I spent a past weekend here in Atlanta at my first convention that was dedicated to gaming- Dreamhack! It was advertised as the “world’s largest digital festival,” the event took place at the Georgia World Congress Center for the first time from July 21-23, 2017.
I lucked out and won a free BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) 3-day pass at a drawing held at the 2017 MomoCon. I was so relieved and excited because all my gaming friends in Southeast Gamers (SEG) had been planning on attending Dreamhack for months (we even ended up winning largest clan there).
When I arrived on Friday night, the vibe was busy and festive, which was amazing considering that there had been an internet outage(!) that day for at least four hours or more. Needless to say, that angered a lot of people. There was still a party-like feel going on though, building up to a concert that night featuring Waka Flocka Flame.
I took the time on Saturday to walk around and take in everything outside of the BYOC area. There was console gaming, tabletop gaming, and a free-play PC area for those that chose not to bring their computers. There were vendors (otherwise known as the Dream Expo), mostly hawking high end equipment. There was a main stage that featured the biggest events at the convention as well as many side stages showing tournaments taking place of the more popular games.
There were a couple of things I didn’t experience during the convention. The Streaming Zone was supposed to be an area with big name online gaming streamers, but I never was exactly sure where this was located. Also, I realized after the convention was over that The Fan Zone was an area where you could meet some big-name gamers and streamers.
Sunday was very laid back and slower than the previous days. Many people came in late, packed up their things, and left. Others stayed for the long haul, which was 6pm. I found myself gaming alone mostly on Sunday because everyone I had met had left or was busy volunteering.
Highlights of my convention were meeting some new League of Legends buddies and the Cosplay Contest on Saturday night.
Dreamhack has asked for as much feedback as possible, so here are my pros/cons of my experience.
1. GWCC was a perfect venue for this event. It was right next to the Omni Hotel, where many attendees stayed. It was large enough to hold a lot of noise without being too overwhelming. There is also a lot of Atlanta security in that are compared to many other places downtown. I walked to MARTA Friday and Saturday nights at 11pm by myself and felt completely safe.
2. As I pointed out, there was a huge variety of gaming covered at the convention.
3.The volunteer crew was well-staffed and friendly. (I heard later that they were actually short-staffed, and many of them worked longer hours than they had planned to make sure everything happened like it should.) I really couldn’t find anything to fault here except that a couple of times no one was guarding the entrance to the BYOC (badge only) area.
4. The gaming tournaments were professionally handled (as far as I could tell). Team sign-ups were handled by Battlefy.com. There was another website handling console tournaments. There was also a desk to handle all aspects of these tournaments, which took place at various times during the convention.
5. Dreamhack sold sleeping area tickets for $20 per person to sleep there overnight at GWCC. Considering that travel expenses can be steep depending on where you are from, this was a cool feature that many took advantage of. Not me. I heard various reports of the sleeping area being in a bad location noise-wise, but these people saved money.
My BIGGEST complaint is- it was hard to find people to meet or group with if you were doing casual gaming. So yes, I was there with the largest clan, but not many of them play League of Legends (LOL) like I do. I thought I would be able to find people at Dreamhack to play LOL, Smite, or even Hearthstone with, but there was nothing organized for that at all. I tried asking on Discord, and that didn’t help. Not all of us are professional gamers or have teams, and I really feel like there should have been more of a focus on getting people to connect to each other while they are in the same place for a weekend.
1. Internet Outage. OK, I hate to mention it again, but there was really no reason why internet should go out for a convention that planned to use…. The Internet. There was no fail-safe in place, and people got angry, etc.
2. There weren’t enough vendors in the expo area. I would have liked to have seen some game design/developer company booths in the expo area, especially considering that some games we play are made right here in Atlanta…. Hello, Hi-Rez! I also would have liked more cuddly, stuffed animals and silly hats to peruse during chair breaks.
3.Disorganized/ Lack of communication. I am super planner-type, so I was extremely frustrated up until Thursday really with the lack of information about this convention. They didn’t have information about parking, unloading and loading your PC, and what to pack finalized until the week of. I somehow got the Dreamhack Discord link, and I spent a lot of time on Thursday asking away all the questions I still had about how to pack and get my stuff down there. Then there was the conflicting information. The website or staff would say- bring your own chair, and then you would get an email saying, don’t pack a chair. Very confusing. If I hadn’t won a free pass and lived in Atlanta, I don’t know that I would have bought tickets and planned to come without knowing the important things that were needed to know.
4. I will also point out that even though Dreamhack was mainly using Discord to communicate with con-goers, very few at the con seemed to be using it because they DIDN’T HAVE THE LINK! I looked, and it was not on their website. I heard someone posted it at Reddit, but then it changed. I really have no idea. I just got lucky I think.
Last complaint under this category, this is the only convention I have ever gone to that did not give out a program guide or schedule or anything at registration.It would have been nice to have all the schedules and information for main stage, panels, fan stages, etc. in one place.
5. I would have liked to have seen more cosplay involvement with the con. I did attend the costume contest, which was brief. Besides that, there were no cosplay events as far as I am aware, and there were no cosplay panels.
6. I told you that Atlanta security was good, but the overall convention security sucked. For BYOC, they basically gave you two stickers to put on your equipment after you arrived. You supposedly could not leave with equipment unless the stickers matched the badge. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, no equipment was ever checked coming in or out (it seemed like), and I was told by a crew member that there were many reports of theft even after just the first day.
Overall, I ended Dreamhack kind of so-so about the event. I found it very exciting, and I loved the idea and layout. However, I spent a lot of time gaming alone, and I wish I could have met more people than I did.
If Dreamhack does return to Atlanta, I will give them another chance. They know there were some issues, and they are already looking at feedback and ideas from this year so that they can be even bigger and better next time, and I am pretty sure that will happen.