August 19, 2017

CONnoisseur: The Art of The Convention Experience

  • by Dr. Jonathan Anslow
  • March 6, 2017
  • 0

As we’re nearing the inaugural AspieCon I thought I’d reflect on the inherent appeal and rising popularity of conventions in general.  What is AspieCon you might ask?  Let me crib from the official website to answer that.

AspieCon is everything you love about Comic Con combined with the best aspects of a community resource fair. It celebrates the incredibly diverse interests of individuals on the autism spectrum while also providing valuable resources and support for our awesome Aspies and Auties, their families, and their friends.

AspieCon

The Aspire team at Southeast Psych is excited to launch our first annual AspieCon! This interactive, “out of the box” event is dedicated to building a strong community and empowering individuals on the autism spectrum.

Although I am by no means a well-conned fellow, so to speak, having attended the Con to End All Cons on several occasions I think I have some perspective to share on these matters.  Of course I’m talking about the SAN DIEGO COMIC CON (SDCC)!

The thing about the SDCC is that it is so all-encompassing of geek culture that it can be a tad overwhelming.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s mind-blowing if you are an equal opportunist when it comes to geek culture, but it’s a LOT to take in.  Whether you’re a diehard fan of superheroes, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or even comedy or drama, you will find no short supply of comics, books, films, tv shows, even websites and video games dedicated to just about every genre and sub-genre.  Sometimes the hardest part is when you are forced to make a Sophie’s Choice between two equally awesome panels to attend.  If only you could clone yourself and upload the experiences to your cloud-based hive mind…if only.

One thing I absolutely love about geeky conventions is the COSPLAY!  For those of you who have not come across this term it is a mash-up of “Costume” and “Play” and it involves individuals taking on various personas from whatever geeky following they choose.

There’s room for the, ah, budget cosplayers:

As well as the more seasoned professionals:

Cosplayers typically LOVE it when you admire their work and are usually all too happy to snap a pic with you, just be sure to be patient, respectful, and polite.

The bottom line with huge conventions like Comic Con is that, try as you might, you just can’t experience it all.  In fact, it’s a compelling argument to go ahead and try smaller conventions.  In lieu of contending with ginormous crowds amidst a cacophony of sights and sounds designed to distract and lure you in, you might actually have more opportunity to explore at your heart’s content in relative peace.  Moreover, you will likely have better chances to connect with fellow con-goers, or at least share experiences in a more intimate, accessible way.

This last point I can’t stress enough – establishing connections with other attendees. Cons tend to attract like-minded individuals.  They provide spaces for these folks to be themselves and to geek out and share interests together.  It truly is a wonderful micro-community that’s akin to having an indoor parade celebrating our fellow geeks, well without all of the floats and what-have-you.  Sometimes it’s imperative that communities of people come together to unabashedly celebrate who they are to build confidence and self-esteem and promote a sense of belonging.

So I’d break down the three most compelling draws of a con to be:

  • PANELS – For information
  • COSPLAY – For entertainment
  • COMMUNITY – For connection

When you consider the community of folks on the autistic spectrum and their families and advocates, having a space like AspieCon to convene is incredibly important.  As far as we’ve come as a society understanding mental differences, there are still those who would shun, bully, and otherwise disrespect and mistreat members of this community.  I’m proud to be part of a group of individuals dedicated to creating a space for celebrating neurodiversity at AspieCon.  There’s gonna be expert panels, therapy animals, superhero meet and greets, cosplay, a gaming tournament, food trucks, and more!  Anyway I hope I’ve made a Con-vert out of you – come join us and be a part of the fun!

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