a place at DragonCon. And for so many people jam packed into 1 place, it is surprisingly civil.
- DragonCon TV
DragonCon TV is a streaming service you can buy to watch panels and fan-made skits and shorts. The host hotels have the channel for free, which is awesome. I caught a replay of the Stranger Things panel with Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb Mclaughlin. At one point, the boys were asked what they liked about filming in Atlanta. Caleb replied with Waffle House, stating that they had “good sweet ice tea.” The whole room laughed as both the moderator and Gaten went off. “You don’t call it that! It’s just sweet tea!” to which Caleb replied, “look, if I put ice in my coffee, it’s iced coffee. if I put ice in my water, it’s ice water. If I put ice in my sweet tea, it’s sweet ice tea!” He did not win the crowd over with his arguments. When DragonCon TV is not airing a panel live or rebroadcast, it airs fan submitted skits and shorts. Government Contractors of S.H.I.E.L.D had some fun skits and the Adele parody “A DragonCon Hello” is still stuck in my head.
- Parties and Overpriced Booze.
DragonCon parties are bonkers. Each night has several themed parties, ranging from the Bunny Hutch Party & Costume Contest to Last Night On Alderaan to the 8-Bit Bash. The ladies in our group all cosplayed as Pac-Man ghosts while the men wore Pac-Man suits. We were a big hit at the 8-Bit Bash. Hotel booze is naturally overpriced but it’s great to let your freak flag fly among like minded company. It’s a good thing DragonCon spans across four hotels and 2 Americas Mart buildings, that’s a lot of walking to work off all the party calories! I have never felt so old than I feel after a DragonCon party though. You can kiss any morning panels goodbye after collapsing on the hotel bed after a DragonCon affair.
Whether it be a celebrity panel discussing their favorite characters or motivations, fans discussing the latest movie or ridiculous “what if scenarios” or industry experts sharing their skills, DragonCon panels are serious business. This year, I saw voice over artist extraordinaire George Lowe again and went to panels on Twitch, the board game industry, the comic book history of Thanos, teapot racing, and a puppet slam. While the teapot racing idea was fantastic (teapots on remote control cars), the execution was lacking and it was hard for everyone to see. The puppet slam was awful, yet oddly inspiring. If that’s what passes for comedy, I can do better! I attended several board game panels that didn’t live up to my expectations and a Twitch 101 panel that was basic yet still helpful. There were a ton that I planned to see but missed for… reasons (see Parties and Overpriced Booze above)
- Dealer Hall/Artist Alley
The Dealer Hall and Artist Alley is a great way to spend money on something truly unique. Sure, you have 100 different t-shirt booths all selling the same variation on a theme, but you also have actual artists creating something con specific and one of a kind. It’s always a treat to see Grumpy Don DeRosa, currently at the helm of the Disney Duck comics, painstaking explain that his art is not for DuckTales. Check out these cool Harry Potter posters I picked up!
- Lightsaber Battles
Not much to say here…Last Night on Alderaan had a lightsaber ring where you could battle at 1 in the morning. Where else can you see Princess Leia defend her turf again Rey?
- Open Gaming
DragonCon is not a gaming convention in the same vein as Origins, GenCon, or Spiel in Essen, but there is still plenty of room for open gaming. It’s always nice to try games before buying them. This year, I finally played Love Letter, the updated Sushi Go Party, and tried out Roll Player and Codenames: Pictures. Love Letter certainly deserves all the high praise it has received over the years. I enjoyed Codenames:Pictures but I think the original and the Disney version is enough for my personal collection. Roll Player was pretty interesting but we didn’t finish the game because THERE’S SO MUCH TO DO AT DRAGONCON. I think Roll Player had one too many optimization puzzles within it. One of the group bought Unstable Unicorns, a smash hit Kickstarter game that raised over $1.8 million. For a game with rules similar to Fluxx, that $1.8 million leaves me speechless. Now is not the time for a Kickstarter rant though. I taught Dixit and Azul to friends as well. Dixit is so good.
- People WatchingDragonCon is a treasure trove for those who love to people watch. The guests who cosplay (more on that later) are spectacular, but it’s also fun to see how fans of a particular property go absolutely crazy when they see a great costume. My face lit up when I saw a U.N.I.T soldier guarding the T.A.R.D.I.S. It’s also fun to see geek and nerd fashion not being tied to a costume.
- CosplayingOf course, you can’t people watch without admiring the cosplayers. It’s amazing how talented and dedicated some of these people really are. Here’s just a taste of what I saw at Con. Check out my Instagram for more awesome pictures.
- FriendsThe super secret reason I love going to DragonCon is to see old friends and meet new ones. It’s sappy but true. The con proves itself time and time again as a place to share experiences with pals. DragonCon Reunions just can’t be beat!
You can catch replays of most of the skits on YouTube
DragonCon, I miss you already. See you again in 2019!
More information on each game can be found on Board Game Geek