Con Review: Dragon*Con 2009

DragonCon09by Marian McBrine


Dragon*Con 2009
September 4–7, 2009
Atlanta, Georgia

I attended Dragon*Con, in Atlanta, Georgia, from September 4th to 7th, 2009. Dragon*Con is one of the largest media-focused conventions in the country, with an estimated attendance of 30,000. While the convention is media heavy, with many top-tier media guests—this year including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew—they also have several other tracks incorporating many aspects of fandom, and including a strong literary track. The convention featured a full weekend of writing workshops taught by writers Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. There were numerous other writer guests, with Charlaine Harris and Sherrilyn Kenyon attracting particularly large audiences and autograph lines.

Although Dragon*Con is a large convention, they choose not to host their events in a convention center; rather, they use all available event space in the four official convention hotels. Although there are several main events, their diverse tracks are generally located in one specific area of one hotel. Thus, while this is a very large convention, if you are primarily interested in one of the smaller tracks, it may feel like a smaller convention to you. At least until you attempt to go to a different track or event, and have to make your way through a crowd of thousands to get there. Dragon*Con is a very challenging convention logistically, and sometimes it’s almost impossible to get from one end of the convention to the other in a reasonable amount of time. Luckily, Dragon*ConTV broadcasts many of the con’s main events, which you can enjoy in the comfort of your room rather than having to fight your way to the end of a line just to wait a few hours in the hope of getting a seat.

Dragon*Con is often called Mardi Gras for geeks, and definitely, one of the main attractions at Dragon*Con is people watching. Every night in each of the main hotels, but particularly the Mariott, the lobby/bar areas were filled with throngs of people taking and posing for pictures. Costumes were from all aspects of fandom, including comic book heroes, video game characters, literary figures, “ren fest” outfits and TV/movie characters. Costuming is so important to this convention that Dragon*Con has at least one costume contest every night. The definite “trend” for costuming this year was Steampunk, and that genre had a large showing in the Dragon*Con parade, which takes place Saturday morning on the downtown streets of Atlanta.

In sum, while I don’t necessarily recommend Dragon*Con to a beginning con goer, and while it can be very trying at times and logistically challenging, this convention absolutely has something for everyone, and I think everyone should try this convention at least once.


Con Review: Gen Con 2009

gen-con-logoby Marian McBrine


Gen Con 2009
August 13–16, 2009
Indianapolis, Indiana

I attended Gen Con, from August 13th to 16th, 2009, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gen Con is the largest gaming convention in the country, with over 27,000 unique attendees, and over 7,000 events. In the interests of full disclosure: I do a great deal of volunteer work for Gen Con, running both their Spousal Activity (SPA) program, as well as their Costume workshop program, and their forums.

Although Gen Con is primarily a gaming convention, they have a very strong writing program, with over 70 hours of writing workshops and seminars this year by authors including Mike Stackpole, Jean Rabe, Elizabeth Vaughan, Richard Lee Byers, and Author Guest of Honor Patrick Rothfuss. Other notable author guests in attendance included Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

Highlights from the convention this year included the returning True Dungeon, and the new TerrorWerks event. True Dungeon is a way to play Dungeons and Dragons in a life-size, walk-through environment. A large hotel ballroom is transformed into a “dungeon” complete with realistic props. Each room contains a puzzle to solve, or combat with an enemy, resolved using a unique shuffleboard system. Terrorwerks is an immersive experience in which your team of space marines investigates an alien invasion using air soft guns and other weapons.

Additional highlights included a strong anime schedule, with voice acting guest Vic Mignogna; actual Battletech “pods” used for networked Battletech games (the sort of pods that used to be in entertainment venues such as Dave and Buster’s); my own SPA program with over 90 nongaming events such as jewelry making, crochet, knitting, pilates, and sewing classes; a Victorian LARP held in an actual Victorian museum; and, of course, thousands of gaming events, including Role Playing Games such as 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, card games such as the World of Warcraft Trading Cards, and every board game imaginable. Particularly notable was the wide range of board games from the Rogue Judges group, who also run very popular Car Wars games on a large-scale playing table, complete with roads and actual “matchbox”-sized cars.

In sum, a strong schedule of games, combined with a variety of programming this year, made Gen Con an entertaining convention for the causal or hardcore gamer, with plenty to do for even the nongamer.