Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Fandom: San Diego Comic Con 2015

So at the end of June I crossed the pond and got to spend some time in San Diego for the San Diego Comic Con and also to make another couple of geek stops along the way.

I decided to stay in the city the week before and got to explore a little. It’s a lovely place and is worth visiting, so if you’re ever heading there for the convention I’d recommend just taking a few extra days to visit the place as it’s a beautiful city.

It was great as well to see the city itself getting prepared for the convention, the buildings being modified, shops being decorated, the experiences getting set up, the cities people getting into the spirit of it all, this all added to the hype of the event.

Arriving at the convention was great, no queues, NO QUEUES to get our badges, that was amazing, though it was on Wednesday so the preview night so I’m not sure how the rest of the weekend faired.

I have to make a comment on the badges themselves, I have to say I prefer the wristbands we have at UK cons, why because they can’t get lost or stolen. Yes I was one of the unfortunate people that had my badge stolen! I heard a lot of other people over the weekend saying they had lost or had theirs stolen. I’m not going to go into detail though about the rude man at badge solutions, having to re-pay a full price or even security not having radios…so anyway…

So after waiting zero minutes to get in we sat in a queue for 2 hours for the exhibition hall to open, this was mainly due to we got the timings slightly wrong, but we got to chat to some lovely people which was nice and the queuing system was really well organised.

When we got into the exhibition hall it was like a kid in a candy store reaction. It was immense; I haven’t seen a convention hall to this scale. It was like wow and completely out of this world. There were lots of displays of huge models, displays of actual costumes used in movies/films, replicas, artist’s stalls, experiences and of course all the stuff you could possibly want to buy.

The amount of free stuff we got given was crazy, it was beyond crazy, so make sure if you’re travelling there you have enough room in your luggage for all the stuff you get given and all the crap you’ll buy, because you’ll need it! Even though we had a 5 day pass we still didn’t get to all the stalls. A word of advice for further convention goers, the hall on Saturday was unbearable…Sunday was pretty bad too so do your shopping on the first three days.

Apart from the exhibition hall what was there to do? Well the whole of Downtown San Diego basically becomes an extended comic con. The local hotels have things going on, some of the panels are in hotels as is the XBox lounge and outside there were the experiences, such as the zombie church, Assassins Creed obstacle course, The Strain experience, American Horror Story experience etc. So there was a lot to do outside as well as just buy stuff and meet artists.

There were enough panels to keep anyone entertained too and of course all the massive names to boot! I know a lot of people have issues about the panels for this convention in that the queues are intense. Yes for Hall H I can confirm the queues were crazy, there were people queuing for Star Wars which was on Saturday on Wednesday as soon as the convention opened. I basically didn’t have the stomach to be in a queue for that long, so opted not to. So I did miss the Supernatural panel which I was really hoping to see, but that was the only one I missed.

I got to see a lot of panels over the weekend, all the ones (apart from Supernatural) that I wanted to see, with no queuing what-so-ever. We took the advice of someone we met and turned up a little early but we didn’t have to, as all the ones we wanted were in one room all day. So I saw Falling Skies, The 100, Minority Report, Marvel TV (Agent Carter & Agents of SHIELD) and The Originals on one day. Then another day we headed to the Hilton and saw John Barrowman (if you ever get chance to see him, do it, he’s absolutely brilliant), The Expanse and Z Nation. After this we then headed to Hall H and got to see Sex, Drugs & Rock n Roll, The Strain and The Bastard Executioner.

I also got a go on a couple of the experiences over the weekend, though the queues were really really long. I chose The Strain (as it’s one of my favourites atm) and The Last Ship (another fave right now). These were virtual reality experiences. The Strain you put on some goggles, headphones and sat on a chair that moved as you tried to rescue a girl from some vampires. The Last Ship was a VR game experience, so we had the goggles, headphones and an Xbox controller to control the character. This was really fun though really disorientating as it was on the ship and there was the water motion, with this one you had the get through the ship and battle people/situations to find the vial that contained the cure to save the world. These were really great, so if you go to the convention and get chance to take in a couple of experiences then do so. I wish I had time to do more but as I say the queues were crazy some days.

There was one thing I didn’t get chance to see that I wanted to and that was the Cosplay Parade. I would have liked to but it involved a lot of hassle just to find the people walking around with the tickets and then to go queue for a good few hours to try to get a place in the hall (plus the person I was with wasn’t interested in it).

Overall though I have to make a comment on the cosplay at the convention, cosplay is a big part of an event for me, and I have to say I was really disappointed by this convention. By this I do not mean the standard of the cosplay, there were some really fabulous costumes, it was more the lack of cosplayers. Ok so I’m used to the likes of MCM London which I’d say 70% of people are in cosplay so there is a great cosplay community spirit. Where as at SDCC there was probably less than 10% in cosplay, so to me it was a little disappointing.

There just didn’t seem as much interest in cosplay, yes people would stop and talk to you about the show/game your character was from or we would talk to them but it just seemed a little bit meh, like something was missing. I know people will argue I didn’t see the parade, but the parade is only part of cosplaying or maybe it was that I didn't know the cosplay place to go. All I’ll say is if I went to SDCC before any other convention I probably wouldn’t be into cosplay so much and do it so much. This was a big let down for me, as I was really hoping for more.

As I mentioned earlier the city itself comes alive with the convention, the pubs…sorry bars do special deals for convention goers, theme themselves for the event and have special menus etc which is really really cool. The pubs were holding events such as showing programs, give-a-ways, cosplay events and general fandom stuff. Though a word of warning trying to get food after the convention can be pretty tough.

The streets are filled and I mean packed with people its unreal, there’s promotions going on and give-a-ways, there were lots of zombies and the such freaking people out and the police were even there with a display. So in short basically the whole of Downtown becomes a massive comic con party which was absolutely awesome!!!!!

So to round up it is a great convention with its pros and cons. I’d just like to point out even with my gripes earlier, overall the event was really well organised, the queuing systems were well managed and controlled. That said imo the scale of it has become so big, well compared to the UK ones anyway, and even though it has a brilliant community spirit it seemed to lack the personal touch in parts. There is so much to see and do, don’t expect to see it all or do all you’d like to even if you have 5 days worth of ticket, it is absolutely massive.

I met lots of great people there, everyone I spoke to was absolutely lovely, the people are really friendly. I think though with any big event you sometimes attract a bit of the ‘wrong crowd’ which can cause a few issues for the convention goers. I’ve heard about some negative things people say have happened and can understand why these things go on, personally I didn't experience anything that was too bad. I do though however think the event and security need to step up to tackle ongoing problems and concerns.

In general though it’s a great experience and one I’d say to anyone who goes to comic conventions/games conventions should go to once in their lifetime, just to say they’ve been and experience the whole thing as it’s an out of this world, crazy and really different experience!

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