This week marks the return of RoberCon, Binghamton’s annual convention for everything geek, from comics to fandoms to gaming. Serving as a fundraiser for the Roberson Museum and Science Center ever since 2013, this is the first time the well-known convention will take place through online platforms and not at the museum in Downtown Binghamton, due to social distancing concerns.
All of the convention’s experiences will take place online, including their famous costume contest. The contest will be streaming pictures and videos submitted by contestants with live judges. Vendors, panels, writing workshops with authors, tabletop games and question panels with special guests will be taking place through Zoom. Topics for these forums range from creative writing, recording a live podcast, cosplays and roleplaying. Some notable panels include “Everything Is Fine,” a panel discussing the philosophy and comedy of the television show “The Good Place” and “Together We’ll Be Heroes,” a panel where the topic of “queernorm” is introduced and discussed through a lens of the superheroine She-Ra.
Natalie Shoemaker, RoberCon’s marketing and event coordinator, said there were challenges that came with turning RoberCon into a completely virtual event.
“The biggest challenge has been trying to maintain some kind of social aspect of the convention,” Shoemaker said. “I think we were able to strike a balance by using Discord to act as our ‘convention hall,’ where all things social live, and Zoom acts as our rooms.”
Being true to their words, a free Discord channel will be open to everyone during the convention without needing to purchase the virtual badge. Serving as a platform for online gaming, chatting and back-to-back artist live streams, Discord will be where attendees hang out and socialize. These streams include book readings, live art and concerts throughout the two-day convention. They give attendees access to artists’ behind-the-scenes processes, which is hard to do in-person.
Moving online comes with advantages as well. Actors Paul McGann, known for roles in “Doctor Who” and “Alien 3” and Miriam Margolyes, known for roles in “Harry Potter,” “Blackadder” and “Call the Midwife,” are two guests that will attend RoberCon this year.
“While I consider RoberCon an event that is close to my heart, it does serve an altruistic purpose outside of just bringing people together,” Shoemaker said. “I’m excited that we get to share this labor of love with not just people from Binghamton, but now all over the country.”
The convention spans through Sept. 26 and 27. Events are accessible with a $15 virtual badge.