Last year, I took a weekend to join a friend at ConnectiCon for no other reason than to enjoy being at a con with said friend. That experience proved to be more involving than hanging out with friends at Wizard World in Philadelphia and Chicago: I ambled about, taking pictures of cosplay; attended panels that pertained to subjects about which I had little vested interest but that sounded (and proved) interesting; and in general, soaked up the atmosphere and energy emanating from congoers. I was also introduced to friends (who have since remained friends), and this was my main reason for returning to ConnectiCon in 2013. But as form inevitably follows function, I found myself appreciating so much more this year as a member of the press.
ConnectiCon is a multi-fandom con, which means there’s something for the everygeek. Gaming (tabletop, electronic, RPG, card, and otherwise); Sci-Fi; anime; comics; pop culture (Doctor Who, American animation and television, etc.) are all represented, without preference, via both programming and fan presence. Despite attending as what I previously perceived as part of a fandom minority (anime fan), I was never want for something that catered to my needs this time — be it an event as convivial as a cosplay photo shoot or as engaging as an academic panel. Despite such balance, and without antagonistic side effects, ConnectiCon is obviously a gamer’s paradise.
ConnectiCon hosted the obligatory Dealer’s Room and Artists’ “Colony” (Alley), but in addition, there was an equal and noteworthy space dedicated to tabletop gaming ... and it was always full. Confession: I’ve played one tabletop game only a handful of times. As press, I’ve noticed the confines to which players of these games are usually relegated at conventions that mainly cater to singular fandoms. At almost all of these, gamers huddle within small rooms in back halls hidden from the main thoroughfare. Admittedly, this could be blessing as much as curse: gamers get their privacy to play their campaigns in relative peace, but the medium itself garners little attention via spontaneous interruptions.
Like the panel selection, which ran the usual gamut from fangasm to educational*, gaming sessions seemed to offer the broadest selection I’ve seen at any convention. What appealed to me as a person who does not, by and large, play tabletop, role-playing, or card games, was the plethora of “Learn How to Play...” sessions, which aimed to introduce newbies and experienced players alike to specific games. There were also casual gaming sessions, with the largest diversity of games I’d ever seen at a con, as well as “Play to Win” sessions, which pitted attendees against ConnectiCon staff to win a copy of the game they were playing. Fun times!
Previously, I mentioned the Dealer’s Room and Artists’ Colony. These were combined in a very spacious, singular room that also hosted tables for the comic book, online media, and signatory guests. It was never crowded! This was either my good timing or tepid news for the dealers. For me, the lack of shoulder bumping was a welcome reprise from the mobs at anime cons, and I’m sure the influx of any degree of consistent traffic was good news for guests. The convergence of consumerism and guest appreciation was reminiscent of comic cons such as Wizard World and NYCC, and the fare offered for consumption seemed likewise less roadside lemonade stand and more local comic shop import. That is to say the vendors’ booths seemed like uber-organized, market-specific mall kiosks: great for organization but lacking a certain personal feel. Artists, interspersed throughout the hall, helped augment that ambience, however. After all, and if you’ll excuse me as being one myself for saying so, artists are generally personable people perpetually over-eager to accommodate any visitor offering either appreciation or compensation.
Panels were panels (and largely awesome); a write up of those I attended is forthcoming! However, I have to note something unique about my ConnectiCon experience. Staff let fans be fans and, in being such, preach to fans on the conversational as well as professional level. I’ll explain. Some past Otakon ago, an all-too-familiar con situation took place: I was sitting in a densely populated panel room when staff announced the panel was cancelled. Granted, 99% of paneling is preaching to the choir, but even within that 99%, there are information gaps ripe for edification. Otakon disbanded the panel and sent us all on our individual and ultimately un-merry ways. ConnectiCon, regarding a similar situation, took a different tack; a member of the staff not only allowed but encouraged attendees to run the panel instead! In my mind, this was the best use of resources possible and a true expression of why a con exists: proliferation of knowledge and opinion.
As an anime fan, most of the guests honestly didn’t appeal to me. But as a 30-something, the attendance of Mel Blanc-endorsed Jim Cummings (Darkwing “I am the terror that flaps in the night” Duck), a.k.a. '90s American animation VA hero, whose other credits include Montery Jack from Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Winnie the Pooh, and Tiny Toons Adventures’ Taz, was a great joy. Other personal notables included The Walking Dead’s Arthur Suydam, Nostagia Critic Doug Walker, and Mariana “every Star Trek (and Gargoyles) fanboy’s fantasy” Sirtis. Hey, I am what I am.
Lack of guests specific to my fandom aside, I had very few complaints. As seen with other cons, the lack of room switching buffer time was unfortunate and made me miss a couple of panels I’d meant to attend due to room capacity issues. These were (thankfully) minimal due to the size of the rooms themselves and the nigh conflict-free scheduling purveyed via the panels directors. I did overhear, upon multiple instances, panelists complain of the projectors’ lack of brightness, which rendered certain video/slide content too dark to be seen by audiences. Any seasoned panelist, however, was able to overcome such a minimal hurdle.
I cannot laud ConnectiCon enough. Sure, everything may not be vying for each attendee’s attention, but there really is something for everyone. And when the inundation of escapism overloads conviction, Hartford, CT affords myriad eateries at which to celebrate either the end of that particular today or toast the swiftly approaching morrow. I’ll definitely be back next year, and after reading this, hopefully you will be too.*fangasm and educational were categories assigned to panel types in Charles Dunbar’s “Panel Panel: A Panel on Panels” joint, which will be covered in Ani-Gamers’ forthcoming panel writeup.
Click here for more coverage of ConnectiCon 2013.