NOTE: I do not work for Wizards of the Coast. I am a volunteer. Anything that I say is my opinion and not the opinion of Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro or any other person, being, thing, snake, dolphin or the common cold virus. Mine. Got it? Cool.
NOTE 2: This is a very long post, and details a large amount of things. I hope you have a bit of time to sit down and read, because you’re going to need it. Unless you are one of those freaky speed-readers; you guys freak me out. J
The Epic Tale of the San Diego Comic Con International,
Or: A View from the Booth
I just flew in from San Diego, and boy are my arms tired. <rimshot>
As I discussed over in this thread I had the chance to go to the San Diego Comic-Con International and work for Wizards of the Coast (WotC) at their booth. WotC is most known for the collectable card game Magic: the Gathering, but have also created games based on Neopets, Star Wars, and of course Dungeons and Dragons. I am a member of WotC’s retail product support team, called Delegates, and was invited to go to help out at the con doing demos and talking to people about the games. Needless to say I was excited.
The whole thing started off pretty rough, as I did not get my itinerary until two days before I was supposed to leave, but that turned out not to be a big deal. I was scheduled to leave on Tuesday (7/20) morning, and thankfully got to the airport on time. I did not have to many problems getting through security at all, other than a short line at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (named for daddy, not son). My flight to San Diego would be interrupted by a stopover, which I hate, in Phoenix. I was in coach, but had a window seat, which makes the trip go by much more easily. I finished off a John Grisham novel on the way to Phoenix and had about a 30-minute layover there.
I was absolutely amazed at the heat of the place. I never even left the terminal, but I could feel the heat coming through the windows near where I was sitting. Lord, I thought South East Texas was bad. We took off on time, and I was able to sit next to a couple of guys who were going to the con, so the 1.5-hour flight to San Diego was quick!
Finally! In San Diego! Yea! I get my luggage and grab a cab to get to the Omni San Diego, which is a stones throw away from the convention center. The cabbie had his windows down as we followed the bay down to the hotel. I commented to the cabbie “Hell, I’ve been here 10 minutes and I already love the weather.” He laughed and said he got that all the time. We pulled up to the hotel, and I asked if he took credit. Of course he didn’t, so he ate up the last of my cash (that and airport snacks. Bring some food with you if you fly. Much cheaper!)
The hotel was an incredible place to stay, if not the best managed place in the world. Upon arriving I gave them a debit card to cover ‘incidentals’ (WotC paid for the hotel, flight and per diem, but not incidentals). They proceeded to hit my card for 1500 bucks, which was over my limit, SIX TIMES! My card company wouldn’t do anything about it, and the hotel said this was so people wouldn’t leave without paying for incidentals. Needless to say I was pissed, but no one would listen to me at all. Now I had no cash, and no credit (only one card) and it was to be three more days before I would get my per diem check. Thankfully there was a little money in my Paypal account that I was able to access to eat on that night, but it would not last for a week, that’s for sure.
With all my money tied up, I ate cheaply and went back to the hotel where I watch S.W.A.T. (yuck) and went to sleep. About 1am, my roommate Chris came in from his flight. We sleepily introduced ourselves and crashed again.
**Con Day 1: The Setup and a Preview **
Both Chris and I woke up early as we were both ahead due to our respective time zones, and went to get breakfast. We found a little cafe, and learned that we were both pretty much alike in the way we grew up. We also had some similar experiences, so we quickly became friends. We had a volunteer meeting at Noon, so we goofed off for a while and sauntered over to the convention center about an hour and a half early. We checked in with our Con manager, and walked the hall watching everyone setup.
I just could not believe the size of this place. If I had to wager a guess, the San Diego Convention Center is a half-mile long and a thousand yards wide. This place was HUGE, and filled with all things GEEK! Giant posters, HUGE action figues and a life size replica of an X-Wing. swoon The comic shops at the front of the hall (the 100-1200 aisle) were just setting up, but you could tell that these guys and gals were ready for a long weekend.
Our meeting was short, and to the point. We got our instructions, the booth captain was chosen and off we went to setup. It only took a short time for all this, so we were out to do what we wanted until 4:30pm, when we would have to return for preview night. During preview night, people who bought four day passes to the con got to come in and get first grab at all the free crap, and trust me, there was a cubic butt-load of free crap going around, from books, to figures, and stickers. It was insane! The WotC booth was giving out two player starter sets for all our games, along with pins, promo cards, lanyards, cups, and many, many more. A number of people said we had the best free crap. Good feelings!
I spent Preview night doing Magic: the Gathering demos, and by the end I had done over forty demos! That’s a lot of new people learning the game! We were all tired after preview night was over, but we had a good time and were looking forward to the next day. We were told to be at the booth by 9:15am, and were released.
Chris and I found an Irish bar/restaurant called The Field and stuffed myself on Potato Leak chowder and Fish and Chips. Had a couple of Guinness’ while I was there as well, so it was a good time. Since I was low on cash, Chris picked up the tab with my promise of getting him back later in the weekend.
I really want to thank Chris for his help during those first couple of days. I was kind of worried about being hungry since I was so low on cash, and he really stepped up to help a guy out. Not too many people would do that for someone they just met, Chris is a great guy.
**Con Day 2: The First Day **
Chris and I got up early and sauntered over to the Cine Cafe to grab an egg and cheese bagel and the morning fuel of all Geeks, Dr. Pepper. My wife’s check had also hit the bank that morning, so I finally had some money! Whew!
We were running a little behind, but the morning meeting hadn’t started yet, so we wolfed down the sammich and went to get set up for the day.
I started the day doing more Magic: the Gathering demos, but was shifted over to the Risk: Godstorm table and ran that the rest of the day. The big difference between doing the two is that for board games like Risk, there is a LOT of talking. Almost constantly really, so that by lunch I had to get some tea to sooth my poor vocal cords.
Before I left the con, I was talking to a friend of mine who had been to San Diego before. He said everything was expensive, and boy howdy it was. I grabbed a burger; some fries a soda and a bottle of water on site and paid $15.00!!! Holy crap! On top of that, the burger tasted like something you get in high school. Very industrial! Bleck!
I didn’t get to walk around too much, as we were really busy, but I did get to go see Donoto Giancola, who is one of my favorite artists in Magic. I met him originally during Pro Tour: Houston in November of 2002 (Magic: the Gathering has 5 $200K purse tournaments each year), and we quickly became friends. As soon as I get the money together I plan on getting a tattoo of his version of the Shivan Dragon on my back. We talked about this, and he promised to get the line drawing to me soon.
I was also able to get to see Scott Kurtz, who draws the online webcomic pVp. I was actually turned on to pVp by this board, although I don’t recall who it was that linked to it. Maybe Fenris? Anyway, Scott was very gracious and was happy to sign his first Image book for me, and I promised to swing by later when I had more time to pick up some of his stuff.
The second half of Thursday was a big blur. Lots of Godstorm, lots of Magic. I did a couple of errands for my booth mates (running to get water, or more product when needed) and generally tried to make myself as useful as possible.
By the end of the day we were exhausted, but in a good way! Everyone in the booth was happy with the way things went and at our end of day meeting; our convention manager invited us all out to dinner at The Spaghetti Factory! Excellent!
Chris and I went back to the hotel, showered (not together, you perv) got dressed and headed down to the restaurant which was about two blocks from the hotel. There were 20 people around a big table and we had some excellent food and drink. I was a bit upset at their lack of beer selection. I asked the waiter what sort of dark brews he had. When he replied that they had none, I asked about micro brews. He offered one, and brought out the thinnest, clearest beer I have ever seen. During the few days before I had told some people about my dislike for beers that I can see through and got a bit of ribbing for my ‘choice’ of beer. The food was really great though.
After dinner we sat around the table and told jokes, and learned a bit more about each other. A couple of the guys thought it would be a good idea to get some cigars and walk around the Gaslamp Quarter, which is the historical heart of San Diego. Basically means that all the chain restaurants are there. It really was nice, but very crowded.
We broke from dinner, and found that it was myself, my roommate Chris and another guy from Colorado, Ken. During dinner Ken was the center of attention with his humor and good jokes, so I was happy to be spending time with him. We parted company from the rest of the group and started down 5th street until we came to a Cuban rolled cigar shop. Neither of the other two guys smoked cigars (although Ken smoked cigarettes) so they turned to me for suggestions. I suggested something light and small, and they choose a Maduro. It wasn’t the smallest, but I think that it was a good choice for those who hadn’t smoked before. I had a Torpedo Maduro. Ken picked up the tab for the smokes, and we started walking down the Gaslamp looking for a drinking spot.
I was really surprised at the amount of cigar shops in the area. We must have passed three of them on the way to our final destination of the night, which was a small bar that had an outside porch. I wish I could remember the name of the place, as it was really cheap and had a good selection of beer. I jumped in and bought the first round for everyone. Ken and I had a nice Amber and Chris got a Miller Lite :rolleyes:
As I walked out on the porch, I passed three, tough looking guys drinking and smoking. I said hello, and set the drinks down for my new friends. We drank pretty quickly, as the cigars were a bit dry unfortunately. Ken went in to get the second round, and when we came back I heard one of the tough guys talking in a deep, south Texas accent. I walked over and introduced myself to them the near-drunken hopes that they wouldn’t kill me. They didn’t, so I asked the Texan where he was from and he replied “Katy, Texas brotha, wahre ewe from?” I laughed and told him I was from Houston (the cities are connected). Turns out the three guys were Merchant Marines, and were there on leave. We cracked a few jokes with them, and then they had to split.
The three of us sat around for the next couple of hours and forged our relationship. At some point between the second and sixth beers of the night we were talking about the most famous redneck of all, Jeff Foxworthy. He has a line about how single people have the best sex stories. “So there I was, tied to a bed. When she walked in she had some jumper cables and some 40 weight!” Ken is a single guy, and we all got a huge kick out of the line that we used it all weekend.
After six or seven Ambers I was about ready to pop. I was drunk, but if I had gotten just one more I would have been plastered. Thankfully, Chris felt about the same way so we sauntered back in the direction of the hotel where we ran into a famous Magic: the Gathering artist that will remain nameless (but when he reads this he is going to know who he is ). He did the art for a card that is really cool, but the card is not very powerful in the game. For some reason (beer) I was able to tell him just how much I enjoyed the art, and why I liked it so much. Its tough to have an artist soul and have absolutely zero artistic talent.
When we got back to our room, I jumped in bed and crashed.
I forgot to call Jenn. Oops.
Con Day 3: The Pain
Our wake up call drags us out of bed at the ungodly hour of “Oh shit! We gotta get up dude!” We ran over to Cafe Cine again and grabbed Dr. Pepper, and some chips. I was about to find out that I needed to get some Advil too.
As we were walking back toward the convention center, I noticed clouds were rolling in from the Pacific. At the time I didn’t give it much thought. We got into the booth, and used up our Get Out of Being in Trouble card on our lateness. The day started with me running Godstorm at the front of our booth. As I said before, Godstorm had a lot of new rules that needed to be explained to every person that sat down and played the game. About an hour into the day I felt a small sinus drip start in the back of my throat. It just was a tickle at first, but by 11:30 it had formed into a scratch that went all the way down my throat.
I took my lunch at Starbucks and drank 2 cups of tea. Since the line was SOOOOO long (it took 40 minutes to go through the line, and we only had an hour for lunch) I wasn’t able to get anything for the pain. Our Booth Captain had mints, which helped, but there would be no way I could do any major amount of talking for the rest of the day. Thankfully I was able to help her do the work running the booth. I was ok talking to someone close by, but I could not run a game at all.
As the day wore on, my throat got better and better. So much so that by the end of the day I was feeling much better, and I vowed that I would not drink for the rest of the weekend, which I kept too. I am so proud.
During the day, one of Chris’ friends came by the booth and volunteered to help run demos during the lunch break portion of the show (and by the way, if you are ever interested in walking up to a WotC booth and volunteering, the are always willing to help! And they will give you some free crap, so come on down!). So after the show was over, he joined Ken, Chris and I up in our room to figure out just what the hell we were going to do that night.
After some serious, long-winded, spirited conversation (read: near riot) we decided to get some pizza and see a movie. More long-winded, spirited conversation (read: kicking and screaming) we decided to go see The Bourne Supremacy and a restaurant that Chris friend recommended. We took our time getting there, but once we got to the street that it was supposed to be and it wasn’t there. Urk. More conversation ensued and we decided to go to The Hard Rock Cafe. Thankfully a 50 minute wait time forced us across the street to a pizza joint that had a bit shorter wait time.
Chris and his friend went off to chat alone, and Ken and I were left to our own devices. As most of you smokers know, when given a choice smokers will choose to stand and smoke than to walk anywhere. So we stood around in front of the restaurant giving the people sitting on the porch area of the pizza joint a show with our comments on a variety of subjects including, but not limited to the female members of the community walking by (Bullshit to English translation: we ogled chicks).
After about 40 minutes of waiting, the four of us finally got a table. The pizza was excellent, and we had an interesting conversation about the past history of Magic: the Gathering.
After dinner we slid down a few blocks and went to see the movie at the Pacific 15. The Bourne Supremacy was an interesting movie, and I liked the plot and characters quite a bit. The only real issue I had was the camera work. During every action filled scene, they shook the camera around so much that it was hard to make out what was going on. There are literally minutes of footage that I had no idea what was going on. Even something as simple as running down a street caused the camera to jerk and shake. Near the end of the movie during the car chase ™, a man in front of me got up and moved to the side of the theater and was rocking back and forth like he was woozy. Very disconcerting. I have noticed that more and more movies doing this lately.
The four of us walked back to the hotel, where Chris’ friend had to leave to head home. After some good-natured ribbing, he left and Chris and I hit the sack after a bit of Celebrity Poker.