Store Con, or Conning on the Cheap

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Like many other kids, my twelve-year-old son loves to go to conventions. So far he’s been to Boston Comic Con, Rhode Island Comic Con, Gen Con, Boskone, and more. As you can imagine, the costs of these experiences add up, and as much as I would love to take my future writer and game designer to all the cons, it just can’t happen.

Here in my city of Worcester, Massachusetts, we have a comics, games, and collectibles store called That’s Entertainment. We are regular customers there, and we really enjoy taking part in their events. They do things for Batman Day, Star Wars Day, etc. The other day I saw an ad about their “Store Con,” free admission for everyone, part of the purpose of which was to get people to come in for a preview of a certain game that was coming out.

It gave me an idea: Suggest a “Store Con” for your regular store.

Tails, cosplay
Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

People open and/or work at gaming and comics stores because they are passionate about the industry. Let’s face it, it doesn’t pay a whole lot and unless you are into the genre, the perks can be pretty slim. Wouldn’t they be excited to have customers who were just as pumped about being in the store as they were?

The other thing is, when a store can show that they have happy customers who are enthusiastic about being in the store, it attracts more customers for them. Trust me, they want folks to come in there with banners flying or they shouldn’t be in business. One of the best parts about going to a con, at least in my son’s and my eyes, is dressing up. What would “Store Con” be without a little cosplay?

“Our” comics and gaming shop also does a lot of other things for kids as well. They have coloring contests and game days. They go through a lot of effort to keep the store family friendly. The best part is that if I have an idea for an event or activity, I feel like I can go to the people who work there and discuss it with them. As long as it’s a feasible idea, they would be open to discussion, and I will bet other shops are the same way. It’s a great way to have a geeky time with minimal financial investment.

Jawa, cosplay
Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

What if you don’t have a great shop nearby?

You can still create a small event right in your own backyard. Have your child invite his or her friends over, and encourage them to dress up as their favorite characters. Invite your friends, too. It’s always handy to have a few extra adults around to help facilitate games and to make sure everyone is having a good time.

Have some games out so the kids will feel welcome to try them out. Grill up some food, have some fun snacks. Keep it simple and keep it fun. Depending on how elaborate you want to get, you could even name your backyard event.

Who wouldn’t want to go to MELCon? Okay, don’t answer that. The important thing is that it’s your family’s event. Listen to your kids and do what will be fun for them. Don’t go overboard and don’t get lost in the details. It’s all supposed to be fun.

And who knows? Maybe your backyard or store convention could become an anticipated annual event!

Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available April 12, 2016.