Updated: Jan 20
Anime conventions are awesome, but after you've been to a bunch of them, they can start to feel a little stale. When this happens, many people stop wanting to actually go to conventions - which is super sad, since it's a great way to bond with fellow fans and get your geek on. With that in mind, here are some things that conventions could do to make the experience a little more exciting.
Better Options For Adults
While the majority of con-goers are teenagers, there are a ton of adult attendees too. Being an adult at an anime convention can be kind of awkward, though. 18+ events are often repetitive and uninspiring - how many times can you see the same yaoi panel before you never want to hear the word seme again? So, definitely some more variety needed there, but it's not just the 18+ panels - there should be some more intellectual panels, too!
Lets have a panel on how the child soldiers in Naruto compare to real-world child soldiers. Let's have a panel run by a Japanese history professor teach us about what life was like when Rurouni Kenshin or Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu took place. Let's have an economist come in to discuss Spice & Wolf. These events could absolutely be open to curious teenagers, but they also help adults who love anime feel less out of place.
Anime Speed Dating
One of my best friends met her now-husband at an anime convention. In fact, a lot of relationships get started at these events. But what about those of us who are too anxious to just walk up to a cutie and need a little more structure? That's where speed dating comes in. As long as participants are matched for age (no matching teenage girls with 45-year-old men) it could be a great way to spark new friendships, romantic relationships, and hookups with like-minded people. As you can see above, Anime Matsuri did it - other conventions should follow suit!
After Parties That Aren't Raves
The convention is over for the night, and it's time to party!! Sounds exciting - that is, until you realize that the only option is yet another rave!
Raves can be fun, but they aren't to everyone's tastes. Not everyone enjoys the music, flashing lights can make the events inaccessible for people with certain disabilities, and anyway, they're just over done. Have the rave, sure, but have other kinds of parties! Have dance parties with music that isn't techno! Have costume parties where people can show off their cosplay! Host an anime themed drinking game, or a viewing party in a more casual setting than the convention itself. Anything, just provide some options that aren't raves.
More Food Variety
Food at anime conventions can be predictable, boring, and overpriced - seriously, does anyone enjoy spending $10 on dry chicken strips? This isn't a problem at, for example, Otakon and AnimeNYC, conventions within quick walking distance of a plethora of awesome food, but it's a huge problem at smaller conventions that don't have great options nearby. It's an anime convention, serve up some Japanese food! Or food from the local area - give New Yorkers a reason to head down to convention in South Carolina, give Ohio residents a reason to check out a convention in Maine.
Besides variety, my advice? Put a granola bar or something in everyone's welcome bag. It wouldn't be any more expensive than the plastic bracelets or keychains that usually go in there, and it would help a lot of people. When I was going to conventions as a teenager, I was spending every cent I had just to be there. I wasn't eating, and I nearly passed out several times. I was definitely not the only kid to prioritize buying a plushie of my favorite character over keeping myself healthy. A small gesture like that would go a long way toward keeping the convention's largest demographic - teenagers who haven't learned how to prioritize their spending - safe.
Ways For Fans To Be Creative At The Con
Conventions provide plenty of opportunities for fans to show off their creativity - if they've prepared in advance. But part of the magic of a convention is what happens spontaneously. Cosplay, AMV contest entries, and Artist Alley tables are amazing, but they're not spontaneous - they take months of planning to put together.
So, how can conventions encourage spontaneous creativity? Lots of ways. Set up an anime themed comedy Improv Night, or an anime themed Open Mic. Organize an anime themed mural painting event, or start a round robin fanfiction writing experience. What about lessons in calligraphy or origami? The possibilities are endless.
Activities For Small Children
On that note - a lot of con-goers these days are parents. Yes, the majority of attendees are teenagers and college students, but I can't count the number of 25-35yos I know who love conventions but had to stop going because there's nothing going on for their kids. Some conventions do have fun activities for children - Otakon, for example, has Otachan - but a lot of conventions have nothing, and that needs to change.
What ideas do you have for making the anime convention experience more exciting?