This was my first Picocon, I figured a one day convention might suit going virtual pretty well plus several folks I know were excited for it.

They kicked things off by opening up the Discord channels, and encouraging people to have fun. The fun in question taking the form of several activities; a Turing test game channel, which I mostly ignored, fish slapping, on which more later, and a scavenger hunt!

There were three teams; Marvin, R2D2, and HAL9000. I joined that last one, as it only had three people at the time and it seemed best to balance things out, by the end of the game there were about ten people per team so that was fine. The items to collect were eclectic, with several relating to the convention or to its theme (Automata), preferably things you owned or created yourself, so an old cosplay was fine but a link to music video not so much. Each team had its own Discord channel to chat, submit out entries, and check the score table, but none of us could see what the other teams were doing.

After a slow start, we caught up to the other teams by late afternoon, then passed R2D2 by early evening, and for a few glorious minutes we had the lead! Sadly we dropped back dropped back behind Marvin, finishing the entire list just a couple of minutes behind them and taking second place. I was very proud of our performance, though – several of us to tried out new things to get those points; for instance, I had to learn to use iMovie to get a short video submission in. Once it was all over, all three channels were thrown open so we could see how the other teams had solved the answers – there was a lot of creativity on display, so that was extra fun to see.

We had ordered pizza as the hunt wrapped up, so we had a break and watched a very good episode of Would I Lie to You? with Alex Horne as one of the guests. That left us with half an hour to just relax before the Pub Quiz.

As all quizzes must, virtual or otherwise, this one started with some small technical issues, but we eventually ironed those out and got going. It wasn’t my best showing; I missed some really obvious questions that I should have known, like the name of Ripley’s cat (Jonesy… my brain supplied only “Spike” … which I can see where you were coming from brain, but not helpful) , but on the other hand I did get a couple of obscure ones instead. John picked up a lot of the slack in the Star Wars and HHGttG categories, and the rest of the team did respectably. We came in second, again. It felt sufficiently like a pub quiz, and it was nice to voice chat with people for a bit.

Then it was the end of the con! The quizmasters were also the committee, so they gave a brief wrap up and totalled the donations for the day £970! As amazing as this was it was unsatisfying so another £30 was scraped together to round that up, all in aid of the Neurosmething or other.

Then it was time to slap each other with fish until we ran out of time! Oh right, the fish slapping…. so I’m told this is a Picocon tradition transferred to the virtual realm, and quite ingeniously;

The convention had a currency called Picocoins, which you could purchase by donating to the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability. These could then be spent in the Fish Market channel, options ranging from reliable Bass (Attack 2, Defense 1, cost just .25 picocoins) up to the unlikely, mostly jokey Whale (Attack 100, Defense 100, Price 100 picocoins, caption “Not a fish. Hilariously overpowered. Please don’t bring a whale to a fish fight.). Well, I don’t have to tell you that fandom loves a challenge, so three Whales were sold and entered into combat.

Fish in hand, you then went to the Fish Slapping channel and typed !slap @yourtarget and were rewarded with a stats table showing the cumulative strength of all your fish and how much damage (if any) you had done to your opponent. Naturally, this had an effect on your arsenal, and they deteriorated as you used them.

As the convention entered its final minutes, everyone seemed to realise simultaneously that they still had fish going unused, so a massive slap fight ensued, even the Whale-owners getting slapped into negative points, until our poor fish were worn down to little nubs.

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