As you may already know, Play On Con is one of my favorite conventions to attend every year. So much so that I started volunteering several years ago. This year was my first year as Assistant Programming Director, which is every bit as busy as it sounds, but fifteen times more awesome than you probably think. I also hear some of you asking “Assistant Programming Director, but she’s a gamer girl…?” This is true; honestly, I’m still trying to figure this one out…
Role confusion aside, this year’s POC was amazing and extremely fun. Here are the top moments from this year’s con (in no particular order, as usual):
1. Strolling through the lobby with my friend’s baby and being played soothing lullabies by Marc Gunn.
Long story short: Things happened as they do at a con and we were in need of an electronics guru on short notice. The one I happened to have in my back pocket (because what Assistant Director doesn’t have a random collection of people, items, and information that seems useless until you need it “right now”) had a nine-month-old. After a while, the-nine month-old became bored with being cooped up in the theater watching daddy draw LED circuits on the whiteboard. So, I took him for a walk around the property. The baby and I were delighted when Marc Gunn pulled out his autoharp and began playing beautiful instrumental music fit for soothing any impatient baby’s soul. Baby and I danced together for a couple of songs, thanked Marc profusely, and went back to the theater in a much happier state.
In preparation for my new role at Play On Con, I knew I would need to familiarize myself with parts of the con I hadn’t interacted deeply with before, including our guests. This year, we scored renowned southern Gothic and Steampunk author, Cherie Priest. I asked my director what I should read by her, and his answer was, “Read Boneshaker first, but Dreadnought is better.” Somehow, between real life, creating costumes, and all the promotion and preparation for Play On Con, I managed to read both… And in the process, I became a huge fan. Like really really huge. By the time the con rolled around, I was so super excited to have the chance to meet the person who wrote those books that I wasn’t sure that I could form a coherent sentence when I met her.
So, when one of the other directors introduced me to her, I simply said “Hi, it’s nice to meet you” and went on about my business. Throughout the weekend, I continued this trend of being cordial but not saying much, so as to avoid turning our conversations into an episode of “The Chris Farley show” from SNL.
Right before Cherie’s last panel of the weekend, I caught her at the door and said, “I don’t know what to say without sounding like a huge fangirl, so I’ll just say ‘thank you’.” To which she replied, “No, it’s okay. Thank you.” Right that second, my director Wes walked by and said to me, “Did you tell her you liked Dreadnought better than Boneshaker? It’s okay, she feels the same way…” Which spawned a conversation about my reactions to both.
The great part was the part where I realized Cherie was smiling during this conversation and seemed genuinely happy with my fangirl reaction. When I told her that I was shaking when I finished Dreadnought and that this is a rare reaction to a book for me (both absolutely true), she grinned and said excitedly, “I’ll take it! Thank you!” It was such a great moment to finally get to talk to someone whose work I really admire and have her not just endure the fangirlishness, but be okay with it and even genuinely happy.
I am not much of a partier, mainly because I am not much of a drinker. POC’s over-21 parties are the stuff of legends, but the stories I hear are always of alcohol-induced shenanigans. This year, I promised my friend Zakura that instead of hanging out in the gaming room all night like I usually do, I would go to her party. I can assure you that me agreeing to this was only because she’s an awesome friend and totally had absolutely nothing to do with her agreeing to loan me one of her gorgeous kimonos to wear.
However biased it may be, my view of parties is that they are an excused to get hammered in costume. However, when I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised; there was a definite “party” atmosphere, but the hostess had carefully crafted the vibe: great music, visuals provided by a muted geisha movie in the background, lovely handmade decorations, a flavorful signature drink, and plenty of food. She managed to create a place where both heavy partiers and wallflowers could be comfortable, which is not an easy feat. The Hanamachi party was amazing, and I wish more convention parties were like this one.
Oh yeah, and there was that moment where the hostess’ boyfriend cut his birthday cake with a katana. So rad.
4. Being beaten by a boy at a video game.
Friday afternoon, I actually found myself with free time, and I noticed that the schedule boasted a Dance Central tournament right when I happened to be free. So I ran to my room, got some hasty assistance getting out of my costume — because no matter how entertaining it might be for everyone else, I was not about to try to play a intense motion game in a corset and heels — and hightailed it across camp.
I love Dance Central, and I play now and again, so I thought I would at least do okay. My confidence was even bolstered a bit when someone else in the competition said they might as well not even participate based on my practice performance. Then I went up against my opponent, a somewhat shy, but seemingly nice, geeky guy. After a moment, I noticed that said geek was in costume, and that he wasn’t even watching the screen half the time we were dancing — and was still hitting every move. I laughed at how badly I got my butt kicked, thanked him profusely for the stiff competition and watched in awe as he went on to win the tournament.
Every year, POC hosts a variety of cool panels on different subjects, and this year was no exception: we had costuming panels, panels on literature, game shows with geeky themes, and even a group shooting off paper rockets. This year, my favorite panel was Gastronomic Chemistry (which was not actually held in a real kitchen for a number of reasons). Rob from Mindgear Labs in Huntsville led a panel explaining some of the cool things you can do with geeky kitchen gadgets, a little know-how and some unusual ingredients. It was all entertaining and informative but the best part was watching him use a mini-blowtorch to caramelize sugar on apples. Even better, it produced a tasty snack on which to place the caramel whipped cream he had made with a cool gadget that uses tiny nitrous oxide canisters! Of course, if no one had been around, I probably would have been happy to eat that fluffy caramel-y goodness straight out of the whipped cream can…
Of course, five things never sums up all the cool things that happened at Play On Con, but rest assured, it was epic, and I can’t wait for next year.