By Kelas Lloyd
One of the sentiments most heavily repeated at the talk back panel at San Diego Comic Con was one I agreed with – requiring masks and vaccinations (or negative tests) was an excellent choice and we were grateful they stood by it. It made a lot of people feel safer about coming, and there was optimism that SDCC ‘22 won’t be a super spreader event the way that AX was and ECCC likely will be (though whether that’s been the case likely depends on your definition of “super spreader event” is). And on the whole, everyone seemed really happy with what the convention had to offer this year. The schedule was full, there were diversity flags for panels on the website (which will be in the app next year,) and the green-shirted staff were on the ball.
But as with any event, there are issues, and the biggest issue was the setup for Hall H lines. Saturday’s panel lineup was popular enough that three separate line groups started forming Thursday for it, despite how the con has never allowed lines to form that early before. One attendee said a security guard said they were allowed to start it that night if they started it in one specific place, only for another to come disperse them (as per established con procedure.) There were also several attendees reporting that the groups near the front of the line swelled far past the 1-to-5 ratio allowed by the convention, where one person can hold a spot for up to five others so as to allow for breaks and coming and going.
Then there was the struggle of being in the line itself. There is no shade for a majority of the Hall H line and pop-up tents weren’t being allowed, so people were getting sunburned. This year saw mild temperatures, but other years have seen a great deal of heat so there’s a worry of heatstroke in the future if that continues. The wristband handing-out started very late, and by the time it was done the trolleys had stopped running for the night, leaving a lot of people struggling to get a far-more-expensive-than-usual Lyft or Uber home. Further, the ADA line had issues with both things: no shade at all, and only enough wristbands allocated for chute 1. There was no advance warning that the ADA wristbands were so limited, leaving people waiting for hours when they had no chance to begin with.
As usual, the suggestion of a lottery for Hall H and other crowded panels came up. It was shut down for multiple good reasons: 1) to hold a lottery for the seats they’d need to clear the rooms. In Hall H’s case this would take so long that they could only have half the content they usually do, and content is the priority for them (and for attendees.) 2) A lottery wouldn’t include children, and most people will want to bring their children in. If they didn’t, they still wouldn’t be guaranteed childcare for those times so what are they supposed to do? 3) Many professionals don’t have a set schedule until just before the convention, so knowing what panels to enter the lottery for would be a crapshoot. There’s also one fact that wasn’t mentioned: having the Hall H line keeps other things from getting as crowded. The desire for a convention center expansion came up again because it’s truly needed with the size of the convention, but until/unless it’s expanded the lines and wristbands are likely here to stay.
Despite all the people who were frustrated with the Hall H and miscommunication issues, everyone who lined up within the first 45 minutes of the panel were given a chance to speak. The panelists asked the last few to simply make their comments and then move from the mic so everyone would be heard, which most complied with.
In the future they hope to improve the communication issues between staff members and better train their volunteers, but considering what they accomplished with 2019 funds for 2022 costs, it does seem like they did everything they could.
As for the slightly smaller feeling of the convention that got mentioned a few times, it was never mentioned negatively. Some places that usually showed up didn’t and their absence was noted, a few panels were canceled, the Hall H Saturday line was a disaster, but in general the show went on and the return was smooth.
Miss any of The Beat’s earlier SDCC ’22 Coverage? Find it all here!