“This is gonna be the best con ever!” I sang to myself as I drove down I-95. With all that I imagined, the reality of Bronycon is sure to make this the best con ever! The bronies that will be there are the types of pony every pony should know. I did everything I could to convince Kanapony to let me join her for Bronycon. I gave her baked goods, a makeover, cleaned her office, shielded her from the rain, and even threw a party in her honor. I spent months in preparing for this convention. I even got a new set of clothes for it. That was an adventure in itself but I digress.
I had such plans for Bronycon! If I had a vendor’s booth set up, bronies would be buying our merchandise until the cows came home! Do you any idea how much business I could drum up for The Fan? Why, with all that money, we could fix and upgrade all sorts of stuff! Plus Enterplay would be there! They’re the ponies behind the My Little Pony Collectable Card Game. They even got their own room in the convention just for card game events. With my strategic thinking and unpredictable play style, I’m sure to win tournaments and impress ponies with my skills. And they’re even having a Grand Galloping Gala! I bet it’ll be just like the Gala in the show! Everypony will be in pretty dresses and fancy suits, with refined dancing and classical music. It’ll be such a classly event, it’ll be the event for me!
And that’s just the events; don’t get me started on the bronies. They’ll be costumed bronies, musical bronies, business bronies, gaming bronies, cute bronies, tough bronies, and even dancing bronies! They’ll be bronies that actually hum, and bronies that actually buzz! And I can get my My Little Ponies DVDs signed by all the guests that’ll be there! John De Lance, Kazumi Evans, and Nicole Oliver are a few of the seventeen guests that will be appearing at Bronycon. Seventeen guests is a high number for any convention, but Bronycon pulls if off somehow.
I arrived in Baltimare Thursday afternoon. After more hassle then I cared to admit, I meet with Kanapony in our hotel room. It was so nice to meet with her again. I haven’t seen her in person since Youamcon 2013. We were hanging out and stuff until she told me that a very special someone was coming to visit and that I should open the door for him. I opened the door to discover… KROZE! Oh Celestia; it’s KROZE! I was so excited to see him again, I was rolling on the floor. I hugged him so hard, I lifted him off the ground. A convention isn’t a convention without KROZE there, and he was helping us all con long. With KROZE by our side, I’m sure absolutely nothing will go wrong at Bronycon!
Being Thursday night, Bronycon wasn’t happening yet. To tide over the herds until the convention officially started, a Brony barhop was held. You basically gather a bunch of Bronies into a bunch of bars and you let friendship happen. It’s good for a convention to have some type of event the night before it officially begins since many ponies arrive the day before and would enjoy something to do.
For fifteen dollars or so, you got a wristband with some drink tickets attached and access to a small but tasty buffet. I don’t do bars but the magic of friendship was helping me feel the scene. However, Kanapony was there to wheel and deal. Inroads were made but the rising tide of alcohol quickly washed away any networking opportunities. I couldn’t really float around since I had to stick with the group, and we retired for the night not long after. Well I would have at least, but KROZE and Kana had to stay up until 3:00 am watching internet videos.
Nevertheless, I woke up bright and early Friday morning ready to embrace the magic that is Bronycon. While Kanapony was preparing herself, she dispatched me as a preliminary force. I sat down and began to unfurl our banner as a man in a suit approached me. He informed that the table I was using actually was reserved for the Secret Service. Of all the possible things I could imagine that could happen at a convention, losing your table to the freakin’ Secret Service was the last one I would ever expect. Honestly, I thought it was just some random person pulling my leg, but I backed down and moved. I don’t want to mess with a guy in a suit. To my surprise, the Secret Service actually really did have a set up at Bronycon. My Little Pony is a franchise focused on little girls, so children are an expected part of any Brony convention. The Secret Service was there to help educate children on being safe and stuff like that.
Kanapony soon appeared and we were rockin’ out before you know it. As I was preparing my sales pitch, she informed that we had no stock to sell. She didn’t get permission to sell stuff beforehand so she didn’t bring anything to sell. What you don’t realize until told is that in order to sell stuff at a convention you need to get the convention’s permission and fill out the paper work and blah blah blah. You think you can just drag an apple cart onto the Grand Galloping Gala and start collecting bits? I guess I can cross raise a lot of money for The Fan off my goal list.
Wanting to make the best use of my abilities, Kanapony dispatched me out into the wilds to take cosplay pictures and scout the con. The first thing I noticed is how spacious everything feels. I’ve been to the Baltimare Convention Center plenty of times before; but it was always for Otakon. Otakon attendance hovers around the 30k mark, so the hallways felt like a sardine can. Bronycon is a lot less crowded, and I found it refreshing to actually have personal space for a change.
This isn’t the first trot for me or Bronycon. It was like any other con I went to, except everything was pony flavored. It’s like eating at a favorite buffet but with sriracha sauce on everything. There were plenty of panels, but I couldn’t really experience them. It just wouldn’t feel right to attend a panel while Kanapony was all alone at The Fan’s booth. Though I did figure I could squeeze in time to get an autograph or two. That is, until I learned how Bronycon does autographs.
It turns out that autographs cost twenty bucks a pop! What the hay?!? I guess that’s how Bronycon can afford all those guests. You see, when a guest attends a convention, it’s as a job with the expectation of payment for their time and effort. For most anime conventions, the convention itself pays the guest an appearance fee and requires them to do one or more autograph sessions. In other cases, the convention pays a guest little or nothing at all, and the guest makes their keep by charging for autographs. I think that Dragoncon’s Walk of Fame works on this principle (but I’m not sure since I never been there). Honestly, this is a subject I don’t delve into very deeply.
What I can say is that getting an autographs at Bronycon will cost you twenty bucks. I found this out by looking up the Bronycon schedule on Guidebook. For the unaware, Guidebook is a smart phone application that provides information for various events. Many conventions increasingly are putting up their information on Guidebook, making in an invaluable app for the modern con goer. By looking through Guidebook, you can easily see all the events that a particular guest will attend (making it the perfect tool for finding a favorite voice actor). I noticed that every guest has between two to five autograph sessions, which puts is above the average I’ve generally seen. I can only assume autographs is how Bronycon guests largely get cash into their hands. Well, you don’t put the money into the guest’s hands directly. You purchase a ticket and exchange the ticket for an autograph. It may seem convoluted but I bet that it eliminates potential problems and streamlines the whole process.
After all of this, I bet you’re ready to condemn the practice of charging for autographs. If you think about, it’s not actually all that bad. It beats hearing people complain about not getting autographs. That must be really annoying to convention staff; I hear it at Otakon and I find it grating. It’s like trying to add up one applebucking pony and hundreds of apple trees. For you non-bronies, when thousands of people want an autographs from a guest that can only sign a few hundred things at most, a lot of people are gonna end up disappointed; including you. Charging for autographs reduces demand to more manageable levels, gives guests more incentive to do more autographs, and lowers costs. While I do respect the idea, I rather not pay for autographs. Getting all my Pony DVDs signed by all the voice actors would have cost me a small fortune; so I’ll just wait until I can get them at other conventions and fight through the crowds. I guess I better cross of getting autographs off my goal list.
Well there’s more to Bronycon then buying pony autographs with money, like buying pony-themed stuff with money. Like any other con, there’s a dealer’s hall and artist alley where you can throw your bits on the table and receive goods in exchange. I really enjoyed just walking through the area and looking at all the stuff for sale. It was a smorgasbord of pony stuff. You can find some really good plushies there. I’m talking about a perfectly proportional representation of your favorite pony. Granted, they did cost about four hundred dollars but if you’re looking for the stuffed equivalent of a luxury car, then you found it. There were more modest models for those with less disposable income. On the game front, I found was a Final Fantasy themed pony RPG for the NES. The concept was so intriguing that they sold out by the time I got there. The game that takes the cake for me is Twilight Sparkle’s Secret Shipfic Folder. Simply by hearing the name, you’ll instantly know if this is the game for you. Enterplay also had a booth selling the My Little Pony Collectible Card Game.
Collectable card games are basically the physical equivalent of the MMORPG market wise. Companies look at it and think, “a product that large groups of people pay money for on a regular basis? Look at how much money the market leader is making. Sign me up!” What these companies don’t realize is that the deep investment and large player base that makes the market leader so prosperous is also the main factor that creates a “there can be only one” scenario. A new collectible card game has to develop a community from scratch while everypony is already playing the lead card game with a thriving community that they are hooves deep in. A new game just can’t develop traction.
The most common way to deal with these issues is to use Intellectual Property. The Yu-Gi-Oh card game thrives to this day thanks in part to its manga and anime planting those seeds of popularity. Enterplay made a good choice in making pony cards considering My Little Pony already has a thriving geek sub-culture. They can go to one of the many Brony conventions and sell cards there. Enterplay has a really good con presence too. Besides a dealer’s booth, they also held panels previewing sets and letting the audience design a card. They even had their own room in the convention hall all to themselves where they just ran continuous card games events. They even held a championship tournament there.
Being a person who likes both card games and ponies, this was a natural fit for me. What I didn’t count on was all the responsibility I had as a guest. Between taking photos and manning The Fan’s booth, you really can’t find a three hour block to attend a card tournament. I did manage to play a demo game and watch two people play a whole match, but that’s like trying to drink cider by eating some dirt that had cider spilled on it. On the bright side, they did give me a free pack of cards just for trying the demo. Still, I can’t really say that I got to throw down some pony cards. Guess that’s a loss on the goal list.
It seems like I was stuck working the convention instead of experiencing it. But a heart that’s strong as horses will find a way! After we shut down the jam party on Saturday night, Kanapony informed me that she had important business to attend to and told me to amuse myself for a few hours. That means I could attend the Grand Galloping Gala! Bronycon’s throwing their own version of the Gala and I bet it’s gonna be just as grand as the one in the show! I threw on my formal wear and walked on over to the Mane Event area; to find a bunch of dressed up people hanging around in a dark room. The real life version of the Gala is only ranked semi-formal. All they really did was move some chairs around, added some tables and turned the lights down. To quote an upset pony, “this isn’t that type of party.”
A wave of disappointment washed over me. This isn’t what I expected! This isn’t what I expected at all! All of my Bronycon objectives fell flatter then Fluttershy’s yelling! Is wanting truly better then having? Has all my build up excitement turned to naught? As I sat among the herd pondering my fate; a Pinkie Pie appeared on stage and unleashed the jams. A moment later, everypony started dancing; and I danced along too. Perhaps the greatest joy of Bronycon isn’t in the guests, the events, or even the memes. Perhaps the greatest joy of Bronycon is just being part of the herd; hanging out with all the great people and having a place to belong.
And if there’s a group to belong in, it’s Bronies. Who else would offer brownies to random people in a hotel lobby on Sunday night? Who else would look out for the little ones by getting the Secret Service and have a guest panel just for the kids? Who else would make sure that every performer who wants to perform gets a chance? Bronies, that’s who!
The Baltimore alt press was right, Bronydom has a very strong DIY element. They make enough music to fuel multiple online radio stations, and a lot of them were at Bronycon. The Bronypalooza alone has over twenty artists performing over twelve hours of music over two days. That doesn’t even take into account the Renegade Stage which was jamming practically all the time. And I should also mention Mane6 and their Fighting is Magic game. I actually have the chance to try and I got to say that they really took care in keeping to the feel of the show. So much, in fact, that Hasbro decided to shut it down. While it is a tragic lost, Mane6 (with the help of Lauren Faust herself!) have decided to make a spiritual successor in Them’s Fightin’ Herds, which you can support on their Indiegogo campaign!
I guess I learned a valuable lesson on friendship that weekend. It’s not what you do; it’s who you do it with. I got to find out what the Magic of Friendship is all about, and I have to say, I like it! If you want more friendship adventures, Kanapony made a video about Bronycon that covers a bunch of other things I missed. And tell Bronycon to invite The Fan again! I Pinkie Promise that we’ll make it 20% cooler!