I’ve never been a fan of conventions. I’ve been to Oz Comic-Con once or twice in the past and my opinion of them was that of merchandise I can’t afford and overly long lines to meet celebrities that I’m indifferent to. Not to mention that anything worth your time is almost impossible to get to as it’s completely swamped by the attendees.
This year I attended Adelaide Oz Comic-Con as media and it has completely changed my view on conventions. I was doing it so very wrong before. Maybe it was the anxiety of the large crowds or maybe it was not fully embracing my geekdom on previous visits. But having entered Comic-Con with a mission to engage with and learn about as many Adelaide and Australian groups, individuals and products as possible, my eyes were opened to the wonder that is Oz Comic-Con.
On the morning of the Comic-Con, my breakfast plans fell through while I was on my way into the city, so I arrived quite early. It worked out well though as I witnessed the crowd and the excitement build outside the venue. Watching eight or so Daleks being wheeled, with great care, into the venue was something to see.
Media were granted access at 9am and after a briefing I started exploring. That first 30 minutes or so was pretty magical as the crowd was small and it was really easy to meet and engage with the people behind the products, particularly the smaller ones. I managed to pick up an Iron Pony for Bec, a Batlama for myself and then had a chat with the team behind The Escape from the Kangaroo Occult, before they were swarmed by the masses. I highly recommend getting to an event as the doors open, it definitely is the time to get to talk to these amazingly talented people and really see what they are producing.
The real secret to my enjoyment of Comic-Con however were the panels – and I’m not talking about the celebrity ones on the big stage but rather the small panels presented by locals that are extremely knowledgeable in what they present.
Over the course of the two days I attended five panels, all of which were excellent. Somewhat surprisingly though, the two panels I enjoyed the most were not about video games at all. However, the content and knowledge of those presenters were excellent.
First off was the Comics with Adelaidies panel. Representing the Adelaide Ladies Comic Club the four panellists held a mini-meeting, each discussing one of their favourite comic volumes. I was invested when Kimberly kicked off with The Killing Joke and became more hooked as the panel spoke with in-depth knowledge and passion on some great comics. It put sharply into perspective that I am a casual comic book reader at best, as well as getting me off the fence about finally reading Saga. I cannot recommend this club enough to any ladies in Adelaide that are either into comics now or have been considering it.
My other top panel pick was the Psychology of Magic the Gathering. Yup, a psychologists (Adam Sims) and a researcher of psychology and gaming (Jane Cocks) talking about a game I’d never played. Doesn’t sound like I would, personally, enjoy it a lot. It was panel of the show for me and I’m really hoping we can get them on the show to chat one day. They talked about the science behind why we enjoy the activities we do, how the brain works and the reality of addiction. The highlight of the panel was Adam opening a Magic the Gathering pack and talking about the brain responses experienced. I’m not (well….I wasn’t) a Magic player but I’ve played enough Hearthstone to know the feeling of opening a pack. I was both excited and anxious!
They were just the tip of the iceberg. I saw a Video Game Trivia Challenge, the 501st Legion with some breathtakingly good outfits and I listened to Adelaide video game developers offering some fantastic advice (we’ll be writing more on that later, plus you can hear us talk about all the panels on Episode 6 of the D1DLC podcast).
I spoke with local comic artists, Dr Mike and Hayley Snook, met local artists, Kaci Star and Melissa Waterman and even spoke to some kickass local cosplayers, Mikayla Williss and Geoffrey Smith. I played Magic the Gathering and had a taste of Master of Orion. I met people from AVcon, The Campaigner, Retrospekt and Digital Hype. None of these are things I would have done in the past, not one. But in representing D1DLC I was on a mission to devour as much of the convention as I could and it improved the experience dramatically for me.
So if you’ve been to a convention or two before and never really enjoyed it I would urge you to try again. If there are major brands or celebrity speakers you want to see, seek them out. But before you do, get in early and meet some local artists and developers. See a panel about something you know nothing about and try a game you’ve never played. Really explore. It’s an amazing experience.
So then, we’ll see you at AVcon!