Blerdcon "The Reunion" 2018 Review!

Blerdcon “The Reunion” 2018 Review

TL;DR: 6.9/10 The people and the strong sense of community here, in addition to fantastic programming and a wonderful staff, push this con above my original expectations. However, as far as photography goes, there weren’t many locations available to use, and it ended up being more of a ‘hall shot’ convention than one for serious photography or selfies

Blerdcon is an interesting con, which requires a different mindset from the ‘typical’ convention. I think they did a really great job of projecting that methodology, along with their keywords of diversity and inclusion and following through with it. So let’s talk about a list of the positives from my experience.

  • Programming: Legendary. Blerdcon had some of the best panels I’ve ever seen in a convention, period. I sat in on a few, and not only were each of them at least half-full and run by intellectual, charismatic individuals, there was plenty of crowd participation and interactivity as well. Despite some panels focusing very specifically on polarizing issues and arguments (I’m looking at you Marvel vs. DC panel), attendees were civil, hilarious, and having a great time. Again, I don’t go to cons for panels, but there were a plethora of interesting ones at Blerdcon to attend

  • Guests: From the music guests that were brought in, to the amazing cosplay guests, the members of the LGBTQ+ community, and even the actor/actress roster, you can really tell that the con put in some work when it came to listening to feedback from last year’s event. Their relevance to being current did well to add a dual layer of cohesion to the entire event, and I was very much pleased with the roster of positive people that were present to make this event stand out

  • The Badge: Hear me out on this one. This con had one of coolest badge designs that I’ve seen, but not only that, wearing it had a profound effect. While walking the streets of Crystal City, and as a fellow (bl)erd myself, it was implied and also manifest that these badges provided a sense of security and belonging. I saw strangers connecting with each other, people from all walks of life respecting each other, and didn’t witness any negativity whatsoever on the convention grounds and the surrounding area from attendees, and that’s powerful

  • Networking: I actually handed out a really decent amount of business cards and made some really cool connections during this con. It’s been a minute since I’ve passed out so many, but it felt really good to network here

  • Food Options: There were different options at affordable prices available outside of the con hotel, most of them just seemed to be restaurant style. Starbucks was nearby for coffee lovers, a quaint deli was directly across the street, and several chains were within walking distance as well

  • Alcohol/Party Availability: Pretty good all the way around, almost to the point where it could been seen as a detriment. I’ll speak more on that later

  • Staff: Both the hotel staff and the convention staff were super nice and supportive. Registration was quick and painless, with plenty of staff ready to help out wherever you needed to go

  • Support: In the way of dealer’s room/merchant’s hall and artist’s alley, I was very pleased to see tons of support and diversity in the way of small, but also local businesses. Writers were well represented in addition to independent artists, clothing vendors, print sellers, and music representatives. There were also good games to pick up at different booths that showcased the importance of supporting small local businesses, and I found that amazing

  • Arcade: The arcade area was filled with notable classics like Super Mario Bros, Popeye, Punch Out, MK 2, MVC Arcade, Rampage and Primal Rage. Any convention arcade that includes the latter is considered very good by my standards

  • Safe Space: Building on what I said about the ‘badge effect’, while walking the con, it was very impressive to see people from all sexualities, ages, races, and more really unwinding and being themselves without fear. As someone who operates in a small subset of the whole as well (African American Cosplay Photographers), I was both relieved and proud that the under-represented clearly had exemplification here

  • A Face with A Mission: It’s not often that you get the opportunity to listen to a director of a convention speak directly to the con’s mission (without an intermediary spokesperson), and it’s even rarer to be in that situation and also visualize the passion and longstanding commitment to those values embodied in a person. So it was with great pleasure that I watched Hilton George speak on multiple counts to these values, both in front of large and smaller crowds

I’ve hit quite a few high notes with my first trip to this convention, but I also have to mention the negative aspects as well.

  • Parking: There were options yes (one of them being a $40/night valet), but even the closest garage was an uncomfortable distance from the main lobby of the hotel. There were major issues with leaving that backed up traffic for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes it was a dead standstill, and the associates on hand were not willing to regulate traffic away from lanes labeled ‘CREDIT CARD ONLY’ that were open, yet only available for managers or supervisors. This was the root cause for most of the unnecessary backup. Prices were reasonable

  • Dealer’s Room: Figure booths were extremely rare. The one that I saw had many figures without boxes that were overpriced. I didn’t see too many things that I wanted to buy, even though there was a good diversity of vendors. Some of the booths appeared and disappeared throughout the weekend, inexplicably shuffling around some of the merchants during the event without notice

  • Photography (indoors): It was limited because in the main convention space, there is a sizable arcade with multiple flashing lights that throw off the color of images. Most of the walkways, especially near the escalators were crowded, and often due to general hall photo opportunities. In the other hotel spaces the lighting wasn’t favorable either, and it was really hard to take more than hall shots throughout the convention, especially without a dedicated lighting setup. I didn’t take many selfies here

  • Security: Lax. There were multiple events that I walked straight into without even showing my weekend badge. Dealer’s room, dances, panels, and the game room were all on this list. Often times, the volunteers that were posted were far too busy investigating their news feeds than badge checking. In the dances, there were many open bottles of straight alcohol with no restriction or regulation, and there was almost a fire code violation in main events for the Cosplay Catwalk, which didn’t’ have nearly enough space or seating arrangements. Also, taking the elevator straight to the bottom level to avoid a security checkpoint still hasn’t been addressed

  • Cell Phone Reception: As with most events of this size, cell phone service can be spotty and unreliable, true, however the major impairments here were that the main area of the convention being on a basement level completely wiped out communication. Additionally, I saw merchants that had to physically leave the dealer’s room in order to assure that their square payments were accepted and processed. That should never have to happen

  • The Badge: Epic design and all, if the full weekend badge looks the exact same as a single day pass with a sticker placed on it, there would be no reason to purchase a badge for the full weekend when said sticker is easily removable. This was exploited by multiple people during the weekend

  • Photography (outdoors): There were few spaces at all to shoot outdoors. Group gatherings were probably all done in the same two locations, and outside of perhaps three spots, the offerings were extremely slim

  • The ‘Dances’: I do understand that an important part about being a DJ is catering to your audience and playing music accordingly, but it also had to be kept in mind that this was also a hotel space and not a club, and there was no one checking badges at the door. That being said, before I even talk about the music, I do have to mention that there was open, unsupervised drinking, and dancing that was downright off-putting to some attendees. Before you call me a prude, I don’t really consider public lap dances anywhere to be acceptable, and that was one of the extreme points that the dances managed to hit. I understood going in what the majority of the music was going to be (modern day rap, hip-hop, and various island mixes), but I would have liked to see more of a mix of songs that not only included EDM (a staple of anime/geek/nerd conventions), but also club mixes in general. To me, there many standard versions of songs that overlapped between the two nights and needed more variation

  • The Cosplay Contest: Considering that there usually seems to be a debacle with the contest side of this convention as a whole, it was a bit disappointing to see that there weren’t categorized applications and prizes, and that everything was lumped together on the same playing field despite the different complexities involved in armor building, and needlework skills. It was surprising to see no armor specific builds place at all. I was also quite astonished at one of the judge’s picks that didn’t place, and about the scoring for best in show. In my opinion, a ‘Best in Show’ award encompasses more than the detail and hours spent on a costume, but also the actual charisma, crowd reaction, and performance done on the stage for the thirty seconds that you are allotted. I am not a judge by far, however, I would have liked to hear more of the ‘why’ behind some of the rankings, as all of them weren’t explained adequately to the audience

  • Map/Schedules: With registration closing early on Friday (I had arrived later in the evening), I was surprised to not see any remaining paper schedules or maps available Saturday morning. Granted, Blerdcon did take advantage of the hotel’s electronics to display scrolling schedules, which most cons don’t do anymore. It was just a little substandard not to see any maps anywhere. Because of the spotty or nonexistent service in the main convention space, accessing the online schedule wasn’t always feasible. Most events took place on the same level, but there were three or four rooms that were tucked away from the rest of the general con space, and there wasn’t always signage to direct you to them, resulting in lower panel attendance for those rooms

In summation, Blerdcon is a con with a very pointed mission that it accomplishes extremely well. That is to promote diversity and inclusion, and provide representation for those in the nerd community that are far too often overlooked simply because of their race, sexuality, disorders and more. It has exceptional programming, and friendly staff that are more than accommodating. It has some things to improve on, but for its second year, the con was good. What I think took it down a few notches for me, was that I went in with a heavily focused photoshoot mentality, and seeing friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile. With this con, I learned that if you go in with the mindset of complete relaxation, and having a great time with the provided panels and games, leaving photography on the backburner, that you will truly have a great experience. I think I’ll try to attend next year 6.9/10

What are your thoughts??? Sound off below!!!

A group of cosplayers from blerdcon 2018 standing on stage with three trophies on a projected backdrop behind them
In the end, we're all winners

#DarkfoxPhotography #Travel #CrystalCity #Blerdcon2018 #Blerdmagic #Blerd #Adventure #winners #Diversity #inclusion #photographerlife #review

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