Post-Con reflections: A Phoenix Comicon 2014 review
It used to be something only the Arizona geek community knew about but now Phoenix Comicon has become one of the largest conventions in the U.S. This year’s event brought in over 77,000 people to the downtown Phoenix area and in anticipation of this growth, the organizers of PCC utilized more of the Phoenix Convention Center this time.
It was nice having the registration in the south building, leaving more room for vendors in the vendor hall. As media, I don’t go to regular registration though and media/volunteer/panelist registration was once again in front of the vendor hall in the north building. I hope that this registration location is moved next year though because if you’re a panelist running late for your panel, getting through that crowd down those stairs and then back up is a huge pain in the butt and the lines for our registration jut right into the crowds headed into the vendor hall. I’m not complaining, I am grateful to be able to provide media coverage of this large event each year, but there’s gotta be a better place for the media/panelist/volunteer registration. Perhaps another room in the south building.
As for the bigger, better vendor hall, it was impressive in how much more room there was to meander through the variety of booths but those booths needed to be labeled more clearly. With so many similar products, the booths end up blending together which made it challenging to find my usual favorites and make note of new favorites. Getting through the vendor hall seemed to be easier though this year and that is huge for me!
Closing off 3rd Street was a fantastic idea! Having more room to get some air outside of the convention center and check out some of the themed vehicles while stretching your legs, even with the heat, was super helpful. Out on 3rd street you could find food trucks and a hydration station handing out water to keep people from getting dehydrated. Due to some scheduling conflicts, we weren’t able to enjoy any of the demonstrations and shows out on 3rd street, but I can imagine they were fabulous and a great use of that space! While having 3rd street closed off made crossing the street faster and easier, the line and crowd handlers only utilizing a few of the building doors to funnel thousands of people through was down right frustrating! I suppose they were using this method to slow down the traffic through the bag checkers which I can appreciate I suppose but getting into that north building each time was a pain! I hope the talks of utilizing the 3rd floor of the convention center buildings will help spread out the traffic and the 3rd floor bridge give people another crossing option.
I wish I had made more time for the South building because it was full of fun. This is where the haunt, the zombie obstacle course, laser tag, and mermaid lagoon were set up. We did’t get a chance to run through the zombie obstacle course but from what we saw of it it seemed exciting. We did however run through the haunt, and while there were a few impressive rooms, it was still pretty tame. I suspect people were expecting more of a scare than they got, but the geek themes they incorporated were entertaining. Mermaid Lagoon was a pleasant site to stop and take a gander at. Moon Mermaid and her crew were set up in their own little viewing pond where they could splash around and chat with convention goers. The kids seemed especially impressed with this feature.
Panels, lots to choose from, but good luck figuring out what they’re about. There were many panels that were well named and you knew what you were going to, but there were several panels that used creative names that left you clueless to the subject matter. Usually the description of the panel will spell it out but most people just look at the schedule and look for key words to look for panels they might be into. So all you panelists should keep this in mind for next year. There are too many panels for everyone to go through and read through the explanations of each and every one. I highly enjoyed the panels I was able to attend this year.
The guest spotlights are always a big draw, this is where you get to see your favorite actors and creators without having to have a fist full of money. The only issue I had was the limited exiting, it took us a while to get out of the Bruce Campbell spotlight since we could only exit through the doors on the one side of the room. I suppose this could be so that they can let people in for the next spotlight through the other side of the room but they were only letting people in through one set of doors, there was another exit they could have utilized. And then when you got out of the bigger spotlights you had to go out and around the building to get back in for other things.
Speaking of guests, at no fault of the convention organizers, some of the guests weren’t getting the attention I would have thought they deserved. Danny Glover was an odd addition but was exciting because you don’t have to be a geek to know and love the guy who’s “too old for this…stuff”, but each time I saw him in the vendor hall his line was meager to non-existent. Same with 80’s sex symbol Kelly LeBrock who maintained some traffic but not as much as you’d expect. This is something that isn’t anyone’s fault, it just made me sad to see. John Barrowman was his usual crowd pleasing self, and once again you didn’t have to be part of the money wielding photo line to get your squee on with him. I was taking random crowd photos and all of a sudden there is Barrowman standing on a table in the middle of a sea of fans, addressing them freely. I have to admit I had the biggest fangirl smile on my face when I saw this. Last year he took it upon himself to get on the com and announce to the vendor floor that he was allowing “no holds barred” photo ops, which made for some really amusing pictures. The mix of unrelated guests was a little disappointing at first but it turned out okay. I’ve enjoyed themed grouping of guests in the past and I know I wasn’t the only one who was rooting for a Supernatural theme after hearing the addition of Mark Sheppard and then getting confused with the guest announcements that followed him. I guess you might be able to say there was a batman and power ranger theme since there were three guests for each…but I dunno. I’m hoping for a themed group of guests next year to go with the rest of the random guests.
Photo ops. What happened to the discounted photo op rates that we enjoyed a couple years ago? I thought this wasn’t supposed to change with the guests. Did it just not work out? I didn’t have the dough to take advantage of any official photo ops but I heard for the most part things went well and people were happy with being able to leave the photo op areas with their photos. As to be expected there were some glitches but supposedly things just keep getting better and better as far as the ebb and flow of the photo op process.
“Photo op prices are set by the guest each year. However there are some extra costs the past couple years as Phoenix Comicon purchased many printers and now does all the printing in house. For the past couple of years we were outsourcing the printing and ran into a few issues. This year, attendees were able to take a picture with their favorite guest and pick it up within a few minutes.”
The Hyatt is one of my favorite places at Phoenix Comicon. This is where the gaming lives, especially since the video games presented by AZHP were moved over there as well this year. My con oasis is the Hyatt, not just because this is where I usually book my room during con, but also because the gaming floors are a great place to sit, relax, enjoy a quieter rumble, and play some games with old and new friends. Most people already take advantage of the tasty, cheap food being served out in front of the Hyatt, so it’s an easy choice to mosey on in and enjoy a game or two.
Speaking of games, Artemis was super impressive this year with more rooms and costumed staff. I wish I had made time to give it a whirl. The board/card/role playing game area was not as impressive as I remembered a couple years ago. The game library was meager and I suggest having gaming supplies (dice, pencils, paper, etc…) available to check out or buy at the gaming desk. The non-Pathfinder role playing games were gypped by getting mixed in with the Pathfinder tables in the Pathfinder room. Everyone knows that Pathfinder gets it’s own space and so why would anyone be looking for Labyrinth Lord in the Pathfinder room?! It was great to see the Ellis room get utilized but it took me a while to realize it and I guess if I had looked harder I could have known that there was Pokemon going on in the Cassidy room but I didn’t even realize there was a Cassidy room, there’s gotta be better signage, possibly a Hyatt map and a freaking gaming schedule in the program. I realize that something in the schedule might change but that should be when you approach the gaming desk…which also wasn’t as obvious as it should have been since it’s hidden behind a pillar and the elevator area.
More signage with an explanation of what you can utilize at the gaming desk should definitely be implemented in the future. The gaming area should not just be for those who are already part of or know someone in the gaming scene. Maybe I missed them but having a sign downstairs and maybe outside of the Hyatt pointing people in the direction of gaming would be nice. We had several instances where people didn’t even know there was gaming at PCC.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m ragging on all the wonderful people who make gaming possible at con, I just want to make sure more people know it’s there.
The participation of the surrounding businesses in the Phoenix Comicon area continues to grow each year and it warms my heart to see them embrace con goers and offer activities, specials, and discounts to those visiting the con. I saw that the Hard Rock Cafe downtown even had a limited edition Phoenix Comicon 2014 pin made for con goers to buy.
All in all it was a good con year, just remember to plan ahead, save up, and build your conquest or you’ll be spinning in circles trying to choose what to do next and then realize you missed out on so many awesome things and you’ll spend you’re next year regretting not getting that photo op with Stan Lee or watching Bruce Campbell hand out dollar bills to Ash cosplay contestants.
Oh hey, did you catch this hilarious little “easter egg”:
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