Sunday, July 22, 2012

San Diego Stories: Thursday

This year, I shared a room with one of my oldest, closest friends, and two perfect strangers. Thankfully, the two people we didn't know turned out to be excellent traveling companions and roommates. If only we weren't packed in like sardines, it would have been very pleasant. When our fourth showed up, we tried to get a rollaway bed for our room. "We're all out," they informed me.

Well, do you have a cancellation on a room, perhaps?

"Oh no," the lady said. "We no have cancellations. It's Comics-Con," she said.

I know it is, I assured her. But sometimes, people's plans change, and it's not like the Best Western Bay Side Hotel is particularly close to the action or anything. So, if something should open up...

"But we no have any openings," she said again. "It's Comics-Con."

I thanked her for not being able to help me at all, and asked myself how bad could it be? Hotel rooms aren't for anything but sleeping during Comic-Con, and so we sallied forth for breakfast and then made for the convention center.

The Bayside Hilton, whoring itself out to a television show.
It's difficult to accurately describe the size and scope of this show. It's probably easiest to compare it to some of the spectacle of Las Vegas, but even that falls a little short, mostly because Vegas was built for it and San Diego just wasn't.

See, the show has totally outgrown the convention center. They doubled the size of the place, back in the mid-nineties, when Hollywood first started sniffing around the convention. Since then, it's spilled out into the Gaslamp, across the street, and into two adjacent hotels. And it's packed to the gills again. The citizenry of San Diego, according to one local I spoke to, is contemplating adding onto the convention center--again. Since there's not a scrap of land left to develop, this would mean going out into the bay or something. I don't know how they'd do it.

Thursday is officially Day One of the show, and it's the most sparsely attended, as if anyone can tell the difference. I mean, I'm a people person, and I don't fear crowds, or get stage fright, or anything like that, but when the numbers start creeping up around 100,000, I just shut down. I'm only so entertaining, you know. I'm not Bon Jovi.

As exhibitors, we got in before the masses, to set up our tables. This didn't take long, and so I wandered around to inspect the floor before the chaos. It was nice, until the loud, booming, animatronic voice admonished me to get back to my booth, because traffic in the aisles would delay the opening of the floor. Everyone there was pointedly ignoring the voice, because we all knew damn well that as soon as the floor opened, we'd all be trapped behind our booths until the bell sounded some ten hours later and this was our one and only chance to snap a picture of some statue or booth before the crowds pressed in and tried to kill us all.

I tried to do one fun or fannish thing a day, which was actually pretty difficult to do. I made the conscious decision to watch the Assassin's Creed III presentation, for a couple of reasons: I wanted to see the game footage, of course, and also I wanted to see how they were presenting the material. In other words, what was their dog and pony show like over at Ubisoft.

Well, I learned a couple of things right away: these big entertainment companies, whether we're talking about a movie studio or a game studio, are less interested in meeting the end consumer and more interested in delivering their sales pitch. Whether that pitch is in the form of a cheap-ass t-shirt, or a blow up vinyl tomahawk (the new weapon du jour in Assassin's Creed III), these folks don't want your feedback. They want you out on the floor, wearing the shirt, flaunting the tomahawk, and in general being good little corporate shills for the mothership.

That said, the game footage I watched was really impressive. The people working the booth were friendly and excited and pleasant and ridiculously on-script at all times. These out of work actors from L.A. and other parts of California were only too happy to say their lines and hand out the gewgaws, and that above statement could be applied to literally every other company just like Ubisoft that was on the floor.

Some of these companies had crow's nests where some of the executives could sit above the fracas, looking out over the floor, and not have to mix with the rabble in any way. I found that particularly insulting. Either be here, at the show, or don't. If you're that freaked out by the unwashed masses, then maybe you need to stick to Internet marketing.

On the plus side: there were a variety of cosplayers dressed as Altair and Enzio (from the game). I walked by one of them and said, clearly in her direction: "Nothing is true." She let me get three steps ahead of her and replied, "Everything is permitted." I gave her the high sign and we went our separate ways. I tried it with a few other cosplayers, but no one else took the bait.

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