Five “Obscure” Things to Do at Conventions

You’ve been there, done that. You’ve attended cons, standing in lines for a picture with Spock or for a panel with your favorite artist. You’ve spent way too much money on merch and snapped pics of the sexy or terrifying cosplayers you came across. You’ve moaned about your aching feet, swore at your phone for having no service due to the overloaded network, and ran into (LITERALLY) way more people than you can count. You’re THE congoer… and well, maybe it’s time for something new. Maybe it’s time to bust out your old flannels, throw on your Buddy Holly glasses and become… A CONVENTION HIPSTER.

There are a SURPRISING number of super fun, non traditional things to do at conventions that no one thinks of right away. It’s kind of like playing a video game after you’ve beaten it once, or reading through a comic again: you notice things that weren’t there before. Secrets. FUN secrets.

Well, you may not have beaten the boss YET, but I’m here to be your convention cheat code. UP UP DOWN DOWN YAYYYY-



Go to a Meetup

“Bleeeeh.” You think, staring down at your shriveled, too expensive convention corn dog. “My friends are LAME.” You cast a sidelong glance at them, but they ignore you: they’re too busy making out like two teenagers who haven’t been out of parental supervision for two weeks. “I wonder how people who come alone make friends at the con…”

Suddenly, an idea pops into your head, and your whip out your smart phone. By some great miracle your network is not chugging and you log onto the forums for the particular convention you’re at. And lo and behold, right before your eyes: A LIST OF MEETUPS. Beautiful, glorious, scheduled activities for strangers with like minded interests who all gathered here today for the pursuit of one thing: a love of all things geeky. There’s something for everyone! Star Trek fans who bake, People who Think They’re Assassin’s Creed Characters, Super Villains Anonymous… sighing a breath of relief, you find one more to your liking: iFanbase speed dating. Shooting a final disdainful glance at your way too happy friends, you scoop up your armfuls of merch and make your way to the nearby internet cafe where the meetup is taking place. And there you meet your future spouse. The end!


Check out Hotel Bars After the Con Has Closed

Okay, okay: I’m not going to write the entire article like some sort of power hungry “choose your own adventure” novel (well, I guess that would just make it a normal novel…). Instead, I’m here to tell you about a glorious, magical, lesser known convention secret: Celebrities and guests are lazy. Celebrities and guests are SO lazy that usually they don’t leave their own hotel if they want a cocktail. They just toddle down the elevator and sit at the hotel bar, drinking the night away. And RESOURCEFUL con goers who want to talk to their heroes in a casual, socially lubricated environment also go to the hotel bars, where they may get a chance to buy Geoff Johns a cocktail. Or a soda. I’m not sure what his preference is but you JUST MAY FIND OUT if you go to the hotel bars near the convention center. You’re welcome.


Commission Lesser Known Artists for Sketches of anything… ANYTHING!

I’m not saying exploit up and coming artists – BUT EXPLOIT UP AND COMING ARTISTS. No, seriously, I’m kidding. Artists are incredibly talented human beings who I admire and envy greatly for their magical abilities to conjure things out of their brains onto paper. Artists are wizards, you guys. But all wizards have to start somewhere – and in the back of the artist alley, hidden behind the rows of mostly black and red marquees for Marvel and DC artists there is a treasure trove of new, hungry talent – just waiting to draw whatever your weird little heart desires. Go seek them out, throw some money at them (don’t ACTUALLY throw it, hand it nicely), and request your commission! I have a pretty hefty collection of pictures of my dog due to this… “activity”.

Play Social Media Games!

There’s a surprising amount of fun little meta games to play within a convention. Twitter tags, Facebook check ins, and those interesting little QR codes you see posted on almost everything these days. You usually ignore them, right? At cons, stop ignoring them and start scanning them – and a world of reality gaming will open up to you. Quests to save princesses or get free t-shirts – you never know until you scan, right?


This quest is the most fun quest of all, but it’s also on super hard level – so you better make sure you’re leveled up enough for this. Essentially, most booths (sans artists) have free swag. Sometimes they give it away in competitions, sometimes they give it to friends of friends, sometimes they give it away to people who ask – and you want to be the third person. This especially works well at video game conventions: go up to vendors, ask if they have any swag, and if you want to know how much does an overwatch boost cost? just ask people who actually know about it like the ones from Usually there’s a stipulation (play the game first! Dance the macarena!), but if you have no shame, a big backpack, and a lot of time, you can probably get a nice collection of free loot. NIGHTMARE MODE: Challenge a friend to a swag off. Loser buys drinks for the rest of the night.


So there you have it: Five convention hacks to give yourself a new convention experience. And what about you, iFanbase? Any hacks to share with me?


Molly McIsaac attends conventions like it’s her day job (well, it kind of is) and pretends her dog is a tribble. You can follow her weird antics on her twitter or on her personal blog The Geeky Peacock.


  1. DDangelico (@DavidDangelico) says:

    I can vouch for the Hotel Bars point. At Baltimore Comic Con I hung out at the hotel bar where the Harvey Awards were being held and afterwards found myself buying Scott Snyder a beer (of course he’s such a nice guy that he ended up turning the tables on me and buying me a beer instead).

  2. I would only worry that if everyone is hanging out at hotel bars, it’s removing the creators from have a respite. But as long as you’re respectful and it’s not overbearing on them, go for it.

  3. One of the reasons I really liked the Boston Comic Con is that the convention center is next to an upscale mall. The food court has some less usual options, and you can always go shopping.

    This is off topic, but I am surprised that comic fans on the internet are not talking about how Dr. Frederic Wertham has finally been proven to have been the unethical cracked pot many of us always suspected he was. Wertham was a psychiatrist who wrote “Seduction of the Innocent,” the book that created a panic over the idea that comic books were corrupting young people. His work led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority. Yesterday’s “New York Times” has an article about how Wertham misrepresented his research and falsified his results. Paul Levitz is quoted at length in the article about Dr. Wertham’s influence on the comic book industry.

    • Was there ever any doubt among modern fans that his claims were off base? Superman was not an anarchist (boyscout maybe, never a anarchist), Batman & Robin a dream homosexual couple (it’s gotten ridiculous, but most people seem to have just accepted this as a part of Batman [cough, Morrison]), Wonder Woman a lesbian? (possibly… maybe bisexual post New 52). The kids in juvie he interviewed only had comics available to them, it wasn’t the reason they were in juvie. The people inside DC and Marvel have explained for years how his theories didn’t add up. I’m glad he was finally “debunked” tho, it’s been too long coming. Now if we can just avoid the same thing for video games and gun violence.

    • Guys, please stay on topic.

    • Right right, sorry. I hadn’t heard anything about that New York Times article tho, I need to look that up.

  4. Meet-ups sound fun, but I doubt any conventions I go to would be big enough to host that kind of thing. The last day of my first con, I took the booklet I got for free and got every artist’s autograph (starting with Mark Waid!) at the convention. A few did some cool sketches for me, one guy actually gave me some free trading cards. It gave me an excuse to go around the booths which I hadn’t visited, some of them seemed so grateful for the attention and others were just sketching to pass time. I wished I had money to buy artwork from all of them but I couldn’t. This year I’ll probably spend most of my time at panels instead of hunting for back issues.

  5. I had no idea these things were going on at conventions. The meet ups and social media games look to be the most fun. I have to remember these whenever I go to a con. Come to think of it, the swag quest is a good one too.
    Good article, Molly.