ConOOga was held February 22 – 24 at the Chattanooga Convention Center and the Chattanoogan Hotel. Chaosium contacted me via an email request on their GM network looking for GMs for the Con. I contacted the gaming coordinator, offered to run three sessions of a game I’d run previously at cons, and got free admission.
ConOOga is a medium sized, general nerd con with a few strange twists. ConOOga used about half of the Chattanooga Convention Center with a third of the space for gaming, a third for dealers, and a third for everything else. The “after dark” events were held at the Chattanoogan Hotel. My direct experiences were almost all with gaming with some interaction with the dealers and the general con staff.
ConOOga gaming was well organized. They had a large game library. The gaming space was huge. GMs running three sessions got free admission, a t-shirt, and access to a con suite with food and water. For the number of games run, game manufacturers and local game stores gave tremendous support. If you played even one session it was hard not to win something interesting. Play two or three games and you could pick up something nice. Another gaming strong point were the number “kid-friendly sessions.” Last, several “large group interaction games” ran by an enthusiastic moderator and a large circle (sometimes as many as thirty) of participants occurred. It was not a LARP (Live Action Role Playing), but a very large-scale interactive game.
D&D and Pathfinder games had high participation. Everything else had moderate to low participation. On Saturday the game hall was mostly full, but Friday and Sunday were sparsely attended excepting D&D and kids games. This Con had more GMs willing to run games than players. Part of the problem was game spaces could be reserved without an additional fee – meaning there was no skin in the game for those deciding to do something else at the last minute.
In sum, there was a great game space. Publisher and game store support was outstanding. There was a very well-staffed game library, many GMs, and a wide variety of RPGs to play. The game staff was friendly, and the con gave the game section excellent support. But the further away you got from D&D and big “audience participation games,” the lower the player interest. Saturday dominated overall and gaming attendance.
ConOOga is a “costume con.” My pictures do not do it justice. Probably 50%+ of all females from the ages of 6 to 60 were in costume. Some of the robots were just amazing. They had mobile, speaking Star Wars bots and a K-9 from Dr. Who. Many costumes depicted anime stuff I’m not familiar with. Every time I asked someone about a costume I did not recognize it was something anime. I spoke with several parents who brought their young daughters on Saturday so they could “dress up” where lots of adults were dressed up. The costume contest was probably amazing.
There was a very large dealer room. Many dealers were selling clothing and nerd art. There were several game dealers, a couple of comic dealers, and Goodman Games Publishing had a full booth. Authors, illustrators, and anime voice actors also had booths. I knew several dealers from other cons and they thought attendance and sales were good.
By all reports ConOOga has a very strong kids track. There were a lot of special kids tracks in gaming, costuming, and other things. I did not participate in this track, but both younger kids and their parents spoke very highly of the kids programming.
Last, an almost separate Con was held at night at the Chattanoogan Hotel. There was S&M stuff, transgender costume contest, furries, and multiple other events where IDs were checked at the door to ensure everyone was 18+. This hotel featured the room parties. I value my sleep, cannot drink much with the diabetes, and am uninterested in the program. People I knew who wanted to sleep at night regretted getting rooms in this hotel. But the organizers managed to keep this program track at a different time (nothing started before 7:00pm) and a different location from the rest of the Con.
If you are interested in a general Con that has outstanding costuming and an extensive kids track, ConOOga is a great Con. If you are interested in D&D or want to play a wide variety of games out of a library, this is also an excellent Con. I had not been to a “costume con” in more than a decade and many of the costumes were simply amazing.