Thursday, September 06, 2012

How Big Is Too Big?

Hi all! Sorry I went incommunicado for a while, but I went pretty much directly from one of those "two-day intensive courses" (I'm now certified in USPAP, though! For those of you who know what that means...) to preparation for DragonCon to DragonCon to recovering from DragonCon. That left very little time for blogging, especially as I didn't bring my laptop on the trip.

For those of you who've never been to DragonCon, it's one of the larger conventions out there, although still a pretty distant second from San Diego Comic-Con. In 2011, it drew 46,000, and it's only getting bigger. When I went for the first time, back in 2001, it was probably closer to 20,000. Needless to say, that's a pretty big gang of people crowded into one convention. And yet, it'll probably be even larger next year. Is that a good thing?

On the one hand, it's still fun. Every year, a bigger draw means more people doing cosplay, more money coming in to attract more and bigger guests, more parties, and more friends coming. Capping membership cuts people out of the experience, no matter how the cap is handled (first come first serve, lottery, et cetera.) Who wants to be the one person in your group of friends who doesn't get to go? On the other hand, expansion can't be continued indefinitely. Already, the logistics of simple day-to-day operations during the con are becoming virtually insoluble problems; elevator capacity is at its limits 24/7 for the entirety of the con, walkways are congested to potentially dangerous levels (the fire marshall for Atlanta is practically on a first-name basis with the DragonCon organizers, except that they probably only address each other in four-letter words) and lines stretch around the block for practically every panel. Moving the con from one hotel to five does reduce congestion to some extent, but there still tends to be a "hub" mentality centered on the Hyatt (the original site of the con), and lateral expansion produces its own set of challenges, as you now have to walk a block and a half between panels that don't get spaced any further out in time.

Ultimately, a decision is going to have to be made to cap membership...and I suspect that the con organizers might be nearing that point. If it gets up into the 80,000 range or higher, just walking around the con is going to become a logistical nightmare, let alone things like getting food, sleeping, and oh yes that business of actually enjoying yourself at the convention. It's the kind of decision that I'm glad I don't have to make, because no matter how you slice it, someone's going to be unhappy. But I'd be surprised if they can go five years without having to put a limit on the number of badges they can sell at the rate they're expanding. SDCC has already had to cap its attendance, and while they don't have the ability to expand laterally from the convention center like DragonCon, that kind of expansion can't go on forever.

I'll be kind of sad, I think, when it gets to the point that I can't go every year because I missed my chance. But lucky for me, there's always another convention out there, I wonder if registration is open yet for CONvergence?

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