From a profile on Baltimore’s Otakon in the UK anime magazine Neo:

But for fans who want to go to have fun and hang out, Otakon is the place to be. “You can’t pirate seeing your friends in person” says [Otakon event chairman Sean] Chichankitmun. “One of the big differences to me between American conventions and European conventions is that American conventions seem more social” says Volkmar. “Everyone goes back to the hotels and hangs out for hours after we close down [at 3AM.]  Here it seems like the programming ends at 7 and everyone goes home.”

That Guy With the Glasses talks about anime conventions:

let’s face it, no one really sleeps in their hotel rooms. Actually, no one really sleeps. People tend to load up on unhealthy amounts of caffeine and stay up all night partying; because it would be criminal to waste one hour of your precious con time on sleep. You can sleep when you’re dead; but while you’re alive and paying for a hotel room, partying is definitely in order.

UK blogger Mrlewissmith discusses his fondness for conventions:

One great thing that I have taken from Anime conventions is a great group of friends that I trust a great deal. We will mainly meet up at Cons and spend a lot of time at a local pub/bar etc… And generally we will have alot of fun, make a lot of noise, pandemonium and get into trouble with the accomodation /Con Staff, but we only get to meet up a few times a year and meet literally from all over the UK so what do ya expect!

Ogiue Maniax on the irreplaceable benefits of anime conventions:

One thing that’s said about conventions in the internet age is that they’ve lost some of their utility, as conventions used to be about meeting people you couldn’t otherwise, whereas now you just head over to your favorite chatroom/messageboard/whatever and talk it up. One thing that hasn’t changed though is that it provides a common gathering point for fans, only now instead of meeting total strangers you get to meet people with whom you’ve chatted, and once after you’ve bonded over fine anime and cola, you can then continue your friendship online. On a personal level this has worked out quite well for me. Quite well.

None of these testimonials comes close to describing my own convention experiences. This leads me to the question: have I been going about conventions all wrong?

I know there’s no single way for everyone to enjoy a convention, but if message boards and blogs are to be believed, a huge segment of congoers regularly turn out not for the panels, the special events, or even the dealers’ room, but for the simple act of socializing. Meeting people — or “meeting up” with people — seems to be the biggest draw for lots of fans, who may seem to be taking in the day’s events with interest but are really just be looking forward to an evening’s worth of partying and memory-making, Facebook update-worthy hijinks.

No one’s really coming out and saying it, but here’s what I’m getting from reading blog entries and message board posts like the ones above: anime fans go to conventions to meet and hang out with their friends from the Internet. As I walk the hallways in the convention center and in the hotel, is this what’s happening all around me? Someone set me straight, because I honestly don’t know.

This April we’ll be attending Sakura-Con in Seattle. It just so happens that we’ll likely be meeting up with… friends from the Internet! Well, Mandy’s friends, to be precise, but I’m hoping that it’ll make things a little more exciting then they were when we attended ACEN last year and stuck to ourselves the entire time. Not that there was anything wrong with that; we had a fantastic time all by ourselves. But were we missing something? Is socializing an essential part of the “convention experince” that I’ve been missing out on? What role has socializing — particularly that experienced with friends and contacts from the Internet — played in your enjoyment of conventions? Is the simple act of hanging out and partying the primary draw for many (most?) fans who make the trip to conventions? Or am I reading too much into a few Internet comments?