For quite some time now I have expressed my concern regarding the lack of young adults in attendance at Arizona fantasy and gaming conventions. It was my belief that if given the opportunity, and an affordable ticket (something realistic for a high school kid), they would fall in love with this hobby, genre, and industry that has become such a big part of my life.
Saturday, Sept. 11th, proved this theory to be true.
The very first Laughing Moon Convention reached out to the younger generation, combining elements of science fiction, fantasy, comic books and gaming with authors, artists and people from the gaming industry. As an educator, I also wanted to emphasize the literary, social, and all around educational aspects of the industry. In other words, the Laughing Moon Con was about blending the best of all worlds--offering up a sampling of what our Arizona convention scene has to offer. Bit by bit we got to see this come to life. Attendees were able to experience a variety of games and make real-world connections to literature and art through guest speakers and panel discussions.
Ultimately, however, this event was about having fun. And there were plenty of opportunities for that. Movie previews were offered up with piles of free giveaways. A photo booth allowed kids to capture the day. The Arizona Avengers and the Dune Sea Garrison of the 501st came in costume. They spent hours mingling and interacting with the crowd. In fact, a couple of stormtroopers even jumped into the Belly Dancing 101 class. Let me just say this, you have not lived until seeing an Imperial Stormtrooper shimmy.
K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider and the A-Team van were on hand for pictures, then left in style by peeling out and leaving their marks on the high school parking lot. Both cars were sponsored by www.willitmakeit.com, and cool throw-backs to the good ole 80's TV era.
By noon we had over one hundred tickets sold. By 4pm we were over two hundred. When all was said and done, over three hundred people attended the convention. Not bad for a first year.
My goal with this event was simple: to introduce the younger generation to the convention scene and leave them wanting more. For the vast majority of our attendees, this was convention #1. Their enthusiasm, excitement, and pure joy at the event made it clear that this would be merely the first of more to come.
But it turned out to be even more than I had hoped.
People showed up out of curiosity, then stayed for hours. I saw kids getting excited over their discussions with authors and artists. They showed off signed books and art. They posed for pictures and proudly wore their "official" convention t-shirts. They helped create a fun, relaxed and inviting atmosphere. And they left asking when the next convention was scheduled.
I was the last to walk out on Saturday night, after packing dozens of gaming boxes and watching the last of the gaming tables be broken down. I left with a smile.
If you missed out on the event, I sincerely hope that you will join us for the next round. Seeing the excitement on those kids' faces made all the work worthwhile.
And the great part about it is that we will be seeing many of those faces at other local events.