Ah yes, opening this once again with an apology for the lack of updates. I’ve tried to chip away at writing things here and there, but life gets in the way. It’s been two weeks since I got back from my vacation and a part of me is still processing everything. The easiest way to explain SDCC is that it’s like a nerdy version of Las Vegas, full of sensory overload, hungover tourists, and way too many things you convinced yourself were doable in 4 days. Did I have fun? Absolutely, but it may have been a one-and-done for me. Not every convention is for every person, and I think this trip made me realize what I value in my con experience. Before you start hurling tomatoes in my general direction, read on and maybe you’ll understand what I mean!
I decided this was going to be my exploration day. SDCC is massive and takes up an entire convention center, neighboring hotels, and the Gaslamp Quarter, which is San Diego’s popular nightlife district. I spent a good 4 hours making my way through the massive exhibit hall, which was really well organized, but could’ve benefited from volunteers keeping the flow of traffic going. Since I have way too many prints now, apparently my new thing is buying shirts. I snagged The Last of Us Part II Ellie portrait from the Playstation store ($30), two Snotgirl exclusives through Big Bud Press ($35 each), and the handmade, cropped Black Widow hoodie from Hero Within ($60).
After checking out a game development panel, I decided to wait outside of the Bait store for Joe Manganiello’s new clothing line Death Saves, which is heavily inspired by D&D. I waited 4 hours (I thought it’d take half an hour) and ended up being the last person he did a meet & greet with, so that was pretty overwhelming. Getting him to sign my badge was awesome and I love the shirt I got (it reminds me of Skull Knight from Berserk) but unfortunately the brutal heat and excitement made me look a little crazy eyed in my photo. Nothing a heart eye filter can’t fix, though.
Day two unintentionally became my Geek & Sundry and Nerdist day. It’s no secret that Critical Role is a major part of my life, but over time I’ve gotten into some other G&S shows like Wednesday Club, Sagas of Sundry, and Fangirling. After a brief panel highlighting what the G&S brand plans on doing next, everyone moved outside of the convention center to the Nerdist house a few blocks away (Marisha signed my Keyleth tarot card before leaving, which was super kind of her). The offsite location felt a little cramped at times, but hey, it’s SDCC and nothing is exactly roomy. A lot of the props from the shows I loved were on display, including the ominous jenga tower that has probably given me a nightmare or two.
After watching an hour long Dread one-shot, I got to meet a lot of the G&S personalities. At one point, both Erika Ishii and I were getting teary eyed because I was telling her how much I loved Selina from the Sagas of Sundry and it tore me apart that we never got proper closure. Little moments like this definitely made the convention experience much greater for me, but overall, I was waiting for that butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling to make the time and money spent worth it. Thankfully, everything Critical Role related was the following day, and I knew this would be the highlight of my trip.
After sitting through 5 hours of various panels, I found myself front row for the Talks Machina (Critical Role‘s after show) live episode. The feeling I get when I see these nerdy ass voice actors is comparable to seeing my favorite band when I was a teenager or kissing someone I have a crush on. It’s no secret that I’m completely trash for this series, but I think this weekend reminded me of how monumental it is in my life now. A lot of my current friendships are found and nourished through this fandom. It gives me something to look forward to during my exhausting work week. I realized on Saturday that SDCC has mostly become a flashy spectacle, but there are pockets where community and solidarity can be found. Yes, you’re in the same building as A-list celebrities. It’s where all of the big, pop culture news is revealed. But for me, this moderate-sized room full of people who cherish the same thing as much as I do is the reason why I go to conventions and it’s the reason why SDCC personally isn’t for me.
That being said, the Critical Role panel was wonderful despite a few cast members missing (Laura and Travis had their baby and Ashley is stuck in Blindspot filming hell forever), but it was so fun bonding with other people around me before and after their hour long panel. You can watch it here, but be aware of some pretty heavy spoilers.
Afterwards I caught a late night panel with some of the minor Twin Peaks actors. I strolled around the downtown area a little bit, soaking in the warmth and bustling midnight energy in San Diego. I will admit, the location for this convention couldn’t be better and they did an amazing job at keeping the energy going no matter what time it was.
Sunday just feels like this distant, weird blur. I went to the Wednesday Club panel, bought anything from the exhibitor hall that I was feeling torn on, and pretty much aimlessly wondered about, reflecting on the overall trip (I also probably daydreamed about all of the little munchkins I hung out with at The Cat Cafe). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hit up any of the exhibitions, but I heard most of them were underwhelming considering their long waits. I ended up not doing quite a few things just because the line wait wasn’t worth it, or I knew there wouldn’t be enough slots. So it goes.
I don’t want this post to make me sound like I’m being negative, because I certainly did have fun and got to see a couple of dear friends who live far away from me now. But between a $230 badge, $500 flight, and every other cost in-between, I wish I would’ve saved most of that and went to Gen Con in Indianapolis instead. There’s always next year though and I’m really happy that I got to cross this one off my list. I would go to SDCC again if I worked within the industry or had a specific reason to be there, but from now on I think I’ll enjoy the panels, trailers, and other thrills from the comfort of my apartment.
CONVENTION CENTER RATING
- Location: 10/10. I have to say, they really have the layout down to a science and I can’t imagine it being anywhere else at this point. The area is beautiful, well secured, and clean. I wish I would’ve been able to go by the water more!
- Parking: ?/10. I didn’t park, but I overheard that some lots were charging $60 a day. No thanks.
- Accessibility: 7/10. I feel like being in a wheelchair here is a disaster. I can’t speak for their actual services for disabled folk, but any time I came across someone with equipment or a stroller, they seemed to have a hard time getting around.
- Cleanliness: 7/10. Not remarkable, but not disgusting either. A lot of the bathrooms were out of toilet paper and paper towel, though. I found myself putting a lot of trash in my own bag because I couldn’t find trash bins.
- Bathrooms: 7/10. I touched on this above. On the plus side, they have a lot of bathrooms and sometimes it’d be worth walking an extra few minutes to find a more hidden one. Lines usually weren’t an issue unless a panel had just ended.
- Staff: ?/10. I don’t think I’ve interacted with any of the actual convention center staff, so I can’t give a proper rating.
- Food: 8/10. I always pack my own food, but they had Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s, and a few above average vendors.
- Guests: 10/10. If you want to see the most popular guests, you go to SDCC. Sometimes it did feel surreal walking by a Supernatural signing or seeing remarkable comic book artists drawing at their booths. This con is basically every pop culture fan’s dream in terms of gawking at people in the industry.
- Panels: 10/10. If there’s a fandom or interest, there’s a panel. There were a shit ton of panels here, more than I could wrap my brain around. I mainly stuck to ones I knew were unique to SDCC, but even the smaller, industry ones were very engaging.
- Content: 9/10. Giving them a higher rating just because it’s so nice to walk onto an exhibitor floor and not see walls of Funko Pops staring back at you. Again, there were a lot of things here unique to this specific con, which made the trip more worth it. My only gripe was with how the artist alley was shoved into a small corner. SDCC definitely cares more about big names at this point, but I will always prefer giving my money to small artists with original creations rather than large corporations.
- Organization: 7/10. SDCC did an online raffle this year for a lot of the more popular booths and autograph sessions, which mostly pissed people off. (Frankly, I preferred it.) Obviously, when you cram 130,000+ people into a convention center, it’s not going to be spacious and I think they mostly did their best. One of my biggest gripes with any convention is that I think more signs would really save people frustration and increase the flow of traffic as well.
- Affordability: 7/10. My four day badge was $230 and my flight from Atlanta to San Diego was around $500. A friend of mine was awesome enough to let me stay with them for free (I probably would’ve never been able to afford it otherwise) and our shuttle to and from the convention center was free. SDCC definitely isn’t for people on a budget, but I do think you can still have fun without spending *a lot* of money.
- Staff: 6/10. I ran around like a chicken with my neck cut off for an hour trying to find the Twin Peaks autographs because I kept being told different things. I know the world didn’t revolve around me, but that frustration put a damper on my experience and I felt like nobody really cared if I got the right information or not. Someone also yelled at me for walking up a moving, empty escalator? A lot of the staff were definitely drunk on power, but there were some nice ones sprinkled in as well.