A good friend of mine shared something on Facebook earlier this morning that, while short and not particularly detailed given the subject material, naturally leads right into discussion points for anyone and everyone who has ever helped run an anime convention. They’re tough, tougher than most attendees think. It’s a lot like planning a wedding, except instead of only having to plan for a hundred people, you’re planning for anywhere from a thousand to ten thousand people. My fiancee might disagree with me there, since she planned all of our wedding, and will no doubt say it was much harder, but I suppose it depends on the person’s level of comfort with even planning.
As I’ve probably mentioned in previous posts around Katsucon time, I’ve been attending conventions since Otakon 2002. So, by many people my age’s standards, not long. I had a stigma about conventions and gatherings for a fandom from my parents, as they commonly went to gatherings once or twice a year with other fans of Jimmy Buffet music. They were parrotheads. This rabbit hole goes deeper, but I’m not going to indulge you. Not here anyway. So, for me, who was plenty into anime by this time, going to a convention seemed like a risky move. I’m not an outward socialite, I didn’t have any friends going, I wandered around Otakon alone, met some IRC people, but nothing really great. I spent a lot of time sitting in hallways doing nothing. That was my con experience.
Having a few conventions down by myself, I decided to try to bring my friends along for the ride. They all were mostly anime fans, but some were passive fans and others were active fans. Others still had no interest and just wanted to go tear shit up for a weekend. We tried one year piling into my car and driving down. Another year we tried several cars in a large group. What I learned from this venture was that your friends are the worst people to attend a convention with in a large group. They are loud, excessive, cheap, giant fucking leeches, and incredibly difficult to keep track of. I could not enjoy my convention experience because I felt like I had to babysit a bunch of adults, we all were ages 20-24 at the time. I burned out on that and told them to find their own way, along with quitting Otakon because that convention is just a clusterfuck anyway. After awhile, I quit all conventions period, except for Katsucon, which I staff and enjoy, and occasionally Connecticon because it’s in my home state, twenty minutes from home.
I have not seen some of the shit others have seen attendees do, and some of that makes me glad. I certainly cannot imagine how I would react to something like people having sex in the lobby in full cosplay, or running up and down halls naked. I’d probably laugh my ass off and take pictures, because I am a terrible person, and these people deserve to be shamed for acting like sub-human primal beasts. The rampant, unchecked unwarranted self-importance that goes on in this conventions are surreal, and are often played out on forums, Livejournal, and Tumblr after the convention, where hundreds of attendees whine and cry about how the con didn’t cater to them, and vow to make their own con, with hookers, and blackjack. I’ll go, if they forget the con and the blackjack.
For what it’s worth though, we’re only talking about a fraction of the people who attend conventions. A very small number. Katsucon has been an excellent con to staff because we really don’t have many of the problems that other cons our size or smaller experience. Minimal drama, minimal incidents. We’ve had a few, and many more unreported no doubt, but the overall experience has always been high from everyone who goes, and really, if you can nail a 80% or higher on a theoretical customer survey, you are doing pretty damn good. You can’t please everyone, but you can try. But it’s pretty bad when older attendees start talking about “21+ Only Conventions” because the majority of convention attendees are under 18. What’s worse is parents think that they can just drop their kids off and take off, someone else will deal with them. We’re not a day care facility, we’re not certified instructors or anyone like that. We’re volunteers who come to put in our time and effort to help put on a good show for everyone, not supervise your little shit so you can nail an escort at a downtown hotel, or whatever it is you think you’re going to do without your kids for a weekend. Teach your kids to have some goddamn respect for other people, personal property, and hotel management. Hell, if the only thing you ever teach your kids to respect in a public place, is that common walkways are not like the locker area at high school, and by congregating around them and staging photo shoots, you are going to get us all killed in the event of an emergency because you’re blocking the paths to the exit.
The TL;DR here, is that we all know this sort of shit will happen, because we’re living in a culture today where self-responsibility and morals checked out long ago, but we can mitigate a lot of this by pretending to deal with one another constructively for three days. It’s the least you can do to remind the rest of humanity you are not a pretentious douche who happens to be wearing a costume, but rather a civil human being cosplaying the character you love and interacting with others who share your love of the fandom. Don’t be a dick. I recall some washed-up child actor turn geek celebrity saying that once.