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What's a convention for?

Conventions are basically big parties that combine entertainment with education, with ancillary features such as masquerades/cosplay competitions and dealer's rooms added on to suit the particular convention. Each of the local conventions reflects the tastes and preferences of the people running it, which in turn reflect the tastes and preferences of the people they hope to attract. This post about room parties at Minicon 40 brings up an interesting measure of what, for lack of a better word, we can call the "social health" of the convention and its attractiveness for fans who aren't regulars.

The thing about room parties is that they serve both as a means of advertising for fan clubs who are either promoting their own conventions or themselves; in either case, they're looking for people who share their interests. Room parties can also be considered part of the entertainment at the convention; I think Captain Kirk's House of Ill Repute, the House of Toast, the DDR Ring, and Dystopia at last year's CONvergence fall into that category. People like to throw parties, and there's a certain amount of egoboo that comes with throwing a popular one. If they're open parties, they contribute to a convention by attracting people who otherwise might feel out of place in the convention mainstream, and that helps those people enjoy themselves, which in turn encourages them to think about returning to the convention next year.

This being the case, most conventions promote room parties and try to locate them in the same area of the hotel so that their members can sample the various room parties and get a taste of what the various groups have to offer. If a convention is popular, it'll attract more room parties, and a healthy cycle can begin where the increasing number of parties attracts more people who in turn tell their friends, and...you can see where this is going. CONvergence. On the other hand, a struggling convention won't have very many room parties at all, and those parties may well be closed parties not open to the general membership.

Can there be such a thing as too many parties? If that's all you're doing at your convention, probably so, but I don't know of any that do that. There was some concern back in the day about "frat boys" showing up at Minicon to get drunk and ogle the femmefans, but that doesn't seem to have carried over to CONvergence, which has a dry consuite anyway.

In general, the Twin Cities have a nice assortment of conventions, even if they do tend to be mostly crowded into March and April. Marscon kicks things off at the beginning of March, Anime Detour follows at the end of the month, then Minicon comes along on Easter weekend. Then follows a two-month drought until CONvergence in July, Diversicon in August, and another hiatus in September until Arcana and Consume/Relaxicon in October. I'm leaving out the gaming and comic book conventions, because they don't really fit cleanly into the same class of conventions I'm talking about here. I personally think that the local scene could comfortably accommodate a few more small conventions, perhaps on Memorial Day or sometime in September, but I have enough trouble running the convention I'm responsible for, not to mention helping out at Diversicon and Arcana.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2005 09:42 pm (UTC)
I don't mind the hiatus, it gives you a chance to do out of town cons.
Mar. 30th, 2005 10:05 pm (UTC)
There is that.
Mar. 31st, 2005 06:46 am (UTC)
Re Minicon: The LJ party was a great idea, but that was a) a last minute thing and b) BYOEverything for the most part. I'm wondering if the wet consuite also contributed to the lack of room parties. Then again, I'm used to anime cons where a lot of people are underage and shouldn't be doing that sort of partying anyway.

The Twin Cities, or the area, could use another anime con. The problem I'm having now is that the interesting conventions in the general area (and I'm counting Sogen Con and NoBrandCon) are in March, April, or May.

If I had actually gone to Marscon I would have hit 4 cons in 5 weeks (I'm going to Concinnity in Milwaukee this weekend) and that's kind of too much. It also affected my ability to go to ACen, which is to say I'm not going to that.

Considering I seem to have gone to Minicon instead of Marscon largely because it wasn't the week before or after Anime Detour...
Mar. 31st, 2005 03:21 pm (UTC)
I was surprised to see that they'd gone back to having a "wet" consuite, since that was a serious bone of contention some years ago...I guess with the reduced attendance they didn't see it as that much of a risk any more.

Never seriously considered going to ACen. Everything I heard about it made it sound like too much of a mob scene, and dealing with that after an eight-hour drive isn't my idea of a good time. OddCon in Madison would have been an option for April 8-10 if the cash flow was better, but that still leaves May and June wide open...at least there's Anime Iowa in September this year.
Mar. 31st, 2005 06:58 pm (UTC)
The local convention calendar is a thing of wonder to me.
Nobody wants to do a convention during the holidays (wisely), so November and December are out.
But nobody wants to have a convention in January or February - for fear of inclement weather.
So you get March and April jam-packed. And May is packed with out-of-town conventions that are fairly close by (Wiscon, Archon, etc.)

Truthfully, CONvergence ended up in the summer for the reasons above and because a large part of our concom base does RenFest - which puts August and September completely out.

I think RenFest actually kills August and September for alot of clubs. And all the other fall things, like the State Fair and Taste of Minnesota and all that jazz.

And as for the point of your post - I like room parties. I find it's one of the easiest ways to meet new people (at least for my personality type).
Mar. 31st, 2005 07:55 pm (UTC)
I think RenFest actually kills August and September for alot of clubs. And all the other fall things, like the State Fair and Taste of Minnesota and all that jazz.

I think you're right. Part of the reason Diversicon has a hard time attracting members is that it's up against RenFest, various arts festivals, and (IIRC) the Fringe Festival, all of drain away people who might otherwise be interested in coming. It also doesn't do a good job of reaching young fanfic writers who want to turn pro, but that's another discussion.

And as for the point of your post - I like room parties. I find it's one of the easiest ways to meet new people (at least for my personality type).
I like 'em too, which is part of the reason I regard them as an indicator of how healthy a convention is.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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