Last year during an Anime convention, my friend and I were talking in a hotel room during the wee hours of the con, shooting the shit. He told me he was incredibly annoyed. I asked him, “How come?” He was mentioning how his other friend was going through relationship problems, and not only did the friend tried to lay out all his problems on him, he wanted to follow him around the entire convention. Basically babysit him. This pissed off my friend so much, that it was affecting his experience at the convention. During our conversation, my friend said he might even consider going to conventions by himself from now on.
And that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
This comes naturally to me because I’m an independent person to begin with. But for a lot of cosplayers, this may be a foreign concept to you!
Plain and simple – if you want to enjoy yourself at a convention as much as possible, be sure to set aside some time for yourself during the con. Do not plan your ENTIRE convention around your friends! At best, you’ll still have fun but not as much as if you had more freedom. At worst, you’ll have an incredibly shitty time.
Why is it a bad idea to only stick with a group of friends for the entire convention?
You won’t see anything at a convention: There’s tons of activities, panels, photoshoots, and shows during a convention. If you hang with friends the whole convention, not only will you not able to attend most of them, you’ll probably be dragged into stuff you’re not interested in. For example, what if there’s a Q&A for Jessica Nigri at 6 p.m. that you REALLY want to attend, but your friend wants to be part of that RWBY photoshoot outside that’s happening the same time? In most cases, you’ll miss out on seeing Jessica Nigri, and you’ll be stuck in a photoshoot you really don’t care about. It’s certainly a drag when you spend all that money on hotel and admission, to not be able to see the things and do the things you want. Either you’ll have to attend the thing you want to see, or what your friend wants. That’s a decision you do not have to make.
You may end up being a babysitter! – We’re all human and things go wrong during a con: cosplays malfunction, someone makes a rude remark to you, things don’t go as planned, you missed an event you really wanted to attend. You may or may not have to deal with these issues. But one of your friends may be having an incredibly bad time at the convention. As a friend, of course you’re going to try to help them feel better. You try the best you can, but you can only do so much.
Eventually, it’s going to bring down your mood as well. You’re trying to have a good time at the convention, but your friends are having a bad time, so you can’t have a good time. Unless it’s an emergency, helping a friend with their personal problems is something you should do AFTER a convention, not during one.
Once at a convention, my close friend was going through a bad breakup during the con. I was there for him to lay it all out for him, and tried to be there for him. He really appreciated it and we went back to having a great time at the con. Did he expect me to be there for him the whole convention? Of course not.
Same goes for me. During that time with the horrible roommate, I was in such a bad mood that I couldn’t wait for the weekend to be over with. I did talk to my friends and they cheered me up. But I didn’t expect my friends to babysit me. In my opinion, that would be incredibly selfish while they’re trying to have a good time themselves.
All too often, I’m at a convention and run into some con goers I know. They look stressed and miserable, and I ask what’s wrong. They mention their friend has been miserable all weekend long and it’s affecting them, which really sucks because it’s something they have no control over. It’s not fair for someone to ruin someone else’s experience. So if you decide to hang with a group the whole convention, you’ll have a much higher chance of dealing with problems that are not yours.
Less opportunity to meet others: It’s difficult to have meaningful conversations with others if your friends are around. For example, you’re walking down the artist alley, and you bump into an acquaintance you haven’t seen in forever! You want to talk to them and catch up, but it wouldn’t be fair to your friends who are standing beside you, waiting for you to finish your damn conversation because they want to hit up the dealer’s room. So you have to end your conversation early and move on.
Also, if you want to meet new friends or make new business connections, it’s far more difficult if you have a group of friends around you. Again, you can’t have meaningful conversation with someone if your friends are hovering around you to hurry up and end your interaction. Think of all the wonderful photographers, cosplayers, media, staff and other people at a convention. I know when I’m with my friends at a convention, I’m more than likely won’t be talking to many congoers because I don’t want to hold them up.
What’s the best solution when I’m going to a convention with my friends?
The solution is easy – allocate time for yourself during the convention, and allocate time for you and your friends together as well. That way, you attend the activities and panels you want to see, and your friends can do the same. That way, if your friend goes through a crisis during the con, you won’t have to suffer through it (well, not as much). That way, you have the opportunity to meet new people at a convention. That way, YOU have complete control over how you enjoy the convention, not your friends.
For me personally, I spend most of my time away from the friends I come with. I room with them, hangout with them for a couple of panels and during the rave. All other times, I’m usually on my own. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert and I need my space. Or I just want to talk to people that I haven’t seen in months, as well as getting to meet new people at a convention. Or all of the above. J
But what if I’m anti-social/scared to go on my own/can’t fathom not being around my friends at all times?
If any of those reasons are stopping you from not being around your friends at all times, then fine go ahead and stick around them. But just know that you may be missing out, as I mentioned above.
Some of you may be wondering, “Are conventions safe enough for me to walk around by myself, without my friends?” As a guy myself, Anime conventions are one of the safest places I go to. I don’t worry about being threatened with violence like I would walking downtown or taking public transit at night.
But what about females and other disadvantaged groups of people (I don’t want to use the wrong term for them), who are the target of sexual harassment and con creepers? Despite this huge problem, I believe most of them feel safe as well. Here’s what one of my female cosplayer acquaintances had to say:
“I did the whole afternoon of Fan Expo last Saturday on my own. It was… an adventure. I was dressed as Summer!Robin so it was definitely the most revealing thing I’ve ever worn. On top of that, I have social anxiety and can feel a bit… lost on my own. But at the same time, I got to see and browse the artist’s alley at my own leisure without feeling like I was taking up too much of someone else’s time.”
I commend her for being so brave to attend a convention on her own despite her social anxiety. She decided to step out of her comfort zone to be able to enjoy the convention to the fullest.
And I decided to ask the members in my cosplay group about it: https://www.facebook.com/groups/GTAcosplay/permalink/899322583600173/
The majority of them (including women and members who consider themselves disadvantaged) voted “Yes,” convention spaces are safe. That speaks volumes of how safe the environment of an Anime convention is. Note that I’m only talking about the convention area itself, not the trip going there and back. Nor am I talking about the neighbourhood that the convention is located (some cons unfortunately take place in sketchy neighbourhoods). For example, public transit can be unsafe; I certainly know because I was physically assaulted once around a subway station (but that’s a tale for another day).
But if you’re going into let’s say, a dealer’s room of a convention, you’re not expecting to be assaulted by a random attendee or forced to physically defend yourself, am I right? That’s what I’m trying to say. Most con attendees are good, civil people. And the convention staff takes an active part in ensuring the safety of everyone attending as well. Which in turns fosters an environment where you can roam around the convention on your own without feeling unsafe.
The only time I would recommend being more cautious and being around with friends is at night, during the raves and adult programming. Some attendees have had a few drinks in their system, so they may act unusual. And another member pointed out that some non-attendees start coming into the convention area, so you have to be wary of that. But I have met normies who attended the convention at night just for the rave and late-night programming; they were totally good people and had no bad intentions at all. Yes, there are creepers and sketchy-ass people especially at night unfortunately, but it’s hard to judge and automatically label them all bad just because they weren’t around during the day.
Other than that though, conventions are fairly safe. And I’m not the only one who believes this.
Are there exceptions to when someone should hang with their friends at all times? Yes, if you’re in the following categories:
Underage: If you’re really young, you should definitely either have an adult accompany you or be with friends that are over the age of majority. Many conventions require attendees under 18 to be accompanied by an adult at all times anyway. Actually at some conventions I’ve attended, curfew is enforced. So after like 12 AM or so, by law everyone under 18 has to leave the convention grounds and go home. I see this happen in the U.S., but not in Canada.
Disability: If you have a mental or physical disability and you need someone to accompany you for that reason, then there is no argument to be made.
Your first time at a convention: If it’s your first time at an Anime convention, then it’s okay to be with your friends the whole time. Because you don’t know what to see or expect, you won’t be really missing out on anything. And since your friends probably know more about the convention than you, you’ll be better off going off their recommendations for what to see.
Now I’m not saying you can’t hang around your friends at all. You should definitely share the awesome times at a convention with a bunch of good friends. Especially during a party! So when you book a hotel and decide who your roommates are, make sure you don’t revolve your whole convention around those roommates. Or if you’re traveling with a group of friends, be sure to make time to separate from the group. Meet up with your friends later in the evening so you can feel safe and enjoy the night programming of the convention. If you’ve never tried to go around the convention on your own, trust me – you’ll thank me later. 🙂
Do you always hang with your friends at a convention? Or do you prefer doing your own thing at a con? Let me know in the comments!