New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2013 has come and gone, but the memories will last forever. At least that’s what you might have been led to believe by the unsolicited Facebook and Twitter posts that NYCC made on behalf of unsuspecting guests. I’m not just going to harp on what the convention organizers did wrong, though, because they did a lot of things right as well. With a convention this large, it’s impossible to get everything right, so let’s discuss the good and the bad of NYCC 2013.
The Good: Cosplay
Cosplay, cosplay, cosplay! NYCC is a mecca for nerds of all stripes, and the sheer number of people dressed in costumes this year was absolutely staggering. I would swear that at least one in three people I saw had at least some semblance of a costume on, and many of them had full, elaborate, and masterfully created costumes displaying their passion for and connection to the characters they were portraying. From the uncanny Blade Wolf at the entrance to the wandering Vega, the cosplayers at NYCC are second to none. If you haven’t seen them, you need to check out our cosplay galleries: Day One and Day Two.
The Bad: “Tap In/Tap Out”
Technology is amazing. I love the convenience of technology. It makes almost everything easier, and my smartphone’s GPS is the only way I ever found my way around New York City. (Why yes, I am directionally challenged.) Sometimes, however, people try too hard to use new technology, and it just doesn’t work as planned. NYCC 2013 had RFID chips in the badges, so you could scan in and out of the convention. This seems reasonable enough at a glance, as it prevents fraud, keeps people honest, and can even be used to offer them a glimpse into their customers’ behavior at the show. The big problem was that the “Tap In/Tap Out” scheme didn’t work as advertised. Instead of tapping your badge, you had to hold it for a few seconds against the scanner. In a small venue with a few hundred people, it might not be a big deal, but when you’re talking about 2-5 seconds for each scan for upwards of 100,000 people, you’re looking at long lines and lengthy waits just to get in the door. Of course, that’s best case scenario. During my four days there, my badge failed to authenticate no less than six times. After waiting in line to scan in, when this happened I would spend another 10 or more minutes in yet another line, just to get my badge rejiggered. A couple of hours waiting in line over the course of four days isn’t the end of the world, but it was a major inconvenience which could have very easily been avoided.
The Good: The People
Everybody I spoke to at NYCC this year was an absolute pleasure to interact with. From the staff to the cosplayers to the other exhibitors, everybody was thrilled to be there and eager to make new friends. If you’ve ever kept up with the Podcat, you can probably tell that I’m not always much of a talker, but I nearly lost my voice from interacting with so many incredible people over the weekend. Fans came by The Escapist booth and we talked about everything from Yahtzee’s writing style to our review methodology to our favorite games. One particularly amazing Escapist fan even brought us chocolate chip cookies with Oreos baked in (Thanks, soren7550!) They obviously didn’t last long. When you bring this many people together who are all passionate about the same things, conversation is easy. Meeting people, making friends, and forging bonds is easier at NYCC than practically anywhere else, simply because of the shared love of the culture that surrounds it.
The Bad: Social Media Manipulation
Facebook and Twitter are very personal things. Sure, you open yourself up to the world, but you do it because you want to share your thoughts, express yourself, or get the word out about something. It’s very common to find Share and Like buttons on every page of the internet, but very rarely do you see something so brazen as NYCC’s social media manipulation this year. As part of registering your badge, you could link up your Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m not huge on social media in general, but Janelle Bonanno lives for that stuff, so she didn’t think twice about linking her accounts. Much to her dismay, she checked her Facebook on Thursday and discovered this:
NYCC had taken full advantage of the integration, and started posting on Janelle’s behalf. Others experienced the same thing on Twitter, much outrage was had, and shortly thereafter NYCC stopped the practice. Suffice to say, it is never okay to post on people’s personal pages without their permission. Sure, it could be argued that permission was in the fine print, and they should have read more carefully, or just avoided linking up entirely, but the fact remains that this is not an acceptable approach to getting your message out there. I promised earlier that I wouldn’t harp on this, so I’ll just leave it at this: If you want to spread your message through social media, make it a compelling and shareable enough message that people will want to post it themselves.
The Good: Art(ists)
NYCC is something like the real-life counterpart to DeviantArt. Independent artists from all around gather there to showcase their work, try to get their name out there, and just share their love of creative endeavors with the masses. From writers to painters to CAD-designers, everybody at NYCC this year seemed to have something amazing to show off, sell, or just give away. There were painters working around the clock on the show floor, creating beautiful works on giant canvases taller than they were. One CAD designer hunkered down for four days at his booth showcasing V.e.r.a.1, an adorable cybernetic fox mounted with sensor arrays, which turned out to be one of my favorite items at the show. He was worried he might not sell anything. He sold out on Saturday. No, it’s not a functional autonomous rover, but the descriptions on the website and the backstory just go to show how much care went into its creation. Then there was Writopia, situated right next to The Escapist booth, where they spent the entire weekend recruiting people to take part in the creative process, and create their own super hero. Passion for the creative process was everywhere, and it was hard not to be excited with them.
The Bad: Creepers
As a male in the games industry, I have limited experience with the tribulations that women in nerd culture suffer. No, it’s not only found within the nerd culture, but I like to think that we nerds are collectively more enlightened than other subcultures, and so I tend to hold us to a higher standard. This year at NYCC, there was a well-publicized report of harassment from a particular video crew doing “interviews” at the con. From everything I’ve read, nothing was ever done about this despite the fact, as she points out in her post, that many teenage girls attend this con and may well have been subjected to similar treatment. I wasn’t there and I don’t know the full story, so I’m admittedly spreading hearsay here, but if the report is even remotely true and no action was taken, that’s a serious black mark against NYCC 2013. I realize that this kind of thing happens at practically every con in some form or fashion, but that doesn’t excuse it being permitted to continue after being reported.
The Good: Equality
While I’ve been with the company for almost 10 years, but I’ve been writing for less than two years, so 2013 was my first run on the convention circuit. I went to DICE, QuakeCon, E3, and PAX thanks to my press credentials, and I got accustomed to special treatment for anybody holding a press badge. Then I went to NYCC. If you’re a consumer, rather than press, I expect you’ll be pleased to know that this is the only convention I’ve been to where press gets zero special treatment. NYCC treats everyone equally. For consumers and professionals alike, if you want to see a panel or check out an exhibitor booth, you have to wait in line like everyone else. Sure, it’s a little frustrating when you’re trying to write about the show, and the only way to get into the Walking Dead panel is to get in line several hours early, but I think the fact that NYCC puts everybody on equal footing is something to be commended. NYCC doesn’t need the promotion and visibility that comes with press coverage – there are already more than 100,000 people attending and, based on my experience, they couldn’t possibly squeeze more in there. This makes it the most consumer-friendly event I can think of. E3 is, at least in theory, an industry-only event. PAX exhibitors frequently offer immediate access to anybody with a press badge. NYCC stands alone as the convention for consumers, where the press gets to wait in line with every other con-goer.
The Bad: Crowds and Lines
This almost goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways: NYCC needs to restrict their attendance or get a bigger venue. Since I don’t know that a bigger venue even exists, I expect the former option is the only real way to go. If you’ve been to other conventions, you are probably fairly used to crowds, even throngs of people. The crowds at NYCC trump anything I’ve seen. It’s a massive crush of bodies in a very confined space, and it quickly becomes very difficult to navigate. When it takes five minutes to walk a hundred feet, it’s time to reconsider the setup. I have to assume that the attendance numbers are in line with fire safety laws, but I can’t even imagine – heaven forbid – if something were to require evacuation of the Javits Center. With this many people in one space, naturally comes lines. Lines for the bathroom, lines for coffee, lines for food, and, of course, lines for panels.
For Example: I showed up an hour early for the Walking Dead panel. “Where is the queue for Walking Dead?,” I asked the staffer at the door. “They’ve been turning people away for hours now. People have been lining up since 9 o’clock this morning,” he responded politely. I learned later that many of these people were camping out in the panel room, watching all of the panels of the day while waiting for their panel of choice. I understand that you can’t always fit everybody that wants to see a panel into the room, but to have people waiting for nine hours seems a little absurd to me. Maybe there’s a way to expand into the nearby buildings for next year, or simply restrict the number of badges. I’ve developed a tolerance for heavy crowds this year, to be sure, but NYCC was a whole different beast.
Ultimately, NYCC 2013 was a great experience. Not only for me, but for practically everybody I talked to. There’s room for improvement, sure, but I won’t say that I didn’t have a good time. Even when I missed the panel I most wanted to see, I spent the hour wandering instead and had a stellar experience the entire time. If you’re a part of the nerd culture, and really want to immerse yourself in it for a weekend, get your tickets to NYCC 2014 early, because they’re bound to sell out fast. Not to mention that it’s a great excuse to spend a couple of days in New York City. Who doesn’t <3 NY?