Thursday, 9 August 2018

TFNation Survival Guide

 - Dorian MacQuarrie

Convention season is once again upon us and for those of us in the UK, TFNation is now just over a week away (Editor's note: days now!) and the panic excitement, is very much real. From preparation to the convention itself and even afterwards there are a lot of opportunities to ensure you have the best experience possible. Drawing on experiences from fellow convention goers and a few from my myself, I'll try to compile a handy dandy survival guide. Whether you are a first timer or a veteran, hopefully you'll find something valuable to take away. 

Let's begin with some preparation. I'll assume that by now you have everything booked (tickets, travel, hotel) and if not... well I'd get right on that. 

Providing you're all set to get there, a little bit of prep work will help to ensure maximum convention enjoyment. Personally I try to plan my time well. When do I want to arrive? What clothes do I plan on taking? What else might I want to pack, such as snacks or maybe some toys I might want to gift to my friends? Are there any people I want to make sure I meet up with, in which case messaging back and forth beforehand is always a good idea to arrange a time and place. It might sound like a little bit more thought than is required but for many people (myself included) it's more like a holiday and I would say it's wise to plan accordingly.

One final and possibly the best piece of advice I could give at the prep stage is to get involved. Make sure you're following the relevant social media pages, take part in the conversation and do your best to join in on the hype! When the day finally arrives, going in at peak excitement feels great and makes a great start to any convention. 

Now a few wise words from members of the community.....

 - Dale (@EvoChanger)

If you see someone you know, just go and say hi! If you're at a con like TFNation where everyone's there for the same thing, go say hi to anyone! No matter what, you'll find yourself talking to a like-minded individual, and potentially making a friend.

Keep yourself hydrated! Conventions can be really hot, especially since they're usually in summer. Don't want a spot of dehydration ruining your good time!

Don't blow all your money at the dealer's hall on the first day. There may be new stock or even some bargains on the second day. 

This one's very specific to things like TFNation. Wanna have a fiddle with someone else's toy? Ask! It's just good manners. And think about how you'd feel if someone started getting handsy with something of yours without your permission.

If you're travelling to a con for the first time, it's scary. Trust me, I know that all too well. Make sure you're fully prepared. Learn as much as you can about your journey. Make a note of everything like departure and arrival times, train platforms, time needed to make changes etc. on your phone, so you'll always have the details of your journey to hand. If you're unsure about anything. Ask someone else going to the con, they may be able to help you out.

I don't want to sound like an overbearing parental unit but as Dale mentioned, stay hydrated! In all my years attending TFNation, one thing has been for sure, it's always hot and if you're like me and ill-suited to temperatures in the double digits, drink plenty of water and keep that mind clear.

Moving on.....

 - Becka (@tainkirrahe)

As someone who suffers with an anxiety disorder I have been trying to think of how to summarise the advice I'd give as a Convention Survival Guide which is more based around mental preparedness as opposed to practical preparedness, and I have finally hit on the most apt phrase. It's one that has never been used before by anyone ever in any media across the entire globe and it's great:
Don't Panic.

Nobody is going to judge you. For anything. Don't drink? No problem. Haven't seen Beast Wars? That's cool bro, don't sweat it. Blew your entire Dealer Room budget on one tiny figure you've wanted for absolutely ages? Awesome, bro! Want to sit with everyone in the bar but you're not very talkative? Don't sweat it girl, your presence is appreciated no matter what.

But this also applies to the Dealer Room, because let me tell you that is a ride. Before attending TFN2017 people told me to write a list because that would make it easier to process but I thought I knew what I was doing - I did not. I walked into that Aladdin's Cave of Robots and quite literally bluescreened, ended up buying things that were safe instead of things I actually wanted. So yeah. Maybe panic a tad now and write a list of stuff you want than turn up on the day and faint in front of Kapow Toys.

I'll expand on Becka's comments regarding the Dealer Room by quoting Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, 'no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.' In other words, any list or preconceived buying ideas you may have before walking into the Dealer Room will go up in smoke the second you are presented with the smorgasbord of delights on offer. Yes there might be a key figure you're keen to track down but go in there free and easy and just enjoy the experience. You might find a hidden treasure of happen upon a bot that, up until that point you weren't interested in but seeing it in hand? Ooft, suddenly it's all you have ever wanted!

Expanding on this version of the dealer room experience, our very own Ben offers up some more laid back words of wisdom - 

The Dealer Room is an assault on the senses, there's no denying that but this barrage can be mitigated if you're prepared to take a step back.

I've never really entered the floor with a concrete list of what I'm looking for, but many people seem to. Don't sweat it, if like me you're happy to go with the flow, the best thing to do is avoid the room the hour it opens.

When you're just wandering around looking for something that might catch your eye, it's incredibly hard when the bustle of much more eagle-eyed collectors pinpoint their prey with laser-like focus and swoop in for the kill. I just let them get on with it. Yeah it's exciting being there among such metric tonnage of plastic (especially if it's your first rodeo) but there's a lot to go around. Give it a couple of hours and the floor dies down and now is the time for the more relaxed shopper to float in and really get in amongst everything without the phalanx of eager people blocking your view. And what's more, the room will remain like this for the rest of the day, there for whenever that urge to make another circuit of the stalls takes hold. The early bird may get the limited boxset but they'll have a minor struggle to do so. Weigh up how much of a headache you're prepared to go through in order to claim that piece you're really after. 

Most of the time, the greatest enjoyment comes from a total surprise that you never factored into your purchasing plans, that random piece of flotsam that you can't get at while the Saturday morning feeding frenzy takes place. So called "must have" items can disappear quickly and generate a disproportionate drive in people to snap them up. I'm here to tell you the real gems only shine through once that top layer has been cleared. After all, new products are always available online after the convention. Me, I'm in there for the older oddities I'd never have a chance to see anywhere else.

Following on from these Critical Enjoyment Points (CEPs), once all is said and done, the last bot has been, purchased...goodbyes have been exchanged and we're all heading home, the post-convention blues invariably kick in. There is a way to avoid this typical drop in mood and keep the party going though and it goes back to a point from the convention-prep: stay involved. 

Make sure to swap details of whatever social platform you use, take those early, tenuous connections made over the weekend and forge them into lasting friendships! 

With all that said, to those who will be in attendance, see you next week!


Thank you to Dale (@evochanger) and Becka (@tainkirrahe) for their wonderful contributions. 

(As an RRCo employee Ben does not require such thanks.)

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