For those readers that are new: read the old posts to see my prior concerns about UberCon. For the rest of you: it went far better than I had feared, but not as well as I had hoped.
Let’s get the basics out of the way: UberCon was a hell of a lot of fun. Everyone seems to have had a really good time, including myself. More importantly, many of the vendors have already expressed interest in returning, so things are looking QUITE favorable for UberCon III, to be held sometime in late March-early April. Having had a sit-down with Kevin, we’ve worked out a lot of the issues that were bothering us, and things are going to be firmed up in a more final fashion sometime in the next few weeks.
I got to meet a lot of really cool, interesting people: I had made it explicitly clear prior to the convention that I was not volunteering for anything, and was coming as an attendee. This allowed me to roam as I wanted, and talk to who I wanted without having to worry about having to be somewhere. I even exchanged information with a few, so I’ll be able to keep in touch.
The only major letdown was the number of people: we had more than last time, but not by much. This could be for a variety of reasons, and really didn’t hinder anyone from having a good time. From a business standpoint, however, it was disappointing.
Now for the specifics.
I came as an attendee. I made it explicitly clear to Kevin weeks before arriving, and had pre-registered as nothing more than that. That said, when Uri and I arrived late Thursday night, we immediately began helping Kevin, Adam, Steve, and Kevin’s daughter Tammy help unload the truck, moving everything where it needed to be. Why? Because it needed to be done, and I have the double-whammy of wanting my friends to succeed and also having a vested interest in making this successful.
That sentiment carried over for the rest of the convention. I helped out where I could and where I saw fit, but I was not required to help: I helped because I like to help. This made all the difference in the world in allowing me to really enjoy the convention. By not having set responsibilities, I was able to go do my own thing when I wanted to, and help when I felt like it. When I actually have a formal role, I find I feel trapped by those responsibilities, and cannot relax even when “off-duty.” Something to work on, I think.
Friday proved to be interesting. I helped set up and ran around helping where I could. I managed to successfully troubleshoot getting Steve’s laptop attached to Kevin’s freakishly large, bad-ass networked laserjet, all behind a firewall. (We’d all been taking turns trying to figure it out.. took 2 or 3 hours when all said and done.)
After finishing that and checking around, I decided that things seemed to be ready, so I went down to the exhibition center and hung out for a bit. Ran into another Vermonter, so naturally I struck up a conversation that quickly evolved into a lengthy discussion about games as a form of creative expression. She seemed at least somewhat interested in becoming involved in my criticalgames.com project, so that was a double win: new friend, and potential new colleague. Ended up hanging out with her some more on Saturday, but I’ll get to that.
Also on Friday night was the Rocky Horror Picture Show with floorshow, to which I OF COURSE went to. I was a “virgin” (seen the movie, but never in a theatre with floorshow), so I was stuffed with stale marshmallows and then sent back to my seat. There were technical problems with the DVD, which pissed off the actors but ended up making it more hilarious for the audience, since the actors ended up improvising a LOT. It’s like watching Half Hour Hamlet: the rushing around necessary to keep up with when a scene freezes and ends up getting skipped is just plain FUNNY.
Rolled into bed around 2am completely worn out from the running around and lack of sleep, and slept deeply until morning. Saturday was mostly a photography day for me. I helped troubleshoot the wireless access point down in the exhibition center, then used the now-fixed wireless solution to check my mail. As I was doing that, I uploaded some of the pictures I’d taken. In the process of that, several random people stopped to chat (including this interesting fellow from Indiana who was there as a vendor with Fantasy Forge… we chatted about him doing research into ghosts and such, and his plans to write a book about it). KoalaKnight and I were chatting when Tiffany swung by and mentioned heading out to see the Ren Faire folks who were outside on the lawn. We ended up wandering around, taking pictures of various rooms (not many of the RPG rooms, as several people in there expressed displeasure in getting their picture taken… not worth the effort) and chatting. She apparently works for CGM, and was taking some pictures for a tentative story about UberCon. This would be exceptionally cool, but I’m not getting my hopes up. She was pretty clear that it wasn’t necessarily actually going to get printed or anything.
When it rolled around time to do the costume contest, we parted ways and I went to heckle, err, observe. There were some interesting costumes, certainly, though nothing on the level of some of the cosplay costumes I’ve seen at some anime conventions. Still, quite respectable, and a lot of fun. One of our vendors happened to win with a remarkably well done swashbuckler costume. My friend Kyle had a really nice sprite costume with shiny wings… it worked really well with her green hair.
After the contest, several of the management got a breather, where I finally got to sit down and talk about upcoming cons, our thoughts on how this one is going, things to improve, things we did right. Overall, a very useful time. At this point, San Jose and Seattle are both a go, and the subject of debate is which will come first. I’ll be heading up the work on Seattle, Adam will be working on NYC and San Jose. Additionally, I am going to (in theory) become more involved in the organizing and management stuff so I can become more comfortable with it before I have to do it on my own in Seattle. I came out of this meeting (and the rest of the convention, really) with a far more positive view of things than I’ve had recently about the convention. We’re all in agreement that working with the folks at Penny Arcade would be a worthwhile thing in general, and some discussion of inviting them out to the spring NYC UberCon went on… something to broach with them sometime soon. I’ll be heading up that, because I have the most prior contact with them. (Robert, if you happen to read this, I’m going to be emailing you about all this in more detail soon.)
Everyone else went up to the staff party on the 13th floor, but I chose to go to bed… I don’t drink (ever), and was tired enough that I didn’t feel like having to work at being social. Apparently it was a blast, though, from reports I heard the following morning.
Sunday was pretty laid back. Not many new registrations, which is a good thing, as Sundays are generally the wind-up day for conventions (ours included). By that point, everyone is tired from being up and active for several days, vendors are starting to sell out, and some guests have already started to head home (Randy over at Something Positive, for instance, headed out immediately after the comic strip contest, because one of his friends that he came with needed to be back in Boston that afternoon). Really, I felt kind of bad for the people who only came for Sunday.
4 o’clock rolled around pretty quickly, which signalled the end of the convention. We packed up the TVs and other equipment, and started to load it on the truck. The computers we’d rented for LAN went back to the room they’d been collected from (they were going to collect them the following day), and that was essentially that. The few staff stragglers (5 of us) went out to Outback (one of our sponsors), which Kevin said to send him the receipt for. Uri and I headed back north to Vermont on Monday morning. And that, as they say, is that.