Con Report: PortConMaine is More Welcoming Than Ever

I've attended PortConMaine in the past to game with my friends in the area, but this is the first time I went with no plans whatsoever. My wife and kids join me on Sunday and we always have a great time. This year, the convention did not disappoint.

PortConMaine is an annual anime and gaming convention held in the summer in South Portland, Maine. Founded by Julie York, in 2002, it has hosted many anime and gaming events each year, ranging from a variety of anime-related activities to lots of cosplay events to panels, workshops, and plenty of games. Like all geek-related events, the con continues to expand with the population, from three days to four days in 2008 and from 250 attendees to nearly 3,500 last year.

Because of its anime and cosplay focus, PortConMaine has a diverse mix of gender representation and as such is on at the forefront of creating a safe, welcoming environment for all. It uses a #safecon guide that is thorough and comprehensive. There are signs throughout indicating that visitors should use the gendered best room they're most comfortable using. It's all summed up in their #safecon pledge:

We want PortConMaine to be a safe, open, and accepting place for everyone and to be a neutral ground where we can all share in the mutual love for our hobbies. We ask that people treat others with kindness and respect, and work to resolve their differences amicably. In situations where that is not possible we want everyone to feel confident that they can approach any staff member and that their concerns will be listened to and validated. We may not always be able to help in every situation, but we will do our best to try to ensure a safe and fun event for all attendees.

PortConMaine's gaming section is small but robust. The convention has expanded across the way to a game space in the mall which caters to geekery of all kinds all year-round. During the con, it also serves as a place to host video game tournaments, role-playing game sessions, and board/card gaming of all types, along with snacks and rest room facilities. I got a chance to play Castle Panic and Cthulhu Fluxx with one of my patrons and even got a chance to sign one of my books at his house. Thanks for hosting us Mike!

Speaking of role-playing, I attended veteran game designer Darren Watts' panel on Superheroes in Games. During the panel Darren shared his experience with both the creation of superhero gaming tropes in tabletop role-playing games and how the genre continues to evolve in other media. I had brunch with Darren afterward and he was a fantastic source of information about the state of gaming today -- look for that interview soon.

PortConMaine has a dealers room and an artists alley, both of which feature everything from gaming accessories to cosplay attire. My daughter picked up a huge plush nomwhale (its horn looks like an ice cream cone), my son bought his first ocarina along with a playbook from Legend of Zelda, and I bought some rare pre-painted miniatures and a dice bag for our post-apocalyptic Dungeons & Dragons 5E/Gamma World game.

Sunday is a family-friendly day: $15 for adults, $5 for children, and free for children 5 or younger. The schedule reflects this. We had a full series of events, starting with a Disney Sing-A-Long where kids (and adults!) in the audience call out recommendations and the hosts project scenes from Disney movies along with their lyrics. My daughter had a blast. We followed that up with a Disney Princess Meet & Greet Party that was so popular, the organizers had to move the event to a larger room. It took awhile, but eventually my daughter got to meet her favorite princesses, do a craft, and sing and dance with them. We stopped for lunch and then my daughter entered the Children's Cosplay Contest dressed as Hermione in a larger outdoor tent. We wrapped things up with Spark's Ark Animal Program, in which the kids got to see hedgehogs, foxes, ferrets, owls, and snakes up close -- we also learned a lot about Spark's animal removal and relocation efforts.

PortConMaine has only become more diverse and welcoming over time, expanding beyond the hotel confines to include more space to game. If my experience is any indication, smaller conventions continue are thriving in the Age of Geek.

Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to You can follow him at Patreon.

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

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