Monday, November 10, 2014

Turn Down For What?! - Playing Conventions and 'Playing Conventions'

By Noah Vissenberg

Imagine: you're standing on a big field surrounded by crush barriers, your team huddled around you. There's talk of strategy, there's touching the goal hoops for good luck, there's the enemy team the odd 20 meters away from you doing the exact same thing. You clap each other on the shoulder and grab your brooms. You're ready. A mic goes live, music starts playing, and spread out along the hill on the front and the right side of the field almost 200 people turn their heads to watch.

Sounds fantastic? It was! Being part of the program for F.A.C.T.S. 2014 on October 19 was a trip, even more so for it being only my second time playing internationally and third time on such a big scale. Hosted in Ghent, Belgium, F.A.C.T.S. is a yearly sci-fi, comics, fantasy, and Japanese media convention, and while Harry Potter has been a part of the event in previous years, 2014 was the first time that the convention hosted an actual quidditch game.

Odd, I know, but a little less odd when you think about how young quidditch is in this region compared to the United States. The oldest Dutch team was founded only last February, with my own home team being the third in line (we were founded last April). Our southern neighbors have been around a little longer, with their country-wide Belgian Quidditch Federation founded in July 2012.

(As a sidenote, after checking for founding dates, Facebook really wanted to tell me that quidditch would be my perfect 'made up movie sport' to play. Hah.)

But enough history lessons.

Playing at F.A.C.T.S. was a bit of an eye-opener of sorts. In our games later in the day, the audience started pouring in to find a spot in front about 15 minutes before we began playing. As much as it makes warm-up a little awkward, knowing that out of a full program they have chosen to watch you can make you feel a little like a celebrity, even if that Deadpool cosplayer tries to catch the snitch and steal your thunder. The games also turned out to be a great networking opportunity, as we hosted after-game workshops to rope in new enthusiasts. The Dutch delegation even used the last game of six that weekend as a demo for the organizers behind Dutch Comic Con, which will start as a hopefully yearly event in March 2015.

The way back home was sobering. This time next week, there will be no cheering crowds or even a full set of hoops, as our team is still mostly concentrating on getting funding and convincing the local university folk to come and join us. But if this is what Belgium has worked up to in only two years, our only aim is to get there faster.

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