Panels, competitions and games, oh my!

Photo by Brenda Lin

While there are plenty of activities to do and sights to see at Dragon Con, the emphasis of the actual convention is on its scheduled events which include panels, games and competitions. As an ever-growing multi-media convention with more than 70,000 people in attendance, organization is the key to success. With this in mind, Dragon Con’s programming is divided into various tracks, each with a theme and its own rooms and schedules.

While some tracks have self-explanatory names such as Horror and Tolkien’s Middle Earth, others needed a bit of a definition such as BritTrack (with an entire country’s fiction to choose from, it was not obvious that this would mostly be for fans of Doctor Who and Sherlock) and Kaleidoscope (which turned out to be focused on Disney and programming for kids).

Names aside, the track system helped fans to find events of interest, though some were oddly classified such as Robot Battles being under the Main programming instead of the Robotics Track and a panel discussing angels being on the Horror track. While these mis-classifications might have prevented some from finding a truly interesting panel to attend, most events were well defined, and the track system makes looking up a certain event easier once an attendee knows that it does exists.

Although the system is not perfect, having similar events scheduled near each other does help reduce the amount of running back and forth between hotels that attendees must do. The rule that lines for each event cannot form more than an hour before the event is to start also greatly helps convention goers to be able to get the most out of their time in theory.

The problem with this is that it is not always enforced, and several fans seemed to enjoy forming unofficial lines slightly farther away from the room to ensure their spot when the “real” line begins.

Once organization and planning have been dealt with, attendees may proceed to actually attending events (which is, after all, the point of being an attendee). With the prevalence of cosplay throughout the hotels and nearby streets, one would expect the cosplay contest to be worth attending. This would be an erroneous line of thinking.

While the costumes themselves are grand, the ability of a large and packed room’s occupants to see the detail from far away is rather limited. Without screens to assist visibility, the contestants are unfortunately unable to impress the crowd. It is far better to simply enjoy costumes as they are seen in passing on the way to more enjoyable events.

Another competition event was Robot Battles, which is quite exciting to view since it, unlike the cosplay, took advantage of screens to allow more people to see what was happening. The onlookers for these spectacles were quite animated as the enthusiastic announcer counted to three and then let the gathered crowd shout “Fight!” to begin each battle.

Of course, not all events could be as action packed as fighting robots. Although there were purely informative panels on tracks such as the Electronic Frontiers Forum which focused on the prevalence of technology and today’s legal and ethical issues in this field, many attendees chose comedic panels to provide them entertainment.

Most panels, consisting of Dragon Con guests and volunteers, those knowledgeable in certain relevant fields, and sometimes mere fans of the subject, managed to keep the attendees laughing and in generally fine moods throughout their hour long runtimes. Of course, attendees would only chose to attend panels they initially found interesting anyway, but the fact remains that many panels were well planned and executed to the enjoyment of those present.

As an example of this engaging wit, during one of the Urban Fantasy panels, one author added humor into his discussion about how he created the plot for his dark novels.

“You don’t have to be sadistic to be a writer, but … ” said Jim Butcher, author of the “Dresden Files,” letting the sentence hang ominously until another panelist continued the conversation. Despite his utterly serious tone, the audience found this remark quite amusing.

The events of Dragon Con were by no means limited to cosplay, gaming and panels — among other proceedings, there were film screenings. “Dragon Warriors,” a low budget action comedy, was one such film that in no way let its limited monetary spending reduce the quality of its extensive CGI.

Those who decided to stay awake for the rather late screening thoroughly enjoyed this full length movie, showcasing Dragon Con’s enthusiasm and willingness to be an outlet for new and innovative ideas.

By the end of the four day event, attendees were thoroughly satisfied by the plethora of events offered by the organizers. The convention left attendees exhausted by the time they were packed and ready to return home. Regardless of exhaustion, fans are already anticipating next year.