I just came back from a weekend at a convention called Tokyo in Tulsa. My least favorite part of going to this convention is my drive. Over three hours in the summer heat, in a car that has no AC, in humidity levels over 70% and temps hitting triple digits. When I came back home early Sunday morning I was tired, soaked from sweat, sore all over, had a massive headache, and felt like death. "I'm not doing this again next year", I said to myself. After a cold shower, I went online to see what the dates for the convention next year would be.
What was funny was that I was, as you could tell from my previous entry, emotionally strained. I really didn't feel like going to the convention this year. I still wasn't convinced when I left my driveway. When I parked my car in the parking structure I looked out and saw a flood of cosplayers, glompers, and girls that couldn't speak at abnormally high frequencies. I made my way to the convention center, and when I sat down for my first panel, that was when I remembered why I was there.
As I have alluded to in my previous entries, sometimes I get this feeling that no one really gets me. I like video games, anime, and Internet culture. I quote things like "Imma fire mah lahzah!" when it seems appropriate. Yet no one seems to get it. No one in my family understands these things, even after I explain them. One day I was trying to explain 'Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat to my mom, but she didn't show any interest even though she loves cats. I talked about my recent victory of Castlevania on the NES at work one day, but they didn't understand the gravity of what it meant. There are a couple of guys at work that like games, but one is more about the storytelling aspect and the other is about achievements and proving how 133t of a gamer you are. I'm about having fun, cracking jokes, and just having a good time with other people which, correct me if I'm wrong, is the main point of a game. I also won't go into another pity party about not really having friends to hang with since you get too much of that as is.
This latest convention was weird. It is supposed to me primarily an anime convention. Sure, my main motivation was to get something signed by the guests, but I also love going to panels and shop in the vendors area. Unlike last year, there weren't as many panels that I wanted to attend. So with that, I went to the second major part of the convention: the gaming room.
Imagine if you will, a large room that is filled with rows and rows of tables and chairs. Wires are descending from the ceiling like a stalactite. Whole quadrants of tables dedicated to console gaming, like Call of Duty on the 360, or whichever modern FPS you can conjure in your mind. Whole sections specified for LAN parties for League of Legends or World of Warcraft. Another entire row of tables and chairs solely dedicated to Super Smash Bros with people of all ages, including children playing and laughing along as their character beats up another with a fan. Weird virtual reality machines set up to whisk players away to a land of adventure. And finally, an entire section that bleeps and bloops like you remember from the 80's and 90's. That's right, arcade and pinball machines from across the decades set up in a loop of crowded glory.
So in short, even though I was at an anime con and it has been my hobby of choice the past few years, I spent more time in the game room.
Just a week ago I was wishing I had the opportunity to play the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on an actual honest to goodness arcade cabinet. Here it was, at this convention, begging for me to play it to completion. Another thing I got to experience was the Nintendo Playchoice 10, a cabinet that I didn't know existed until a few years ago that I thought I would never be able to play in real life. It was right there. I got to play it. Sure, to most it may not sound like something special, but to this guy it was a realization that I finally got to do what I couldn't do as a kid. Play Super Mario Bros 3 on an arcade cabinet in an arcade section. I didn't get to go to many arcades when I was a kid. I think I remember going to some maybe a total of three times in my youth. This was payback.
Though the best was playing Super Smash Bros. It has been nearly a year since I played the game with someone else next to me. Thankfully, I stuck with a group that was playing for fun. We cracked jokes, laughed, and just had a great time. Then we ended up saying things like "Come at me, bro" or "Do you even lift?" and we laughed. They got that humor. I felt like I truly belonged there. Even though I haven't played Smash as enthusiastically as I used to, after we played for a while the others started asking me if I would play with them in the doubles tournament the next day. I was super flattered. Even though I may not have been the best there, they wanted me to play with them. I haven't felt that sense of belonging since...I can't remember.
We played until they told up they were going to lock up for the night, which meant it was past 1 in the morning. I played Smash Bros. for over 3 hours without a break. Again, this hasn't happened in forever. I can't remember the last time a game sucked me in for that long. The same thing happened for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Super Mario Bros 3. People asked if they could play with me, or I would ask if I could join in, and we would laugh and crack wise at the game, or share inconsequential trivia. These are my people. This is where I belong.
This ends up being the case more often than not for cons I go to. It seems almost like a chore to go sometimes, but in the end, I regret nothing. I needed this more than I initially realized. It made me feel human, but it also made me feel like I wasn't alone. I've been having serious doubt about who I am, and whether or not I am capable of having friends or a relationship of any kind. Conventions remind me that this guy, Allengator, he is actually alright. There are people who can tolerate him, that don't try to make him feel weird about loving something inconsequential, that can understand his logic, his sense of humor. Maybe, just maybe, I can find someone or some people out there that are like that. At least now, I have some hope which was all but faded away before.
That is why conventions mean something to me.