By this time next month, I'll have attended Anime North, in Toronto, Canada - my first anime convention as an actual invited guest. I'm kinda curious what this is going to be like. I mean, what's it really like to be a "guest"? More fun? Less?
In over ten years of convention-going (both comic conventions and anime cons), I've mostly been a member of the press. Which means that my view of conventions is probably a little skewed, compared to the average attendee.
Conventions have their own hierarchy in terms of enjoyment - in some ways, the average paid attendee actually gets the best of the deal. As a badge-wearing fan, you can visit any of the panels you want in any order, check out the video rooms or dealers' room whenever you feel like it, or just hand out with other attendees. (I have fond memories of doing just that at Chicago Comic-Con, back before it became WizardWorld.) On the other hand, you also have to wait in long lines for the masquerade, opening and closing ceremonies, signing sessions... practically everything, in fact. Like a trip to Disneyland, any attraction is preceded by a long spell of standing in line.
Press, the category I'm most used to, gets some special access to guests and events - it's been pointed out to me that being able to have a seat up front at the masquerade is pretty non-trivial - but it also means that a convention is more work than fun. I've missed plenty of screenings and panels that I really wanted to see for myself because something else was more pressing Animerica, and the readers' needs have to come first.
But the hardest job of all has to be that of the convention staff. they can't see the guests' panels or special film premieres. They may never even see the guests themselves. While attendees are having fun, they're busy working.
If you're attending an anime convention this year, be sure to give an extra pat on the back to the convention staff. They're the ones who make all this happen. And if you're at Anime North, be sure to say "hi."
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