As a San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) veteran I have seen the event change over the last few years. One of the most disturbing trends as of late has been the insane fandom that motivates people to stay in lines overnight to see certain panels (read: presentations) the next day. While I begrudgingly appreciate their vigor for whatever nerd topic that drives them, I think this is possibly ruining SDCC. I got in line at 8am on Saturday for a panel that began at 11am. I figured, hey, that’s 3 hours I should be all set. Not only was I wrong, but really wrong. When I arrived the line was over a mile in length. As I embarked on the sad and frustrating walk to the end I just kept telling myself that it was worth it.
Part of the issue for such lines is the allowance and the encouragement for young people to sleep outside overnight to be in the top spots. Now keep in mind before you draw the conclusion that I’m just mad about not getting in immediately listen to some of these small details. This year a woman, in her 50s, was struck by a car and killed while trying to get in line on Tuesday to get into SDCC on Wednesday for the Twilight panel. While this isn’t the fault of the people who run SDCC, they are slightly responsible for not stopping this kind of early line up nonsense. Furthermore, check out the picture below for the aforementioned panel and the line the night before. There was a similar scene for Hall H, the convention center’s largest room, for the panel I tried to go to on Saturday.
So how exactly does this ruin the convention? While the panel is going on and the guest say things like, “glad to see people sleeping outside to see us!” it only encourages this sort of behavior. That means that if you want to see a panel you need to be willing to not clean yourself and sit is grubby clothes for 30+ hours and sleep on the ground. I think this really spits in the face of folks who traveled across the country or from overseas who pay for hotels and are reasonable about their nerdiness. The first few hundred spots are taken up and there is no recourse.
As I sat in line for 10 hours to see the Marvel Studios panel I looked around and noticed something really sad. There were literally no kids waiting. No little boys and girls decked out in Iron Man plastic armor or Superman capes. While I love these movies, I think we forget that these are for kids. This event is highly geared towards children. Yet, one of the biggest parts of SDCC, is now completely excluding them. I find that to be pretty telling of how far this has gone. Unless you plan on keeping your kid outside for 30+ hours to get into Hall H, you have a slim chance of ever letting them experience it. I think most kids would lose their minds having to sit still for 10 hours, let alone 30.
So how do we fix this? Some have suggested adopting Disney’s FastPass idea, or limiting the amount of panels people can go to in Hall H in a day. While I think both have their merit, I ultimately disagree with them. For the record, I would totally buy a FastPass if it was available. I think the real solution is eliminating the ability to for people to line up on the Convention Center property overnight. There needs to be a definitive time when they are allowed to get in line. Give everyone an equal chance. If you say 6am, for example, you can still get the same crowd amounts but Joe Six Pack who has kids might have a chance to get his kids in. Fandom can be a great thing, however, gone unchecked it can get out of hand and ruin a good time for the masses. What do you think?