Tag Archives: conventions

ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, and Conventions

Reader R writes:

Dear Wil,

I wonder if you could give me some advice. My daughter Ella is 10 years old and is really getting into Star Trek, particularly Voyager and DS9. She’s even started drawing her own fan fic comic about Odo and Quark. So we thought we’d take her to a con.

The problem is, she has ADHD and mood disorder, and me and my husband both have depression/anxiety. So places that are crowded and have lots of long lines are hard for us, collectively.

I’m wondering if you can recommend a con that’s particularly well-run so that we can help our daughter enjoy the experience. We understand that we’ll have to manage waits ourselves, we won’t get help like we do at Disney World, but I can imagine that some cons are completely packed with people and it would be hard to find a quiet space to give Ella a break from the crowds or a food vendor that can serve us in a reasonable amount of time.

Any advice you have would be appreciated. I imagine you’ve developed mad skills for surviving a con while anxious.

Oh, and we live on the east coast (came to your NY show with Paul and Storm–awesome!) so a show on this side of the country would be great. And if there are games there, so much the better.

I have both  anxiety and depression, and a combination of medication and therapy helps me deal with the lovely* things they do to me. When I’m at a convention, if I start to feel that overwhelming feeling of being trapped in the trash compactor, I can duck out into a quiet place until I’m able to get C-3P0 to shut down the power on that level, but if someone has spent time and money to get to a con, that’s probably not something they want to do.

I don’t really have a good answer for R, but I thought that maybe some of you who read my blog may have personal experience that you could share about dealing with mental health issues when you’re at a con.


*and by ‘lovely’, I mean ‘not lovely at all’.

PAX After Action Report, Part One

PAX started for me, like it does for a lot of people, a few days early, when I was traveling to Seattle.

I took the train from Vancouver (for $38, you really can't beat it) and met a couple of other guys who were on their way to PAX. I introduced them to Zombie Dice, and we played several games, nerding out and making silly math and statistics jokes the entire time.

Upon arriving in Seattle, I spent three days with my friends Chris and Nicole, playing games like Mad Scientist University (a favorite of Nicole's daughter Kate), Wings of War, and Dragon Age RPG (which Chris designed.) Our friend Will Hindmarch joined us the day before PAX, and we had a nerd sleepover. It was awesome.

As I said last week, I made an effort to spend this PAX the way I've always wanted to: not really working, instead just playing games, hanging out with my friends, and recovering HP and Mana. Making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.

Friday, I did my first signing in Bandland, where I was given the best Magic: The Gathering card, EVER, and then went directly to Console Freeplay for some L4D2 with my friends Mojo and Abby. We did a lot of stupid hollering and stuff while we played, which added a great deal to the experience. I also learned that Abby likes to let her health drop to below 5 before she uses a medpack, which is both hardcore and insane. After that, we visited Classic Console Freeplay, where I lost my shit upon seeing a working ZX Spectrum with my own eyes. I didn't get a picture of the small stack of cassettes with games on them, which is a bummer.

We then wandered through the Expo Hall, which was packed with gamers and exhibitors, but didn't really stop to watch demos or play anything. I was way into the booth design for Fallout New Vegas, though. Then it was time for lunch at Juice It (which has changed its name, but like Pink Godzilla, will forever be known by its former name to me). We ate our food in the Rock Band Freeplay area, and that was awesome. It was really fun and joyful to watch and listen to people playing the game, being encouraged by everyone around them whether they were succeeding or failing, and of course singing along. After eating, I saw a T-shirt that mashed up two of my favorite things: Wheaton's Law and Penny Arcade.

I spent some time in [ENFORCER]land after that, and then headed back to my hotel, where I played a playtest of Munchkin Zombies with my friend Andrew (Munchkin Czar), Logan Bonner, Keith Baker (!), @Stepto, and @thevowel, which was as munchkiny and braaaaiiiiiiins-y as you'd expect. One of my favorite moments was when Eric (that's @thevowel) played an IRS Agent Wandering Monster on Andrew, who failed to run away, which caused him to lose his most valuable item … which was called "An Arm and a Leg."

"Hey, the IRS Agent just caused Andrew to lose an Arm and a Leg," I said, "just like real life." There was much rejoicing.

When Munchkin was over, and Stepto and E went off to do X-Box-y stuff, Logan ran Gamma World for us. I never played Gamma World back in the old days, but I've always heard that it's a lot of fun, so I was super excited to give it a try. WotC is updating it, using modified 4e rules, and it was a lot of fun. Real quick, here's how WotC describes it:

Earth. After the apocalypse. Never mind the radiation—you’re gonna like it here.

The D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game offers
hours of rollicking entertainment in a savage land of adventure, where
the survivors of some mythical future disaster must contend with
radioactive wastes, ravaged cities, and rampant lawlessness. Against a
nuclear backdrop, heroic scavengers search crumbled ruins for lost
artifacts while battling mutants and other perils.

This product is a complete, stand-alone roleplaying game that
uses the 4th Edition D&D Roleplaying Game system as its foundation.
It appeals to D&D players as well as gamers interested in fantasy
science fiction set in a bizarre, post-apocalyptic world.

You start out making random characters, rolling 2d20 to get two different backgrounds that combine into one character. I got Sentient Plant and Radioactive, then rolled truly awful stats (yeah, you get to roll 3d6 for your stats! Old school, baby!), so we decided that my character's name was Needles, and I looked just like the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (Me: Oh, DAMMIT! Logan: I think you mean, 'Good grief.'). Andrew was an empathic giant parrot called Fluffy (he named his character before he even knew what it would be), Will was a seismic doppelganger called Dug Dug, and Keith was a Yeti mad scientist called Doctor [I forget, but it was hilarious]. None of us were particularly smart (average INT and WIS scores were 10), and we all lived in a bunker together. I won't recall the entire adventure, but some highlights were:

  • Introducing everyone to each other, sort of like this: "This is Andrew, he edits all of my work, and is the Munchkin Czar for SJ Games. This is Logan, who freelances for WotC, and made the Bard a worthwhile playable class. This is Will, who designed games for White Wolf, and does all the interior and cover designs on my books. This is Keith, who designed Gloom and Eberron. I'm, um, Wil … and I have really interesting and successful friends."
  • Keith getting a kaleidoscope, and then using minor actions the rest of the time we played to take kaleidoscope readings (Logan always gave him results, which Keith recorded in a notebook). 
  • Dancing with Danceboot '86, who had been modified to also be a guard of some sort. Logan did the best D-d-d-dancebot voice and c-c-c-chaacter voice ever. He was always r-r-r-ready to p-p-p-party!
  • Destroying the big scary Umberhulk/Manticore/Laser-beam-eyes monster fairly easily, and getting eviscerated by the little fucking Sonic The Hedgehog/rolling-needle-best thing.
  • Staying up until 230 with my friends, playing a game.

I'm sure I'm forgetting other awesome things, and hopefully the rest of the guys who played will comment here with their own memories about the experience.

My takeaway from Gamma World: I wouldn't want to play an entire campaign, because it's just a little too gonzo for me, but I think three or four
sessions (would you call that a mini-campaign?) as a break from my
regular game would be perfect. Also: Logan Bonner is a frakkin' great DM.

Upon realizing I stayed up too late, I moved my Saturday signing back a little bit, and went to sleep, marveling at how lucky I am to have such awesome friends, and so many incredible opportunities to do cool things.

Next: Saturday.

Everybody walk the dinosaur. Well, except for you. You’re not working out.

I have no idea what the title of this post has to do with the content of this post. In fact, I think there's no relation at all, other than the fact that I wrote them both. But when your brain compels you to quote Was (not Was), it's best to just do what it says, and slip in a Simpsons reference if you can manage it.

So. Moving on.

RinCon was awesome this weekend. The delves were a huge success, even though both parties managed to finish them, despite my best efforts to kill them all. I am absolutely going to run Child's Play Charity delves at future cons (and may even organize a special event here in Los Angeles at a local game shop, if enough people commit to playing) and those delves will all be of my own original creation, because running these two delves and listening to our D&D Podcast has made me want to write and run a campaign more than at any other time in my life. I know I keep going on and on about how easy it is to pick up and play 4e, but … dude, it is so easy to pick up, play, and run 4e, the only reason I'm not playing every week is because I haven't had the time to do it. (Fun fact: we had players in both delves who were totally new to 4e – one of them hadn't even played since 2nd edition! – and it took all of about 5 minutes to get them into the swing of things. I know 4e has its detractors, but I just love it that this system is so easy for new players to pick up, whether they're PCs or DMs.)

I had an incredible time playing a lot of new games, as well as many of my old favorites. I especially enjoyed an indie game called Castle Panic
, and an unreleased game from SJ Games that I wish I could tell you all about. I also picked up a storytelling game called A Penny For My Thoughts
that I think was the sleeper hit of the convention. The Rock Band party was also a lot of fun, and some of you may be interested to know that James Ernest is an absolute beast on the drums.

A full con report, including some various thoughts I had about gaming at cons and why they are such an important part of our community is forthcoming, probably as this month's Geek in Review column.

Now, on to business:

My episode of The Big Bang Theory airs next Monday, October 19, on CBS. Yes, I'm excited enough about this to use the silly bold letters in my blog. Yes, this also means that I won't get to watch it live because I'll be performing at w00tstock San Francisco while it airs, but it also means that those of you who wanted to see w00tstock San Francisco on Monday but could only get tickets for Tuesday can still get your USRDA of Wil Wheaton sightings (snort) without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Because, um, that sounds funny in my head.

SPOILER ALERT! Info about my episode of The Big Bang Theory follows:

The ‘Star Trek: TNG’ alum is guesting next week as a nastier version of himself. And as it turns out, this Wil Wheaton has a longstanding rivalry with Sheldon. How did this geektastic casting come to be? Says Kunal Nayyar (Raj), “The writers were discussing, ‘Who would be a good villain for Sheldon?’ just as Wil Wheaton was writing into them, saying how much he loves the show.” 


Okay, the final bit of business before I hit publish and go to work on the Memories of the Future release post and a few related bits: the project I've been working on that I wasn't sure if I could talk about, has been revealed. I'm voicing Bill Willingham's Peter & Max: A Fables Novel. It's been a delight to spend five hours a day exploring Bill's world and brining his characters to life, and we're going to have something very special when the whole project is completed.

the obligatory comic-con post (that’s mostly about the guild panel)

I didn't see enough of Comic-Con to give a comprehensive report. What I
experienced was a miserably hot and insanely crowded main vendor floor
that was more difficult to navigate than I ever remember it being
before – especially on Friday.  My highlights were visiting with the
friends I could get within 100 feet of and replacing my my Green
Lantern T-shirt. My regrets were not getting to go to any panels, not
being able to introduce Ryan to my friends who we couldn't get anywhere
near, and not having the time to do the usual exploring that always
results in discovering wonderful new books and artists, (hopefully,
I'll be able to spend lots of time at the small press booths I love so
much in October at Long Beach Comicon.)

What I can do, though, is talk a bit more about The Guild panel, which is what I remember most clearly, anway.

I almost skipped Comic-Con entirely this year. Without any new books (the release of Memories of the Future has been pushed back three times because I was working on Leverage and The Guild, and went to Seattle for a D&D session with Acquisitions, Inc.) and without a lot of stock on hand, it just didn't make sense to try and get booth space, invest in a pass and a hotel, and spend four days down there that I really needed to spend up here writing and publishing.

When Felicia asked me to come to The Guild panel on Friday, though, it was pretty easy to commit to one day of Nerd Promery, especially since I was going to be in Escondido the night before.

Incidentally, knowing that you have to get up at 7am the following day and plan to spend all of it getting your geek on gives +10 to all saves vs. Yeah, I Think I Will Have Another Beer. (Well, at least it does for me. I saw a few people at Comic-con who clearly rolled poorly the night before.)

So Friday morning, I met up with the cast of The Guild, and secretly rode to Comic-Con in a limobus that had been provided by Xbox. Did I mention that the limo had multi-colored pulsating lights, lasers, numerous video screens and a stripper pole? For those of you keeping score at home, a stripper pole is not as sexy as you'd think at 9 in the morning. Unless, I guess, it's the end of the previous night for you and your buddies.

There was a discussion about the stripper pole, and we all wondered if there were strippers who specialized in on-the-road dancing, and if so, did they log their experience by hours or miles? These are the things we wonder about, up here in the rarefied air of Xbox-provided-stripper-pole-limobus riding.

When we got to the convention center, they drove us into this loading dock that was down a ramp and through some security that wasn't nearly as tight as I was expecting. When we got out of the stripper-pole bus (as it came to be called) I felt like I was in a rock band. A few moments later, when all of us were walking down the hallway toward the elevator that would grant us access to the convention hall, I felt like I was a rock star – and I wasn't even in an awesome costume!

Fun fact: I was the only member of our entire party who not only thought the crates marked FREEMAN were hilarious, but stopped to take a picture of them that isn't nearly as awesome as I thought it would be. Oh well, I couldn't find a crowbar, anyway.

We went into the green room, where all of us tried – and failed – to keep our cool when the likes of Keith David, Dominic Monaghan, John Cho, Amanda Fucking Palmer, and Neil Gaiman walked in.

I could tell you stories, but what happens in the green room stays in the green room, except for this picture that I captioned Best. Tweetup. Ever. and posted with the explicit permission of all involved.

After a 20 minute wait, we headed down the hall to the stage entrance. I walked a little bit behind the rest of the cast, so I could plausibly claim that I was just there watching my friends. Yes, I'm crafty like that, so you'd better watch yourself, if you know what's good for you.

We listened through the door while they played the music video — which is hilarious and perfect and must be seen by everyone in the world or I'll unleash the Doomsday Device* — and then the cast walked in, to thunderous applause. It was pretty awesome to hear them get such a wonderful reception, from what I'd soon find out was a standing-room-only crowd. I heard the familiar theme music a moment later, and I knew that the screening of season three's first episode had begun.

I pressed my ear to the door, and listened. As the reveal of me and the rest of my guild grew closer, my heart began to pound. I'm not going to lie to you, Marge, for the first time in years, the
terrifying knot of nerves that usually sits in my chest before I go
onstage wasn't just cut, it was obliterated by excitement.

I heard my voice, and the audience gasped — they gasped! Then, there was a moment of silence, followed by a roar of cheering and applause.

Kim Evey (who most people know as the producer of The Guild, but I know as my friend and former ACME castmate) took the podium and said, in a sad voice, "We really wanted Wil Wheaton to be here today . . ." in a happy voice she continued, ". . . so he is!"

I walked into the room, did my best not to trip over anything, tried not to be intimidated by the size of the audience and their enthusiasm, and took my seat on the panel.

I was feeling pretty good about myself. I hadn't done anything stupid, I kept my hands where people couldn't see that they were trembling, I hadn't crapped my pants … and that's when I saw that Joss Whedon was sitting in the front row. About ten feet from me.

Let's take a look inside Wil's head, shall we:


Brain: What?


Brain: Okay, just be cool.


Brain: No, you're staring.

Me: What?

Brain: You're staring. Stop staring.


Brain: Yes, you mentioned that. Also, you're staring again.

Eventually, I broke out of the loop, which in WhetonIX looks like: (if near.joss=1, do {stare.like.idiot} fi;), and I enjoyed the rest of the panel. As I said in my post a few days ago, "I've known, written, and performed with a lot of these guys for
years, and I'm not surprised in the least that everyone loves them so
much. It rules to see so many people in the world (millions per
episode, I guess) finding out for themselves what I've known for years.Season 3 is going to kick thirteen different kinds of ass, and I'm thrilled to be a small part of part of it."

When the panel was over, we walked back to the green room and convinced each other that, yes, it was all real and they really did like us. The cast went to do all their booth-related duties, and I went out to explore Comic-con as just a civilian with my son for the first time in years.

Overall, though, I enjoyed myself. When we got home, I told Anne about the panel. "It was so weird to
feel like all these people were excited and happy when they saw me
in The Guild," I said. "I'd gotten to used to people automatically deciding that
I was lame and they hated me because of a character I played when I was
14, I didn't really know how to react to them, well, liking me."

"How did you react?"

"I was happy, and I may have done a little dance."

"You danced?"

"Okay, I jumped. Once. I had to maintain my composure, you know."


"But it's weird, you know? On the one hand, it felt good — heh. 'I feel weird, but also good!' Um, that's …"

"Wesley when he's drunk. I know."

"How d—"

"I live with you. I pick things up."

*Not really. Oh, it needs to be seen, but I'm saving my Doomsday Device for something else. Besides, it's more fun to actually threaten to use the Doomsday Device than it is to actually use it.