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AwesomeCon 2023: What to Know Before You Go

AwesomeCon at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. has wrapped up another year. This beloved event for DMV geeks showcases everything from comics to science fiction, board games, and more. With celebrity guests, artist alleys, vendor booths, cosplay contests, and a dedicated gaming area, from this board gamer’s perspective, I think they just may have outdone themselves this year.
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It’s A Wrap 

Just like that, another awesome year at AwesomeCon at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. has come to an end. A favorite of all geeks in the DMV area, AwesomeCon spotlights comics in every form, in addition to science and science fiction, board games, video games and more. It always delivers. It’s the epic gathering of fans, creators, and industry professionals for a Friday through Sunday weekend of entertainment, cosplay, panel discussions, and exhibits. 

The Run Down 

The convention features a wide range of activities and attractions, such as celebrity guests, autograph and photo sessions, short film screenings, artist alleys showcasing talented anime artists and illustrators, board game designers, hundreds of vendor booths offering merchandise, collectibles, one-of-a-kind artwork, and unique geek-themed products, and a dedicated gaming area where attendees can participate in tabletop games, video game tournaments, and interactive experiences.  

Now can I just say that descending to the lowest level of the convention center to access the exhibitor hall never gets old for me. It’s truly magical. Picture the ultimate geek paradise unfolding right before your eyes. I didn’t think the vendor space could get any better. But it did. How many more levels are there to unlock?? 

Saturday is for Cool Geeks 

I purchased just the Saturday pass this year because it coincided with several Juneteenth holiday celebrations happening at the same time in DC. But let me tell you, I had a great time on the busiest day of the convention. Can you believe Labyrinth DC, the biggest board game shop in DC, predicted a whopping 70,000 attendees this year? Wow! I was a bit worried that the smaller events would lose their intimate feel and just overall less enjoyable with such a huge crowd. That wasn’t the case. Actually, it was the opposite. The energy was incredible. 

Quick tip: Don’t be like me and forget to purchase your ticket until the last minute. The price is much less if you purchase a few weeks before the event.

Gaming Central 

Eek! Of course tabletop games is a major highlight for me, especially because it appears my beloved WashingCon, a local board game convention, might not be returning this year (Update: Hold the phone, it looks like they ARE returning!! Details pending). So this was my chance to be amongst my community on a grand scale.  

And AwesomeCon really stepped it up this time by moving the gaming section right to the entrance of the event, instead of hiding it at the back of the convention center like last year. I mean, it wasn’t exactly a dark, cold cave back there, but let’s be real, it definitely wasn’t the most accessible or visible spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if many attendees missed it entirely. Kudos to the event organizers this year for giving it the prime spot it deserves—front and center!  

So, naturally, moments after arriving, I made a beeline to sign up for a time slot to play a popular social deduction game called Blood on the Clocktower before browsing the gaming area. 

It was exciting to look through their massive 500+ board game library, searching for any new gems to buy or look into further at a later time.  

The entire back of this ginormous space was filled with tables and chairs where people were participating in open gaming.  

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this amount of people play board games in one place. Uh, I love it! There were also several games being demo’ed by game designers throughout the weekend, such as Wingspan and Twilight Struggle: Red Sea. I was happy to catch two in action: Votes for Women, a thematic game covering the American women’s suffrage movement and the campaign to ratify the 19th amendment, and Worldbreakers, a card game that transports players to an alternative 13th century Asia where mythium, a mysterious substance magnifies its players abilities. 

AwesomeCon App

Don’t forget to download the AwesomeCon app before you arrive. It’s extremely helpful with pre-planning your days at the convention. You can browse all of the events by date and/or topic, and then add any that interest you to your own custom schedule.

I’m kinda hoping that next year they add a general “Panels” tag so that I can easily add all of them to my schedule. I’m a huge convention panel fien. Did you say panels? Gimme me, gimme me, gimme me.

Cosplay 

The rooms, halls and every corner of the convention center were swarming with people. It was so exciting to see all of the very unique and creative cosplay this year. Aside from exploring the latest board games and hearing about upcoming releases from game designers, coming to AwesomeCon solely to admire the extravagant cosplay is absolutely worth it. Many people put serious time into creating their masterpieces. One person took 2 years from start to completion! Cherry on top is the Saturday night Cosplay contest. It’s just one of the many chances throughout the weekend for cosplayers to connect, compete, and share their passion for their favorite fandoms.  

The level of dedication and effort put into this production is truly remarkable. I can only imagine the immense work it takes to bring it all together. Without a doubt, the cosplay contest has now become an annual must-see for me. 

Panels 

AwesomeCon also hosts panels and workshops with notable guests from the entertainment industry, including actors, writers, and directors, who share insights and engage in discussions on various topics. These panels cover a diverse range of subjects, such as disability diversity in the comic industry, examining the intersection of character design and cosplay, and even getting a chance to hear from several cast members from My Hero Academia

Inclusivity and Celebrating Diversity 

One area that AwesomeCon continues to shine in is their commitment to inclusivity, representation and visibility in the community. Every hour it seemed like a meetup was being hosted for the various communities that make up AwesomeCon, like the blerds (black nerds), LGBTQ, people with disabilities, 80s meetup, 90s meetup, DC locals, DC professionals, gamers/streamers, artists and comic creators meetup, and several more. (Quick request: Can we get a small blogger meetup next year? Asking for myself.) No, but seriously, holding space for people to connect within such a huge and potentially scary environment for some people is paramount for inclusivity. I mean there is even a first year at AwesomeCon meetup. Yes to more thoughtfulness in comic con organizing. Thank you. 

Blerd, Is That You?  

Speaking of thoughtfulness, this year, more than ever, really felt like the black geek community had a significant presence. We exist!  

I found tons of vendor booths that were by black people and for black people. Even passed a booth with a fantastic blerd DJ blasting old 90s R&B music for all of the attendees walking by to enjoy. And then I passed by another black attendee shortly after passing the booth, with the music still in hearing range, we exchanged the knowing look. IYKYK. It’s the little things. 

It can sometimes feel isolating being black in some of the geek sub-communities, like board gaming, but prioritizing intentional representation makes a world of a difference. And sure it might not be perfect, but continuous improvement is worth its weight in gold. 

So Long 

If you haven’t checked out AwesomeCon yet and you’re a self-identified full-fledged geek, geek in training, geek adjacent or just curious about this beautiful and special community that is made up of thousands of people from around the DMV and surrounding areas, I highly recommend it.  

Until next year.   

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