Cross-posted from my personal blog.
My sister and I are currently working on our costumes for PAX 2009. I’m really looking forwards to going again this year because I had so much fun last year.
But PAX is the first fan event I’ve ever attended where I can say I unilaterally had fun. It’s the first event where I’ve immediately said, “hey, I should bring my sister!” It’s the first fan event where I’ve felt comfortable enough to dress up. I’ll dress up in places where I feel safe (the university, the NAC) but I’ve never felt safe enough to do it at a con.
I don’t even attend cons anymore. I used to go out to local events, and frankly, I was stared at, hassled, and generally made to feel uncomfortable. (Don’t get me started on creepy otaku, the reason I don’t use my middle name in public any more.) I think I even snuck out of one or two events, trying to keep someone from seeing me leave so they wouldn’t follow me home. Think that’s just me? Read the geekfeminism post on worst con experiences or take a look through other people’s bad con experiences and you’ll realise I’ve gotten off light. The local 501st joke about how many times someone grabs their butts when they’re out doing their thing… they think it’s funny, but most of them are wearing body armour, so it’s hard to be really offended. Small wonder I wasn’t jumping at the opportunity to put on a metal bikini and join them.
And let’s just say that stories like “EA puts sexual bounty on the heads of its own booth babes” haven’t inspired confidence that things are changing.
But I was trying to be positive here. So let’s talk about PAX.
You most definitely don’t have to be a Penny Arcade fan to enjoy PAX. It’s a huge gaming convention — tabletop rpgs, computer games, board games, card games, video games, rock paper scissors in the hallway… if you like playing games at all, you’d find something to enjoy here.
But that’s not what surprised me. What surprised me is that PAX feels like a huge community of people who you’d actually like to have as friends. There were people about exchanging cookies for donations to child’s play. People brought their families. You could turn to any stranger next to you in line and say, “Hey, want to play a game?” and you’d quickly find something to try out, and possibly a new friend. People didn’t get that cranky in lines, because they found ways to have fun. There were so many women about that I never felt out of place. On the second day, I even dressed up in a low-cut tank top and skirt I usually wear for dancing, just to see what happened, and nothing did. I felt as safe and comfy as if I were hanging out with my local friends, even though I was on a show floor with thousands of other people. If someone had told me this before I went, I would have said they were crazy, that they just weren’t noticing the bad stuff, but the fact is, I wasn’t noticing it either. And I’m pretty attuned after years of bad experiences.
At PAX, I didn’t even have to think about being a girl. I was just a gamer, a geek. And that was more than enough.