It’s no lie that I look forward to C2E2 every year. It’s our first con of the season and one of our favorites in Chicago. While it’s run by the fine folks over at Reed Pop, C2E2 feels like a fan-run convention due to its amazing staff and casual vibe. With a heavy focus on family-friendly and fan-oriented events, C2E2 continues to best itself every year.
This year PlayItGrand and I had Miss M. and her friend Miss T. in tow. We were curious how two twelve year-olds would handle the convention scene. This was Miss M.’s second convention (she was initiated at Dragon Con 2013) and Miss T.’s first. We didn’t get to as many panels as we normally would and spent the majority of our time wandering the floor taking pictures, but overall, I’d say the girls had a wonderful time!
* MORE ROOM! I’m not sure if we were in a different hall, if there were less vendors, or if the room magically grew, but OMG WAS THERE SPACE! This year the vendor aisles were nice and WIDE. Did you hear that? Vendor aisle that are WIDE. I swear I’m telling the truth. This is the bane of many-a-con. Whatever genius laid out this year’s vendor area should be commended. Not only could you leisurely browse the various wares without getting pushed up stream, you could navigate, change direction AND go the other way without pissing off everyone around you. It made an otherwise typically crowded Saturday feel spacious and roomy. If you’ve been to a con before you know this is almost unheard of. However C2E2 did it, they succeeded. Bravo!
Placing the autograph area near the back of the vendor hall, as opposed to the side as in previous years, was also a brilliant move. Why? Well the autograph lines never spilled into the vending or art areas! This separation helped keep things from overcrowding and led to easier management of the autograph area.
* The Staff. I commend the staff of C2E2 every year. Why? Well, I’ve worked with the public for many years and I know just how hard it is to herd cats. C2E2 stands out from other local cons in one magnificent way. Their staff know what they’re doing. And guess what? If they don’t know the answer to a question they will gladly find out for you!
Questions aside, one of my biggest nit picks is always line management. It’s so easy for things to get muddled and go horribly wrong. When you’ve been waiting in line for a panel for over an hour, you don’t want the line to suddenly flip so you get in last. *cough cough SDCC cough*
The C2E2 staff did a good job with line management. What impressed me most was that when they split the long line for the Sexism in Geekdom panel, they put a staff member at the end of the first line to tell people to go to the end of the second line! You’d be surprised how many cons screw this up. C2E2 kept it neat, organized and fair!
*Panels! C2E2 has traditionally been one to kill it with fan panels. Con goers know for a fact that fan-run panels can go one of two ways. They can either be super awesome or…not. For the most part, C2E2’s fan-run panels have been AWESOME. I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve ever A) been bored; or B) wanted to leave.
*Glass Ceilings, Missing Stairs and Gatekeepers: Geeks Still Experience Sexism Holy Hannah what a panel! This epic panel talked in depth about the various forms of sexism geeks still face in the community and what we can do to erase the dividing lines. Sponsored in part by the Chicago Nerd Social Club and featuring STEM writer Susheela (moderating); Chicago Nerd Social Club Board Member & Geek Melange’s Michi Trota; comic artist and feminist activist Carlye Frank; Raks Geek producer/director Dawn Xiana Moon; Challenge by Geek’s Laura Koroski; gamer & writer Kate Lansky; and lighting designer Erin Tipton, this panel played to a PACKED house. The conversation was riveting and far from the negative feminist slant I expected. It was truly an open and honest discussion about why we need to keep talking about sexism in our community. We even got to (briefly) meet Michi Trota after the panel! It was so great to finally say hi in person!
Never fear, we, of course, recorded the entire panel and will have it for you shortly. You don’t want to miss it!
*Cosplay! Cosplay! Cosplay! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so much cosplay at C2E2. It was impressive. There were cosplayers of every age, shape, size, and skill level present. What made it so impressive was seeing how supportive everyone was of each other. It was great to see the cosplay community represented in such a positive and supportive light. Miss M had a fabulous time in her first cosplay. She worked so hard on her Louise costume it was great to see how many compliments she got! She said she felt like a movie star.
*Yaya Han Miss M. has been dying to meet Yaya Han since watching Heroes of Cosplay last summer. (Say what you will about that show, but it was a great way to introduce Miss M to the world of Cosplay). She totally fangirls for her. It’s really adorable. She missed out on meeting Yaya at Dragon Con due to the crowds, so she was OVERJOYED to meet her at C2E2 AND be able to show her first cosplay to her idol. You can read more about Miss M’s encounter with Yaya Han HERE.
*Anti-Bullying Coalition Every con should have an anti-bullying panel. Period. C2E2 took it one step further. As geeks we’ve all experienced bullying. Even as adults we still experience it. Some of us have even been bullied within our own geek community. We have the power to take our bad experiences and let bullied kids know they’re not alone.
The Anti-Bullying Coalition had a table in the Fan Room at C2E2 and they were doing something pretty remarkable. Everyone who came to their table was asked to fill out a card with a message of hope to a child who is being bullied. The cards will be distributed in schools to those kids. It’s a pretty powerful message seeing bulletin boards loaded with cards. Miss M and Miss T, both who have been bullied, were eager to write their cards. When they were done they got to make “I am” buttons proclaiming and taking pride in something they were bullied for. Miss M wrote “I am a geek and I’m PROUD!” on hers. I admit, I got a little misty seeing that.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Cons are a great place for kids, especially kids who feel like outsiders because they don’t like the same things as other kids in their grade. Cons are a place of acceptance and love. It’s a way to let kids know that while no one at their school may know what Doctor Who is, there are 50,000+ other people who do and they think it’s awesome too!
*Tickets Since we were bringing Miss M. and Miss T. with us we had to purchase tickets for them. According to the website, kids under 12 get in for $5. What I didn’t see, and apparently it’s there at the very bottom of the page rather than, you know, up at the top near the ticket price…was that the $5 price tag applied to Sunday ONLY. Every other day it was a whopping $45.
Now as far as Saturday ticket prices go that’s not bad. It’s actually about average. But when you walk up to the ticket booth expecting to pay $10 and they sing out $90, it’s a wee bit of a shock. Don’t be confused. I am NOT complaining about the price of the ticket. I think $45 is reasonable for Saturday programming. Of course said Saturday programming usually involves Guest Panels, but I digress…
What irks me is that the difference in ticket price between Saturday and Sunday wasn’t easily spotted. The ticket page should have listed kids tickets at $45 AND $5, then included a little note saying the $5 price was for Sunday only.
* Guest Panels Where were the guest panels on Saturday? I counted one, maybe two. There were certainly less guest panels on Saturday than there were last year. This was disappointing. Usually C2E2 has a BIG guest panel on Saturday. They’ve done it in the past with John Barrowman and John Cusack. Both were great! So it was disappointing not to come across that again this year.
* The App. Last year the App was in the “Good” column. This year it got bumped down. Overall, the app was pretty much the same as it was last year. The downside? Clicking on a Guest’s name just led you to a bio about the guest. Great if you’re gathering that kind of info. Bad if you want to see what panels that guest will be on and when. Adding this one feature will bring the App back up to the “Good” realm. Because really, as far as convention apps go, this one is pretty great.
*The Crown Championship of Cosplay Contest I put this under “meh” not because the contest itself was meh. I’m sure it was awesome! I put this under “meh” because of the timing. The Crown Championship of Cosplay was scheduled for late in the evening, after most of the programming was over. This is good, in that you’re not missing panels to see it. It’s meh in that the timing is pretty inconvenient.
In the past, C2E2 has held their costume contests a little bit earlier. This makes it easy for fans to gather and watch. Having two kids in tow, by the time this big event started the kids were tired, hungry and 100% done for the day. It was disappointing to have to leave, but there was no way we could stay until the projected end time of 9:30 and not get stuck in the car with two cranky kids.
Overall, once again I will say that C2E2 has knocked it out of the park. Their veer towards more family friendly programing (as evidenced by their advertising Sunday as “Kids Day”) is a step in the right direction. Cosplay has exploded at C2E2 and it’s AMAZING. Cosplayers of all abilities are clearly welcome and supported. It was awesome to see.
If you’re looking for the best convention in Chicago then mark your calendars for C2E2. It’s a con you don’t want to miss!