How to Survive MISSING a Con

No more PAX tickets. Even Spock is sobbing over it.There comes a traumatic moment in every young geek’s life where they must confront the sad but unavoidable truth; sometimes, you just can’t ATTEND ALL OF THE THINGS. Whether it be due to finances, other obligations, or the ever-common problem of tickets selling out too fast, we’ve all had to miss out on a convention we really wanted to go to (unless, of course, you hate conventions, in which case, congratulations for making better life choices than I have!)

Once upon a time, that would have been the end of it; we would have frowned, gone, “shucks,” and gone on with our lives. Except, of course, that now we can’t, because the con still follows us around, taunting us. With the advent of social media like Twitter and Facebook, we now are treated to color commentary of every fantastic DragonCon delight, every SDCC shenanigan, every PAX pleasure… that we’re not there to enjoy ourselves. Our Twitter feeds fill to bursting with constant reminders of what we’re missing out on while our friends have a good time without us. Those bastards.

This has been on my mind recently as this year seems to be the Year of Missing Cons for me; I didn’t get to go to FanExpo Vancouver due to tickets being sold out, the other game dev conference I go to shifted from Seattle to San Francisco and as such became too expensive a trip to justify, and PAX sold out in something like ten seconds… not that I can really skip my mother’s 75th birthday anyway! How did I handle it? I… well, I pretty much shrugged and said whatever, but STILL! It can be annoying to be stuck home and be beaten over the head all weekend with The Con That Went On Without You, but I have a few tips (beyond the usual “suck it up”) on how to take the sting out of this most first world of #firstworldproblems.

1. Stay off social media

No, seriously, stay the HELL off of social media. I’d say 90% of Missing Con Angst can be traced back to Twitter and endless live-feeds of “Holy crap, I just met Wil Wheaton/played the next Elder Scrolls/got Stan Lee to sign my X.” Back in my days, when we missed a convention, we just briefly wondered what it would be like, then heard a condensed version of it when our friends got home, felt sorry for ourselves for two minutes, then shrugged and got on with things. Damn kids, get off my lawn!

If you can manage it, give social media a wide berth for the weekend during the convention, particularly Twitter. Reducing or ignoring the signal noise of your friends, favorite bloggers, and news outlets can reduce frustration from “GODDAMNIT PAX IS ON AND I’M NOT THERE” to “Oh yeah, PAX was on. Huh, too bad I couldn’t be there. Oh well, back to X!” If you must keep abreast of the convention due to major announcements or things like that, try sticking to an appropriate news feed rather than social media; you’ll get the major points like “Joss Whedon hinted at AntMan for Avengers 2″ or “Square Enix announces Final Fantasy Duodecim Jubilation 13-5″ without the loving details about how AWESOME the convention experience is.

2. Attend local alternatives… or create them yourself

Sometimes, the stars are in alignment and by missing one really cool convention, you are now free to attend another. This is what ended up happening with me recently; while I dithered too long for FanExpo tickets and ended up missing it, it meant I could attend the FullIndie summit for indie game devs instead, and though the ambiance was naturally different, I still had a blast. Check out events in your area that might provide a welcome distraction; you may even find yourself being glad you had the chance to go. And don’t limit yourself to only geeky events either; check out art exhibitions, scheduled rallies, burlesque festivals, whatever lights your fire.

If there’s nothing to do that day, however, consider making something to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting your own con, of course, but there are often plenty of geeks just like you mourning the fact that they’re not there to meet Felicia Day and Vin Diesel. Use Meetup or other IRL meeting services to set up a dinner or party for local would-be congoers to get together and have a fun evening… or just get together with friends to drown your geek-related sorrows at the pub.

3. Indulge yourself (within reason)

Obviously, this may depend on your financial state, but think of it this way; how much does an average trip to San Diego Comic Con cost? Between the hotel, the food, the flight, and the tickets themselves, you’re probably well over a thousand bucks. When you put it in that perspective, spending a hundred bucks instead on some cool gadget or a few movies or games you really wanted seems a bit more reasonable. If you have some money to burn but not enough for the full convention experience, take a little bit of the money you’ve saved and get something you’d really like. Then, if nothing else, you can console yourself for missing Sakura Con by looking at your shiny new anime collection and grinning.

If money is really tight or you’re being smart and responsible with your money, there are other ways to indulge yourself; how about with some quality geek time? We’re often so busy with our day to day lives that we don’t make time to sit down and watch that Game of Thrones boxset or do another Mass Effect 3 playthrough. Well, why not make that convention weekend a “special occasion” and catch up on your geeky backlog? It’ll be like your own private PAX, only with way less lineups and more time with the demo machines.

4.  Don’t be bitter

Disappointment leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to being a whiny jerk who puts blame on the “obstacles” between them and the con of their dreams. A little bitterness, particularly joking, is one thing, especially when it’s work that keeps us from our passions – no one is expected to be happy and gleeful if a weekend shift prevents a long-expected trip to a con. But some people go too far and begin outright resenting the conflicting obligations or events… and the people behind them. It’s one thing to say, “I can’t make GenCon; girlfriend wants to celebrate our anniversary,” but quite another to say, “Stupid girlfriend and her stupid anniversary.” Sadly, I see the latter sentiment more than you’d expect.

If family celebrations or other milestones are “getting in the way” of your con plans, don’t shut yourself off from those. Enjoy them for their own sake, particularly if they’re a once in a lifetime celebration like a milestone birthday or anniversary. And don’t make a big production of the fact that you’re OMG PUTTING YOUR LIFE ON HOLD for them; no point in making them feel guilty, and you just end up coming off as a brat.

After all, there will always be next year’s cons…

How do you deal with missing conventions you wanted to attend? Do you find it more or less frustrating now with social media?

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