Blizzcon 2013: The Relaxining

At Medieval Times

The lengths I go through to get the absolutely important coverage to you, dear readers. Because the internet in our hotel is somewhere in the “not worth it” range in terms of prices, I am sitting in the Hilton lobby stealing data like the gung-ho press hound that I am pretending to be, drinking a comically oversized coffee.

California has been largely good to me and yesterday was no exception. If you may remember from my blogpost yesterday, Days 1 and 2 of my Blizzcon odyssey were traveling so Wednesday was the first day I really got to sit down and hang out.

The day started off very early again as I think my body still hasn’t adjusted to the time or daylight. I managed to get up, grab a shower and breakfast before anyone in my room even had woke up so it made me feel vaguely productive even though technically I am only here on vacation versus doing anything useful like report on the actual convention. More people had started to trickle in. The first person I got to see was Ilaniel (aka Sarah Pine from WoW Insider) and we spent a bit of time together.

We decided to walk over to the fountain and met some podcast people that I’ve only ever watched/listened to: Jules from Tauren Think Tank (and her husband Arcayne), Hasteur from Group Quest, and Robert from Blizzcon Countdown. It always feels so strange to meet internet personalities or content creators for the first time since you have this image of what people look like in your head, even if you watch them online and them being in three dimensions is still incredibly startling. Maybe I’m just a robot.

I also met up with my hotel room-mate Hestiah. So great meeting one of my fab feminist lady pals finally! She had a great idea that we should go to Medieval Times so after getting to meet Olivia from Wow Insider as well, we took Anne, Alex and myself in Hestiah’s car and drove to Buena Park.

Now, I went to Medieval Times when I was 12 or 13 and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as this. I think that a lot of it has to do with who you go with and your enthusiasm for really getting into the story. We all bought flags and settled into the green section to cheer on our knight and be a part of the story. Also something I had forgotten about Medieval Times: the sheer amount of food they give you. We got half a chicken, short ribs, bread, tomato soup, drinks and a pastry. It wasn’t the best food but it was definitely good. The story was basic but the atmosphere is what made it so enjoyable. It also didn’t hurt that our section was the rowdiest and loudest when cheering. The Green Knight was also by far the hottest hot dude out there and we suspect that he’s the guy who plays Varian when the arena puts on the Warcraft-themed story. After everything was said and done, our voices were shot, our bellies were full and we had giant grins. For a group of nerdy 20-and-3o-somethings, it was pure unabashed fun.

After that, we drove home and I moved my stuff from Alex’s hotel room to mine in the Marriott. It’s very weird being in a hotel that feels upscale and is so close to the convention center. It will definitely help when the Saturday muscle soreness sets in and it makes me feel more centrally located to all the socializing. This was pretty apparent after Hestiah and I decided to sit in the lobby and drink and we kept running into people we knew. I finally got to meet Anafielle (of Sacred Duty fame), Kelesti, Sha of Happiness and saw another lady pal of mine, Dysmorphia.

Eventually we decided to take the party to the Hilton lobby and the atmosphere was decidedly different. Hilton lobby effectively acts like a nexus or a bus station for a lot of con-goers. It is consistently packed, especially at night because there’s a bar right on the ground floor, dead center. There were already many drunk people there and while I got to be introduced to some Twitter names or faces that I had heard of, I mostly felt alienated. Drunk people en masse, particularly when I am not that drunk, tend to wig me out. It didn’t help that most of them were dudes and I have problems with drunk dudes for obvious reasons. I left early and spent some time sobering up watching late night TV by myself. I’m not a sad sack, really, I promise.

All in all, yesterday definitely felt like a nice way to get in some vacation time before the madness of Blizzcon truly descended on Anaheim.

Editor’s note: I’ll add content links when I’m not in a hosed data connection and not on a laptop with no mouse.

 

Blizzcon 2013: The Road to Blizzcon

The Anaheim Convention Center, home of Blizzcon and blue water fire.

My promise to fully document my trip to Blizzcon has fallen slightly short just do to the level of fatigue that accrues when you fling yourself into the meat grinder that is modern air travel these days, on top of the whole Daylight Savings Time, time-zone wibbly wobbly timey wimey nonsense. But I will endeavor to record as much of my progress thus far, despite being on a laptop in an awkward position due to how our hotel room has a very low desk chair and a very high table.

If you would like to read my boyfriend’s version of events, you can do so over here on Wow Insider.

Day 1 

We began our auspicious journey by staying up all night so we could leave to go to the airport at Dark O’Clock. While I feel that air travel is largely still the most expedient way to go, especially long distances, the convenience is hampered somewhat by how much airlines have mangled service due to flagging profit margins. In the past 10 years or so, it has turned from something exciting where you step on a plane and land in a new magical place into a hellish torture that maybe only sadists would enjoy inflicting on people. Our itinerary to get us to Colorado, where we’d meet Anne Stickney, our third, took us via Houston. Milwaukee to Houston is not a convenient route by any cartographers stretch of the imagination and going several thousand miles south out of our way to swing back up on another flight is bizarre. There’s also the problems with the fact that airplanes are now just expanded sardine cans. Barely any amenities are given out despite the ticket prices and you spend most of your time cramped, hungry and irritable. I suffered the least given that I am half the size of my poor boyfriend, who was folded literally in half to try and squeeze into the airplane and then his seat.

Despite us almost missing our connection, we did make it to Colorado and it was all as promised. We met up with Anne and quickly got onto the road since we had to be at least to our Utah midway-stop by nightfall. Driving through Colorado and Utah was everything I dreamed of and possibly a bit more. As someone who grew up on the East Coast and largely around very small mountains covered in trees, the alien landscape that we were presented with on our drive was breathtaking. Mountains that went beyond the clouds, striations of every hue imaginable and alien landscapes that I know I had seen in quite a few sci-fi movies were around every twisty-turny  mountain pass or long desolate straightaway.

Driving by car, preferably when you’re a passenger, is easily the best way to do trips. Getting to laugh at jokes, debate World of Warcraft expansion news and goggle in awe at the scenery made the flight torture worth it.

The beauty of Utah.

We ran into a sudden snowstorm on our way through some mountains and so we went from Fall to Winter in the span of an hour. It also gave us the chance to see vistas kissed with snow once the sun re-emerged and then fog that would put Silent Hill to shame rising off the scrub grass.

Stopping on roadside stuff wasn’t really a highlight of the first day but we did get to experience the creepiness of truck stops. Including one in Beaver, UT, which yes, did have “I Heart Beaver” merchandise. I felt like mentioning that because I’m actually 12.

We pulled into St. George, Utah by the time it was dark and stayed there for the night, enjoying a part of our first day that didn’t involve being cramped.

Day 2

I do not sleep well in hotels. Either the temperature isn’t right or the blankets are too heavy or I am really uncomfortable. Despite only getting a handful of hours of sleep the day before and being so exhausted by travel and adrenaline, I still woke up at 4 AM with no ability to go back to sleep. I meandered around the hotel parking lot in the deep chill of the night and waited for the lobby’s complimentary breakfast to go up at 6:30 AM. Once the sun lightened up the sky some, I noticed that our town had a giant red cliff ridge directly above us. Talk about surprising.

We managed to get back on the road again by 8 AM for our second and slightly more exciting leg of the trip to Anaheim. The views were largely as expansive and inspirational as the first day but once we passed through the large mountain range nearing the Arizona and Nevada borders, we came across way more high desert flats. It was very Night Vale-esque for those of you who listen to that podcast, and suddenly the sights got a lot more weird. Tiny burned out shanty towns dotted the shrubby plains, odd roadside attractions and places that had only one stoplight or one church and nothing save for trailers seemed to be the norm.

We skirted around the outside of Las Vegas and it didn’t disappoint even if we didn’t stop. I got to see some of the glittering towers of gambling, the pomp of roller coasters and elaborate facades.  Alex commented on how most of the names we were seeing on signs also appeared in Fallout: New Vegas and I can see why. The idea of a post-apocalyptic game taking place in the desert of Nevada seemed all too apt. Given the number of ruins of old tourist attractions that we saw littered on our drive, it almost felt like we were  in the game already. (We made a plan to visit the grafitti-ed shell of a waterpark that we passed somewhere around Minneola, NV on the drive back)

Then we saw it: A giant road-side ad for Alien Fresh Jerky. Given both our propensity for good dried meat and the strange, we decided to follow that lead all the way into Baker, California where the jerky was to be found. Our questions were pretty routine – “Do the aliens make the jerky or are they what the jerky is made  out of?”

In a town that literally one road with a handful of greasy spoons, burned out trucks and bluffs, there was one shining beacon of tourist hysteria: Alien Fresh Jerky. It was a clean looking establishment with a made-up alien car, spaceship and promises of jerky on the inside. Once we stepped into place, we know why we went to all this trouble to get there. Sure, it was mostly overpriced food and tzotchkes of dubious provenance, but the excitement was being a participant of something this bizarre. We all love a good story to share and this is precisely why roadside ghost towns, giant balls of twine and houses filled with baby dolls continue to excite. We tried some invisible jerky, bought relics with alien faces for too much money and giggled at all the paraphernalia.

From there we sped on towards California proper. We stopped in Barstow, which was an official Route 66 stop and got to peer inside of a traincar shopping center and racist gas stations.  Finally we started to hit places that were familiar to me, as I had driven to Blizzcon from Arizona three years ago and it felt properly SoCal with the tiny oases of planned communities with palm trees dotting the crispy landscape.

Once we finally made it Anaheim, we promptly dropped our stuff off and went to peer at the convention center. Much to our surprise, there had been a lot of landscape work done. The entire front of the center that used to be a glorified taxi park and car-driven death trap for pedestrians in a hotel corridor was now this beautiful walkway with recessed lighting, statues and sculptures. There’s even a new fountain in front that lights up blue and white, with heavily graduated steps that take some climbing to get to. It feels like a much cooler place to meet up, hang out or take pictures now and while I know that it wasn’t really for that intent, it still makes this already magical voyage look the part. We took our pictures and went to finally relax.

I’m fully hyped for what the convention proper has in store now after that long, strange trip.

Blizzcon 2013: A Survival Guide

 

Cosplayers from Blizzcon. A blood elf is helping a hunter with her helm.

This sums up Blizzcon for me. (Taken at Blizzcon 2011)

Blizzcon (November 8th-9th) is almost upon us, GET HYPED!

However, before we get completely  hyped over this awesome event, I should probably give you some of my invaluable information regarding how I’ve managed to make it through four previous Blizzcons and been alive to tell the tale (and attend the fifth!) Most of this is pretty common sense information, advice but if you’re new to the Blizzcon or even convention scene, it could help make your time spent in Anaheim go from “meh” to “wow!”

Take care of your rad bods!

Unless you’re someone who spends their day walking upwards of 8 hours a day on pavement, the bodily toll on you during the convention will be anywhere from moderate to severe. Make sure you pamper your body and give it the best possible chance of recovery. Firstly, make sure you dress appropriately. This Blizzcon isn’t taking place during the scorching heat of the summer like previous years, so we don’t have to worry as much about overheating, but wearing good supportive shoes and temperature-appropriate garb is a good idea. With the exception of cosplayers, it’s better to go more for comfort than style!

Also really crucial is hydration. There’s water fountains and plenty of drink vendors inside and having a bottle of water with you when you’re outside of the convention is good, even if it isn’t very hot out. Water is amazing, drink some! On the subject of fluids, I know that I may have partaken of adult beverages while at Blizzcon and making sure you stop drinking well before you go to bed every night and getting a lot of water into you (and eating while you drink) keeps you from having a nasty hangover the next day. Make sure you know your limits as well and don’t get sick! It’ll just make Blizzcon worse.

If you’re someone that needs to eat on a regular schedule, there’s quite a few vendors inside but also restaurants within walking distance of the convention center. Making sure you get a good breakfast has always worked well for me, but also bringing snacks to your hotel room can help you feel full and not cranky all day when you’re constantly running and doing things.

Last but not least is making sure you get plenty of rest! Rest includes getting a decent amount of sleep but also possibly taking breaks during the day – it’s not even a “out of shape” thing but just making sure you don’t push yourself too hard. Sitting down inside the convention center or going back to your hotel room is great to let your legs get some recoup time. I also advise napping if you need it as well as just getting some “quiet” time away from other people. If you’re someone who doesn’t handle social situations very well, it’s amazing for your piece of mind to have silence and introvert energy replenishment.

I’ll spare you guys a hygiene spiel because you’re all adults and you know the benefits of washing your bods regularly. (Do it!)

Make a plan…but don’t necessarily stick to it.

Now that Blizzard has finally released a final schedule of events for the con itself, it means we can all better plan what things we want to hit. Perhaps you have meetups you want to go to, parties to attend as well. Pick and choose the things you really want to see and do. It’s hard not to want to do everything – everything looks really fun. Knowing at least the top things on your list you want to see helps you prioritize but let me tell you, not every panel is going to be as great as the rest, and oftentimes the best fun you can have is randomly wandering around just looking at stuff or hopping to a restaurant with some people (guildmates?) to grab a quick lunch. Every year I’ve made a really detailed plan of stuff I wanted to hit and only ended up doing a third of it. It’s so chaotic at times between people you want to see and content that you will just have to make some choices.

On the subject of getting your tickets, however, there’s only two real ways to go: Do you want to absolutely attend the opening ceremonies? If you do, get into the huge-ass line on Thursday as early as possible, otherwise take your chances on Friday morning and have way less of a line (or none at all) to contend with. I’ve done both and honestly, either strategy is fine. I definitely want to attend opening ceremonies this year, so I’m going to try and get mine on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking of Thursday, this is when most of the parties happen. Wow Insider/Wowhead’s party is happening then (at the Anabella), as well as World of Podcasts (Red Lion Inn). Some happen Friday, and then the final corporate one happens on Saturday night. But the big fan meetups tend to be Thursday evening, so that’s always something to consider hitting if you like that.

Also for the first-time attendees, most panels are simulcast in different places or spillover panel rooms so don’t fret if you didn’t get into the main D hall to watch something big. While it is nice to be in the room, so to speak, avoiding crowds and just chilling in a quieter hall isn’t a bad option, especially if it means you might snag a seat.

Get used to standing in lines.

This is central to the Blizzcon experience; you will be standing in a line a lot. Whether it is for buying merch, meeting someone to autograph something, or wanting to test out a game demo, you will probably be entertaining yourself in a myriad of ways. Bring a DS, or your phone or a friend to talk to. Otherwise, get used to memorizing all the lines from every cinematic in Blizzard’s history (They will be playing on the screens overhead, mostly likely.)

Make sure to actually get people’s phone numbers.

This is more of a concern for those of us who have smartphones, but your data traffic will get hosed. The convention center tends to either kill a lot of carriers or is so completely overloaded with data traffic that you cannot expect to be able to check Twitter to get in touch with people unless you’re outside. So get people’s numbers if you want to hang out with them. But also know that texting gets similarly hosed for no reason I can figure out so plan accordingly. Having a solid time and place to meetup is great because once you are inside, there’s no guarantees your phone will be useful.

Due to this, don’t expect to be able to live-tweet a panel. Trust me, I tried to when they announced Mists of Pandaria and it didn’t turn out so well.

Respect everyone’s space, time and privacy. Conversely, if you feel uncomfortable, don’t feel bad about getting out.

This is hinging on the fact that Blizzard didn’t pass a Code of Conduct for the con (yet) and so I felt it needed repeating: respect people at the con. If someone is cosplaying, ask to take their picture. Don’t harass them or touch them. Same goes for any other con-goer. If someone wants to be left alone or spend some time by themselves, let them. This con is incredibly nerve-wracking and overwhelming for people who are not great with tons of social interaction, so sometimes people need space. If you are someone who doesn’t comport themselves properly, especially when you are drunk, then maybe you shouldn’t drink. Let people have their own space and privacy.

On the flip side, if someone is making you feel uncomfortable, even if it’s just a “gut feeling,” don’t hesitate to get away.  Make an excuse, duck out, lose yourself in a crowd. Let friends know where you’re going if you’re by yourself. Ask someone to come meet you at a party or walk you home. If something serious happens, get a friend and find a security guard or Blizzard employee, or at worst, a cop or a hotel employee if something happens on-site.

And this goes for everyone, if you see something happening, tell someone. Or help the person out. I know it’s incredibly easy to just say that stepping in would screw things up but often sometimes just saying “Hey, is everything okay here?” tends to break up a tense situation. I had an incident in 2011 where some guys were being gross to someone well-known in the WoW community and so I told them to knock it off and leave them alone. It might not have really done anything but it made them stop so I felt like I did the right thing.

PS: If you’re a Horde player and you’re yelling at or otherwise harassing Alliance players, stop that shit. Are you two? Come on. There’s no difference between factions, you’re all nerds.

Quick Notes on food, travel, and other pleasantries:

If you’re flying into John Wayne airport/SNA, there are shuttles that cost around 10 bucks that will take you right to your hotel. There are also cabs but those tend to be way more expensive unless you split with a friend. LAX also requires a shuttle or cab and I’d opt for a shuttle.

The main restaurants around the convention center are the food court in the Hilton, the IHop across the street, and any restaurants in the surrounding hotels. There’s quite a few more places if you care to walk farther, such as the Denny’s up the road or Main Street Cone Shop that’s beyond the Anabella (personal recommendation, great food!) I also truly believe the Anabella’s restaurant has the best breakfasts. I am sad I am not staying in the Anabella this year just due to this reason.

Within quick walking distance of the convention center is an outdoor mall and Downtown Disneyland as well.

…but most of all, don’t forget to have fun.

This is a great time of the year to meet up with all the personalities, Twitter friends and guild-mates you’ve always wanted to see. Hang out with people, chat, and have a great time. The convention is super great as well but I’ve always found that the socializing aspect is the best bit of the convention. Being healthy, safe and well-informed is what will make your experience at Blizzcon amazing!