Thursday, July 13, 2006

BotCon: The Die is Cast*

Well, I've finally done it. I've sent in my pre-registration for this year's BotCon, in Lexington, KY (as well as that for my brother, who lives in Louisville, and will be joining me there).

In the weeks and months to come, I'll no doubt have more to report on what exclusives and features will actually be offered at the convention. Likewise, I'll no doubt have specifics to talk about during and after the convention itself. This entry is not about any of those things.

Rather, I'm feeling reflective on having finished making the commitment to go to what will be my third Transformers convention (the other two being BotCon '98 in Anaheim and BotCon '04 in Pasadena). Of course, my mind was made up long ago, and having already made the plane reservations for a trip to KY (this will be the first time I've actually had to fly to get to a BotCon!), one could definitely argue that I was already committed to this trip. Still, sending in the registration (and the check for nearly $350!) was the last step.

On the Official Club message boards (I'd give a link, but unless you're a member, it won't let you in, anyway), I've recently been arguing that BotCon is not for everybody. To read the responses there, one would think that to make such a statement is sacrilegious. Everyone who loves Transformers should go, they say! And, I would certainly agree (and have done) that anyone who is able to go should at least give it a shot. You really can't know if you'll like it until you've tried it.

But, the thing is, I have given this a shot twice now. And it's okay. If I didn't think so, I wouldn't be bothering to go again. But, to be honest, I'm really not interested in what some people call "the whole convention experience." If other people like that, I'm certainly not intending to begrudge them. Go. Have fun. And I've certainly had occasion to recall (as recently as yesterday) some of the really cool people I've met at previous conventions. Getting to meet face-to-face fellow Transfans is definitely one of the reasons to go to a convention.

But, speaking purely for myself, those kinds of experiences, as valuable and important as they are, have never been (to me) worth spending the kinds of money necessary to attend a convention. As has been well established in the fandom (to the point of insanity, often times), the location will always be an inconvience to the majority of those who want to go. There's no way around that. I've been extremely fortunate to have two previous conventions available close enough to drive to (in fact, the 2004 convention was only a couple of blocks from where I work!). Most fans never get that chance.

I should stop briefly to emphasize that I am not here complaining about the price of the convention. Although it is admittedly higher under Fun Publications that it was for the other conventions I attended, I was perfectly willing to spend extra money for the exclusives at both conventions. There are simply more exclusives available now than there were then (granted, my brother is paying more just to get in the door on Friday than I ever had to pay, sans exclusives).

But the fact remains that, as impressive as this year's set of exclusives are, I wouldn't be going if my family didn't live within driving distance of the convention, allowing me to visit and stay with them (I might pay for the non-attendee exclusive set, but the price is rather high for that...). And I really probably won't go beyond the Friday that I'll be going with my brother to pick up my toys. I'm going to try to keep an open mind on that one. I'll be in the area through Sunday (the convention actually starts on Thursday, but I won't arrive until Thursday night in Louisville, so I'll miss that anyway).

I actually expect that I'm kind of an oddball among Transformers fans (one could well argue that being a Transformers fan makes me something of an oddball to begin with, so I'm kind of doomed). Although there are a few people I've met that I've truly enjoyed getting to know (and hopefully you know who you are), whenever I go to the convention, I just can't shake the supreme sense of alienation I feel at seeing so many people around who strike me as simply.... freaky (and hopefully you don't know who you are!). While I know that this is an extremely unfair assessment on the basis of no more than a few seconds of distant observation of people I've never met, it's tough to shake.

To judge from the responses of folks on the Club message boards, they would say that I'm not trying hard enough. After all, I haven't given these "freaky" folks a chance, and that's my problem. Perhaps I can (and should) try harder. However, I am different than most fans (and most people in general), and I'm actually fairly comfortable with myself for all that. People are different. What works for one person won't work for everybody. A convention that's worth the cost of admission for one won't be worth it for all. And I strongly resist being told that, if someone doesn't enjoy it, that's their own fault. That's just not fair. Why not just accept that the convention can't, and shouldn't, please everybody?

*By now, I've probably disappointed a lot of readers who read "die-cast" in the subject, and thought I was about to report that the BotCon exclusive toys will be made out of die-cast metal. Sorry. Not going to happen (I happen to be one of those "freaks" who prefers plastic to die-cast, anyway...).


  1. Never been to Botcon. My wife and I talked about going this year, as it coincides with our anniversary, but I can't justify spending that much money.

    I've never been real big on conventions in general, TF, comic book or otherwise. When you cut through it all, it's just a way to trap a bunch of geeks in a room and peddle overpriced collectibles to them.

  2. I'm happy to be one of the people who have contributed in part to the positive attitudes you have about TF conventions and the associated fandom.

    I'm still 'shaking my dice' as I haven't yet committed myself to Botcon 2006. It depends on my work schedule, and that doesn't get ironed out until after next week. If I do have the opportunity I will jump on it. I think there are a lot of good things about going to this show. Hearing firsthand about the onslaught of products coming next year will be fantastic. The art contest is still alive and that's always a draw for me. Plus of course, there's the other fans.

    I agree that the pro-convention angle of meeting people and immersing yourself in the fandom isn't as wonderful or a life affirming experience as the vocal online majority make it out to be. I view the joining of clingy, groupie type fan gangs as a definite negative of the convention experience. Being part of a hive mentality that dictates what to do and where to go when there's so much other things to do and see at a convention seems like a waste of opportunity.

    I am really lucky that the group of friends I hang out with at TF conventions is very loose knit. We're not a roving gang or clique like the majority of Transformer convention going people tend to be. So I come and go as I please and retain a certain level of autonomy, which is really the best way to be.

    Another reason I like going is that if there are good panels then nothing beats being there in person. Getting second hand synopses of all that was said at the panels just doesn't cut it for me. It's frustrating being at the mercy of the online news sites and their reporting schedules and biases. If the guests are good I have to be there. That's part of the reason why I transcribe panels after conventions for people who weren't there. It may not be as good as being there, but reading exactly what was said eliminates the middleman who reports abbreviated notes about what they feel was important.

    Since I don't collect Transformers anymore I won't be getting the exclusives. That saves a bit of money as does not going to the awards party, the customizing class, or on the tour of Kentucky. (Well maybe I'll go to the customizing class if they have room. That's one of the draws for me. The guy running it does some great work.)

    Sometimes I think this fandom isn't big enough to deserve all of these kinds of bells and whistles at its official convention, but while they're there I have to seize the opportunities. I think this fandom only has one or two conventions left in it, honestly. I can see the day come when no company wants the license due to the decreasing trend in attendance and there is no offical convention. Maybe that'll be a good thing, but until then I'm greatful for the chance to be at the table shaking my dice every year.

  3. Well I got the free time I wanted from work so I sent out my Botcon registration yesterday. I sent it via regular mail with the hopes that I can still make it into the Wednesday customizing class. I called today and the representative said there were four slots left. I'll be holding my breath. I think Shawn's recent announcement of which molds will be used (and all the ensuing board buzz) pretty much guarentees the Wednesday class will fill over the next few days.

    I signed up at Primus level and opted for the extra bagged set in addition to the boxed one with the plan of selling them both to offset the cost of attending. I was totally aware that not getting the toys or signing up for the class would've more than halved the cost of attending. Those things are worth it to me for the extra dimension of fun they bring to participating in the convention.

    Filling out the registration form was kind of tricky. I had to ask the club what the pre-reg deadline was and whether or not paying the nonmember registration fee made me a club member. So there were some things I think they can make a little clearer on the form. In the end I signed up for the club not because it was something I wanted to do, but because I figured I might as well get something for the extra $40 I would have paid as a non-member.

    After the Nemesis Prime situation I figured not giving the club my credit card details was in my best interest so I paid by money order. That means it'll take a bit longer for my pre-reg to get there and people who fax in their preregs with credit card info may beat me to getting those last slots in the Wednesday customizing class, but that's cool. Sending my pre-reg via snail mail and hoping the class doesn't fill is like rolling dice-but I'm feeling lucky.

  4. Nay to Botcon 2006, A maybe to Botcon 2007, since it is going to be in Rhode Island. So the trip isn't too expensive. If it is too expensive, I'll just save the money and use it on some nice Diaclone figures I don't have yet.


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