As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I made it to Tekko this year. Tekko has been one of my mainstay cons since 2009 (I’ve only missed one year since then due to a new job), and making it back is always the highlight of my year. Sure, I use it as a reason to spend time with some close friends and extended family, but this year was something special.
This was the first year that someone else said “I’m covering all expenses for The NPC, get up here and do your thing.”
Normally, when I get to Tekko, I have about 10lbs of candy, a few thousand business cards, and I just walk around giving out a quest each day to people. There’s laughter, there’s shenanigans, and everyone has a good time (and I leave with a bag or two of candy by the end). I’m usually left alone enough to go out and do my own thing (walking through the Artist Alley, playing a game demo, etc), but still busy enough to give out quests. In fact, last year I was actually able to sit and play a few rounds of a programmer’s beta test while others were at the dance because it was slow enough to do so.
This year, everything changed.
==The NPC 3.0==
Over the years of attending Tekko as the NPC, I’ve been making improvements whenever possible. One of those improvements was to tweak my exclamation point and headgear each year, and this year we’ve reached an amazing level with the banner backpack.
The exclamation point this year was about 10 feet from the ground and stood head and shoulders over everyone. It was nearly impossible to NOT see; I had people storm into the Artist Alley because they saw me from the walkway on the second floor due to the size and color. I even had some run across the convention center to get close to me because they saw the exclamation point and thought it was just floating there. Getting through doors was a bit of a pain, but it was durable enough to take a few hits (only needs a fresh coat of paint before the next use) and awesome enough to catch attention.
The quest cards got a nice upgrade as well. They were properly printed double-sided, so no stickers were needed this year, and everything flowed smoothly. I had a few thousand of them on hand, as well as a sheet of “Special Quests.” All said and done, even after learning a number of my quests couldn’t be used due to changes to layout this year, I had over 40 individual quests on hand.
Prizes were also handled by others this time around. I was handed multiple bags of candy and told “Go.” We were also given certificates for “Grand Prizes” each day, which lead to quite a bit of competition. Brian Hagan, the author of “The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle” also volunteered and provided additional prize support in the form of e-format copies of his book (thanks again for that!).
This is also the first year I had publicity. I don’t mean here on the blog or on my own pages, but I was actually given a web page in their guidebook app to denote that I was around. To take things one step further, Tekko was doing a QR Code Scavenger Hunt, and I was the holder of three of those codes. My foot traffic was almost guaranteed.
Little did I know that this was going to be crazy.
==The Horde Strikes!==
Being the NPC at Tekko, I’m used to crowds. Historically, from noon until about 7pm, I get a steady flow of people asking for or turning in quests, and I am able to walk around places at my own pace and develop my own “patrol” over the day.
This year, from the moment I put the vest on, it was game over for any free time.
The majority of the convention was spent attempting to walk five feet at a time. I’d fill my bag of candy and try to get somewhere, often being stopped until I hit a major crossroads (such as OPS, near Registration, or even in the Artist Alley), at which point I could not walk. It was like being a patrolling NPC in Warcraft that stops whenever they are clicked. There were times I couldn’t see beyond the wall of people, and other times that I had to start barking orders to get people in line. It was crazy.
On Friday, I was in my gear for 12 hours with a short (but often interrupted) “break” for dinner, while on Saturday it was closer to 10 hours nonstop. Sunday was 9-3, and that was enough for me since the convention ended at 5 (and I was helping people tear down). There were times that I literally could not get out of my gear because I couldn’t get away from people long enough to make it happen.
==No Longer Anonymous==
One thing I always found amusing about conventions: most people won’t recognize you. For years, if I walked around as The NPC, I could take my hat off and no one would remember me. I personally even get mixed up if a cosplayer approaches me on Friday and then is dressed differently on Saturday, so I’m used to seeing the confusion when I remove my hat.
Tekko this year was a game changer in this regard. This is the first year that I would be in the middle of something not NPC related and be stopped by questers. While shopping in the Artist Alley (and not in ANY of my gear), I was stopped no less than six times in an hour to be asked for a quest. While trying to play a game of Initial D Version 7 (second time playing any Initial D game since 2008), I had people come up to me and ask me in the middle of my game if they could have/turn in a quest. Rather rude, considering I was out of gear both times.
At one point, I was asked to cover a booth for an artist (a friend, which is why I was asked) while they took care of something elsewhere. Even without the exclamation point, I was asked for quests. It was a bit mind-boggling, honestly.
The only times I became “invisible” were when I was out of gear late one evening and having a talk with a friend I only see at Tekko (and we were in a low-ish traffic area) and when I was in the bathroom (and even THAT got dicey a few times as people saw the exclamation point over the stall door). That was it. I didn’t get the chance to check out anything from Critical Role, attend the concert, check out the panels, or even play a card game demo due to the degree of insanity.
It was awesome, but it did put a damper on the enjoyment of the con, and keeps me from really giving a discussion of what was going on or even giving the event a rating.
At the end of conventions, I always try to do a grand total of what I gave out. By the end of the convention, we went through 22.6 lbs of candy, over 430 “experience point” tickets, and somewhere in the ballpark of 1000 Quest Cards (we were recycling cards so everyone only left with one). I was wearing my NPC gear and doing my thing for over 24 hours over the span of three days.
The impact I had on Tekko didn’t end with those numbers, as my quests were more than just “Go do this funny thing for me.”
I drew traffic to the Tekko Games to the point I was told to STOP directing people there before the first day ended, as they maxed out their capacity (and made extra room for the additional entrants).
Extra Life had a table in the game room to drum up extra attention. A member reached out to me to ask if I could get direct some traffic there, so I did it as often as I could without swamping them. Because of this, local members are crediting me with breaking their stretch goal, which is normally only 1% of attendees. 94 people signed up for Extra Life over the course of the weekend (1.2%), and the local guild is ecstatic. (Oh, and if you want to help Extra Life, feel free to donate on my page!)
A long-running project of mine is to get people to see things or talk to people they wouldn’t consider on their own. Working with a few artists and dealers, I was able to help make a few sales and get people into “dead” zones of the convention center. I don’t know exact numbers on any of it, but I need both hands to count how many times someone went to a booth for a quest and returned with SOMETHING in hand from them, whether as small as a pin or as large as a pillow.
All this with just a few bits of paper, candy, and a gimmick. I’ll call that a win!
As The NPC, I’m really not certain. While Tekko was a blast and proved that The NPC is bigger than I ever expected, I’m not sure if I’ll be doing other events. Most events don’t have the means to pay a small-time person such as myself (as they prefer big names for the draw), so if I want to do this more often, it will be entirely out of my pocket. Tekko may be up for bringing me back next year, but I’m not sure if the smaller Tekko-family conventions are in the cards, nor do I know if I’ll have the personal means for it (transportation, housing, parking, and food are out of pocket; not bad if I was only cosplaying, ugly if I’m working the whole con).
I do have plans if I am brought back for Tekko next year to make things a bit easier for myself (specific spawn times, changing the costume again, prepping better support, etc), but I won’t know if they are useful until I am asked to come back. I guess it’s a matter of seeing if they want me to return and what support they’ll offer, because if the support is lacking like this year, I may have to pass (as I didn’t attend ANYTHING on my list).
On a personal end of things, there’s plenty coming up that will be taking up my time and possibly blog-worthy.
I submitted the “final” playtest report for one project (waiting on follow-up questions), and I have two more to work on. One box arrived while I was at Tekko, and I am working on unpacking it and reading through it when time permits. The other is a ton of reading and cross checking, so that’s just a matter of time.
At Tekko, I bought two things for myself: some Weiss/Schwarz cards (Fate/Unlimited Blade Works deck, some boosters, scattered individual cards, and a playmat) and an ocarina from STL Ocarina (with beginner lesson book). The former was due to interest in the series and curiosity about the way the game plays, and I am hoping to do some Skype-based games with people in the near future. The latter is just a long-standing goal to learn how to play an ocarina, mostly due to Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (yeah, it’s been over 20 years). So far progress has been slow, but I’m getting the hang of it slowly but surely.
At the end of April, Blackstone Raid XXV is taking place, and I will be in attendance (but NOT as the NPC for obvious reasons). I’ve hand-sewn a hat, worked with our local A&S leader to get my pants and shirt, and I’ve re-sewn my damage sporran. My next goals are to forge a set of chains and sew a pair of sheaths (by hand), and I should have everything I need for this event. I’ll have my phone with me to snap a few photos here and there when I am able, so hopefully things work out well!
One of the local members is training me in heavy weapons combat, and I may have a lead for fencing with another. Combat is one of the reasons why I signed up for the SCA (the others being networking, blacksmithing, and because it’s fun), so this is a nice first step.
Due to financial restraints, my personal game purchases are on hiatus. This is partly due to Tekko (didn’t even go crazy on shopping; gas, parking, and gear is expensive) and mostly due to blacksmithing, honestly. I’ve made some progress in the shop (just need a belt grinder and I should be set), and I still have to get a metal order for the commissions I have lined up. The things we do for art, ne?
I have a few mini-projects going on and many things I am waiting for. Hopefully I’ll have good news to share with people in the near future!