October 26th, 2010

Eulalia: Yee!

Lore Hugs and Long Lines: Blizzcon 2010

I think I might be recovered enough to write about this now, though my right foot still feels like ground meat.

The weekend was exhilarating and exhausting by turns, though it's certainly not an experience I'll soon forget. Travel always leaves a lasting mark on me, and I do agree with the assertion that seeing more places and doing more things makes you a better person, simply because it offers you new perspectives and challenges, but good lord do I hate the actual business of going from place to place. TESLA WHY DID YOU HAVE TO DIE? If I could make anyone immortal it would be that guy, and purely so that I could set him to work on perfecting his teleportation theories. I need some working coils here, okay, because travel is so intensely stressful for me.

Luckily, it wasn't that bad this time around, especially for the trip to LA. My mother is a flight attendant and while she receives almost NO FAMILY PERKS from that job, altanachan and I were at least able to skip the robust security lines and get through the process very quickly. The flight over was also fine, especially because the flight attendants were unusually nice to us--instead of giving us one snack, they gave us ALL the snacks, and we weren't even charged for the very delicious (yet expensive) sandwiches we ordered.

I dreaded the arrival, though, because I could not immediately skip off and have fun nerd times with Les and the rest of our bros. Instead I had to take a terrifying cab ride from LAX into the heart of Hollywood; terrifying because the cabbie seemed not to know where he was going and because I personally had no idea where I was or if I would ever see daylight again. It took forever to drive 15 miles--well over an hour--but he finally did find my cousin's house. Things improved from there, because my cousin is a great dude. He's a corporate lawyer in his late fifties, a health nut, an artist, and a Republican. Most importantly, he's extremely friendly, optimistic and kind. We walked from his very nice house to a very nice restaurant nearby, where he bought me a very nice dinner (Caesar salad, wood-fired salmon, and one of the best sundaes known to human creation).

I tried to explain the full reasoning for my trip to him, and he didn't even know what an elf was. I had to go all the way back to Tolkien and work my way up to explaining the concept of an MMO and why it was fun to be an elf in such a game. I really enjoyed seeing him, because he's one of those people who is just interested in whoever and whatever is around him. Politically we don't mesh at all, but it wasn't even a thing, because he expresses himself with such gentle and affable intelligence that I really can't be angry with him (unlike certain individuals who just swallow whatever Fox News says like it's candy corn because they're fucking vapid idiots). I didn't get to see my grandparents at all, which my cousin tried to assure me was not personal; he said my grandmother had hardly been out of bed since my father died. To be fair, my grandparents are old and getting older--my grandpa is past 90 and my grandma will be there soon--but they've barely acknowledged any of us in the five years since dad passed away. They brush us off our phone calls. They never call or write for birthdays or holidays. It's like we don't even exist to them. And then when I actually DO arrive they don't even want me to drop by for half an hour. It's a little hard for me not to take it personally. But, whatever. My cousin was nice and we walked around a little and he showed me his house; he's remodeling the kitchen (the countertops are marble but FEEL like leather, good lord).

He told me during dinner that he was working with a personal trainer in a small gym presently and that some actor types worked out there as well, people who were 'in a few TV shows'. One name he mentioned? Chris Pine. Otherwise known as James T. Kirk. My cousin is so totally disconnected from pop culture, but I guess that's the only way to live in Hollywood and not be caught up in it.

He drove me back to my hotel and as we were turning onto the street just before the hotel's entrance, I saw the whole cast of the Guild--including Felicia Day!!--crossing the sidewalk. I might have flipped out a little. I desperately wanted to hop out of the car and bumrush them, lmao, but we were in motion so I did not.

The next day the madness began. We woke up at six in the AM to go stand in line for four hours, waiting for the con center to open. Standing in line became a big theme at Blizzcon and I think the comparisons to in-game grinding are pretty apt. It's a tedious experience that you simply endure because you believe the reward will be ultimately worth it. The con doors opened at 10 and everyone rushed in, eager to get seats for the opening ceremony. The place was packed to the brim and even though we went as quickly as possible, our seats were kind of not the best (my fault, most likely, as I had to go to the little night elves' room and thus we were not part of the initial surge. I later learned that there's a bathroom INSIDE the main stage space. Lesson for next year!), but it was still kind of awe-inspiring. After the ceremony, everyone ran out of there to get to the actual business of enjoying the con. My first major act was to hit the lore Q&A panel and it did not disappoint. Chris Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi were on hand to answer questions from the fans, and while they were necessarily evasive on some points, I do think they told us as much as they reasonably could. I didn't get a chance to ask my question because I misunderstood how these panels work: apparently, folks form a line at the start and then get to ask their question one by one, which makes sense, as opposed to my more chaotic notion that they just went around to anyone with his or her hand raised.

Most of the questions were reasonable and interesting, but a few of them were delivered in such a stereotypical aggrieved fan tone that I wondered for a minute if these people were real. One fella was so much the neckbeard nerd type--complete with utterly condescending voice--that I wondered if he was an actor planted as a prank by some reality show. He asked a question that was basically designed to catch Metzen and Afrasiabi out on a mistake (a character was assigned as the leader of a group in the novels; in the game a different character is the lead) and, to their credit, they handled it gracefully and admitted their mistake. Metzen in particular gets pretty well-roasted on message boards and forums for what happens in Warcraft's plot, and while I still do find many things problematic about both the lore and the man behind it, I felt pretty sweet on him by con's end. ALL of the Blizzard people there were so nice, so accessible, and so patient. Admittedly, everyone in attendance paid a princely sum to be there and so the accessibility certainly helps in getting one's money's worth, but the staff's friendliness didn't feel disingenuous at all. I didn't feel for one moment like a grubby customer being tolerated because I was giving the company money, and I think it's that feeling which made the whole thing so special and memorable. Despite the arduous lines--which are simply unavoidable, given how many people there were--I felt like I belonged there and like the developers were truly happy to see all of us. The stories I heard from my friends confirmed this: altanachan met Samwise and his family, got a picture from him, and he even, unbidden, saw her sketchwork and called it 'incredible'! That encouragement led to the next day's epic quest, but first a little more about the lore panel.

My favorite pieces of information were the revelations about Kalecgos as the new Aspect of Magic and the direct insinuation that Thrall would become the new Earthwarden. Metzen declared that Thrall was the 'most important person on Azeroth', which is not surprising--Thrall is not only his character, but he also voices the guy--and offered assurance to the folks who were anxious about the current direction of the Horde. I did feel bad for the girl who asked about Thrall and Jaina because Metzen crushed that idea into the ground. He seemed totally flabbergasted that anyone would even conceive of the pairing, haha. My esteem for him slipped a little when he made the old joke about bad things happening to Jaina's boyfriends, too, but I let it go when he exclaimed that Arthas deserved to die and was never coming back (SORRY KAY I hate him). The Arthas comment was part of his response to a question about reviving and redeeming Illidan; he said he WOULD like to bring Illidan back if he could, which was interesting.

After the lore panel I wandered around and ate some very subpar tacos, then I found a seat for the contests. It was REALLY hard to find good seats at the big events; I was in the front row for the lore panel, but the main hall seemed to have all the good seats 'reserved' all day. I heard rumor that some folks just made one of their guildmates sit and hold the seats for them, which seems kind of crappy, but whatever. altanachan found me and we relocated, because biodisaster HAD gotten good seats. The contests were hilarious and fun, and Jay Mohr did well as the MC; I liked his self-deprecating humor (he seemed hyper-aware of the Internet's perception of his performance). I don't know if he's really a 'gamer' (... he called the main character of ACII 'Enzo', lmao), but he worked with the lingo well enough, so whatevs.

After the contests, we scrambled back to the hotel to head to Medieval Times. Unfortunately, we were all a bit late reassembling, and so we didn't get there 'til about a half hour after things had started. Furthermore, the hotel for some reason ordered us a limo, which ended up costing $90. The limo was nice, but, goddamn. Still, we got there without problems and were let into the castle, where we honestly hadn't missed much. A lot of Blizzcon folks were there and the King included shout-outs to the Horde and the Alliance in his announcements.

By this point I was spent, y'all. I had been on my feet all day. Just before the lore panel I had gone to the store in order to buy some items, mainly for my brother, and we were in that line for two and a half hours. I ran across the con space at least twice over and I was ready to eat and sleep, but the whole point of Medieval Times is the two-hour long performance. I think loonyloopylupin would have loved it--it was all about cute guys riding beautiful horses and swordfighting. The food was great, too. I was largely unresponsive throughout, though, mostly because I was just so tired. At one point I think I did actually nod off.

The next day we decided not to put ourselves through the four-hour wait and everyone woke up at different times. I went up to the complimentary breakfast bar the hotel offered and got to know biodisaster's friends Valerie and Ashley a little bit, since they were sharing a room with us and I had never ever met them before, lol. I felt like I should make some effort to talk with them because up until that point I probably came off pretty harassed, mostly because we were together at the beginning and end of the day--i.e. when I was the most tired, hungry and cranky. Eventually they went off to do their thing and altanachan and biodisaster came up. We headed to the con together and I did the convention quest, which involved gathering puzzle pieces from various booths and then returning it to the original booth for a little prize (I got a voucher for said prize because they were out of supplies--I came back later and got an Alliance patch). It was cute and fun; the lines seemed long but actually moved very quickly. By the time I was done, though, it was time to meet Les and our friend Valbras for lunch. He picked us up and we went to the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney, which was super nice, and it was great to meet and talk with Val, because he was just as sweet and easygoing IRL as he is online!

(Meeting him made me sad about the person I didn't get to meet, though, which was ilaniel. I had intermittent access to the internet and I kept losing the receipt where I'd written down her number! Maybe I can go again next year and you'll be a famous Blizz author by that time, eh? You can let me skip the line to sign whatever awesome book you've produced :D)

After lunch, we began the epic quest to get some of Leslie's artwork printed so that she could show it to the guy doing portfolio reviews back at the con. I'm not gonna lie, folks; this was an ordeal. The machine was being very fussful and it took us nearly two hours to get even a few items printed. We rushed back to the con and Leslie got in a line that, although short, took most of the day to get through. We hung around for moral support and I met the Associate Producer for SCII, who was this totally unassuming and friendly Chinese guy. He asked if my guild needed a mage and I was like UH, YES!

At one point during Leslie's wait, a woman came up with a box full of stuff and literally began to throw it at people. A huge crowd gathered to try and catch the shirts, notebooks, pens and games she was tossing out; Leslie snagged a free copy of SCII. It was fun but VERY DANGEROUS, because we were all tiny ladies surrounded by hulking dudes who were leaping and pushing and shoving to get at the merch.

Time wore on, and someone said they were closing up the recruitment area in 10 minutes. bindonpickup stepped in to make sure that Leslie got her time in, though <3 We hovered 'round while the guy looked at her artwork and gave her advice about portfolio submissions.

Events in the con were starting to wind down by that point. Tenacious D was performing shortly and we saw Jack Black roaming around, followed by many cameras of course. He actually stopped a few feet away from us while we were waiting to get our photos taken with a bunch of props from the various Blizz franchises--he was posing with some of the official con babes.

We ultimately did not go to the concert. Instead we used the time to wander around and see everything we hadn't gotten to see, given that the crowds were much thinner due to everyone ELSE being in the main stage room. We still heard Tenacious D play, though, as events on the main stage were broadcast on screens throughout the con. We took photos of ourselves with the statues, including a group picture on a statue of the Frozen Throne (the prop Frostmourne was one of the actual steel replicas).

I should also mention that there was an area set up for Realm Meetings. I did drop by the Meeting area for WrA, but there was almost no one there (I met Stormcrow, though, one of the few WrA people of whom I still have a favorable impression). I was relieved by this.

There was an afterparty in the Hilton lobby that was mostly folks being drunk and obnoxious. Kate's awesome dad bought us Cokes and we rested our tired feet for a while, but then it was time to let it all go.

As we were leaving, we spotted Chris Metzen surrounded by a semi-circle of (probably) adoring fans. Kate, Leslie and Kay physically SHOVED me toward this man, because I did still want to ask my question. I somehow swallowed my terror and spoke to him. He shook my hand and I said I just wanted to ask him one thing. He looked apprehensive, later saying that he was afraid I was going to try to basically get him with his pants down (as other fans had done).

I asked him if he considered the RPG books to be legitimate canon. He said that the books had some good concepts in them but that no, they weren't really legit at this point, and that it was partly due to all the independent contractors they hired to create the books. He got into it as he talked, adding that Daelin Proudmoore would NEVER have an affair/illegitimate half-elf daughter, and finally proclaimed that the books were a 'fucking mess' and he hated them.

Reader, I grabbed him by the neck and the waist and I hugged him.

According to my bros behind me, Metzen was delighted rather than appalled by this, and he did gleefully shout 'Yay, Lore hugs!' as I CLUTCHED HIM TO MY BODY.

I let him go, feeling internally mortified but pleased, and we walked out. Disneyland's fireworks went off in the sky as we went back to our hotel, shrieking exuberantly about our experiences all the way home. You read it here, folks: The RPG sourcebooks are bullshit and I no longer have to tolerate anyone using them to finish an argument.

One 4 am alarm and one twice-delayed plane ride later, I was back in Memphis and Blizzcon was over.

I had some rough moments because I'm a nervous, sensitive and easily overwhelmed person, but it was an incredibly fun weekend and I'm so glad I got to meet everyone I did. I hope I was good company, and I hope I can see you all next year.

Here's a link to my complete photo archive, btw.