For many people, Valentine’s Day weekend consists of dinner plans, Hallmark cards, chocolate, and flowers. For us nerds it can be a little different. This year, as well as the last few, that weekend has meant panels, cosplays, and photo shoots at Katsucon in Maryland. I myself do my best to attend this con every year as it is my favorite (and so far I’ve only missed one of them). Personally, I enjoy Katsucon more than any other convention I attend throughout the year. This con has lots of people without being terribly overwhelming, it’s well-organized, and there are great places to shoot cosplays both inside and out (including an awesome atrium). However, this year it was glaringly obvious that there were a few bad apples among us con-goers that could potentially put the beloved convention at risk. Mix these negative con-goers with some bad luck, and you’ve got one interesting weekend that I think everyone needs to hear about.
Cold Day, Hot Problem
You may have seen the memes and pictures that went into circulation the moment the damages and disasters were discovered at Katsucon 2016. First and foremost, there have been shots of tons of people shivering in the cold outside the convention. Why? It was only about ten degrees and windy outside on Saturday. Why would so many people, many of them wearing cosplays that weren’t very warm, be huddled outside? One word answers that question: fire.
Yes, there was a fire at Katsucon.
The moment it was discovered the alarm was triggered and the convention center and connected hotel had to be evacuated immediately, much to the extreme distaste of all those who do not like becoming nerd-sicles. When the alarm was triggered, I was attending a Blizzard meet-up in my newly finished Diablo Demon Hunter cosplay, chatting it up with a Witch Doctor when the familiar and anxiety-inducing buzzers went off. Needless to say, we were all a little upset at the prospect of having to go out in the blistering cold. I think my new Witch Doctor friend’s eyes bulged out of her head considering she had no intention of leaving the Gaylord hotel, the place she was staying. With Monk and Crusader in tow as well, we all headed out to hide in the Hilton across the street where my band was staying. The lobby became over-crowded quickly, cutting off any chance we had of attempting to move into our room for shelter (a move, admittedly, we should’ve gone for first). Suddenly, I remember buildings like this have fire codes to abide by and I pictured more people getting ushered out once we reached capacity. I could already imagine the outraged tweets and status updates.
While we stayed hunkered down in the sea of attendees, outside there were still stretches of people out in the cold. Quick to respond, blankets were passed out by Katsucon staff to help as much as they could. It was a move appreciated deeply by those they reached. If I had to guess, I’d say there was a safe zone opened up in the Gaylord in under an hour so people could return. Luckily for us, the fire was small and easily extinguished. Rumors have been floating between the fire starting in the kitchen or maid café, or even the mechanical room of the convention center. Wherever it took place, all of us who were present appreciate the timely fashion in which it was handled and that the con was allowed to proceed as normal not terribly long after.
After the excitement from the fire had died down, other pictures from the convention began to surface, many of them angering those of us who, well, know how to be adults. A broken “EXIT” sign hanging from the ceiling by only a few wires. Bathroom walls with “KATSUCON” graffiti all over. A hole in a door with a piece of tape over it, “One Punch Man was here” scribbled on it in red. Even a picture of a hotel room door with a puddle seeping out from it announcing a flooded room showed up on the internet. Granted, I’ve heard and seen the damages done at this convention and found they were not done by any of ours. (Any of you who remember the Katsucon that coincided with BBYO can recall quite a bit of contention and the total costs of the damages between each side.) We can give a few speculations that makes it all look a little better as far as the con-goers are concerned. That hole could’ve already been there and someone thought they were being funny. The flooding could be from a plumbing break out of anyone’s control. The exit sign could’ve been destroyed by anyone trying to show off how tall they are (can’t tell you how many of those ended up broken at my high school). The Katsucon graffiti….well that’s on a Katsucon attendee that’s for sure. But as for the rest of the damages, we can’t be sure.
However, there’s as much a chance if not more that these damages rest solely in the hands of Katsucon attendees. And I need to stress how grievous of an offense this is, not only against the hotel that has been wonderful enough to harbor us geeks for this long, but to those who run our dear convention. We are all trusted by the hard-working staff to be human beings and treat our surroundings and each other with respect and courtesy. True that these specific acts are solely on the heads of a handful of people, but these offenses are going to proceed any good that comes from the convention. These are the images that will circulate internet and media before any others, shining a terrible light on our community and a favorite convention. Some of you may be wondering “Oh c’mon. What’s the worst that can happen?” For starters, the Gaylord could decide to drop the con altogether. And any other establishment has the right to look up the convention’s history and decide to turn it away if they don’t want to take a roll of the dice.
And this doesn’t just go out to Katsucon attendees. Keeping composure and not turning into a pack of animals applies to every convention participants everywhere. Anime USA, Otakon, New York and San Diego Comic Con; there should be a level of control and respect displayed at all of these and the tons others that I could’t possibly list in one article. MAGFest is taking place this weekend in the same Gaylord as Katsucon and I hope that everyone will be on their best behavior while still having their fun.
The lesson to be taken away from all this: don’t be that guy and ruin it for everybody else. No little prank is funny enough to lose a convention over. Also winter con fires are terrible. Hope and pray those don’t happen to you.