This past Labor Day weekend I attended Dragon Con for the third time, and just as I expected, it did not disappoint. For those of you who may not be familiar with Dragon Con, it is a 4-day convention that takes place every year in Atlanta that includes thousands of hours of programming for fans of science fiction, fantasy, comic books, gaming, and basically anything else that you can think of that has a fan base. The programming is organized into over 30 different tracks, including animation, digital gaming, fantasy literature, film, horror, paranormal, puppetry, robotics, science, Star Wars, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and young adult literature. What do I mean by programming? I mainly mean discussion panels, but programming also includes things such as games, a film festival, an art show, live musical performances, and parties at night. I could go on and on. Cosplay, or costume play, is also a big part of the Con. You’ll see a myriad of costumes, ranging from Batman to zombies to things that practically no one has heard of (I definitely fell under that category last year). Without a doubt, it’s one of the most colorful and energetic events that I go to all year (Atlanta Pride also comes to mind).
So what did I do at Dragon Con this year, and why do I love it so damn much? I went to panels on Ray Bradbury’s horror work, father figures in Harry Potter, and the Jersey Devil, to name a few, but the highlight of my Con was the Settlers of Catan Tournament. Settlers of Catan is an absolutely amazing strategy board game that was developed in Germany. Me, my partner Camille, and my former roommate Lanny all play it pretty obsessively. Last year, Camille and Lanny competed in the tournament but didn’t fare very well. This year, I decided to compete as well and all 3 of us ended up making it to the semifinals. Amazingly, Lanny went on to the final round and won the tournament! He’ll be competing next year at Gen Con (a gaming convention in Indiana) for 1 of 2 American spots at the Catan World Championship. That’s right, I used to live with a celebrity 🙂
Now, onto that second question: why do I love Dragon Con? For me, Dragon Con is the perfect escape from the “real world”. It conveniently takes place right after school starts, so I usually don’t have much work to worry about yet. I am able to completely disconnect from day to day life and immerse myself in a world where everyone can be anyone and anything that they want. Most importantly, everyone is free to be themselves. You are surrounded by people who not only acknowledge your interests and hobbies, but also truly appreciate and celebrate them. Playing in the Catan tournament with people who love the game as much as I do was exceptionally affirming. I received compliments about my play from individuals who truly appreciated the skill involved in the game, and I was able to benefit greatly from watching players who were better than me. In the real world, a teenager may be teased for her seemingly strange obsession with robotics, but in the robotics competition at Dragon Con, her talent is met with admiration and respect. For the sometimes socially awkward “nerd”, this kind of affirmation can be life-altering.