Convention Side Quests at ConnectiCon 2019

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Last weekend was the seventeenth ConnectiCon, a convention near and dear to my heart. I’ve been attending with my daughters for a decade; it’s our home con, familiar, even nostalgic, and we look forward to it every year.

photos of the author's daughter in costume
Aeris at ConnectiCon in 2010 (as “Hit-Girl”) and 2019 (as “Duo Maxwell”), photos by Anika Dane

This year our con started with a mission presented to us by the Con Questers, who were holding cardboard signs in the style of the ubiquitous con goers giving out “Free Hugs” or the now as popular “Free Shrugs,” which instead read “Free Side Quests”. This was intriguing enough (and the vendors room and programming weren’t up yet), so we inquired and were given a green index card with our “quest” handwritten in pencil.

Photo by Kerste Milik

“Play 3 rounds/3 songs of a rhythm game of your choosing”. We played Taiko no Tatsujin and 2 songs on Into the Groove to complete our quest and then a round of Just Dance just ’cause. We posted our proof to Instagram, handed in our card, and received our prize, three Jolly Ranchers. This was a cute idea and delightful way to start our weekend. We saw others darting about on side quests a few times during the con and even helped one young woman who was looking for unique players of Super Smash Brothers. She asked the crowd on the steps—a popular place to chill and people watch during the con—who played the game and anyone who raised their hand she asked who their main player character is until she had 15 different answers. Everyone got into it and cheered when she succeeded. It was a great moment and something that would be far more difficult to pull off at a larger con. And then, because this was the first thing we did this year, I started seeing all the other things we did as side quests, too.

Star Wars costume group shot
ConnectiCon Star Wars Photoshoot 2019, photo by Kerste Milik

Cosplay is one of our favorite ways to enjoy a con, both as participants and observers. ConnectiCon is multi-fandom, and fans had organized photoshoot and meet-ups for Pokémon, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Disney, and more.

NGE group photoshoot
Neon Genesis Evangelion photoshoot at ConnectiCon 2019, photo by Kerste Milik

Neon Genesis Evangelion debuted in Japan in 1995. I was huge into anime in the nineties and I loved the series—especially the character of Asuka, whose name I used as an online handle for years. Two decades later the series has made its way onto Netflix and I was thrilled to see an Evangelion photoshoot announced for ConnectiCon. I still have Asuka’s entry-plug-barrettes and a Pen-Pen plush I got way back when, so I was determined to participate. This shoot was held the same day as the Star Wars shoot and my Star Wars panel, so I changed clothes in the parking garage before and after it (#CosplayLife). And while neither of my cosplays are as intricate and amazing as all the ones that surround them, I’m so happy that I did it and that I have these photos with fans both older and younger than me, all united by the love of a fantasy.

Eating at a convention can be a chore. We’re often in costume, the crowds are large and lines long, and the fare is usually overpriced and limited, especially for vegetarians like myself. But I was pleasantly surprised by the offerings at the Convention Center this year! In addition to the always popular ramen noodles and mainstay burger and fries, one of the main food vendors offered 4 or 5 vegetarian options and even a bowl of vegan chili, and at relatively reasonable prices. And, of course, there is always Starbucks.

cosplay on display in Starbucks and the con floor
Photos by Anika Dane and Aeris Milik

Shopping is of course a big reason to go to a con, and while the Dealer’s Room and Artist’s Colony are smaller than at an NYCC, for example, the vendors are just as good and it’s so much easier to get around and actually see everything. Aeris-as-Duo purchased a model kit of Duo’s Gundam (giant robot) Death Scythe and Kerste-as-a-Pokémon-Trainer found a plush Pikachu just in time to have it included in the photoshoot. I purchased an adorable crochet Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon) from an artist’s booth and Aeris-as-Pearl-from-Splatoon purchased some prints of the other inkling idols.

panel slide
Anika and Aeris at age 6 as Wonder Woman; photos and slide: Anika Dane

This year my girls and I all presented Panels at the con. The above slide is from the Fandom Herstory panel I moderated Saturday night, one of three I did (you can read more about them here). I used photos of myself and my daughter because the women’s history of fandom is personal to me, as it is to my panelists.

Herstory panelists, photos: Sue Kisenwether, A.J. O’Connel, Corrina Lawson

And after the panel an audience member approached us to say she was a member of the Star Trek Welcommittee, which we’d highlighted as foundational to fandom. The women’s history of fandom is her personal history, and we got to meet her and thank her and validate her, and it felt great.

There were also games and guests, crafts, and even fireworks (thanks, Riverfest!)—side quests for everybody! And the best of all, at least for me, spending time with all the other “players.” So thanks for the idea, Con Questers. It’s super geeky to think of the con as an RPG, but also super fun!

Pre-registration for ConnectiCon 2020 is already available!

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