Spawned and De-Spawned: The NPC At Tekko

Over the years, Tekko has become my “home” convention, even though I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh. It was the first convention I attended as The NPC, the first convention I staffed, and it’s the one event that I look forward to every year.

Tekko took place from April 6-9, and it was the 15th anniversary of the event. While I am not going to write a review, I do want to share how things went for me.

==Prepwork==

Like last year, I was specifically asked to attend Tekko as The NPC without having to crowdfund to make it happen. The board offered a staff badge and prize support in exchange for me coming in and doing what I do as the NPC: provide a form of entertainment and a game for all of the attendees to take part in.

It should be noted that I’ve been working on this gimmick since 2009, so my prepwork really began back then and continued on with various discussions with artists, attendees, and board members while proving this was a viable idea for the convention heads to support. This wasn’t an overnight project like some people think.

For this particular Tekko, I’ve been speaking with staff and board members (as well as artists) since the previous Tekko ended, with an increase in communications beginning in December to settle support, quests, prizes, and more. I’ve also done a bit of outreach for additional prizes, additional quests, and general on-site shenanigans that thankfully panned out in the end.

Day 1 Prizes! Golden Ticket, e-copies of The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle (provided by author, Brian Hagan), a copy of Celtic Knots to Color (provided by creator Brandy Sinclair), and The Golden Poo!

We had some bumpy situations along the way due to schedules, but we were able to resolve most of the issues beforehand and the rest of them on-site.

==The NPC Spawned!==

Arriving on-site on Thursday, things were interesting. There was a large line outside of the convention center with many excited attendees, many being ramped up by a few members cheering everyone on. This is almost unheard of for a “Day 0” for Tekko, and I was quite happy to see so many excited people waiting to enter.

Then people started sporadically cheering for me as I walked by. Apparently, more people recognized me than I expected.

Thursday night was a non-quest day, but rather was an on-site troubleshooting day. I spend the evening picking up quest rewards, quest cards, checking in with quest locations, and settling things to be sure we were good to go for Friday morning, at which time everything would go “live.”

==Game On!==

Once Friday hit, the questing began. And oh boy, it began with a bang!

During most events, I hit the floor, hand out a few quests, and get a chance to walk the entire building multiple times before lunch, dishing out quests here and there as I go.

This year, I made barely one lap around the entire building each day. Due to sheer demand and popularity, I was often locked into one place (joking “wall-clipped”) during various points of the convention. For example, when I stopped at the Exhibit Hall first thing Friday morning to be sure that the Tekko Merch booth had the bowl needed for the raffle tickets I was giving out and my prizes, I remained in the Hall for over FOUR HOURS. In that time, I ran out of candy from my pouch and nearly ran out of pre-shuffled Quest Cards.

That set the tone for the rest of the weekend. My “breaks” out of costume were spent shuffling cards and getting more candy for rewards, while the rest of my time was spent in costume. Each day, I was on site at 9am and remained giving out quests until about 10:30 PM (8:30-1 on Sunday), at which point I would do my raffle drawing and try to meander on my own (but still be stopped for quests).

Throughout the convention, I realized I was a walking fire hazard. I would have to get people to get into orderly lines, and at least once Security offered to have staffers nearby to offer line control for me (and at one point, a non-security staffer actually redirected traffic for me). I’ve inadvertently blocked doorways, staircases, escalators, and every other crossroad at the convention, to the point that I would simply tell people to follow me if they wanted to turn in quests.

But I always made time for a photo request and a literary joke! By our powers combined, we are the Interrobang!

The weekend also hit the point that I had to start carrying my wheelie suitcase (usually reserved for tabletop gaming books) filled with candy and cards with me. Normally my vest and pouches handle everything; this time, I actually had to send general attendees on “special quests” in order to get people to pick things up for me that I ran out of until I gave up and went this route.

A shot of me on the move, leading my people to the promised land of quest completion.

Hell, even getting to a bathroom was a hassle. When I told my line I’d be back in five minutes I had a group of angry, yelling attendees until I said “I need a water bottle and a bathroom. In reverse order.” Laughter was had, but it seems people forget that The NPC is still a person doing a job.

Overall, there was a TON of insanity with The NPC, but I have a lot of work to step up my game for next year, especially after these numbers. The raffles were a HUGE success, people loved turning in and getting quests, and many people claimed that I was their favorite part of the con. Let’s hope enough people hear that to bring me back, ne?

==Favorite Moments==

I have a number of really great moments from the con. Some were in the “Did that really just happen?” kind of moments that are not PG-enough for this blog (some of the commentary was VERY reminiscent of a late night at Sangawa), while others just simply cannot be summed up easily enough.

But there were a few that stood out that remind me why I do this, and remind me that human beings can be awesome.

During the con, I had a difficult time staying hydrated. We did not have water coolers out like we had in previous years, so I couldn’t try to park near one and keep filling my mug as I was prone to do before, forcing me to rely on whatever I could carry. Since I already had a banner backpack (among other things) on my person, I couldn’t carry water unless it was in a bottle in my pockets, and I would frequently run out.

One young woman randomly saw me in the hall not far from the vending machines and handed me a cold bottle of water. She was a lifesaver. A few other attendees, many of which are close friends and a few of the staffers, would check in and make sure I wasn’t about to die of dehydration, but this was a near-stranger that just randomly took care of me.

It was doubly hilarious when I’d see the look on the faces of attendees when I’d down the bottle of water in seconds.

There was a D.Va cosplayer running around using an instant-print camera (like a mini-Polaroid) snapping photos. When she got a quest (“Be slain by a cosplayer armed with their character’s signature weapon”), she completed it by taking a photo with this camera. I laughed HYSTERICALLY, not only at the photo, but at the idea that someone was still doing this. If anything, it was both impressive and amusing, especially since most people have gone digital. In the end, she and her friend took a pair of pictures with me and gave me one. It’s currently being kept safe in a deck box with a few other gifts given to me by other attendees.

I’m not even playing OverWatch yet, but I’m loving this fandom.

While other moments were great (finally learning to play Weiss/Schwarz, a friend tooling a deck of the game for me and presenting me with a deck box and sleeves, learning a friend and her husband are into the same series as I am, etc), there was something special about this year: I realized how important the NPC is to people.

To me, the NPC started off as a joke. I seriously started it as a closet cosplay when dealing with students and made it a game as it beat people watching when the panels weren’t interesting. From there, I kept working at it, and now people are telling me things like it’s their “favorite part of Tekko,” “I have to get a quest every year, it’s tradition!” or “It’s not Tekko without The NPC.” I’ve even had people come up to me to say “If you’re not back, we’ll riot” and “This is my friend, it’s their first Tekko, and they need a Quest.”

Even the post-Tekko stuff is great! And yes, that’s Oliver Queen and The Colonel, courtesy of the Ship quest.

Hearing this sort of thing from attendees is one thing, but I didn’t expect some of the other reactions.

There was a comic that was being sold by the Tekko Merch team, which had a story for each year of the con. My first day on site, one of my friends on staff runs up to me and says “You’re in the comic!” Seeing my confused expression, she grabs a copy from the table and shows me: I’m an obvious addition to one of the pages.

Time to go copyright my life again. . .

During the con, I had lines. Seriously, LINES. One of the staffers flagged me down during a quite time and explained that he has video evidence of all this, as the board members that helped bring me in this year didn’t believe him when he said that I had lines; the fact that it was unexpected AND someone wanted the evidence of this is amusing to me.

I think my favorite thing this year had to involve the kids. I had a number of children ask for quests this year, and the pure EXCITEMENT they had at the idea of doing a quest like they would in a videogame was just wonderful. They had so much fun with it, and the parents (some of which have been following my antics as the NPC for years) had a blast.

But the one that threw me off was when the Tekko photographer asked to take a photo of me giving a child a quest. He wanted the candid shot so as to not confuse the kid and get an “action shot,” so to speak. Later, he informed me that he was told to get photos of things that are iconic and have been around Tekko for some time. His response was “The NPC is exactly that,” and seeing me work with the next generation of fans and attendees apparently sealed the deal.

Apparently, I’ve become a thing, and I’m not so sure how I feel about it just yet. . .

==Lessons Learned==

My experience this year taught me quite a bit, but it can be summed up as follows:

  • I need more quest cards, specifically more versatility within the quests. More than likely, I will return to my “roots” of quests and focus more on the cosplayers and less on the venue and events.
  • I’ll need to add kid-specific quests, if only to test them out. I have had a large number of children (under 10) asking for quests this year; not as large as the teens/adults, but enough to keep me busy.
  • Reward Transport needs an upgrade, perhaps in the form of a treasure chest on wheels. Hauling around in pouches just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
  • Scheduled time for quest turns in will be a MUST next year. Biggest issue this year was the constant flow of quest pickups and turn-ins, and I often had no way to do anything at all. Perhaps setting set turn-in times every hour and change might be the better way to go (i.e. pick-up at all times, return at set times).
  • Like the above, some people had issues turning in quests because of the line. It was crazy.
  • The NPC has gotten MUCH bigger than I anticipated. I don’t think I need to say much more than that.

==Final Numbers==

What sort of NPC would I be without some stats?

The remaining pre-shuffled cards I had on my person.

Over the course of the four days, I walked about 32 miles (according to my Fitbit, anyway), gave out 1064 raffle tickets, 25.2 lbs of candy (we got quarter way through bag #5!), and a grand total of 1648 Quest Cards are out in the wild. The cards were AFTER people swapped cards when they completed a quest; if I let people keep every card (like some wanted to), I’d probably have doubled that number at the very least. I was also told that I helped double the number of registrations for Extra Life compared to last Tekko, and staffers in “secluded” areas appreciated the extra traffic.

Overall, I joking classified the convention as “Chaotic Busy”, but it was a total blast. I am submitting the information and some attendee feedback to the Tekko board with the hopes that they will be willing to bring me back next year. Let’s hope for the best, shall we?

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