San Diego Comic Con, an event that pop culture fans around the world look forward to every year brings in around 130,000 people annually. Having just got back from the convention, I spoke to a number of people about my experience and realized that, while many people know of the event, very few actually know what it is like going there. So here is my experience (and here’s tons of pics)
Getting into San Diego Comic Con starts well before you enter through the doors, first you must fight and pray you are able to get a pass into the event. This concept of having to fight tooth and nail while sacrificing your first born son at a chance to throw stupid amounts of money at people is a continuous concept throughout the Comic Con adventure, so if you are put off already, just walk away now and don’t bother.
Months before any real news or information is released regarding the event, badges for entry to the next SDCC will go on sale online. Once that window opens you should be left waiting online as the servers will crash and they will sell out incredibly fast (SDCC 2013 sold out in 90 mins). If you are looking to buy them for your family, you will need to purchase each one individually with a separate account.
Now, if you were able to secure your extremely overpriced ticket(s), bought round-trip airfare, somehow found a hotel room for up to 5 days, and are not broke yet, good – because if you plan on buying anything or eating, you are going to need quite a bit more cash.
Day 0 – Preview Night: Being a member of the press, I had a different experience than the group of friends I came with. Upon my arrival I waited in an abnormally long line full of press and professionals to pick up my pass, while my friends had a shorter line for the public – yes, there seems to be more press and professionals than public. Once inside I was herded to Hall D, a blocked off area I was told was only open to the press, exhibitors, professionals or the handicap. Finding a line to enter the building, I waited, and waited…and waited. Then, news broke and an announcement was made that ‘anyone who wasn’t handicap would not be let in!’ Being quite confused, given the directions I was given earlier, I questioned the announcement but was told the same thing by multiple people, so I was going to have to wait with the general public.
Realizing the line I was about to end up waiting in stretched probably about a mile, I decided to ask for assistance once again. Talking to the person managing the front of the line, I asked about press access and was directed to Hall D yet again. Mentioning what was said to me earlier, a manager was called in for clarification, and once again, I was sent on my way back to Hall D. Not of course without almost being kicked out of the building, as staff were directing me to the exit and not listening to my questions or the fact that I was being told to go back to Hall D.
Soon I made it back to where I was ‘supposed’ to be. Finding a line to wait in, I planned out my route to the Hasbro Shop booth for a friend, as I was going to make it in earlier than him. Eventually, the doors opened and they started to bring in the line, but as soon as the mob closed in on the doorway, the attendees jumped inside and closed it on our faces. Silence fell, a few people knocked on the door, then nothing.
Eventually, a helpful member of the public informed the mob that they were letting people in through another hall door. Making my way through to the new entrance, I was inside 5-10 minutes before the event opened, but by the time I got to the Hasbro Shop booth it was already at capacity. I soon learned from everyone, that to buy anything from a booth that has items with a high resale value, like Hasbro’s booth, you will need to know someone, be a connected reseller or obtain a wristband.
Spending the rest of my preview-night confused and fairly irate, I walked around the mobs of people and spent the rest of the day chatting it up with one of the artists from The Hobbit and a few others.
Day 1: Knowing that I had appointments throughout the day on Thursday, I slept in to miss the mobs and went straight into handling what I was supposed to.
Day 2: The only personal goal I had while attending SDCC13 was to get some of my limited edition Game of Thrones Sigil Banners signed by the actors, and I had learned that to do this, I would need a wristband. Mind you, none of this information is actually released or announced, and I do know that it isn’t, as I do get the press releases.
Thinking that getting to the convention center before 5am would give us an early enough start to get me my wristband and allow our friends to get into Hall H, we set off before the sun rose. During a line count for Hall H, my friends were notified that they were number 2,300+ in line…at 5am. Hours later my general admission line moved forward, and, after seeing the lines behind me being allowed entrance before me, I eventually got in. Moving through the crowd to the area for wristbands I found another line, and slowly learned that almost all of San Diego Comic Con is a joke.
The way that Comic Con handles wristbands is as follows: To get a wristband you must pull a ticket out of a bag and hope it is marked with a stamp, but you can only get access to the bag once you get to the pen. The pen which is only accessible once you have made it past both the thousands of people outside who are trying to get into the building and the hundreds of people trying to get wristbands. Only then are you allowed into this pen, but once you are there, you don’t have to leave, so you can keep pulling tickets till you have them all – and the line of people waiting outside wont get access until you leave. So in affect, unless you are among the first 50-100 people, you are shit out of luck for anything popular and just wasted your whole morning.
Having learned what it really meant to be at San Diego Comic Con, I soon realized I didn’t care about the event at all any more, and I started noticing more of the fallacies and blatant lies staff told simply to mess with people. One of my friends who had actually obtained a Hasbro Shop wristband was told that he couldn’t enter the wristband only area to buy the items that he fought through the lines to get, while the attendees were allowing parents and children (without bands) because they felt like it. The same friend later also overheard a staff member giving out wrong information, then laughing about it with a co-worker.
Looking into the way staffing is handled at the event center, I learned that most of the people being used for staff are volunteers, who are given free access to the floor if they work for 3hrs each day. Most don’t care about you, most have no clue what is going on more than you, and most will do anything and say anything to get you out of their way until their shift is over. Ultimately, I learned to not listen to anything any staff member told me and that drastically improved my trip.
Booths and lines that were closed off for 30 minutes, magically opened within 5 minutes, areas where I was ‘not allowed to sit or stand’ became wonderful homes for brief periods. I ultimately became hostile to the staff and security, as their inexcusable lack of ability to do their job properly became more and more apparent. While the foot traffic in certain areas is, to put it lightly, insane at times, security will continuously try to keep the flow of people moving. Ultimately, this continuous push of people creates a current of people being shoved or slammed into each other, as you cannot stop – ever.
Day 3 & 4: Having pretty much giving up on having any expectations or goals, I slept in and strolled around SDCC without a purpose, and it was magnificent. Walking around and just chatting it up with an exhibitor or fellow weary traveler, I found the true heart of the convention. While most of the volunteer staff and security should be shot out of a cannon into the sun while being fondled by Freddy Kruger in a thong, the rest of the people at the show were simply amazing.
If I was to go back to the convention next year, it would be to get a chance to meet and hang out with the fans that make it out to the show. After having been in a mob of people chomping at the bit to get in to the show, only to get the door slammed in our faces, I would have expected a riot, but no, they banded together and helped each other out without anyone getting really upset. Each time I sat next to someone a conversation sparked up, and I was able to meet some incredibly cool people.
Ultimately, San Diego Comic Con is not something I would recommend to anyone who has goals or specific things that they must pick up or see, it is not designed for that. It is a show to find out that, no matter how nerdy or geeky you are, you are not alone – and that by itself is pretty cool.