Monday, August 1, 2011

Play On Con 2011

This was a most excellent con. Play On con is a largely gaming based convention merged with party and other fan aspects. The entire thing takes place in a Birmingham Mariott this absolutely the right size for what it does. I don’t have precise attendance numbers but I’d estimate it between 300-400 people, which lets it have enough numbers to sustain the parties, the costuming and the gaming but still keeping an intimate feeling. By the time the con is done you’ve had a chance to get to know many of the people there though there are still strangers.

One thing I’ve come to realize from these cons is that the costuming aspect is very important. Its kind of the glue that brings a lot of fandom subcultures together, and more importantly the costume contest is often the single largest gathering of a con. Especially of the medium sized ones. The effort that goes into building them ranges from the sublime (such as the winner of the contest who made a Steam Punk bordello owner who was able to give functional body shots on stage to the MC with an extremely elaborate hand piece) to the simplistic (such as the Liono costume the guy put together in two to three hours the night before which still looked pretty damn good.) Many of the secondary prizes seemed invented on the fly, but they were also appropriate such as ‘fan favorite’ for Judge Dread or ‘most creative’ etc etc. Each of the costumes that won an award definitely deserved something. One VERY nice thing about a medium sized cons is that there are no huge lines anywhere.

There were six panel/room locations sites which tended to be going for all of the prime hours and only seemed to have a few vacant spots. One of the more interesting to me was the ‘how to’ element which showed everything from how to make your house haunted, how to dance (anticipating national dance off week) to how to design your own world. It also included a whedon track, media track, anime and gaming. The Cheese Grinder from dragon con was also there and ran a marathon session from Friday through to 1pm Sunday. I made three characters, which lasted from 2-3 hours to 5 seconds. The rooms can be lethal but fun. I spent most of my time doing the alternate activities rather than the games, primarily since the rpg aspect of things focused mainly on Pathfinder. If I end up going next year I’ll probably run some Shadowrun missions. It could use a bit more variety in that department.

The parties were very fun. There were three parties I wasn’t able to go to Sunday night. Attendance dropped off a bit on Sunday afternoon and Evening but they also had an election and party congress. I also greatly enjoyed the casino on Friday night where I won enough chips to be able to become a party judge. The con suite was very well run as was the video game room. Basically the whole thing worked very well.

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