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NYCC Day 2: Saturday of the Damned
I’m no stranger to conventions, large or small. I haven’t made it to the Big Daddies (Anime Expo or San Diego Comic Con), but I annually attend Otakon, travel to Dragon-Con, and I go to most of the tri-state area conventions as well. Including Book Expo America, which is also held at Jacob Javits and is part of the ReedPop company’s conventions. I’ve been going to conventions for the last 5 years, in fact, and ordinarily I love every minute of it. I’m telling you all this so that you understand where I’m coming from when I say New York Comic Con was hell.
Those in charge of NYCC and New York Anime Fest decided to combine the two conventions for one monster convention. I’m guessing the rationale was that most of those attending one would attend the other, so why not give them two cons for one ticket? Completely understandable, and I think clever on their part (not to mention saving money by only taking up three days instead of six). The problem is that the Jacob Javits Center, though huge, isn’t kind to scattered conventions.
There was a very definite sense of inefficiency when one tried to contemplate how to get from Point A to Point B without having to travel through Points C-G to get there. The other problem was the multitude of staff giving different directions for everything. The security guards at the entry points were told to check for badges, but didn’t differentiate between the different levels. The NYCC Staffers (in the red shirts) would direct the high level of traffic from the registration/badge lines into the same line those with badges already were using to enter the convention center. The staffers in yellow shirts were too busy just bustling around to be of much help, or the help they gave was vague and incomplete. And then the booth staffers…I felt bad for them because they would be given specific instructions from the exhibitors but would often get overridden by the NYCC Staffers without any knowledge on the part of the exhibitors.
There was also the problem of the large exhibitor booths creating havoc. Ubisoft was demonstrating their soon-to-be released Michael Jackson game for the Wii. Had a huge stage set up so people could test it out. Problem? They were at the nexus of an entry/exit point and two other Exhibitor booths that had events going on. The crowds in front of Ubisoft made it almost impossible to get to the other Exhibitors without parting the mass of people like the Red Sea. And this was a personal issue for everyone stuck in the crowd, but worse for me because the smoke machine they had running caused me to have an asthma attack.
And the panels. Oh, the panels. I had half a dozen panels I wished to attend. Law of common sense should have been I arrive two hours before a panel I should have at least made the “waiting list” line. Not so at New York Comic Con. They have this rule that they don’t kick people out from preceding sessions. In fact on their website they say:
Do you clear the room between events?
We do not. So if media programming is your thing you can camp out all day. (from this page).
Pretty much guaranteeing if you have anything else to do that day besides attend that popular panel–say interviews? Business meetings?–you are screwed, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Don’t even bother complaining to the staff; they’ll tell you that you should have arrived earlier if you were that passionate about the panel. Actually don’t talk to me about the staff in charge of those doors; half the time I saw them sneaking their friends in.
You might be asking, did you enjoy any of the convention? I did. I met a lot of contacts I only know through email exchanges, I got to see some of the products up close (SquareEnix was demo’ing Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, due out in January 2011), and I found out a lot of interesting things. Like the price war drop between DC and Marvel or the new dolls Tonner was showcasing. And because everything was centralized to the one show, there was quite a lot of folks I wouldn’t ordinarily get to see altogether. So I honestly did have some good experiences (which will be a separate post).
There will always be a crush at big name conventions like NYCC; that’s unavoidable. Unfortunately, I hope that at some point they begin to use the space more efficiently–maybe place the Exhibitors who wish to have big demo arenas in their own corner instead of spread out?–otherwise attendees had better start to gird themselves. Become best friends with the people in charge of the panel doors, wear obnoxiously large costumes so people are forced to get out of your way, and get yourself your own T.A.R.D.I.S. to travel the convention center.