Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Comic Con: Worry Not, by John Garcia

 Hey folks, Editor Mike here. We asked John, who's been a longtime Comic-con goer, what his thoughts were on the changes to Comic-con 2014, and whether they'd spell out the doom many have predicted. He doesn't think so, and wrote us an article on each worry he sees running around the internet right now. What do you think?

Worry #1: “They took away the 4-day Option!”

From this update: http://www.comic-con.org/toucan/comic-con-2014-registration-update-4

- Yes, they did, but it is pretty much a cosmetic change. You can check the “Preview Night” option, and it will automatically check ALL FOUR DAYS as well.

1.1 “What if I don’t want preview night?”

- You’ll just have to manually click three more days, no biggie.

Comic Con International did this to stop people from well, being greedy. It stops you long enough, and visualizes it in front of you all the days that a full pass REALLY entails. Some people just hear “Full pass” and want it immediately, and sometimes, they end up not going all the days anyway, often times, leading to a random Thursday or a Sunday that could have gone to someone else. Plus, to cut down even more, there is NO LONGER A DISCOUNT for getting all four days. The cost of 4 days combined is the same as a 4-day pass.

Another reason is also right there on the screen, if you read between the lines: “If any one of the four single day badges are sold out (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday), the Preview Night checkbox will not be available for purchase.” For many who have gone through that Comic –Con badge purchasing gauntlet, clicking on a “Full Pass/4-Day Pass” option is very risky because between the time you click on that button and the time you get to the final checkout, some of those days will disappear. This has CAUSED ERROR MESSAGES leading to people getting kicked out of the line entirely, or not being able to finish their registration. Of course there are back-ups to the system, but it seems like it would be an extra step to translate those a full pass to just 4 individual days.

As an example, last year, one person from my group of friends got to the front of the line, clicked 4-day passes for herself and her husband. By the time she clicked the verify button, there was an error. When the error resolved itself, she had a full pass, but her husband had a Thursday, Friday, and Sunday pass. The Saturday passes sold out during that time, causing the error in recognizing a “Full/4-Day Pass.” I would think that making the purchases more modular in this sense makes it less likely for errors like this to occur, and for them to update the sold/unsold passes in real time.

Worry #2: “It’s a lottery now?!”


- Yes, but it's been a lottery for pretty much the same the last three or so years. You are fooling yourself if you think that everyone clicking on 9 am will be placed in order according to the very slight variations in time in between those thousands upon thousands of clicks. It has been a lottery for a long time now, and since CCI has realized that, the system is not a first-come-first serve only basis, but a randomized lottery system, to specifically handle all these numbers.

- To clarify, this is how it works (well, a lot of it will depend on understanding #3, but for the meantime, we’ll say you are assigned a specific registration session). So yeah, you get a “Registration Session,” and you can enter that registration session within that time period. Your place in line is determined randomly (showing up early won’t help or hinder your place), so the system won’t crash with everyone trying to get in at the beginning of the session. THEN, there is also a separate time you can purchase, but you already have your place in line, so no one else should be clogging up registration who doesn’t belong there.

2.2 “It’s so unfair!”

- It’s actually absolutely fair for everyone. People with faster computers don’t get an advantage. People who use bots have less of a chance since the system is not predicated on things spamming the system anymore.

2.3 “Will there be a strategy?”

- I have one, which at the time this article is being written would theoretically still work, but it may not depending on new information we get. Past years, my friends and I were served well by being just friends and registering together since EACH PERSON CAN REGISTER 3 PEOPLE (including him/herself). So, just have a group of friends, be in groups divisible by three, and register together. Hopefully one or two from your group will get through… and that’s six people.

Worry #3 “What’s this code registration stuff?!?!”


- Remember in #2 when I was saying you will be designated a registration period? This is how you get designated by the system. You get it a day or two in advance, input that code ANY TIME from 7 am to 8:59 am of that day to get your place in line. Showing up early or late here DOES NOT MATTER, so the system will not….. well, less likely clog up.

- At 9 am, the randomization happens. People who showed up in the 7 am to 8:59 am period will know their place in line by this time. After a few (make it more than a few) minutes, the line is formed and people will be able to purchase their passes according to the randomized place in line given to them.

- Also DON’T PRESS REFRESH. Doing so will somehow make the system think you have entered your code a second time, you’ll lose your randomized place in line. You’ll have to start at the back of the line behind everyone who already has a randomized place from the 7-8:59 am time period.

3.3 “What if I miss the 7 to 8:59 am time to input my code?!”

- It seems like you can still enter the room, but behind all the people with randomized numbers. The line closes 15 minutes after sales start (when the lines start moving). I’m still a bit unclear on this one.

Worry #4: “Oh no, I saw on social media that so many professionals and/or media and press people are getting their badges ahead of us!”

- Yes, they are, but it’s actually a good thing. There has ALWAYS been a set allocation of passes for not just exhibitors, but also professionals, media/press, and some of these designations include guest passes. These passes never affect the amount of passes available to the general public.

- The more important part of getting the pros and media/press out of the way before general passes is that in years that they get their passes after the general public, a percentage of them would also be forced to get a regular pass because their designated passes are uncertain. This was even in the Comic-Con FAQ for Pros and Media/Press as an answer to “What if I am uncertain about my verification?” They are told to get a regular pass as a “Safety Pass,” and they can get a refund if or when their pro or media/press passes are approved later on, which was such a waste, and it took passes away from people who actually would just keep the passes anyway.

Worry #5: “It’s so much work to go, is it worth it?”

- Your mileage will vary, but it is an experience to behold. Personally, while the convention, itself can be given a run for it's money by other conventions and even lose in some regards because of its long lines and stuff….

- The thing that you cannot miss is DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO during Comic Con. If you are like my friend who missed a day, you’ll have plenty of things to do around downtown. The city transforms, not just in a superficial waiters wearing costumes, but the attractions, buildings and even conventions happen around SDCC! That is irreplaceable. Conventions can be anywhere else, but only in SDCC, do you see a city take part like this.

- Last year, there were two conventions, a video game convention that opened once the exhibit hall closes, and stayed open until until 2 am; The other was a pop art convention with workshops like “Life drawing… of aliens!”

- There was the Godzilla Experience, The Nintendo Lounge, the Sega Arcade last year, to name a few venues. There is always NerdHQ. There was the Assassin’s Creed Pirate ship with lots of activities, giveaways, and attractions, including actors pretending to be other convention-goers who GET ASSASSINATED IN FRONT OF YOU! You also had a city-wide scavenger hunt that, if finished, gave tickets to the Video Games Live concert somewhere else in downtown that weekend. There are many parties and fan gatherings. There are random celebrities just walking around. The night I met Mike Fatum from this site, I met, conversed, and shock hands with Kevin Smith, Ian McKellan, and Bruce Timm just walking around downtown.

John Garcia has been attending San Diego Comic Con since July 2000. He is a Professor of English, specializing in popular culture, comparative literature, and postcolonial studies. He is also an artist and character designer for Smorgasbord Productions.

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