The State of Gaming at DragonCon

In 1990 the annual Origins™ Gaming Convention was held at DragonCon (these days it’s stationary, but in olden times it moved around). As a table-top gamer I was super excited to go and see all the new roleplaying games and board games that were being debuted. As I walked through the vendors’ hall, nestled between TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons and Game Designers Workshop were two new games that were premiering: Torg and Rifts. This year at GenCon the big talk was about the revival of Torg and Rifts. It’s the gaming industry. What are you gonna do?

But I digress.

11986948_10100655657549266_7403375748303020854_nIn the past 25 years (and since the advent of collectible card games in general) I have heard that tabletop gaming is dying. With fewer Friendly Local Gaming Shops, the three tier system of delivery (publisher to distributor to store) created a bottleneck that resulted in the appearance of the death of the hobby.

Then came crowd funding.

Today the industry is not only healthy – it is thriving. You hear the term Golden Age of Gaming and it’s not far off. So, when they tell you the hobby is dying, tell them “You couldn’t tell by looking at DragonCon. “

The DragonCon Gaming Track is sprinkled liberally across the host hotels, but the stronghold lies at the venerable Hilton Hotel on Courtland Street. In the basement ballrooms, it’s wall to wall gaming. Award winning board games and card games cover every table and the gaming population fills every available seat from early in the morning to the wee hours of the next morning.  The latest and greatest games share play space with classics. Gray haired veterans (like myself) shared tables with diverse groups of younger players. I looked on as a group of 50 somethings taught the intricacies of Starfleet Battles to a group of teens. Didn’t bring a game to play? The massive board game library was happy to provide you games for an hour, a day, or the weekend.10599114_10100653951877446_3026110638374308924_n

But what about RPGs? The RPG rooms on the third floor of the Hilton were packed from 8 am to midnight. Campaign RPGs like the Pathfinder Society and Shadowrun Missions were present in force and non-campaign games for first time players and old campaigners were run round the clock by some of the ablest judges I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with.

I haven’t mentioned video games have I? LAN gaming is always a big draw at DragonCon. Tournament play, casual play, and pick-up games were in abundance. Bring your own PC (or console) or rent one. Over 150 titles were available. It was a thing of beauty.

Panels from industry leaders were also in abundance. Topics ranging from “How to fix your roleplaying game” to “How to design games” were addressed by major industry names like Kenneth Hite (Pelgrane Press), Jason Buhlman (Paizo), and Monte Cook (Monte Cook Games).

If it sound like there was enough gaming going on that I had time for little else, that’s because it’s true.

So next year, if you want to get your game on, DragonCon is the place to do it and, if they tell you the hobby is dead, tell them you couldn’t tell from DragonCon.

 

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RECORD CROWDS EXPECTED IN DOWNTOWN ATLANTA FOR DRAGON CON 2015

Cosplayers, Gamers and Pop Culture Fans Return for Annual Fantasy, Sci Fi & Gaming Convention

More than 400 Actors, Artists, Authors and Creators Will Give Talks and Meet Fans.

 

ATLANTA – August 18, 2015 – More than 65,000 people are expected to pack downtown Atlanta over the Labor Day weekend as Dragon Con, the internationally known pop culture, sci fi, fantasy and gaming convention, returns for its 29th consecutive year.

Dragon Con fans will travel from every state in the nation and a few foreign countries to participate in the four-day convention, where they can meet their favorite actors, artists, authors and creators, and talk about the stuff they love.

Guests More than 400 guests, from the worlds of movies, television, comics, literature and other universes, will lead panel discussions and meet with fans.  Battlestar Galactica’s Edward James Olmos, Star Wars’ Peter Mayhew, internet personality Felicia Day, as well as John Barrowman, David Ramsey, and Stephen Amell, all from CW’s Arrow, head an all-star guest list.

Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, will serve as grand marshal of the Dragon Con Parade.

And, at this year’s Dragon Con, Sesame Street meets Peachtree.  Famed puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who recently retired after 45 years performing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, as well as Muppet performer Steve Whitmire, who has performed Kermit the Frog since 1990, will appear at the convention.

“We’re very excited about this year’s guest list.  We have attracted guests from some of the best shows on television today, including Arrow, Game of Thrones, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Once Upon A Time,” convention co-chair Rachel Reeves said.   “We also have guests from fan favorite shows from recent years, such as Warehouse 13 and classic sci-fi shows such as Doctor Who.”

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Cosplay Dragon Con is well known for the quality of its cosplay – or costume play – and that tradition will certainly continue.  The nation’s top cosplayers will show off their best work during the show, participating in costume contests every night of the convention and promenading throughout the five host hotels and the streets of downtown Atlanta.

Cosplay competitions remain a mainstay of Dragon Con, including the queen of competitions, Dragon Con Masquerade, which is both the oldest continuously run competition in fandom as well as one of the largest in the world.  Dragon Con is also thrilled to introduce the newest competition, The Chôsen, which will premiere at Dragon Con Night at the Aquarium.

Parade Atlanta’s largest parade, the annual Dragon Con Parade, will step off Saturday, September 5 at 10 a.m.   To better accommodate parade spectators, the parade will have a new route.  Beginning at the intersection of Peachtree Street and Linden Avenue, the parade will head south on Peachtree, east (left) on Andrew Young International Boulevard and north (left) on Peachtree Center Avenue. It will end on Peachtree Center Avenue between John Portman Boulevard and Baker Street, in front of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

The new route is now a little longer – .9 miles, from .8 miles last year, and brings the route closer to the North Avenue MARTA station, in addition to the Civic Center and Peachtree Center stations.  Parking downtown is expected to be tight, and Dragon Con encourages parade spectators to consider taking MARTA.

Gaming Perhaps better known for the celebrity guests and cosplayers, Dragon Con is also one of the largest gaming conventions in the nation.  Taking up most of the Hilton Atlanta Downtown and parts of the Sheraton Atlanta, gaming at Dragon Con features voice actors, game designers and other guests from the worlds of table top and video gaming, as well as the opportunity to play tabletop and LAN gaming in casual and tournament formats.

Official Charity Earlier this year, Dragon Con selected the Lymphoma Research Foundation – Georgia Market as its official charity for 2015.  Through auctions and other charity events, plus a dollar-for-dollar match up to $50,000 from Dragon Con, the convention will raise money to support this important community organization.

In 2014, the convention raised over $115,000 for its official charity, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and collected 535 pounds of food.  Through the Superheroes community service program, Dragon Con fans contributed more than 900 hours of community service.

Dragon Con also conducts the largest convention-based blood drive in the nation.  Last year’s annual Robert A. Heinlein “Pay It Forward” blood drive attracted a record turnout, with 2,972 attendees donating more than 6,000 units of blood and blood products, benefiting LifeSouth, which serves more than 40 hospital in the Atlanta area and 110 hospitals in the Southeast.

About Dragon Con

Dragon Con is the internationally known pop culture convention held each Labor Day in Atlanta. Organized for fans, Dragon Con features more than about 3,000 hours of comics, film, television, costuming, art, music and gaming over four days. For more information, please visit www.dragoncon.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Dragon Con – the charity side of geek

unnamedIt was a muggy Saturday morning in September in Atlanta.  We were on our way from the Sheraton to the Marriott, having just stood next to a pool in our historically-accurate costumes with historically-accurate underpinnings, when we got stopped by a family dressed as the crew from the Starship Enterprise.  They asked if they could take their picture with us, and we happily obliged.  The mom told us how wonderful we looked, and sheepishly admitted she wasn’t really a Star Trek fan, but their daughter Dawn was, so they all dressed up with her.  We told her that we love seeing the family cosplays, and that they looked wonderful.  The family hurried on their way, smiles on their faces, and we didn’t think much more about it.

Two weeks later, we saw an article by the Huffington Post with a picture of Patrick Stewart hugging our Star Trek family.  Dawn was meeting Sir Patrick Stewart as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Over the past few years, we’ve attended a lot of conventions, and one of things that sets Dragon Con apart is the involvement in charity, both on the local and national level.  Last year, the Dragon Con charity was the Atlanta Community Food Bank, where over $115,000 was raised, including the company match of over $50,000.  Every year there is a blood drive for LifeSouth, which serves more than 40 hospitals in the Atlanta area and more than 110 hospitals in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. In 2014, the drive welcomed 3893 donors and collected 3,292 units, assisted by a crew of more than 60 people from all three states who descended on Atlanta to handle the flood of donors in costume.  Also new last year was Dragon Con Superheros, which is a year-round community service project, which is continuing this year.

lrf_logo_KOThis year, Dragon Con’s selected charity is the Lymphoma Research Foundation, which will again match $50,000 of money raised.  We’re certain the charitable attendees will surpass last year’s donations, and it’s nice to know we’re using our power of geek for good!

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LYMPHOMA RESEARCH FOUNDATION SELECTED AS DRAGON CON’S 2015 OFFICIAL CHARITY

New Slate of Superheroes Community Service Projects Lets Dragon Con Fans Lend a Hand
unnamedATLANTA – Dragon Con, Atlanta’s internationally known pop culture, fantasy and sci-fi convention, has selected the Lymphoma Research Foundation – Georgia Market as its official charity for 2015. Dragon Con will match dollar for dollar, up to $50,000, any money raised for this charity at the 2015 convention.
Dragon Con also announced its slate of Superheroes community service projects for Dragon Con members and fans in the Atlanta area. This program is now in its second year.
In 2014, the convention raised over $115,000 for its official charity, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and collected 535 pounds of food. Through the Superheroes program, Dragon Con fans contributed more than 900 hours of community service.
“Selecting the Lymphoma Research Foundation as our official charity this year was a very personal choice,” said Rachel Reeves, convention co-chair. “We are grateful that organizations such as this are working hard to improve treatments and cures for this devastating disease.”
Two long-time members of the Dragon Con family – Eugie Foster, Director of the Daily Dragon, and Mark Brown, Co-Director of Convention Operations – recently died from lymphoma, while a third member is currently battling it.
LYMPHOMA-RESEARCH-FOUNDATIONLymphoma is a group of blood cancers, most notably non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which accounts for about 90 percent of cases. Other types include Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma and immunoproliferative diseases. Over half a million people are currently living with lymphoma in the United States – the most common blood cancer in adults and the third most common cancer over all among children.
Three Superhero projects are currently planned for the spring and summer of 2015. In addition to having a great time, people who participate in any of these service projects will be invited to an exclusive celebration during this year’s convention and will receive a Superheroes t-shirt.
“We had a great time last year, getting together as fans and volunteers, to do something good and make a difference in our community,” Reeves said. “Donations are always important, but there are plenty of organizations that also need volunteers to carry out their mission.”
atlanta_food_bankThe first Superheroes project will see a return to the Atlanta Community Food Bank partnership, with a half-day of work in an ACFB supported community garden on March 21st.
Community gardens act as a powerful tool for social change by providing neighborhoods with fresh vegetables, attractive landscapes, and place to meet and work towards positive goals. Volunteers help with weeding, seeding, planting, tilling, cleaning, clearing, and any other activity that can possibly take place in a garden.
For the second project, Dragon Con will field a team of volunteers to raise money and participate in the annual Lymphoma Walk, supporting the Lymphoma Research Foundation, on April 11th at Wesleyan School in Norcross. In addition to the walk team, the Superheroes will have other opportunities to volunteer at the walk – possibilities include registration, t-shirt table, set up/clean up, and route cheerleaders.
A third project is in the works, and details will be announced when they are confirmed.
About Dragon Con
Dragon Con is the internationally known pop culture convention held each Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta (Sept. 47, 2015). Organized for fans, Dragon Con features more than about 3,000 hours of comics, film, television, costuming, art, music and gaming over four days. For more information, please visit www.dragoncon.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
For more information on the Lymphoma Research Foundation, please visit www.lymphoma.org.
For more information on Atlanta Community Food Bank, please visit www.acfb.org.
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Our 2015 convention schedule!

It’s barely November, but we’re already excited about 2015! Check out our convention schedule:

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We’re planning to attend these conventions in some sort of capacity, either as vendors, attendees, press or even guests!  As the conventions get closer, we’ll have more details for you!  And we’re excited about MomoCon’s Cosplay on Ice coming up, so keep an eye out for those costumes, coming soon!

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A life in early Dragon Con

unnamedUnless you are completely unfamiliar with geek culture conventions, you’ve heard of Dragon Con. If you haven’t, Dragon Con is a convention held in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s been going on since 1987 and every Labor Day weekend, over 50,000 total strangers come to Atlanta to become best friends for the weekend by sharing their various love affairs with geek culture. We at the Geek Forge call it “Nerdy Gras”.

As you can see from those numbers, Dragon Con doesn’t need me to sell you on the convention, so I’m not going to bother to try. What I’m going to do is tell you why Dragon Con wants you and why you are likely to want Dragon Con.

logo_C3938My history with Dragon Con starts in 1990. I had been a regular attendee of conventions in Atlanta since 1978, but in 1990, Dragon Con hosted the Origins Game Fair and that was something I couldn’t miss. The moment I walked into the Con, I noticed that it was different than other conventions that I had attended. The guests mingled with the fans on an intimate level. The line between fan and guest was blurred to such a degree that it felt like we were all celebrating this event together. Turns out that we were.

 

I could tell you a lot of very personal stories about this shared experience, but I’ll focus on one event that occurred at Dragon Con 1994. In 1994, Image Comics was huge. They were the hot Young Turks of the comic industry and everyone was imitating them. Comics were full of mullets, pouches, gritty heroes, and everyone was wearing leather jackets.

Don Edwing; web source: http://www.galleryofhistory.com/archive/3_2005/art-architecture/252639-DUCK-EDWING.htm

Don Edwing; web source: http://www.galleryofhistory.com/archive/3_2005/art-architecture/252639-DUCK-EDWING.htm

As I walked through the exhibitor’s hall, I pushed my way through the crowd in front of the Image Comics booth to the DC Comics booth and I did a double take. Sandwiched between the two was a small table for MAD Magazine. Sitting at the table was Don “Duck” Edwing. Duck was a gag cartoonist who wrote and drew for MAD for 5 decades. He created this little strip called “Spy vs. Spy.” As creators go, he is kind of a big deal. I stopped to talk for a moment and told Duck how much his work meant to me and I ended up spending half the convention with him and his wife.

I asked Duck what it was like to be sandwiched between all the modern stars of the comics industry. Duck said “Hot commodities come and go, but the fans are forever. They don’t hold conventions for the companies. They hold them for fans.”

That conversation stuck with me over the years and since then I have heard the same words from Jeanette Khan, Martin Nodell, Julius Schwartz, Mike Grell, Stan Lee, and a dozen others. Nowhere is this truer than Dragon Con.

148755_10100393971225756_2684510957559515775_nIt’s been 24 years since my first Dragon Con and the landscape has changed to make that story even more truthful. Dragon Con is a convention where the fans are the stars and the guests are just as likely to take a selfie with a cosplayer or sit down and chat at dinner as fans are to stand in line for an autograph.

Dragon Con is messy, loud, and frantic. It’s often crowded and chaotic. It’s like a family reunion. It’s like a block party. It’s Nerdy Gras and that’s what makes it different; that’s what makes it great. It’s not a convention anymore — it’s a celebration and that itself is worth celebrating.

– Brian

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