*tap tap tap* This thing on?
In my conference planning days, during the week or so following one of our conferences we would have a big 2-3 hour post-mortem meeting to discuss the good and the bad and make improvements for the next conference. So BlizzCon was weird for me in that while I was there as a first-time attendee, I also couldn’t help but look at it from a planner’s perspective. BlizzCon itself is… well, intense is the only word that even comes close to describing it. It’s not for the faint of heart.
First Impressions. Walking into the main floor of the conference center for the first time, with lights and screens everywhere and as the MASSIVENESS of the convention hits you is phenomenal. The showmanship and “fun” factor is off the charts, to the point of being overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. But that’s a good thing. Also, big kudos to the IT team and whomever set up all the gameplay stations and the systems that run the show. Seriously, that was impressive.
The content. There was so much that it got really difficult to decide what to do at any one time. This is excellent, although they’re reaching critical mass now with all of the e-Sports and they really should consider a third day at this point. I would have loved to have seen a Legion music panel.
Pre-Parties. Not directly Blizzard-related, but the Con Before the Storm pre-party was fantastic. It was laid-back, chill, you could move around and see people, meet up, chat, and so on with no problems. The WowHead party had a completely different feel and felt targeted to a different crowd. Options are good!
Food. Options in and outside of the convention center were excellent, if a little overpriced, but I expected that.
Shopping. The blink shopping worked nicely, although I’m not sure if it really made the shopping lines any shorter on Thursday during ticket pickup, when a lot of people hit up the store. Since this is my first BlizzCon, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but we stood in line for about an hour with blink shopping. If you’ve been to BlizzCon before, what say you? Better? Worse?
Smells – or lack thereof. It really didn’t smell bad that I noticed. For all the talk about “smelly nerds”, I didn’t smell anything offensive. Good job on the deodorant & toothpaste, guys! 😉
Kristian Nairn at the 25th Anniversary Party. Seriously he was fantastic. Would love to see him again!!
Weird Al as the closing performance. HE ABSOLUTELY KILLED IT. The guy knows how to rock and play to the audience. And at the very end, hearing almost all of BlizzCon singing the Star Wars song and Yoda at the end along with him was the most beautiful marriage of three different nerdy fandoms that I’ve ever seen.
The StaffPro people. These are contractors hired by either Blizzard or the convention center to help keep things moving, and to be honest, they were terrible and the source of much frustration for attendees. They get their own bullet points:
- The Staff/Media exit from the main stage area to the hallway needs to be marked clearly as such, with a large banner ABOVE the doors. After the Opening ceremony, people were pushing towards those doors because they were open but not marked, and StaffPro people were there turning people away with a rather bad attitude. There may have been banner stands, but if there were, they weren’t visible. People were crammed up against each other in a crowd surge towards those doors so you couldn’t easily flow in the direction the staff were waving you to, tempers flared between the staff and the attendees, and it was a definite safety concern.
- I heard several StaffPro people talking trash about attendees on the show floor. Not appropriate. I get that people have to vent, but they should do so in a staff area.
- StaffPro people were yelling at attendees when they tried to “Enter” through an “Exit” door. Of course they need to do such things for safety reasons, but yelling with a bad attitude is not acceptable.
- For the 2nd floor/staff floor, I would recommend setting up large free standing graphic banners to create a dual hallway area & encourage attendees to keep moving between the 1st & 3rd floors. Again, the interactions with StaffPro people were not positive here because they acted like they were herding cattle instead of hosting an event, and attendees were not allowed to stop on the 2nd floor for any reason.
- I really can’t emphasize enough how frustrating the StaffPro people were – it was so bad that first day that my husband considered not going back the second day. We did go back and we ended up having a great time anyway, but that initial experience was not positive.
Moving between floors. All elevators/escalators should be open immediately following the opening ceremonies. Too many people leaving at once and too many bottlenecks that first day.
The contest host debacle. All I will say about this is that the host wasn’t to my taste, but the bullying from some of our community was uncalled for. Comedy is a funny thing (no pun intended). Obviously if a comedian comes in and tries to make jokes without knowing the audience, he’s going to bomb big-time. But I don’t blame him entirely as I felt that he had not been properly prepped for this job. The contests are about the participants, not the host, but he hadn’t been prepped on how to pronounce names of the characters or the players that participated in the contests. That’s Blizzard’s responsibility to facilitate. My big question is WHY DO WE NEED A COMEDIAN AT ALL for this? I would much rather see a Blizzard staff person or community personality that knows and loves the Blizzard properties host the contests. Or, the pipe dream scenario: ask Chris Metzen if he’ll come back to host the contests. Hey, a girl can dream, right? 😉
There really needs to be a “relax & chill” area for attendees that need to get away from the hyped-up crowds for a bit, or for attendees that have physical limitations. The Hearthstone Tavern would have been PERFECT for this. Maybe expand it next year and have signage so that people know its not just for Hearthstone.
I want to talk about this a bit, especially as it relates to BlizzCon first-timers. I’m both claustrophobic and slightly agoraphobic, and anxiety is a very real thing that I struggle with. I don’t think this is all that uncommon among BlizzCon attendees. My husband has back problems and while he isn’t physically handicapped and looks perfectly normal, standing/walking for long periods of time will cause him major issues to the point of being unable to walk at all, and there were very few places to sit and take a load off for a while. There really should be a place in the convention center to relax and cool off away from the huge crowds and the California sun. Somewhere that people can gather and sit and chat and trade pins or play Hearthstone/MtG or whatever without having StaffPro people yelling at them to “keep moving” or feeling like they are at a rave. I really liked the Hearthstone Tavern because of the chill tavern music and the general calmer feeling, it’s just a shame that we didn’t find it until the second day since Hearthstone isn’t high on our priority list.
If you haven’t been to BlizzCon before and you want to go, I most definitely recommend it. It’s an unforgettable experience and despite some bumps in the road, it was still so incredibly worth it in the end. The most important thing is don’t feel like you have to do everything.
- Pick 2-3 things each day you really want to do, and concentrate on those.
- The major panels and e-sports are on the virtual ticket, so try to prioritize things that aren’t on the virtual ticket, like the art & voiceover panels, autograph sessions, etc.
- Build in time for retreating to your hotel for physical/mental rest and getting food.
- Don’t take Twitter or social media too seriously. It’s a great way to connect with other people at BlizzCon, but don’t compare your experience to that of other attendees. It’s so chaotic that it’s going to be unique for everyone, which is not a reflection on you personally.
- Give yourself and your friends a break. If you want to do different things, split up and do them. Give each other that flexibility, no strings attached.
- Bring 2 pairs of really comfy shoes. If you’re cold-natured & want to watch panels or eSports, bring a light jacket.
- And please, if you go to the Hilton bar or the evening parties, keep an eye on your drink and the drinks of your friends. Be safe. Be smart. Take care of each other.