Although I’ve not been to many conventions (my fourth will be in August 2015), there’s a lot of things that stick out to a person who tends to observe the crowd rather than be a part of it. I usually find myself straying from whatever group I entered with, as it’s easier to take in the atmosphere when you’re alone. In March, I did just that when I attended PAX East, which was, incidentally, my first major convention. There was a stark difference between that and the atmosphere of RTX (a small convention in comparison), and it showed in the attendants.
Summer means that big convention season is right around the corner. So here, using the information gathered from past experiences, is my take on some fundamental elements of convention etiquette.
This one seems kind of obvious, but from what I’ve witnessed at both PAX and RTX, I stand corrected. When I say “keep the convention at the convention,” I really mean “don’t treat the city you’re in like it’s one giant convention hall.” People visiting the city—discernible from the rest of the crowd via their con badges and poor public behavior—behaved in such a way that it was embarrassing just to be near. Shouting obscure or even obscene things in the midst of the general public (who may very well not be used to this, let alone want to be used to it) is something that shouldn’t even happen in the convention center, but it’s 10x more inappropriate outside of the convention walls. You are a guest to the city, so treat it with respect. The local diner is not the place to be loudly quoting Dark Souls.
I was hoping that this frequently stated rule wouldn’t need to be stated again … but sadly, I was wrong. Although scarcely seen by myself, I saw a few instances of cosplayers being severely mistreated simply because they were in costume. Sexual harassment is nothing to be taken lightly, and the same rules apply to a woman walking down the sidewalk in a dress as they do to a woman in cosplay: you do not have the right to touch or stare inappropriately. This applies to cosplayers of all genders, actually. A person in a costume is still a person, and their body is their right. Don’t take advantage of how they choose to dress.
Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene. This should also go without saying, but some of the things I saw (and smelled, hoo boy) were more than just off-putting. I understand that convention halls get sweaty and gross, don’t get me wrong, but keeping deodorant and a pack of gum will benefit you and everyone around you. Walking around a convention hall after a long day can be bad enough, but the overwhelming smell of B.O. is bad for everyone involved. I’ve seen this “rule” listed on official and unofficial convention lists, and it’s probably one of the easiest ones to follow.
With conventions comes lines, lines, and, well … more lines. Let’s be honest: people cut lines all the time. Cards on the table, I’ve done it myself. Everyone will, no matter how much you wish it won’t happen to you. But come on—when the lines are out the door or around the corner, don’t be that person. Respect the people who have been waiting there for hours just to meet someone or buy merchandise. They’re taking all of that time out of seeing other things at the convention, which means that whatever they’re waiting for means a lot to them. A little bit of kindness like that goes a long way, trust me.
Yeah, yeah, it’s what you’ve been hearing since you could understand words and how they worked. But it’s still true, you know? Everyone around you at the convention—guests, center staff, booth workers, cosplayers, etc.—is there to have a fun, smooth, and enjoyable weekend. Respect your surroundings and the people around you. Don’t get into other people’s things or take things that you haven’t paid for or don’t already own. A good friend of mine got her whole swag bag stolen at RTX, which contained far more than just what came in it originally. Things turned out alright in the end, even though she didn’t get her things back, but that’s not at all the case for most people.
They have a lot on their plate, and a lot to be observant for, so the least you can do is abide by the rules and make their lives a little bit easier. However, remember that this is their job and if there’s a problem, it needs to be reported to staff immediately. If something is stolen or if another attendee is bothering you, seek help. Don’t try to deal with something like that on your own, because if legal measures need to be taken, your actions could backfire on you pretty quickly.
You didn’t pay all of that money to have a bad time, did you? Nope. At least, I hope not. That’d be pretty silly, wouldn’t it? Remember that the people around you are there to have fun as well. Make some friends, buy some merch, but don’t waste your money on convention food. That’s never worth it, I promise.
So, friends, go forth into the next convention with your head held high! Stay happy, stay safe, and stay prepared. Make good choices.