Demicon in Des Moines, Iowa is always fun. My lovely and patient wife, Angie, and my dear friend, Cristi, joined me for this year’s shenanigans. There were many highlights, but most of our time was spent trying something new.
In 2020, I decided to stop being a vendor at cons due to complications with Parkinson’s. I never intended to give them up entirely. While I’m always happy to visit as a guest and do panels, long days of pitching my books at a booth is too much. I wasn’t ready to give up so this year, we hosted a room party.
What is a Room Party?
Traditional science fiction & fantasy conventions often have room parties. They take place after hours and adult-only (mostly because of adult beverages. Mostly.) Needless to say, I’ve always been a fan. You typically won’t find this at larger cons, likely due to liability. These happen at conventions of 500ish people who know each other well enough to mostly behave.
Virtual Virtual Room Party
Most cons went virtual over the last two years due to COVID. Demicon let me host a virtual room party in 2021. I leveraged a lot of technology to throw a virtual reality party at my house with close friends. My hope was that a VR Party would be a solid tie-in to Entriss Online, since much of the book takes place in a virtual world. We had fun, but it didn’t all work like I had hoped. When Demicon announced they were hosting a live con, I wanted to try again. I was also concerned it would be a disaster.
About Those Concerns
The Holiday Inn that hosts Demicon does an amazing job of rolling with con needs. Not only do they block out an entire wing of their top floor for room parties, they remove the furniture from those rooms. An empty hotel room is the perfect amount of space for most VR games, but I had concerns. Drunk people and VR are a dangerous mix, I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. I also wanted to stream the game to a television so people could watch, but hotel networks are notoriously bad for gaming. There was a lot to consider, but we put our name in the hat and Demicon gave us a room.
It Worked Out... Eventually
The hotel network was zippy enough to support what I wanted, but they must have had firewalls in place to block streaming. To get things working the first night, I cobbled together a small network and connected it to a hot spot on my phone. We ate up 2.5 Gb of data later but it was a lot to ask of my cell phone. I had to reconnect the stream after every session.
For the second night, I picked up a device that let me piggyback on the hotel internet with my own network. Games streamed without a hitch, and the reactions were perfect.
First Time in Virtual Reality
I love introducing friends to something new, and everyone’s reaction to using VR for the first time is amazing. They are always surprised at how immersive it is, and it’s a blast to watch.
There was always someone in line to give it a try. If someone was wary about standing, due to injury or booze, we pulled up a chair. It was safe, and fun. Not only did visitors get to try VR for the first time, most loved it. Hosting a room party with VR was fun, but there were some unexpected results.
We Saw Everyone
The great thing about hosting a room party is everyone comes to see you. Cristi and I have been going to Demicon since 2012. It’s easy to miss people when you’re drunkenly wandering from room to room. When you host a party, your con friends come to find you. I loved this!
We Sold Books
I didn’t host the party to sell books. I really just wanted to share the experience of VR. I brought books in case anyone asked for a copy, and they did.
Easier than a booth
I’m a night owl. It doesn’t cause issues with my Parkinson’s to stay up late. Hosting a room party for three hours was much easier than working a booth for ten. When I did get tired, we kicked everyone out and closed the door. Most parties went much later, but everyone understood why we ended earlier.
No Complaints But A Few Misses
There were a few caveats. Hosting kept us busy so we couldn’t visit other room parties. I was often helping people in and out of the VR gear, which made it hard to hold a conversation. Definitely things to consider if we try again!
Old Friends ...and some great food!
Before the con started, we grabbed dinner with some friends from High School, Aaron and John. It was great to see them and we snuck out the next day to enjoy lunch at Aaron’s food truck. If you’re in Des Moines, you’ll want to try Street Eats DSM!
Great Demicon Moments
A kind gentleman brought his copy of Entriss Online for me to sign. He is a huge fan of LitRPG and loved the book. His praise was both flattering and inspiring.
I wanted to do a panel about LitRPG and volunteered my friend Adam Whitlatch to participate. Adam hasn’t written anything LitRPG, yet, but he agreed to join me. He was both gracious and hilarious. It was a lot of fun and I have a great idea for a panel to volunteer him for next year! Please read his books so he forgives me.
It was great seeing everyone. During our panel, Adam referred to Demicon as Family. He’s absolutely right. They may be the weird relatives no one talks about, but every hug is genuine and even after two years we picked up right where we left off.
After closing the door Saturday night, Cristi and I just sat and talked and drank for an hour. It was a great way to wrap up the weekend and is every reason that she’s my best friend.
Worth the Effort
Thanks to everyone who stopped by the room party, and special thanks to Angie and Cristi for helping make it happen!
Demicon continues to be awesome. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it happen. I’m already looking forward to next year!