My girlfriend is a huge nerd, and she's enjoyed going to conventions for years. I have never been to a convention before. So when the San Francisco Comic Con was set to take place at the beginning of September, it presented her an opportunity to be around a bunch of fellow nerds, and an opportunity for me to see what a convention is actually like. As a bonus, Ian McDiarmid was set to make an appearance at a Q and A session, so we made seeing him our primary goal for the day.
Naturally, my first question was "should I cosplay?" Because pretty much all I know about conventions is that people like to dress up. I have an Indiana Jones costume, and for a few days leading up to the convention had a lot of back and forth debates with myself over whether I wanted to wear it or not. Eventually I decided not to. We were going to take a train to get there, and I didn't feel like sitting on a train dressed in a costume. Nor did I want to carry it in my backpack with me. My girlfriend chose not to for similar reasons. So, on the morning of the convention, with me in a Jurassic Park shirt and her in a Mara Jade shirt, we set off for adventure.
My first reaction (aside from the 'why does San Francisco always smell so bad’ reaction) was that this convention was... confusing. It took place in the Marriott hotel, and as soon as we walked in the door we were confused as to where we actually had to go to get our passes. There were no directional arrows, and no maps provided. Instead they wanted you to download a smartphone app, which is annoying in itself. But the hotel also did not provide free Wifi which made downloading an app even more frustrating. Not all of us have extensive data plans.
But we found the booth to get our passes (which at $40 per person were expensive compared to other conventions, I was told). By this time it was about 10:40, and we were rushing because we didn't want to be late for Ian McDiarmid. Of course there was no clear signage so we had to find someone to ask. Fortunately for us, we either got there early enough or no one else was super interested because we were one of the first people in line. We got seats at the very front of the room, with the only spots in front of us being those designated for those who needed the sign language interpreter. Except there wasn't a sign language interpreter there so... that was weird.
It ended up being a really good Q and A session. McDiarmid is an eloquent, entertaining speaker and he had great stories from both his work with Star Wars and outside of it. I’m not really a Star Wars fan, but I still really enjoyed it. I would have gone to get an autograph and a picture, but it was $80 for an autograph alone! I'm sure some people were willing to pay that, but I had no interest in doing so.
Afterward my girlfriend wanted to go to the Jenna Coleman panel, but unfortunately the line was super long and neither of us really wanted to wait in it. So instead we got some ridiculously overpriced pizza and then went to explore the exhibit hall. I was really looking forward to walking out with a piece of art, but there was nothing I saw that I wanted to spend money on. So my only souvenir is the convention lanyard, but that’s still cool.
After exploring the hall we were both getting kind of tired. The spaces were crowded, and neither of us really do well with crowds. But there were two more things we wanted to look at: the game floor, and a prop/costume exhibit. Really we just wanted to see what the game store was offering, which ended up being nothing unless you were a die collector. The costume museum was also, to be blunt, really lame. It had some Captain America, Batman, and Iron Man props/costumes, but there were only about seven of them total. Not being a fan of those characters, it had nothing to offer me.
At this point we were both getting toward the end of our energy levels. There were no other interesting panels, and nothing else really to see. So after getting lunch at a nearby restaurant, we left.
She told me that this was fairly small by convention standards, and that if I want a real convention experience I should make my way to Wonder Con. Maybe one day I will. I won’t say that SF Comic Con was a bad experience, per se, but with the large crowds, the bland panels, and the not really exciting exhibits, I can’t say it was a great one either. I’d try going to a different convention in the future, but with the hope that it will be a better experience. Ian McDiarmid was the highlight, but I also sort of feel like I paid $40 just to hear him speak for 50 minutes. Regardless, with my departure from the country coming up in (at the time of the convention) just over two weeks, any time doing things with people I love is quality time. So it was still a good day.