Ball Pit Blitz: The Sad, True Story of Tumblr’s DashCon

Know Your Meme

When people spend a lot of time on the Internet in the same place, eventually, they like to meet up in real life. Tumblr is no different. This past weekend, Tumblr fans organized the first annual DashCon, an event ostensibly intended to bring together users and celebrate fandom geekery with such panels as “Welcome to Night Vale Listening Party,” “Name That Anime,” and “BDSM 101.”

Conventions are tricky to put together. Scheduling a massive event for thousands of people involves some high-level logistics. And we at Fusion applaud the organizers’ goal of pulling off something of this scale. Unfortunately, a goal is what it remains. DashCon did not go exactly as planned.

The convention was scheduled to take place July 11-13 at the Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. Things started to go south almost immediately, when the hotel informed the organizers that they still owed $17,000 in fees. Event planners turned to Tumblr (naturally) to raise the money, and did so in less than two hours. That, in turn, spawned its own Tumblr parody. Some people accused the fundraiser of being an elaborate hoax, which the organizers deny.

The creators of “Welcome to Night Vale” were supposed to be the star guests. But after flying out to Schaumburg, they discovered the DashCon organizers could not pay for their travel, lodging or convention fees. So the “guests” reportedly left and apologized to their fans. Once again, organizers denied that this was the case.

The Night Vale panels were an upcharge in addition to normal admission price. But instead of issuing refunds, the DashCon team offered ticket-holders an extra hour in the ball pit, which then became its own meme.

Things more or less continued to go downhill from there. Attendees said minors were getting into the 18+ panels. The advertised “game room” had only one TV set and one console, and the two weren’t connected. The ball pit continued to be sad. One poorly organized panel ended up handing out hotel mints as trivia prizes. The “artists alley” was allegedly selling mostly junk. And guests kept getting treated to ads for the Steam Powered Giraffe concert, despite the fact that it had been canceled months before DashCon even started.

Meanwhile, the people of Tumblr who weren’t at the convention certainly enjoyed themselves: The tags for “DashCon” and “ball pit” were flooded with jokes and Photoshops that almost made the whole disastrous event worth the effort.