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Dragon*Con: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Greetings Everybody, Dustin here with my review of Dragon*Con 2010.

The Details
Dragon*Con is a general purpose convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film. It is held in Atlanta, GA every Labor Day weekend, and runs from 10am on Friday until about 5pm on Monday, with the registration lines opening on Thursday to allow badges to be picked up or purchased before the start of the convention. Dragon*Con celebrated its 24th year of running in 2010.

The Good
As mentioned, Dragon*Con is a multi-focus convention, which gives it some major advantages over your traditional convention. Because they have such a wide range of panels and guests, there is almost always something going on that will grab your attention and hold on to it. Dragon*Con currently lists a total of 35 Fan Tracks, and has everything from the real world focused Space and Robotics Tracks to the Alternative History (primarily focusing on the Steampunk genre) Track. Star Wars and Star Trek have their own panels and guests outside of the general Science Fiction Track, and Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings are separated out from the general Fantasy Track. Also, for you Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Dollhouse/Dr. Horrible fans, there is a Whedonverse Track that can also keep you entertained. The best part of all this is that you can jump back and forth from Track to Track, attending a Costuming Track, then going to a Science Fiction, then to a Robotics, all for the single convention admission fee.

The people at Dragon*Con are another great reason to attend. It's very easy to tell that everyone who attends is really there to have a good time, and it's extremely rare to find people who are downright rude. I'd love to give a shout out to the groups that I was able to sit and chat with in the mall food-court, and thank you for all your help and advice.

On the same level as the people, the sheer volume of astounding costumes you will see at this convention is purely amazing. There are truly some amazingly creative people there, and I will try and let the pictures tell this story better than I could possibly express in words.

With over 400 Guests and Bands on the Guest List, there is an amazing number of guests doing panels, signing autographs, and taking pictures. And they're not minor characters either. This years guest list included such names as Edward Olmos (Battlestar Galactica), Summer Glau (Firefly, Terminator: SCC, Dollhouse), Sandeep Parikh (The Guild), Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek, Boston Legal), and John DiMaggio (Futurama, Gears of War, Batman: Under the Red Hood).

Dragon*Con has 3 separate dealer's rooms (4 if you count the artist's alley) in order to accommodate all of the vendors that come out. Replica props, clothing, swords, comics, DVDs, artwork (originals and customs), almost everything can be found in one room or another.

The Bad
I think I've mentioned before that Dragon*Con is a multi-focus convention? Well, that comes with it's downside as well. Since there is such a wide variety of panels, you'll often find yourself with multiple things going on at the same time, and then you're forced to make that hardest of decisions. Which panel are you going to attend? Where are you going to find time to eat when you have non-stop panels from 10am to after midnight? While I love having a convention that has these problems, they are legitimate negatives that must be considered.

One of the severe negatives of Dragon*Con is the price of attendance. An at-the-door 4-day badge will cost you $100 (that price is going up to $120 starting with Dragon*Con 25 in 2011), though discounts can be obtained for pre-registration. (typically $70 or $90, depending on the registration date). While this price is roughly equivalent to the cost of attending San Diego Comic Con, it is significantly more than the $55 cost of attending Penny-Arcade Expo. Walking distance hotels tend to run at about $220/night with the Convention rate, and $450 a night if you aren't lucky enough to get one of the convention rate rooms. (As a note, the “standard” price of most of these hotels is about $260 /night on non-convention weekends, they simply up the price massively for those days the convention is in town).

The Ugly
I mentioned earlier that if you pre-register for a convention badge, you can get a discount on the $100 price tag. However, that discount comes with a steep price to pay. While the on-site registration line may take you up to 45 minutes to get through (typically it's more like 15-30 minutes), the pre-registration pickup line will take you a minimum of 2 hours, if you get lucky. When I got in line, I waited for 3 and a half hours to get my badge, and when I left, the line wait had probably moved up to almost 5 or 6 hours. Dragon*Con uses no modern conveniences related to badge pickup. When you finally get through the line, they will look up your name in a binder of printed names of people that have pre-registered. While this is a fine method for conventions that have only a few thousand attendees, it fails seriously in the face of Dragon*Con's 50,000 or so attendees. This is really a case where looking at other conventions and adapting their methods would seriously benefit them.

I'm throwing this part down here, not so much because it's an Ugly, but more as a warning. There are a few people at Dragon*Con who will have different ideas of what is considered an appropriate amount of flesh to display. While nudity laws are enforced, and the convention is pretty adamant that “no costume is NO costume”, you may see things that you or your younger children may not want to see.

The Results

All in all, I had an amazing time at Dragon*Con, and am seriously looking forward to going back next year. How much am I looking forward to it? I already have a pre-reg badge and a hotel reservation, almost a full year in advance. With a little luck, maybe some of my fellow USG'ers will be able to go with me.

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