Geeksplosions; or, navigating the outer worlds of the ‘Con

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“Is this the line for the bathroom?”

It seems to be, that when the most awesome of gatherings forms, and tickets for such gatherings go on sale, the fates bend their twisted sense of humor that renders me completely incapable of participating.

Such was the case when San Diego Comic Con tickets went on sale.

I found myself out to sea and with an unstable internet connection that could no faster load the page to buy tickets than the time it’s taken Square Enix to release Kingdom Hearts 3.

It was with a fiery determination that I set out over the weekend to discover the non-badge holder events, and in my wanderings managed to for a few hours convince a friend to let me borrow their pass to get in for a few hours while they recovered from a night of partying like Patsy and Eddie at a post-runway after-after party.

Again, because of work obligations and having to stand duty, I didn’t get to hit the streets of downtown San Diego until Friday afternoon. I had researched all the non-badge goings-on and was able to traipse the streets as if I were one of the few blessed with the magic lanyard.

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My first stop was the AMD-Radeon Lounge. This awesome area at Jolt’n Joe’s featured a Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 demo station, Final Fantasy XIV demo, and a free processor giveaway to anyone who signed up for their Vizio Fandemonium promotion. I found myself enthralled in the CV2 demo which plays nearly like the first LOS entry. The demo was a full tutorial and first chapter play-through on an AMD-powered station which gave a great glimpse at the sheer beauty that is the next Castlevania entry. The graphics were awesome to say the least.

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Once the lounge shut down for the day, I found my way to the Sega Arcade where my buddy Sonic greeted me like the Wal-Mart greeter he seems to have become. Friendly, gracious, but aged and easily forgotton. The demo stations previewed and promoted among others Sonic Lost World which oddly enough plays like Super Mario Galaxy after Mario has chugged down a few bottles of 5hr Energy.

I think what pleased me the most walking around the various external Comic Con venues was witnessing firsthand the sheer growth of not only the event, but that of geek culture itself.

Remember the days where if someone simply wore glasses they were a “nerd” and not in the awesome “I make a few billion dollars running this company based on some social network I designed in my dorm room” kind of way?

But looking around the convention center, there was such a convergence of coolness, geekness, and awesomocity I felt like the years of mockery for sporting my slightly worn Chuck Taylors, straight-leg jeans, shaggy hair and my favorite ninja turtles shirt was worth their weight in Gils.

IMG_0900“We’re looking for a couple of dudes that are a little less…square.”

Technology has played a huge role in geek culture’s dominance. Where once there was a clear and distinct line between the proverbial dueling groups, the “jocks vs. geeks,” now because of video games, smart phones, the Internet and the like, those lines are extremely blurred. And it’s this melding of social groups that has contributed to San Diego Comic Con’s growth from even the first one I was able to attend just a handful of years ago.

I only wish this social acceptance existed when I was growing up. While I got along with almost everyone, I would have been WAY cooler than I was. Because I’m just going to say it, I’m awesome, and it would have left a lot more time for youthful shenanigans if people had realized it sooner so I’d actually have REAL group of people to perform my Labyrinth reenactments (“You have no power over me…”).

Later on Friday evening I attended the Magic, the Gathering party hosted by Geek & Sundry. Yet another non-badge holder lounging area where table-top gamers could relax amongst the chaos. Admittedly, I haven’t touched a deck of Magic cards since my parents threw out my first edition cards I had collected the first year the game was out (seriously hurts my heart just thinking about it).

The first highlight of the night was getting to meet and /hug one of my favorite Twitter personalities: Sha of Happiness! After enviously seeing photos of Blizzard folk getting their Shappy on and our back and forth tweets of trying to locate a meet-and-greet, I finally got my chance and it was a delight!

The second highlight of my night was running into one of my FAVORITE icons of geek culture, the lovely Felicia Day. I was able to talk to her for a minute, and where I’d like to think I was oozing a suave Bond-like coolness, I fear that the reality is bit more on the level of Barry in Beerfest. While she informed that she had met her threshold for fan photos for the evening, she was gracious enough to give me a hug, wish me well, and handed me a Magic card.

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And when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I bumped into Alexis Denisof on the way out, shook his hand, and ended the night with a shot of Cuervo (which was really the ONLY drink I had).

The following morning, the skies opened and the PTB bestowed upon me a great gift…

As luck would have it, a friend texted me in a post-partied stupor offering me free access to his badge for a few hours while he slept off the effects of consuming nearly every drop of alcohol in the western hemisphere. Never before had I triple-S’d my way out of the apartment as fast as I did that beautifully overcast Saturday morning.

As I walked around, I realized the only downside to conventions of any kind…the damn lines. And unlike theme parks where the delicate art of forcing hundreds of people to gather like rodents in a labyrinth waiting for cheese has become an intricate science, conventions are cramped, hot, and it seems like the lines just go nowhere.

IMG_0905“Get off my ship.”

With the little time I had with my borrowed badge I decided to make my way to the Legendary Pictures panel where upcoming projects where being previewed. As a Blizzard fan, it goes with out saying that that was SUCH A GOOD CALL. The now-mythical “mood trailer” that played before the crowd where all portable electronics were forcibly stowed with the threat of first borns being taken away and castration lingered over the crowd set an impressive tone.

I think most of us in the crowd were in such shock that I just remember furiously trying to tweet everything and wasn’t even paying attention to the rest of the panel, save for when director Duncan Jones was talking about the challenge he has before him in translating Azeroth and its heroes to film. It wasn’t long after that my buddy Spongeshot Alcoholpants texted me to deliver his badge.

Once the badge was returned and the reality of being doomed to Earth while the Con-ers lived it up in Elysium smacked my soft little head back down on the pavement, I walked around downtown.

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I mostly killed time waiting for something I had been wanting to see for years and was finally able, the Video Games Live concert at the civic center theater.

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The lines for the 8p.m. show started to gather around 4p.m. because naturally, if there’s a physical sport that geeks and nerds would excel at, it’s a rigorous and mentally challenging one that requires, uh, “athletes” to camp out in a line for days hours on end with only a folding chair, a six pack  of Hawaiian punch, and Doritos.

The above video was the only piece I recorded though to the chagrin of Jillian Aversa, the wonderfully talented vocalist for most of the night’s pieces:

“Invincible” is actually one of my favorite pieces from the vast Warcraft music collection, so I knew I wanted to keep it, but dag-gummit if I haven’t been kicking myself in the ass for not recording the Russian Opera rendition of the Tetris theme.

To round off the night, and my Con-ing experience this year, a good friend who was working the Warner Bros. area in the convention center managed to get me into the VIP Evil Dead party.

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The party itself was awesome and I’m grateful for the opportunity — if only for handful of hours — to be treated like a VIP. Not something I could get used to mind you, I’m happy standing off to the side, observing, and enjoying a quiet joke behind a loaded drink and a camera.

It was a great way to end the night, and thankfully, I made a few connections which hopefully will translate to some leads on some cool communications/marketing/PR hiring opportunities.

While the entire experience was somewhat condensed, I did enjoy being forced to roam around the OUTSIDE of Comic Con due to lack of ticket access. But being the cool non-Barry resourceful cat I am, I managed to rock out with some really awesome people. Not to mention that there are a LOT more events outside of the convention center that don’t require you to wait four hours in a line. I guess I should’ve realized all this sooner, but lately I find that sometimes a good forceful nudge from a giant “access denied” sign being slapped across my hopes and dreams has prompted some resourceful instincts to kick in.

Well, if I’m in the area next year, I’m definitely fighting tooth and nail to get a full access pass, assuming I haven’t found myself a kickass job that sends me to it to promote something cool. That’s a lot of physical activity either way. Guess I better train.

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