20 JULY 2023
So we're here, in the thick of it, and all questions have been answered as to what kind of Comic-Con we've been dealt. Some of the answers being....
Yes, Hall H turnout is paltry.
The photos are out there. It actually makes me a bit sad, and also reminds me of my tender youth when my girlfriend and I casually walked in and took a seat to see Neil Gaiman promoting Stardust.
Allegedly, as I type, there is a healthy line for the afternoon. Listen: Hall H will be back with a vengeance. I'm sure of it. This is just a weird year. Speaking of....
Turnout overall seems slightly less than pre-pandemic levels, but still good.
That's my perception, at least. All those attendees announcing they weren't coming apparently weren't big enough a group to make their absence felt, not really. I did think last night felt a little too calm in the Gaslamp and there was less late-night activity around the convention center when I walked back to the Marriott. But I think the turnout overall is decent. I also think people may be overestimating it because...
The Exhibit Hall IS the Hall H of 2023.
Yowza. Very, very crowded. Preview Night has been more crowded for years - if you recall years ago when only a portion of attendees got a PN badge, you'll remember how it used to be - so last night didn't faze me in any way but people seemed shocked at the crowds. That's a trend that started pre-pandemic and is now continuing.
Even Exhibit Hall lines have morphed into Hall H lines somewhat. Remember when everyone used to crowd in front of the doors and then swarm in? Now the pre-dawn line is so intense that everyone is forced to form into a snaked line, which invariably merges into one messy crowd right before they open the doors. Lots of complaints about that this morning. I saw one attendee meltdown and one staffer running up and down a roped-off area like a rat on meth and attendees persistently asking why why why do we have to stand in line to which another staffer cuttingly replied: "To keep you civilized." Zing!
The efficiency level of organization, management, and control does seem to have dipped.
And it wasn't great to start with. From certain observations, I think there used to be security and volunteers who returned year after year, or maybe there were training facilitators who returned year after year and now those people are gone. This whole class of people just seems very inexperienced this year. More so than other years, which also featured new recruits to the world of SDCC management.
The offsites aren't getting quite as much buzz this year but it's still Thursday.
I'm about to head out to the Interview with a Vampire one, which was praised highly to me. For others I haven't heard a whole lot of raves; Jurassic Park turned in mixed reviews, though those might be from pre-Con experience. If it's the same here, it's nothing that would inspire me to do the standby line, though I would do it if guaranteed access.
By tomorrow morning, we should have a clear buzz winner. What offsites have you done and what did you think?
Finally, I have encountered more first-timers than I expected. They seem baffled by SDCC culture and practices, so here are a few tips:
A lot of things won't seem logical or make sense. You can protest all you want but you're pissing in the ocean. I think people who are more dominant or authoritative by nature tend to balk at their powerless in the Comic-Con flow of things, but it's just an adjustment you have to make. The way lines, exclusives, lotteries, panels, swag, signings, cancellations, etc. are handled can be mysterious and maddening, I agree. But getting angry and belligerent about it will get you nowhere.
If you do run into a roadblock, be gracious and tenacious at the same time. Stay polite but ask if there's a solution. Sometimes there just isn't. Sometimes someone will suggest a workaround or do you a favor, like the guy yesterday who let me join a capped line. The exhibitor selling my #1 wish list thing this year got sick and didn't show up BUT I nicely asked the people who took over her booth about it and they texted her and she asked me to DM her and we worked something out. Advocate for yourself and you might get a break.
Don't get swept away by the grandeur and bombast of the Exhibit Hall and the Con in general. A first-timer last night at dinner gave me one word: overwhelming. Heard that before! We talked about how easy it is to miss things in the Exhibit Hall because there's so much to look at. Go ahead and enjoy that dazzled feeling, but ultimately you'll want to study booths and really look at what they've got, find out on social what other people are buying, and map out some kind of strategy.
And also - look into other parts of the Con. The Exhibit Hall isn't everything. Go check out the awesome gaming and pinball arcade in the Marriott, or the offsites, the screenings, the library panels, the film festival. You might have ignored the events guide but you really should look through it and get an idea of where to go.
Finally, on lines - yes, there are lines for everything. I had lunch at Lou and Mickey's and some people next to me were expressing disbelief that there were lines for restaurants. Yep, those were 2 people who did not grasp what SDCC is really like. There's no shame in that but do realize you are in a small area of the city with more than two hundred thousand people all competing for resources. So bake that into your plans - if you want to eat lunch before a 2:00 pm panel, for instance, account for waiting in line instead of thinking you can easily search for a restaurant at 1:00 pm and make your panel.
I hope everyone is enjoying themselves on the first day of SDCC. We're just getting started, right?