Dragon Con 2017 marked my 20th year attending what has become not only Atlanta, GA’s premier convention, but the premier convention of the Southeast.
More than 82,000 fans of comics, gaming, cosplay, movies, TV and pretty much anything genre you can think of continue to make this show an annual destination, with many centering their year’s around it.
And I understand why.
It really is a show that offers something for everybody.
However, as huge as the show is– it overtakes five large hotels and one giant trade building– for me, the fun of Dragon Con 2017 was in breaking away from the massive crowds and discovering the little joys that this show has to offer.
Make no mistake- it’s fun to join the crush of people crowding the Marriott Marquis at midnight to see the never-ending cavalcade of amazing cosplay. But there’s a rush in discovering something about a giant con that almost feels like a secret.
Late Night Gaming
As much as it’s known for celebrating all-things-genre, Dragon Con probably has just as big a reputation as an all night, all weekend party. Dragon Con offers no shortage of parties both official and unofficial be it in a hotel ballroom or a hotel room. It’s part of the show’s appeal
However, this year I discovered the joy of wandering into random groups of people playing games in random places.
Some quiet corner of a bar, a barely traveled sub-level of one of the host hotels, a conference room that’s still unlocked but unused at 3 a.m., you can find a game of Werewolf, Mafia, Cards Against Humanity, Munchkin, Boss Monster and more all away from the crowds.
But don’t think that just because these folks aren’t at one of the hotel bars or private room parties that they’re not celebrating. During a game of Werewolf, I helped a fella cosplaying Sailor Moon work through a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon while sharing a flask of whiskey with a woman attending her first Dragon Con ever.
Together, we drunkenly accused hapless villagers of being werewolves with varying degrees of success.
The Best Single Serving Friends Ever
80,000 is a lot of people. And when all those people pack into one place, faces just blend together. They become scenery more than anything else.
But once you start wandering the less traveled areas of Dragon Con, people turn back into individuals, which makes for easier connections.
That guy cosplaying Sailor Moon with the PBR?
That guy became my best friends for a good two hours. On top of playing Werewolf, we just had a blast shooting the shit with each other. I was alone, but he was with a group of friends. A brief introduction later and I had my own temporary running crew.
We had a blast and it felt the same as hanging out with good friends. And when it was it was time to go our separate ways, yeah, I felt more than a little bummed.
But guess what?
Just a little while later while sticking my head into one of the many anime screening rooms, I buddied up with an all-new crew.
This doesn’t really happen the years I stick to the beaten path. Sure, I may chat someone up while waiting in line or waiting at the bar, but that’s about it.
I wasn’t kidding when I said Dragon Con has something for everyone and that includes music.
There’s a pretty strong showing of talented artists you’ve never heard of in attendance trying to attract new fans. While some have shows that fill out ballrooms, most just play sets to small crowds out of the way in The Hyatt.
I’ve never paid the music much mind, but this year I decided to change that. I made a point to give as many bands and groups a listen and found that there were some great acts playing their asses off.
I even wound up sticking around after a set or two to talk to the band. I even walked away a big fan of South Carolina’s Wasted Wine, a band rightfully described by NPR as “… a bastard child of David Lynch and Nick Cave.”
A Renewed Love of Dragon Con
I guess all of this is to say that after 20 years attending Dragon Con, it was breaking away from the crowd that made me feel like I was attending for the very first time all over again. Everything felt new again, and because of that I really didn’t want to leave the show each night.
I wanted to stay and I wanted to keep exploring to see what else and who else I could stumble onto.
Because of that it wasn’t just one of the best Dragon Con experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m already chomping at the bit to see what I can discover at Dragon Con 2018.