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Sep 10

Images from Dragon*Con 2012

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2012 in Ramblings, Reviews

People asked for some pictures from this year’s Dragon*Con, and I aim to please. I won’t comment on them - but you feel free to say something below via the comments link. BTW, you can click on the image for a slightly larger version, if it pleases you.

Sep 7

Someone Asked For it: My Summation of Dragon*Con 2012

Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 in Games and Gaming, Ramblings, Reviews

It’s Friday and I think I have all of the Con Crud out of me. I’ve also had time to organize my thoughts regarding this year’s Dragon*Con. I also didn’t sleep ’til noon today.

All of that is to say I’m ready to tell you the highlights of Will Kenyon’s Dragon*Con 2012.

1) THE CROWDS. I was having breakfast with two good friends (and partners in crime at the Con) Wednesday, when one of them - Eddie - asked if my concerns about the noise and chaos had been justified. I’d expressed some trepidation, you see, about how prohibitive the massive crowds were to getting around, and how the constant noise level could make even a social animal like me look for silence and solitude. Here’s my wishy-washy answer, and little factoid for you: Yes, the crowds got on my nerves. But no, not as badly as I anticipated and not as much as last year. You see, this year the Con and the host hotels were much more strict about letting people without badges or hotel room keys into the hotels themselves.

That means there was likely more than 10,000 potential onlookers - people who wandered in off the streets to goggle at the costumes - who were NOT in the walkways, nor crowding the bars, nor taking photo ops in the middle of high traffic areas.

And you could feel the difference. Sure it was still an adventure to cross from the Hilton to the other side of the Marriott Marquis. But you could do it, and in decent enough time, too. (As a side note, the elevator wait times were down, too - less party crashers hitting buttons for every floor.)

My friend Jay, who works for the Hilton, seems to think there were probably less incidents which required a visit from the police, because the “football” crowd couldn’t come in. Of course, this reflects poorly, but I think accurately, on a certain type of football fan. (I’m sure you’re not that kind of person, dear reader who happens to like American football.)

2. THE DECATUR BOOK FESTIVAL. This is not to say that the crowds didn’t get to me. Au contraire. On Saturday morning in particular I had to fight them, and I almost gave up and just went back to the gaming pit. You see, I had decided to go to the Decatur Book Festival that morning to visit my friend Jason Snape and to hear my friend Collin Kelley read. I’d neglected to take into consideration the parade, however. So it was that I found myself a salmon swimming upstream - one guy trying to get AWAY from Dragon*Con while literally THOUSANDS of people were converging ON IT. Add to that the problems MARTA was having (don’t get me started on MARTA tonight)….

I got to Decatur an hour and a half later - sweaty, hot, and irritable. I was too late for Collin’s reading, so I just hung out with Snape until I was less sweaty and irritable. And until I thought the parade crowds had dispersed back to the suburbs. Then I headed back.

3. GAMES. All in all, I played a lot less games than I usually do. My trip to Decatur took up over half of Saturday, and being tour guide for my friend Eric Sasson took a chunk out of Sunday. And being an old man now, I only stayed up until 3 a.m. one time. ONE TIME.

Unbelievable, I know.

I did get in games of: Runewars, Shogun, 7 Wonders, Dominion, Twilight Imperium, Al Hambra, Dreadfleet (fully painted!), Lord of the Rings LCG, Mage Knight, and Deadwood.

I didn’t play (and I wanted to): A Game of Thrones, War of The Ring, Battlestar Galactica, and Descent 2.0.

4) PICTURES. People have requested pictures from me, because Dragon*Con IS an opportunity to see some pretty amazing and amusing costumes. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a picture taker, and after 14 straight years of going to the Con, I’m rarely amazed - not because the costumes aren’t still amazing, but that I’m jaded. So I don’t take many pics. My friends DO, however, and I’m in the process of combing their Facebook pages for the best ones. I’ll compile them, resize them and post them as a gallery in the next couple of days. So look for them. As a teaser, there’s one at the top of this post… Avengers Assemble!

Aug 27

Another Year, Another Dragon*Con

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 in Ramblings

Yep. It’s that time of the year again, when tens of thousands of people descend on downtown Atlanta and indulge themselves in a celebration of things that most people looked down on when I was growing up: comic books, superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, RPGs, cosplay, and games. This is my element, folks, and I love it. Dragon*Con marks the beginning of my favorite time of year - the months of September through November - and I can’t think of a better way to ring it in.

Admittedly though, after last year I was a little bit ambivalent about Dragon*Con this year.

Until this morning when I sat down to write this little tribute to it….

You see, last year I had a little trouble with Dragon*Con - something that, unless they were blowing smoke up my ass, other people also had a problem with. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was simply the AMOUNT of people who are showing up to my favorite party. The number is nearing 100,000, and last year I could feel it. Every time I went to go find food or drink that was better than the foil-wrapped burgers and hot dogs the Hilton provided, the path was blocked by literally thousands of people. Many of them were the “face of Dragon*Con” - the costumed cavorters who spend the day giving photo ops, and spend the night drinking flavored vodka out of plastic cups.

I’m thankful for those people in a way, because they have contributed significantly to the pop culture legitimacy our particular subculture can now claim. But when I’m trying to go pee, the last thing I want is to have to push my way through a cadre of Starhip Troopers posing with styrofoam Poke-creatures. They need to get the fuck out of my way.

Also, there’s the noise. I am not an introvert by any stretch of the imagination, and I LOVE crowds. But days and days of shouting to be heard gets old. And I get hoarse. And I don’t like having to say HUH so much.

So yeah. Ambivalence.

But this weekend, as the number of hours until Dragon*Con begins (it begins for me the minute my best buddy Jay Elgin’s plane lands at the airport tomorrow night and only escalates from there) slipped into single digits, I started getting really, really, really, really excited. And I realized as I started writing this that the reason I’m excited is not because of all the gaming and partying and people-watching I’m about to engage in. It’s because of all the people I’m going to be seeing and hanging out with. For instance, I haven’t seen Jay in almost a year. And there’s others - I’m not gonna list any other than Jay because the list is looooong and I don’t want to leave out anyone - but they’re coming, and I’ll see them, and it’ll be like we just saw each other yesterday. (And yeah, Jeff and Ken, I know we did just see each other yesterday.)

If you’re coming to Dragon*Con, come see me. I’ll be the one with no costume other than a big, fat grin.

Sep 7

Post Dragon*Con Follow-Up

Posted on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 in Explanations and Excuses, Ramblings

First, let me be perfectly clear. All of my previous sentiments regarding Dragon*Con remain exactly the same. I believe I expressed them succinctly here and here.

This year, my birthday fell on the last day of the Con, and so the day was more about saying good-bye, resting up, and winding down than it was about balls out partyin’ and celebratin’. I did plenty of playing and partying the days before, so that was fine. Besides, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to top the surprise and awesomeness of last year, so I’m glad nobody tried it.

Good times. Great times. And like I said it would be, it was great to see many of my friends again - to speak with them, drink with them, play with them, people-watch with  them. I did miss a few friends this time, for a variety of reasons: Alan, Jen, Shoemaker, others. And I don’t think I spent enough time with Joe or Chris. But I met new friends, who will likely become good friends and/or great acquaintances in the future.

I have to make a complaint though: this year was different than previous years, and I know why, even if I don’t fully comprehend yet the exact ramifications of the “why”.

To quote/paraphrase Henry Jones, Sr., Roger Mutaugh, and John McClane: “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

OK. Not really. I’ll bet money that I am one of the youngest 40-year-olds you’ll ever meet, and the zaniness, cacophony, noise, and fervor of Dragon*Con suits me just fine. For me, relaxing is going to a bar, downing a few, and shooting the shit with good friends. It’s going to Six Flags and riding Goliath 10 times. It’s running a 5K, then splitting a six-pack with your running partner. It’s playing blackjack in a casino.

Sure, I like to read, paint, listen to music, and occasionally just veg. And those are relaxing things - but they’re no more relaxing than the things I listed above.

For some reason, though, late Sunday evening during Dragon*Con, I’d had enough. I remember looking across the table at my buddy Eddie and saying, more or less, “That’s it. I’m done,” and then heading upstairs to crash. I remember getting up to my room at the Hilton and finding it utterly blissful to be able to talk to my other buddy Jim in a normal tone of voice - no need to shout. Truth be told, my nerves were shot, my voice was going, and I needed to detox.

And I don’t know how you other folks who went feel, but this year the crowds REALLY got to me. Supposedly, the Con keeps getting record attendance - and it shows. It takes sooooo much longer to get from one hotel to the other, so much longer to get food, so much longer to get an elevator up to your room or down to the lobby. The dress-up people, like The God of War dude pictured above, are the face of Dragon*Con - the chief reason we get the level of press that we do. But lemme tell you from experience - the fucking picture-taking of the costumed people in the middle of every thoroughfare that “normal” people are trying to traverse is just… annoying. Believe me, I understand the need to be the center of attention, but sometimes their sheer thoughtlessness gets to be too much.

I love crowds, but this year, I wished sometimes there were less of them.

And I know it’s just me, and I know it’s just a symptom of me getting older and crotchetier. I know that in a few years, I’ll be chasing whippersnappers off my lawn with a rake and a garden hose. I know the time is coming when my daughter Madeleine starts to think my musical tastes are quaint. I know. I know. I know.

Let it never be said that Dragon*Con is not a good time. It remains my absolute favorite time of the year. I WILL go again next year.

But next year I’m bringing ear plugs and a taser.

Aug 30

My Favorite Time of Year

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 in Explanations and Excuses, Featured Friends of Will

I’ve been counting down the hours until Dragon*Con on both my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Someone pointed out to me that my count seemed off, because by my count, the Con starts sometime tomorrow. Wednesday. And yet the official start time isn’t until sometime Thursday.

I know, I know, I know. But you see, for ME Dragon*Con starts at about 2:30 tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, when I go to the airport to pick up my friend TAE HO!!!

For a lot of people, Dragon*Con represents the chance to dress up as some character from geekdom and be the center of attention. For others it represents the chance to get face-to-face with their favorite authors, actors, artists, and mavens. For yet others, it represents a chance to totally nerd out - playing games, crossing lightsabers, talking culture and fandom with like minds.

For me, Dragon*Con has become something else entirely. For me, it is the one time of year when I get to see many of my disparate friends from all over the United States. Tae is from South Carolina. Joe Bisz is from NYC. Jay Elgin now hails from Austin. And yet THEY WILL ALL BE AT DRAGON*CON for 5 days. If I could convince my buddy Thomas to fly in from Vegas, Charles Jenkins to come down from Philly, and Buccheri and his crew to drive down from Baltimore, Dragon*Con would be… complete.

Here’s to that happening someday. In the meantime, welcome back to Atlanta all the rest of you whom I love so dearly. I’ll see you soon… starting tomorrow.

Sep 9

In The Afterglow of Dragon*Con

Posted on Thursday, September 9, 2010 in Featured Friends of Will, Games and Gaming, Greatest Hits, Ramblings

Seth Rogen, folks!

Seth Rogen, folks!

Well, the weekend certainly didn’t go the way I thought it would.

Ordinarily, when you hear a statement like that, you figure something went wrong. Terribly wrong. But in this case… I THOUGHT the weekend would be fun, tiring, and full. I had no idea it would be so great that it would make the days before seem like a red blur and the days after seem like a gray haze.

On Thursday, I got there with my children - Madeleine and Eli - in tow. The Con had not officially started yet, but all my friends were slowly converging on the downtown Atlanta hotels where everything would take place - the Hyatt, the Sheraton, the Marriott, and the Hilton. In the galleria of the Hilton (downstairs), I met up with my friends Tae and Charlie, and we set up some Heroscape terrain so that Madeleine and Tae’s son could wail on each other with painted plastic miniatures and some dice. That went on for a couple of hours, and then my wife Aida came and took the kids home. After that, the place started filling up, and soon I was drinking beer and playing games (specifically RuneWars) as planned. I left at about 1 in the morning, went home, and climbed into bed to charge up for day 2.

Friday consisted of a morning full of logistical movement. If I have any complaints about Dragon*Con and my status as a Dragon*Con volunteer, it’s that I have to do all this logistical movement. You see, I supply the Con with a number of games, and before I get to sit down and start playing, I have to haul all my games to the library, check them in, and make sure my checklist matches what’s on the shelves.

I’d complain, but when I hear horror stories of how long the lines are to get entry badges into the Con, I thank the powers that be and throw another game onto the cart.

The rest of Friday went the way I expected: I played a bunch of games, started making a dent in my cooler of beer, met some new people, had loads of fun with the people I already knew. Then I stumbled upstairs to the room I was going to share with my best bud Jay Elgin, and crashed.

Another part of what I do at Dragon*Con is run these outrageously huge games of Twilight Imperium. On Saturday and Sunday, that’s what I was scheduled to do. So at noon Saturday, I laid out the map of the game - you can see Seth Rogen playing it at the top of this post - and laid into 9 or 10 hours of galactic conquest and political negotiation. I’m not gonna bore you with a blow by blow of the game - it bores me a little to think about it in retrospect. In sum: the Muaat player played like a kid hitting a piñata, Seth Rogen played the Xxcha, Kevin didn’t win and I did. Oh, and Jay rolled dice like shit.

After the game, I started drinking more beer - THIS time in celebration, not of my victory but of my impending… birthday. That’s right, folks. On September 5th, 2010, while attending the largest science fiction and fantasy convention in the United States, I turned 40. And THAT is where the weekend diverged from my expectations.

A dedicated gamer. Yes, that's his tongue.

A dedicated gamer. Yes, that's his tongue.

I only told a handful of people - maybe 20 - that it was my birthday. But between word of mouth and people overhearing other people wishing me well, I couldn’t go anywhere in the Hilton without someone lauding my nativity. Now I kinda know how Jesus feels on Christmas. A lot of Saturday night/Sunday morning is a jumble, but I remember singing Silversun Pickups in the Rock Band room. I remember Mike Barnes’s entourage following me to the Rock Band room, only to get kicked out because they were drinking. I remember a longish conversation with my buddy Peter about how much we like Dogfish Head - although he likes Palo Santo and I don’t. I remember that Jennifer Sellman left her ID at Hooters, and I remember Eddie’s truck.

 

That’s about it. All else was a fantastic mish mash of Happy Birthdays, smiles, and costumed maniacs.

Then came Sunday. Again, I stumbled down to set up Twilight Imperium. But then something awesome happened: while I was setting up the game and collecting entry fees, up rolled a cart surrounded by a large group of people. And on top of that cart was a huge birthday cake, baked in the shape of a game of TI. The next thing I know, 60 or 70 people are singing the Happy Birthday song to me while several hundred more look on, all likely wondering what the hell was happening.

Was I A) surprised B) blown away C) touched so much that I had to fight back tears (crying in front of bunch of geeks would be BAD, BAD)?

The answer is D: all of the above.

My friends from Americus - Elizabeth, Ray, and Stephanie - made me the best birthday cake I’ve ever had, and with the help of Jay served it up to me and the Con in a flourish that would make Siegfried and Roy envious. I was and still am without adequate words to describe how I felt that moment, and how I still feel today, even though Dragon*Con is over (until next year!) and even though I’m a little bit sad and a lot sick (the cold Eli gave me is raging still). They say that your 40th birthday is often somehow very special. And I thought mine would be, since I’d be celebrating it during one of my favorite times of the year. But the outpouring of love and generosity and friendship that I received both humbled me greatly and filled me with immense pride. An irony I think you can understand without me going into detail.

So I won’t. Instead, I’ll end this post with a general thank you to everyone who wished me well on Sunday, and then a little shout out - kind of like the ones you see on the jackets of CD covers - for a few well-deserving, specific people.

To Elizabeth, Ray, Stephanie, and Jay: You made my day. You made my Con. You might have made my year.

To Chris: I know you wanted to sit down with me and enjoy some quiet conversation. I’m sorry it proved impossible, and I promise we’ll do it. And yes, you can buy.

To Phil and Omarr: Thanks for all the opportunities. I’ll see you guys next year.

To Tae and Charlie: Didn’t see you to say good-bye. So, good-bye and I’ll see you in January (at the latest).

To Kevin, Jay, Sean, Ray, Steve, Joshua, Garand, Alex, Travis, Jonathan, Allen, Vince, James, and Robert: The game is great, but it’s people like you that make me want to play it so much.

To Jerry and Jeff: You frakkin’ toasters!

To Peter: You owe me a beer. I think.

To Eddie: Next time, I’m gonna figure out a way to put it in neutral and let it roll backwards a few yards.

To Brian: You never gave me your keys back.

To Jennifer and her friend: Did you see the show? I bailed. Did you get your ID?

To Freitag: The offer is there. You pull an all-nighter, you get in free.

To Aida, Madeleine, and Eli: Someday you’ll really share this with me. I look forward to it.

To the Con organizers: Mail the damn badges already. So what if a few get counterfeited? You’re making boatloads of money, and one day you’re gonna have a fatality in those obscenely long lines. Will it be worth it?

To that fat girl who made the comment about gamers while we were waiting for the elevator: I’m a gamer, and know why you can’t get laid at Con.

To the kid who just walked up and helped himself to a piece of cake: Sure, go ahead.

To anyone I’m forgetting: Thank you, bless you, may the Force be with you, nanoo nanoo, live long and prosper, go forth and multiply.

Sep 2

Dragon*Con Again. And I’m Off….

Posted on Thursday, September 2, 2010 in Featured Friends of Will, Games and Gaming, Ramblings

I was going to insert the Dragon*Con logo as the introductory image for this particular post, but when I did an image search for Dragon*Con, this popped up, and it wowed me so much I HAD to use it. Whoever this young lady is, she’s awesome. And I’m sure I saw her in passing at some point during my many years of attending Dragon*Con, but there’s sooo many people at the Con and sooo much to see, well… I probably saw her and didn’t think much of it. But this picture. Wow.

In a recent post I said I was “flailing around”, trying to figure out what to write about. And then a couple of days ago while I was in the shower, it dawned on me that Dragon*Con was right around the corner and that I could write about it!

I get a lot of ideas in the shower.

Anyway, Dragon*Con starts TODAY, and it is fully my intention to give you my immediate impressions through Tweets and Facebook posts. I’ll post pictures, too. Last year, I’d vowed to be diligent regarding my “journalistic” approach to the Con, and I failed utterly - I just got so distracted by how FUCKING FUN it is that I let the journalism slide. This year will be better, because I have better resources for keeping connected - laptop, smart phone, etc.

The immediacy of today’s technology astounds me. Perhaps even more than the picture of the vampire nurse does.

As an appetizer for my future broadcasts, let me start by saying that it is possible that Dragon*Con is my favorite five days out of every year. My friend Eddie says it’s his, hands down, but he doesn’t have kids at Christmas and stuff like that. Still, the more I think about it, the more I think he may be onto something. Kids at Christmas are fun. But not Dragon*Con FUN.

It also helps that this year, my birthday falls on the Sunday of the Con, and that this is one of those special birthdays for me.

So here we go. Introductory post. And yeah, I’m gonna be shameless: it’s my birthday party, folks. Buy me presents.

Sep 3

Dragon*Con is HERE

Posted on Thursday, September 3, 2009 in Explanations and Excuses

And I’m going. At about 4 this afternoon, I’ll be disappearing for the entire weekend - so it’ll appear that I’m being remiss and abandoning the loyal readers I have amassed. But don’t despair! I’m going to make every effort to send Tweets on Twitter and post things on Facebook, and maybe even post brief posts here to keep you amused and apprised. Check back periodically for anecdotes. I hope they happen….