I recently posted on entry on my blog about online geeking, so I had to try and see how online conventing actually works. I had a great opportunity to experience it since during the last weekend of March a Polish online convention Konline was held. Since I attended it and I enjoyed myself, I have some more thoughts on the topic now.
Konline was prepared with an astonishing speed. I believe it took around two to three weeks between the idea and the convention itself. This would be impossible if the con was bigger, but with a relatively small event like that the team managed to organize the convention fully and on time. Konline lasted between Thursday and Monday, yet on first and last day the programme took place only in the afternoons and evenings. What was surprising was that decision to extend convention untill Monday was made during the con itself.
There were a few aspects of the con and I managed to participate only in one of them. I missed the RPG sessions and LARPs as well as board gaming, but I had the chance toattend the programme. For most of the time, there were only one or two concurrent programme items (apart from gaming), so the choice was not very wide. Luckily, I managed to find a few interesting talks.
Konline had two “venues”. Firstly, talks and panels were streamed using the Google Meet service that also allowed the meetings to be recorded (only if participants agreed to that). Socializing, after panel discussions etc. were held on a Discord server. Apart from that, the server also held many “tables” to play, but there were features like the info desk as well. All in all, it worked quite well.
I must mention here that somehow I was not really active on Discord and to a large extent my socializing was limited to chatting with friends on Facebook. Some of those conversations were started thanks to the con while other ones were related to the convention so I treat them as part of the Konline. Funnily, I spent most of the time with the same people with whom I usually hang around during conventions.
How was online conventing in comparison to to the usual ”offline” conventions? Well, it was certainly different. First of all, I spent less time at the con than usually. I attended the programme throughout a better part of Saturday but during the remaining convention days it was not quite so. Attending multiple items one after another when you need to use headphones is also less comfortable than sitting in a room but it was not as bad as I was afraid it would be.
Although programming is an important part of the con, it is not the only one that matters. Another crucial aspect is socializing. How did it go? Of course, the feeling of meeting people online is not the same as meeting them in person. Most of my interactions took place in written form so the conversations were slower than the usual chats. Despite this, I had fun, I was able to mingle with my friends and we covered topics we would be probably discussing during a standard con. I did not meet as many people as I normally do but the general feeling of joy was there and it made me really happy.
Konline had one big advantage because of being online. It was possible to ask foreign guests to participate in the programme. Most conventions in Poland are too small to be able to afford this but when everything takes place online, it is much easier to organize it. As a result, a few foreign guests appeared. I must say it was amazing to firstly attend a talk by Gillian Polack from Australia and then participate in a panel with two of my friends – Seji from Poland and Diabeł who currently lives in USA. Discussion about the programme afterwards was a great excuse to talk to the friends from far away. And of course we could do this without the con, but Konline helped us to start.
Selfie taking with Diabeł, Eri and Fandor during Arkhamer (way before Diabeł moved to USA).
As I mentioned before, a large part of Konline programming was recorded and is now available on Youtube. This is great as it allows to check and see the items one missed. Some of the English items are also available here.
I enjoyed my time at Konline. The convention was different than the ones I am used to but at the same time it shared some similarities. Despite all of the differences, it gave me somehow a similar energy boost that I usually have after a regular con. Now I am really looking forward to the next online convention. I would still prefer to go and meet everyone in person, yet when this is impossible I find online conventing a viable alternative. Moreover it is not just a substitute but there are aspects in which online conventing simply works better.