Conventions are a lot of fun, and one of the things we look forward to every year. It gives fans the opportunity to meet some of their favorites from the fandoms they hold dear. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has basically put that to a complete halt what with all the social distancing and such. It sucks, we know but, our prayers have been answered in the form of virtual conventions.
I’m sure some of you are probably thinking, “A virtual convention? What are you talking about and what is that?” Well, let me tell you. A virtual convention is slightly similar to a regular in-person one filled with panels, games, and meet and greets. The only difference is well, it’s virtual. There are tons and tons of virtual conventions popping up all over right now and it’s a pretty lucrative business, considering so many of us are starved for this.
I recently attended A Storm of Crows And Shadows Goes Virtual hosted by Empire Conventions which was you guessed it, for Shadow and Bone. If you yourself are thinking of attending a virtual convention, I’ve got a few things you should know.
Let’s start with the pros of attending a virtual convention
You can attend from anywhere
When I say you can attend from anywhere, I mean exactly that. What was so unique about A Storm of Crows and Shadows is it was hosted by a French company. Typically, conventions like these are held in person in France and people from all over the world show up. Like I said earlier, because of COVID-19 it could not be held in person. This worked for me because I don’t live in France. I’m in the United States.
To attend the convention or any virtual convention for that matter, all you need is an electronic device like your phone or your computer and you can join by Zoom. Yup, I said Zoom and the best part is, you can do it right in the comfort of your own home. We’ve all gotten familiar with Zoom over the last year and now you can use it to have fun instead of sitting through another dull work meeting.
The experience is more intimate
The intimacy of a virtual convention is one of the things I can honestly say I enjoyed the most. For A Storm of Crows and Shadows, there were so many different options for what you could purchase; 1 on 1s with the actors, group Q&As, Game panels with the actors, and of course the full cast panel which I will get to a bit later. I myself signed up for the 1 on 1 with Archie Renaux who plays our precious baby Mal, the group Q&A with Kit Young our Jesper, and one of my absolute favorites Trivia with the Crows which was literally us playing a trivia game with Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, and Kit Young.
If you can afford to do a 1 on 1 with any actor you’re dying to see at a virtual convention, I highly recommend it. It is truly worth it. Typically from what I can see, all of the 1 on 1s are three minutes in length. That means you get three whole minutes to chat with your favorite person. Three minutes may not seem like a lot to you but, think of it in terms of holding a plank for that long.
One of the other things that’s great about a virtual 1 on 1 is although there is a moderator to keep time and listen to make sure you don’t ask or say anything inappropriate, it is literally just you and the actor. That means there is no anxiety over having someone standing either right next to you or right behind you in line while you try to say what you want to say. I know some people get nervous talking to actors and knowing someone is basically hovering, can be stressful.
Personally, I loved this because It was nice and quiet and I got to just have a conversation in a relaxed environment. The group Q&A wasn’t bad either, because even though you’re in there with other people, it’s still a lot calmer than it probably would be if you were actually sitting in a real room with others.
You can get personalized videos
Previously at in-person conventions you could purchase personalized photo ops with an actor. Now, you can get personalized videos. With the videos, if the actor you want has agreed to do one, they are 25 seconds in length and you can pick what you want them to say. Mind you, it has to be something appropriate, no dirty stuff or telling them to like, ask you to marry them or some other weird stuff. The actors record it and then the company that runs the convention will send it to you a few weeks later depending on what their policy is. I think these are so great because you have a cherished memory of them talking that you can play over and over whenever you wish.
Alright, those are the pros of attending a virtual convention. Now, I unfortunately have to give you the cons because there are a few.
As I have always said, technology is great… when it works. Technological issues are definitely a problem that can arise and you have to be ready for them. Internet can go out, especially if you have a cable company like Spectrum, I said what I said. I can’t tell you how many times I checked my internet for fear that my Wi-Fi would go out. Thankfully it did not. Something else you may have to deal with is Zoom issues.
Zoom is not perfect, and with the amount of people there are, it can make things more challenging. One issue that I had was during the group Q&A with Kit Young. For some reason, I could not see the “raise hand” option so the moderator would know I wanted to ask a question. The good thing is, there is chat box which I used to let the moderator know about my issue and I was eventually able to ask my question. If you have any issues, reach out to the moderator in the chat box and they should be able to see your question.
Another annoying tech issue that I also dealt with was a very unstable internet connection. This happened during the full cast panel. That had absolutely nothing to do with my cable company as far as I know. It was just that there were far too many people in the Zoom to keep up with. I don’t think Zoom is equipped to deal with that many people at one time, but I could be wrong.
The cast panel isn’t the best
While there are some fun panels to join during a virtual convention, I have to say the cast panel is not really one of them. Now, let me just say, I don’t know if all full cast panels that are virtual work the same way but I didn’t particularly enjoy the one during A Storm of Crows and Shadows. The main reason I purchased it was because I couldn’t get a 1 on 1 with the person I wanted to see and that was the best option I had.
Like I said when I talked about the technological issues earlier, the cast panel had a lot. I think there may have been about 200 people along with the cast members who attended. It was a bit chaotic and my internet was acting all kinds of crazy. It is very hard to follow where the actors are on your screen because you’re trying to scan through all the people who are in the Zoom. It is impossible to get your question asked and the chat box may not work as well as it does in the smaller panels.
Something you should know is the organizers do not promise you will get to ask a question or really be seen by the actors. This is a guarantee they cannot make. If you decide to pay the money for it, that’s a risk you are willing to take. I knew the risk going into that purchase but like I said, it was because I wanted to see someone I didn’t get a 1 on 1 with. In hindsight, I would not buy another cast panel again.
There are rules to follow
I don’t necessarily see rules as a con because they are helpful but, some can make you question if you do in fact want to attend a virtual convention. One of the biggest rules of every virtual convention is “DO NOT RECORD.” The organizers have strict rules that recording or posting video footage of the events is forbidden and it can get you banned from future events.
For each event you purchase, as the Zoom links are sent to you, there are strict reminders not to record. If you think you can get away with it, trust me, they will catch you. Some people have actually posted their videos on twitter and they are quickly called out and told to delete them so just don’t do it. You know the saying “one bad apple spoils the bunch?” don’t be the bad apple.
Another rule you have to follow is to leave yourself on mute at all times unless you are asking a question. I understood this rule perfectly however, I will say that when it came to the quiz with the Crows (Amita Suman, Freddy Carter, and Kit Young), it felt awkward not to talk to them while we were playing. They were very interactive with the fans to the point where it didn’t feel right to not acknowledge them when they spoke to us. That was the same for the panels as well. There were some awkward silences that felt like the fans could have spoken to the point where it would not be a distraction. I am not ashamed to admit I spoke once during the quiz. In my defense it was in relation to a question from Shadow and Bone episdoe 5 “Show Me Who You Are” when Jesper watches Alina climb into the trunk. I had to tell Kit Young how much I loved that moment, and he appreciated it.
Alright, I know that was a lot of information to take in but, it’s always best to be informed about things like this before you go into them! That being said, there are a ton of virtual conventions coming up, so you have lots to choose from if you just want to get your feet wet and give one a try. Remember, there are a plethora of options for things you can purchase. You don’t have to buy everything. That’s the good thing. You can buy as many or as few items as you want.
The best advice I can give is to follow all the Twitter accounts you can because that’s where the notifications come in constantly and the guests are always changing and so do the types of events. I also recommend visiting their sites and signing up for newsletters if you can because that’s another place where you can get notified.
Here’s a few below along with links to their sites.
NOTE: With the exception of the Goldrush Events, and Book Beau, the majority of these conventions are hosted by companies outside of the United States.
Book Beau Otherworld Global Sci-Fi/Fantasy Virtual Event/ Swoon Romance Virtual Event
So you see, you have many, many virtual conventions to choose from so, have at it, but most importantly, have fun!
Which of these virtual conventions caught your eye? Will you be buying tickets for any?