Hey everyone! First off, let me apologize for the lack of updates. There’s been a lot of change happening in my life, but I’m finally getting situated and can’t wait to work on latebloomr more. This weekend I flew home for C2E2 in Chicago, IL and it was three days of Critical Role fangirl paradise. I had an incredible time, so let’s dive in.
Fridays are always my shopping days at conventions because the crowds are way smaller and you won’t feel overwhelmed in the artist alley. C2E2 has a really great line-up of artists and comic creators, but unfortunately, only one person had Critical Role prints. Most were head shots from the newer campaign, but I did score a classy Percy one from her. Since the entire cast was announced only a few weeks before the convention, I wasn’t surprised at the lack of presence in the artist alley.
Saturday is chaotic at pretty much any con, but man, I somehow underestimated how crazy the turnout would be for the Critical Role cast. This is their first group appearance in the upper midwest (minus Ashley Johnson, currently filming Blindspot) and one of the few times they’ve done individual signings. Matthew Mercer’s line was capped 20 minutes after doors opened, so I decided to meet Marisha Ray first, hoping it would calm my nerves. Now, deciding what I wanted to get signed was a really difficult choice. The art book was too bulky and I wanted something I could actually display. Laura and Travis signed my tarot cards at Anime Weekend Atlanta, but it was such a rare opportunity to get all of their signatures at once. I ultimately chose the Tal’Dorei map from the campaign book, mainly because it was spacious and perfect to show off on my bedroom wall. Each cast member’s autograph was $20 (Laura’s was $30) and all of them offered table selfies or audio recordings for various costs. I decided to just get their autographs since I pre-purchased a group photo op for Sunday.
Marisha was personable and sweet, and when I admitted that I somehow didn’t think of anything to say to the cast members, she told me not to worry and that they were all a bunch of losers. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a number of talented people throughout my life, but this cast and community really does mean the world to me. It was strange to finally be face-to-face with them; I’ve watched hundreds of hours of their material and each one of their expressions are so vivid and familiar, like an old friend’s. Taliesin Jaffe and I had a brief interaction about how freaking cold it was (25° on Saturday, no thanks, that is literally the reason why I moved south!) and then I decided to meet my favorite cast member, Liam O’Brien.
In a way, I really dreaded meeting Liam. Vax’ildan is my favorite CR character and his arc with the Raven Queen mirrored my own experience with taking care of a disabled parent. I cosplayed as Jayne Merriweather (Liam’s death cleric from the Bar Room Blitz one-shot) and his immediate joy seeing me dressed up triggered a rather awful anxiety attack. I nervously stumbled through our conversation, showing him my Vax ita bag and finally pulled down my shirt sleeve to reveal Vax’s last words, forever inked in Elvish on my bicep. Liam gave me a pretty intense look and I began to nervously ramble, choked up, and hurried off. It was basically the exact opposite of how I wanted our first interaction to go, but hey, there’s crippling anxiety for you. I reluctantly got into Sam’s line afterwards and once he smiled at me with that ginormous grin, my mood was instantly lifted.
Since it was nearing a few hours before their panel time, I decided to wait in line about two hours early for a good spot. You can watch the panel here, which was honestly a lot of fun and full of questions that haven’t really been asked before.
There was also an Alpha party that night that I scored an invite to, but I was far too exhausted to check it out. Some of the cast members usually attend, but none of them showed up for this one.
The cast had their second panel bright and early, this time in C2E2’s main room. Thankfully, this one was also filmed and definitely worth watching! I think the entire room was in tears when Sam took his sweater off.
Matt’s line capped before the panel was over (around 12:45) and I had to mentally accept that I probably won’t meet him until the Overwatch hype dies down. I sulked over to Travis Willingham’s line and despite our interaction being short, he did mumble something in a Grog voice, so my year was made. I learned pretty quickly that it’s best to have a question or something to bring up to keep the conversation going, otherwise you might not get the full experience you hope for. With Laura, I asked her about Chloe and Nadine from Uncharted and whether she shipped them (she’s 100% on board, we’re so close to making it canon, y’all). Upset with how my previous interaction with Liam went, I decided to give his line another shot and got him to sign my ita bag. Unfortunately, he remembered me (I literally blurted out “oh no”) but I felt much, much better about how things went.
Finally, it was time for what I was most excited for, my photo op! The group ensemble was $208 after fees and purchasing the additional digital download. While that might seem like a lot, getting a photo op with an individual cast member was about $50, so the group bundle was actually a good deal. For those unfamiliar with the photo op process, you basically move like a conveyor belt and don’t stop. There’s rarely any time to talk and it’s over before you know it. I asked Matt for a hug since I knew I wouldn’t be meeting him at his table and he warmly replied, “oh my gosh, of course!” and Marisha then yelled “GROUP HUG!” What followed was the most pure, wonderful 5 seconds of my life and I will never get over how adorable our picture is. Don’t be afraid to ask for hugs, guys! When I giddily skipped away, Matt yelled “I love your tattoos!” and I think I died right then and there. I don’t know if it’s possible for them to be any sweeter.
Overall, the trip and convention were incredibly worth it. I met and hung out with some incredible Critters and even exchanged contact info with a few. I think a lot of people underestimate this fanbase or undermine it because it’s an internet show, but I’ve never come across a group of people so wonderfully crazy, passionate, and supportive. If you’re thinking about going to a CR event but feel hesitant or doubtful for whatever reason, please go. I feel so overwhelmed by the powerful and inspiring energy that happened over those three days and cannot wait to see them all again at SDCC.
CONVENTION CENTER RATING
- Location: 10/10. C2E2 takes place at McCormick Place, which is actually the biggest convention center in North America. This is my second year attending the con and I’m consistently blown away at how nice this center is. A lot of “Chicago cons” are actually in Rosemont, which is a half hour drive from here, so it’s cool to have one that is actually in the city.
- Parking: 9/10. I drove last year and had no problem getting into one of their lots. I think it was $20 per day and the lots were spacious enough where you could easily get out.
- Accessibility: 10/10. There are elevators and ramps everywhere! I didn’t see too many people with disabilities, but I can’t imagine it would be difficult to navigate the convention floor.
- Cleanliness: 9/10. This convention center always looks so pristine. There’s never any trash laying around, but a few more trash bins would be nice.
- Bathrooms: 10/10. Their bathrooms are banging. Really large, full length mirrors, and there’s almost always an attendant making sure nothing gets too gross.
- Staff: ?/10. I don’t think I’ve interacted with any of the actual convention center staff, so I can’t give a proper rating.
- Food: 9/10. I pack most of my food at this point, but McCormick is one of the better convention centers when it comes to food. There are multiple Starbucks locations, McDonald’s, and a small food court with normal prices.
- Guests: 9/10. I mean, getting the entire Critical Role cast (minus Ashley) is pretty clutch. C2E2 always has a unique line-up, especially comic creators who don’t make a lot of appearances. The only thing that bummed me out was Pom Klementieff cancelling. I think they booked her too soon which got my hopes up, so in the future I’d like for them to hold off on some of the early announcements.
- Panels: 9/10. C2E2 has every panel imaginable and they’re always really fun, well-organized, and thought provoking. Both of the Critical Role panels were an absolutely blast, but a lot of people couldn’t make the Saturday one because it was in a smaller room.
- Content: 9/10. This con seriously has everything. Any fandom you can think of has a presence here, but I love that there will always be an emphasis on comics and original artwork. I just wish there would’ve been a Critical Role booth, like a pop-up Gilmore’s Glorious Goods shop with shirts and other merchandise from the Geek & Sundry store.
- Organization: 9/10. Better than last year and I appreciate that they added metal detectors. The natural flow of the convention floor is really nice and it’s never too difficult to find anything. More room or some sort of crew guidance around the entry spots would be appreciated.
- Affordability: 8/10. 3-day tickets were $75 if you bought them in advance. You can buy individual tickets, ranging from $30-$35, but the weekend pass saved you like $15. I believe everything increased by $10 once the con actually started. My flight was $150 and I stayed with my sister for free. Uber and Lyft pools typically cost $10. Definitely one of the more affordable cons that I go to, but still expensive!
- Staff: 10/10. Consistently awesome, super patient, and will thank you for being considerate. A lot of the crew are volunteers, so you know they’re doing it because they actually care about your experience.