I am always a little envious of people who work in places where they can nerd out with their coworkers. Maybe they can discuss Game of Thrones with everyone in the office the Monday after it comes out. They might know someone else who is waiting with bated breath for Star Trek: Discovery. Other people might know a coworker or two who loves anime and manga on the down low. I don’t have that luxury. There are no such geeks in my department. But there was a curious change this year. People, where I work were, discussing New York Comic Con.
Now most of the conversation was catty and uninformed. It is not like everyone I work with was magically educated by Felicia Day while I was not looking. These are still the people who actively wish harm on people who play Pokémon Go. The important fact was that they were discussing it like a piece of celebrity gossip or a general interest piece of current events. There might have been bigger signs that New York Comic Con has become an event of much magnitude in has entered the mainstream consciousness but none of them are as personal.
By the way, I did not engage with any of these conversations. I am not a moron. I just wanted to note they existed.
So as always Kate and I will try to cut to a slice of the giant pie that is NYCC. You would need a team of a dozen writers to cover everything that happened and you would still miss a dozen events and points of interest just because of the fluid nature of the event. We never try to give our readers that sort of overview. What we hope to do is share our experience that hopefully is a little more inline with what people who read the blog might be interested in.
Hopefully, you will come away with a better idea of some of the unreported parts of the colossal convention.
Look guys, New York Comic Con 2015 was kind of a high-point in my life so I made sure not to setup crazy expectations for 2016. That worked out for the best since I had an abbreviated visit to the convention. There was nothing wrong with NYCC 2016 as far as I could see, it was simply a solid if not especially remarkable year.
NYCC is always evolving so a good place to start is with what is new at the convention. The first major change was everything surrounding the badges. It started with the Fan Verification system. How well it worked depends on who you ask. I found it rather intuitive and was able to use it rather intuitively. My mother, who is hardly the most computer savvy person, was able to use it as well with no real hiccups. I heard some talk of people not getting the system at the Con Feedback panel about people they knew missing on tickets because of them system but they almost always revolved around the people involved not following the directions they were given. I think it helped cut down the scalping and freed up more tickets for people but that just might be a trick of my perception but it seemed like we got out tickets much easier this year.
Also, the new system allowed them to place your ticket for the Main Stage on the RFID chip on the badge. For the last few years, they decided to cut down on the rush to get seats at the extremely popular events on the Main Stage (as well as camping) by giving away wrists bands at the start of each day. If you got that wristband you had a guaranteed seat at any Main Events panel you attended. If you were dedicated (and a bit strategic) you could even get multiple wristbands. Now instead of making you wear a wristband all day they just place a flag on your badge which does the same thing but now just adds it to something you have to carry around anyway. As a side bonus, it really made the line for getting your Main Stage ticket move lightening fast
Let’s all praise the free WiFi at the Javits center. At this point, while it is not a necessity free WiFi is an amazingly appreciated feature. It eases communication, lets everyone update their schedule app, and it just amazingly convenient. It also let me play Fate/Grand Order but that is neither here nor there. It makes everything so much simpler and made sure I could easily meet up with everyone for dinner or meet for panels. It also just made waiting in lines 1000% less arduous which is always manna from heaven.
I love that they are taking this RFID badge technology further each year. I didn’t happen to go to Main Events this time around to test it out personally, but I like the results all the same. I do have something of a concern about whether it is now sooo easy to reserve a spot whether people are doing so and then not showing up. But hopefully that is just a drop in the bucket compared to those who are coming back for their specified event.
More badge tech could be found throughout the convention. Plenty of booths were using it to sign you up for newsletters or email alerts. There were stations to tap your badge and you could win prizes. Just like Main Events you could tap in for video game demos. And many places used it to keep track of who had gotten free items along the way through the show floor. They’ve done so much I’m not sure what else there is to do with the badges! But I have a feeling they will surprise me.
I made the annual trip to the Con Feedback panel because it is always a goldmine of information about the experiences of people with very different interests at the convention. As I mentioned there is so much of the convention I never get to so being able to see so I always am fascinated at how
So let’s get this out-of-the-way: The Walking Dead panel was the battleground it usually is. At this point, it would be far more surprising if it was not a mini-Apocalypse. I really wonder what will happen to NYCC when that show ends. What series will slide into that slot when the omnipresent zombie show is over? Will it change the vibe and scope of the convention or will it just be a simple transition?
Oddly enough the first lady who spoke up at the panel set the tone because she started with some things she liked before she went into making complaints. As always there were a few people who were so platinum mad that saying something nice was not something they could even think of doing but it really set the general tone.
One bit of good news was that they learned that the Javits Center could switch bathrooms to be gender neutral so they were going to take advantage of that next year. They only learned that they could do this on Friday so they did not want to do that in the middle of the convention but realized it could help a whole bunch of people next year. Someone also wanted more visibility for the cosplay changing room since they still found a good deal of cosplayers changing in the stalls. It is not that much of a problem with the guys but since there were already long lines for the women’s room if you then add stalls being used as changing rooms it only made the lines worse.
Speaking of that there were a bunch of “stop people from being monsters” style complaints. A few people either complained about line cutting, poor panel etiquette, attendees being roadblocks in congested crowds, extremely large cosplay hitting people, and various other forms of rudeness and rule breaking. In general, the convention tries to cut down on the number of people flagrantly breaking the rules but more subtle faux pas is hard to police. Bad questions from the audience are not really something you can kick people out for like harassment or line cutting. My only strong suggestions to clear that up would be to have someone vetting questions during Q&As but that would require extra staff in every panel room. An easier solution would be to add a general convention etiquette campaign with some rules posted around the convention and it’s materials like the Cosplay is Not Consent campaign. It would hardly stop all the bad questions but it would increase awareness to anyone who pays attention to the material.
The Artist Alley was my first stop this year as it has become a highlight of the convention over the years. Comixology had a big presence in this area this year with giant banners hanging from the rafters and a booth about half way down along the wall on one side which hosted signings throughout the convention.
The variety in the alley was good with big talent alongside newer and more independent talents. I felt like I saw a few less print centered tables and a definite increase in those selling original comics and fanbooks.
I really liked that the back wall housed some hanging art as well as giant coloring page of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Anyone with a marker and some artistic flair was invited to draw all over it!
Everyone we talked to had a simple thought about the NYCC app: It was a trash fire. Normally NYCC slowly but surely improves everything they do. Some problems may stick around longer than you would like and new problems all come up but overall there is a very clear and demonstrable improvement every year. The scheduling app was just terrible and actually was several steps backward in many regards.
The biggest problem is the simple fact that it actually looks up to a minute for the app to load up panels. Whenever you booted up the program and went to look at panels it would tell you that there were no panels in the schedule yet despite the fact that there have been panels up for a while. In fact, I did not even realize they added panels to the app for a while until I played with the program long enough to notice it took awhile for the panels to pop up in the app. It is one of those problems that would have been a minor discomfort if it happens occasionally but since it happened every time you opened the program it very quickly became insanely aggravating.
One top of that the program INSISTED on updating the app before loading up unless you absolutely had no Internet connection. Normally this is a good safety precaution. It makes sure that you have the most up to date information whenever you open the app so you don’t plan around an event that was either canceled or moved but the problem was the program did not know when to gracefully give up. The earlier iterations would quickly check for a connection and then either update or move on. This year the app would just idle looking for updates. That meant anywhere with a spotty Internet connection or a phantom connection would just have the app sit there waiting for an update that either never came or took far too long to come.
A minor problem was that the Push Notifications could often be like being hit with a fire hose considering how frequent and numerous they often were. You often got a half a dozen of them whenever you booted up the app during a slow time and a baker’s dozen during the peaks hours. They were so frequent and so often not what you cared about it made it easy to miss what you cared about in the sea of spam. At the Con Feedback panel they mentioned they would make the Push Notifications customizable next year but it was super annoying this year.
I will say I did like two changes. You could now view your My Schedule section could be seen as a grid as well as a list. It is a very minor improvement but it was a very welcome one that I often used. Also, they clearly saw how people reacted to the automatic tweeting last year so all the privacy settings on the app were very clearly set up from the beginning in a way that took the controversy from last year into consideration.
This marks the first year that I’ve attend New York Comic Con for less than the entire event. It has been a staple three days, then four days, of ultimate nerd basking; but my streak was broken this year. Honestly, it was actually weird! If you are like me and have a vast amount of interests, there is simply too much to see and do at NYCC with just two days to do it. Heck, I didn’t even leave the main building and I still didn’t see it all.
This year overall was a little strange. Normally we have a full crew for NYCC so we all rolled in as a group and then got dinner together at the end of the day. Oddly enough despite the fact that well all got tickets various oddities of timing, misfortune, and obligations made it that several people could either could not go all four days, had to leave on their own, or were busy with work. That meant that our normal big dinner at the end of the convention did not happen. Everyone usually breaks off to do their own thing during the convention occasionally running into each other. For some reason without those little dinners every night it made my experience feel much more solitary even if nothing majorly changed. It did not ruin anything in the least but it did make the convention take on a different vibe.
Still, I had a good experience. I actually got to see most of the major events I wanted to see. I saw both Japanese guests, got into all my priority panels, and still had time to explore the showroom floor and even take a breather or two when I needed it. I missed several things and hardly scratched the surface of the convention and I had all four days, unlike Kate. But since I hit all my goals I felt super satisfied.
I am very curious about the future of the convention but I will talk more about that in the anime and manga section. Until then I wait for the information overload that NYCC 2017 will be,
Before I go I wanted to mention that if you’re curious about a very different perspective on the convention I interviewed by sister and mother who attended this year. While our tastes all intersect at points they both saw a good deal of the convention I would have never seen.