Monday, August 26, 2013

How To Fix Comic-Con (tales of a frustrated attendee)

This year at San Diego Comic-Con, something occurred that has not happened to me since my first year: I missed a panel that I stood in line for. Somehow, between people talking about camping out last year, panicked first-year attendees, and social media, most people got it into their heads that, in order to see a panel in Hall H, one needed to camp out all night in line. By assuming this to be true, it became true. With everyone camping out, those of us who had the savvy plan of sleeping in a nice comfortable bed and getting up very early to go stand in line got shafted. Every other year, this so-called savvy plan has worked. Let me illustrate:

The lineup for Sunday in Hall H was very similar in both 2013 and 2012. Last year, I was cosplaying Idiot's Lantern Rose Tyler, a complicated costume that required makeup, hair color change, fake eyelashes, and a problematic french twist. As a result, we didn't make it into line until 6:30 or 7 AM. We got into Hall H with no major hiccups, and ended up about halfway back in the crowd. Very reasonable, decent seats. This year, same lineup, easier Rose cosplay, and we got in line between 5 and 5:30 AM. We barely got in the room for the first panel, Supernatural. We were at the very back and there was no moving up. On Friday and Saturday, members of our group did not even get into Hall H at all, despite having waited since the early morning.

This culture of sleeping in line has negatively impacted the Comic-Con attendee experience. Why do I pay for my very nice hotel room for my 3-4 hours of sleep if I have to sleep in line to actually see anything? I might as well just camp out for the whole weekend. Some dry shampoo, a ho bath in the convention center restrooms, use of the bag check and backpacking gear, and I might be good to go. All this does, however, is perpetuate the problem (and not just the problem of attendee body odor). This culture of sleeping in line needs to be corrected. Something needs changing so we can see the panels we want without acting crazy.

My friends and I usually spend our time in line chatting, napping, reading, playing games, and tweeting, but instead a lot of time was spent talking about how to fix these problems.

Here are some potential solutions, or at least basic idea kernels:

Front-load the Popular Stuff

Game of Thrones should be the first panel of the day, not the last. Same with The Avengers, True Blood, Doctor Who, and any of the other big crowd draws. This way, the big line will dissipate and people will be able to get into the things they like, even if they cannot get into the big ticket items, because the line will actually move.

This solution seems simple, but I'm sure it's not. I have no first-hand familiarity with the politics of scheduling, but I'm sure the reason these things are last is because new shows and less popular movie franchises want to go first to attain exposure to a guaranteed large audience. My argument to them is that the comic-con attendee populace is enormous, so you would probably have a full house no matter what. Plus, wouldn't you rather have a crowd full of people there to see you rather than bleary-eyed campers who are just biding time until Loki shows up*?

Develop a Lottery System (so we can all get on with our lives)

Comic-Con is really fun, but truly stressful. There's very little sleep involved, which makes it even more anxiety-producing. A lot of it is a game of weighing opportunity costs. For example: If I stand in line for the Hall H panel today, I will miss anything in Ballroom 20, but I may get into Indigo for a smaller panel at the end of the day. Plus, if I end up sitting in panels all day, I will not make it to the floor to snap up that exclusive item that they were out of yesterday, and I would miss the chance to get that one awesome author's autograph.

So much of attending SDCC is up to chance, including whether you can get a ticket at all, so we grasp those things that are actually our choice and hold on tight. Giving up a little of this choice would be hard, but it would also be freeing. If we entered lotteries for panel passes, there could be extra perks like, if you had been to Comic-Con before, you get two entries. If you also attended the other Cons under the Comic-Con umbrella, you get extra entries. However they want to do it, at least you would know whether or not you were getting in and, if not, you could just move on and see something smaller that you might not have checked out otherwise. This would also lead to better exposure for smaller events and things outside of the Con itself like the Geek & Sundry hangout, Nerd HQ, and w00tstock.

I'm sure people would complain about this as well, and how unfair it is, and how they are so unlucky if they don't get into panels, but I still think it's worth trying out, at least for big-ticket items.

Separate ticketed events and/or line priority

The problem with Comic-Con's policy of not clearing the room after an event is that there is no hope if you come at a reasonable time to get in line and you don't happen to get in for the first couple of panels. Although the non-clearing policy is great if you are dedicated to getting into Hall H or Ballroom 20 and if you are, like me, there to see more than one thing. Personally, I'm not going to get in line if I only want to catch one panel. If it is continuously as crazy as it has been, however, they might have to start clearing rooms, and that would lead to something like separate lines. You can get in the Game of Thrones line or the line for something less popular, and then you have made your choice and this makes it possible for everyone to see what they care about most (or at least many can). Without clearing, there might be a way of issuing tickets or something, but having people to monitor whether or not you have a ticket to the next panel is problematic unless there is some sort of fancy technology available for that.

Petco Park

There is a huge venue right next to the convention center. Let's move the really big giant panels into Petco Park. The whole convention should probably get in there and watch it. There are probably a dozen bureaucratic reasons why this isn't workable, but I like it. Let's make it happen.

*No, we weren't there. :(


  1. Yikes. This doesn't sound fun and makes me want to go much, much less.

  2. I don't mean to give that impression. I still think sdcc is amazing and one of the coolest experiences ever. I will always continue to attend. But if that's how you feel, more tickets for me and my friends!

    1. I feel like that reply sounded rude in retrospect. I just want people to love sdcc like I do and not have everyone sleep in line. :)

  3. I've been waiting for a blog post like this for a few years now! I haven't done the whole 4-day thing (YET, 2014!!!) I can say that I feel discouraged when I'm going through the program each year only to see that the panels that I would like to attend are going to be in Hall H or Ballroom 20, "oh damn, I like to camp, but not like that!."

    I think that Petco would be a fantastic idea, did you see that Nerd HQ was able to get people on the field to watch Serenity one night? "Off-site" stuff like that is awesome, seriously awesome. Going to the Geek & Sundry off-site area was really cool, too! No lines, everybody was there for the same reason, and it wasn't about "OMG MUST GET IN THIS LINE AND MAKE RUDE COMMENTS ABOUT FRANCHISES I DON'T GET" you know what I mean?

    1. The one nice thing about Hall H being totally crazy, is that the Ballroom 20 line was not that bad this year. I usually end up doing a lot of stuff in B20 because I am more interested in TV than movies, but some of my big draws are still in Hall H (Doctor Who, Supernatural).

      I really want to check out more off-site stuff. Maybe if I don't feel like waiting in line one day, I'll just walk around the gaslamp!

      I totally understand about the rude comments thing. Also, when people ask "what are you guys in line for?" I was the only one around me who had any interest in the earlier panels on Game of Thrones day, like Veronica Mars for instance.

  4. This year was my first year and it was sort of insanity. I went with my school, and only for one day, so I had no hope of getting into Hall H. I did try for Ballroom 20 though and failed. I waited an hour, until halfway though the panel I wanted to see before giving up and going to something else. When I got out the people who were near me in line had barely moved.

    A friend of mine has done the sleep in line thing a multitude of times. She says it gets worse every year.

    I will say one thing for their scheduling though. They put "Women Who Kick Ass" in the middle of comic book movie day and that is a beautiful thing.


Comment nicely and with tolerance or be deleted!


Free Blog Counter