The Blizzcon Dairies (part 1)

In august 2007 I was lucky enough to be at Blizzcon. Randy, from The Instance, asked me for a few words about the trip and the experience. Even though I didn’t intend to, I ended up writing a little essay which was never really published. I figured that with Blizzcon 2008 coming up, some people might enjoy reading this monster of an article.
So here it is: The Blizzcon Dairies.
Hope you enjoy it!

1 – The departure

Early morning, I get up in my usual haze and grab the clothes I carefully folded the day before. T-shirt, check. Pants, check. Socks, check. Sexy underwear, ch… Errr no wait, that’s from yesterday. Regular underwear, check. Ok, no need to waste time opening closets, having breakfast or taking showers, I’m going to Blizzcon, yay!

Bus ride to the airport. I’m on time, the stars must have aligned.
Let’s head to the check in counter. Not this one, not this one, not this one… Wait… I think… Yup, that’s it. Great, it’s the one with thirty seven thousand people in front of it. Typical. Ok, no worries, I’ll just wait in line. And take a couple of pictures so I can laugh about it later. Nothing can bring me down, I’m going to Blizzcon, Yay!

10 minutes.
I’m smiling. Everything’s nice. The girl next to me is smiling back and even laughing at my stupid joke about the on line check in thing, and it wasn’t even funny. It’s probably because going to Blizzcon is giving me a sexy glow.

20 minutes.
Still smiling, the airport security people are checking you’re in the right lane and looking at the passpo… OH MY GOD, MY PASSPORT! I DIDN’T CHECK FOR MY PASSPO oh here it is, here you go miss. “Everything is in order, go ahead”. Of course everything is in order, what did you think?! “Thanks, have a great day!”

30 minutes.
Ok, this is getting a bit long, and the kids next to me are beginning to get on my nerves. Control your damn spawns, agents of parenthood hell!

40 minutes.
Counter in sight! I have to go through one of those automated thingies… Nice girl is coming to help me, cause apparently 20 years of using computers isn’t enough to know how to operate these damn things. She’s smiling. I can go in straight cause I don’t have any luggage to check in, cool. Ok. She’s smiling. Err, let’s punch in that number again. Ok. Hmmm, wait.

– “Is there a problem?”
– “No no, it’s fine”. But she’s not smiling anymore.

“Please go to the counter to get your boarding pass”. I thought the whole point of this computer thingy was to get your boarding pass faster… Ok, whatever, I don’t care, I’m going to Blizzcon, yay!

– “Hello miss, how are you today ?”
– “Fine and you ? Can I see your passport and ticket please ?”
– “Sure, here you go.”
– “Ok, there’s a little problem with your flight sir, it has been severely overbooked, and you’re now on the waiting list.”
– “What do you mean ? What waiting list ? Waiting list for what ?”
– “Well, we overbooked the flight”, she repeats with an incredible matter of fact air about it, “and we’re not sure you can board the plane. You might need to wait for a later one. If only you had gotten here sooner…” she offers as an explanation of how this is really my fault.

I turn around in disbelief, looking at the line, still forty seven million people strong, and turn back, lowering my jaw to try and explain that I was here an hour ago, when her smile-unflinching stops my tongue in its tracks. It’s no use, she’s probably a robot. Smiles are deceiving.
I still try to throw something out about business class and how they must have some seats left there, wink wink. She gently acts as if I didn’t just try that. I’m thankful and leave for the boarding gate where the judge, errr, the airline guy, will tell me if I can board the scheduled flight.

Customs security goes fine. Some 15 year old kid tries to impress the girl he’s picturing second base with by saying “hey, these are deadly weapons”, staring down at his fists. I say something about how the customs people ought to have X-rayed them. There was a joke somewhere in there but I didn’t find it. The girl laughs anyway. Yes! I’m so cool I can outsmart a 15 year old.

Ok, the airline customer service thingy is in sight. Five people line, not too bad.
– “Hello sir, it seems there is a problem with my flight. I can’t believe it was overbooked, and I have a shuttle waiting for me at LAX, and I really need to get on…”
– “Here’s your boarding pass sir, you can board in twenty minutes.”
– “What do you mean ?”
– “What do you mean what do I mean ? You can board the plane.”
– “Oh…” I say thinking the plea I had spent the past twenty minutes constructing had been a serious waste of my time, slightly disappointed before realizing it was actually a good thing. “Thank you!”
I’m going to Blizzcon, yay!

2 – The plane

87-A, 87-A, 87-A… Ok 87, here we are. Hi ma’am, I think I’m sitting he… Wait, where’s the seat?

Haha, I don’t know young man, it was like that when I got here.” She answers with a grandma smile that’s got all the sweetness of the world in it, and that doesn’t make up for the fact that HALF OF MY SEAT IS GONE! Well, not half the seat, but the part where you actually sit is nowhere to be seen. The metal structure is there alright, but the foam-sitting part isn’t. What the hell?
The guy next to me starts looking around and finds it in the freakin’ overhead luggage compartment. This doesn’t bode well… I start turning around to see if any other seat is available, but the robot wasn’t lying, the damn thing is overbooked.
Then the grandma smiles at the flight attendant, who comes to me with a smile of her own:
– “Would you mind changing seats with this lady’s grandson? He’s sitting in the front of the plane, and…
– “Oh sure !” I grin as I say goodbye to the cursed chair from hell and make my way to the kid’s.
– “Get out of my seat kid” I think unapologetically.
He runs off to his granny with a look that says both “I’m sorry” and “ha-ha” that I don’t really understand, until I see the pocket in front of my new seat is filled with a half eaten sandwich, its plastic container and a whole lot of bread crumbs. Should have kicked you in the face, wiseass! Yeah, you don’t scare me!
Flight attendant says she’s sorry and gives the direction he went a disapproving look that’s meant more for me I figure. I agree with her agreeing with me.

Take off goes well, albeit with a one hour delay. But I’m going to Blizzcon, yay!
The seat in front of me must be thinking things are going too well, because when the surfer guy in it decides it’s time to recline it, the damn thing drops about 20 cm more than it should, almost crushing my face, and effectively crushing my knees. Yes, it’s broken, won’t go back to its original position, and the whole trip is going to be spent watching movies so close I could actually see better without my glasses. I could take them off, but I’m wearing contacts. Typical.
When I try to get the flight attendant to do something about it, she says she will notify the technical staff after landing, and promptly gives her disapproving look to the chair, both of which bring me to the conclusion she thinks I’m an idiot. I don’t like her anymore.
At least I got to see “The Bridge to Terabithia”, which I never would have seen otherwise. Excellent movie, actually brought tears to my eyes. Or maybe it was the constant pressure of the front seat on my legs for eleven hours.

3 – Lax

We land! I’m in America!
I haven’t been in the country for many years, and even then it was for a three day trip. So this is what America looks like up close…
One hour and thirty minutes in line at the customs. There were three lines, about ten desks, people being shuffled between each as they became more available, and I managed to literally be the last one to go. About nine billion people must have been in that line, and I worked some kind of magic that assured I would be the last one of them. Plus, the kids from the line in Paris were here too. They decided they were so well rested from sleeping in the plane that it was time to exercise a little, and started running around non-stop. Had I had a gun, I would have shot one of them.

Outside I meet with the other people from the EU press and we call the shuttle. They’ve all been messed up by delays, and I learn that one guy who was supposed to be on my plane actually had to go through a later flight to New York, wait three hours there, and would arrive in LA in a few hours… Things aren’t all that bad after all.
Ninety minutes drive to Anaheim, chatting with the driver and with the other guys. “Traffic jam? This? Ha! You should see Paris at eight thirty in the morning! This is a joke!” I’m actually proud to flaunt my city’s faults in this guy’s face. Yes, we suck more than you do. Take this, Latino driver guy!

4 – The hotel

We get there and thank the driver, and we proceed to the check in desk. Then to our rooms, and oh my freaking God they have two huge freaking beds. Well, it’s not like I’m going to be using both of them, but if I could, oh my freaking God that would be awesome. Maybe I’ll bring back a girl geek from Blizzcon. Although, if we ended up using both beds it would be pretty stupid. And I think my girlfriend would disapprove. Oh I miss my girlfriend. Oh hey, maybe I could call her! Beep beep beep, beeeeep. Click.
Hey baby, how are y… oh you’re asleep? Sorry, go back to sleep, sorry, sorry! Yes I got there ok. Yes, yes it’s all good. Sorry! Night baby! Sorry!

5 – Disneything

So back at the reception, I finally get to meet the guys from Blizzard. Get the press pass (awesome, I have the power of the press!), and meet Ben and Julia. Aguilar is there too. Plenty of people from plenty of countries, including Julien from Belgium, Jeff and his wife (are they married? Maybe not) who are actually American but work for a UK website, and so they crash our party. Everyone is cool, we head out to Disney’s downtown to have dinner. Thirty people, almost one hour late, the ESPN bar/restaurant didn’t hold our reservation. So we head to the jungle thingy thing where plenty of lame ape-themed jokes occur, most by a shamelessly drunk with fatigue me. I will feel sorry tomorrow. Except I won’t, because I’ll be at Blizzcon, yay!
I eat half of what I ordered, freaking ogre portions… Everyone is having a good time and getting to know each other. An hour and a half later, it’s time to get back to the hotel. A quick website update, a quick shower and it’s bedtime. Goodnight, me, sweet dreams!

6 – Blizzcon Day, shopping spree !

Wake up, breakfast, the most awesome bacon I have ever had in my entire life. Had I to go back to Paris right this second, the trip would still have been worth it, just for this piece of that poor pig.
But I’m not going back, the cool Swedish people I’m having breakfast with had rented a car cause they were at Comicon the week before, and they can give me a ride to the convention center, which is about ten minutes away. Cool, I’ll go grab my stuff and we meet back here in ten!

The Anaheim Convention Center… Huge Blizzcon board on the front, this is awesome already. Let’s get in. Well, there aren’t that many people… Not that impressive. Oh wait, that’s not the entrance… Wait, what’s that? Hmmm, there’s a few people there… Ok, a lot of people… Oh my God, it’s a huge mob and they’re getting ready to hang someone!
Blizzard people running around with a plush murloc on a camera that is setting the crowd on fire, people in costumes, people with geek shirts talking about tier five armor, troll dances and warlock nerfs… This is great!

Ok, let’s swing by the press room real fast. Wow tryout stations, Wrath of the Lich King posters, the leak was legit! We have internet connections, should I post an update? Hmmm tempting, but I probably shouldn’t. Ok I won’t, the whole world will know in a few hours anyway. I send a picture by MMS to Daniel though, he’s my co-host. “We’ve seen pictures already, idiot”, he answers. “The swag bag everybody got was full of them”. I cry a little and head back down.

People are getting impatient and a little crazy. Journalists with cameras are going up and down the escalators to get good shots of the crowd… Looks like a vertical marry-go-round where the kids yell “for the horde” each time they see their parents to get their attention. It only worked the first fifteen times.

Finally the doors open, I start running for some unknown reason. Crowd dynamics. Then I realize I’m running for a very good reason: everyone is going to the Blizzard store! But I already went past it. I have to go back and… Too late. A bejilion people were smarter than me and the line is now spreading over a projected two hundred hours wait. It’s not worth it, I’ll go later. Well, probably not. But maybe. Whatever, I’m at Blizzcon, yay!

So I start walking towards the main stage. Row of chair after chair after chair… This thing is huge! There must be enough sitting for two or three thousand people here. The opening ceremony is not for another hour or so, what should I… “ding!” goes a thought in my head. Wasn’t there supposed to be two stores this time around? I start walking to the other end of the hall. Slowly, like a preyed animal, so no one will notice. I’m so brilliant, I can get there when everyone else is still here, hahahaaaaa… Wait, what is everyone doing? Why are they walking that way too? Ok, don’t run, it’ll start a chain reaction you really don’t want to start.
Everyone’s looking at everyone. They know that I know, and I know that they know that I know. If one of us starts accelerating, the consequences will be disastrous for all. Mutually assured geekstruction. I keep walking but stop breathing. I see the barriers that form the line. There’s a few people in front of me, but it’s not too bad. The people in the store are looking at us, smiling. Yeah, smile you moron, you’re not the one fighting for your life here! Still walking, I have my target in sight. These are the longest thirty seconds of my life. Don’t breath, don’t run, don’t panic. Getting closer… Closer… Closer… And… Yes, I’m in! Only twenty or thirty people in front of me, and about five hundred behind me. Haha, beat you, suckeeeers!

I’m content with myself and start browsing the sheet of paper that lists all the goods here for sale. Pins, buttons, shirts, hoodies… Cool, I’ll take five of each! I have listeners and they need presents, see. The line is still twenty minutes or so and everyone is chatting and smiling. I meet this 15 year old kid who’s here with his uncle, or dad maybe. They’re both players, it feels like I’ve known them forever. We laugh, the kid’s awful smart, which seems to be a lot more common these days. There’s still lots of idiots of course, but in my day we were all idiots…

Ok, register open, time for my order. This, that, this, can I see the hoodie? What size are the buttons? Is this shirt better than this one? Sorry, I can’t make up my mind… It’s ok sir, take your time. Genuine smile on both parts. Ok, I’m done, here’s my credit card. Swap, beep beep.
Err, sorry sir, the card’s been rejected.” I die a little inside.
Seriously ? But I checked before I left ! This can’t be happening, can you please try it again ?
Sure.” Re-swap, re-beep beep. Re-rejected.
Oh for the love of the Light!… Ok, I got a couple hundred bucks in cash, just in case. I guess that’s the case it was for. I’ll have to cancel this and that and that, and I’ll take this and this and… She feels sorry for me, and so do I. Well, I still got most of what I wanted, and kids die of hunger in Darfur, so misery is relative.

Ok, two bags full of goodies, almost ten thirty, time to meet The Instance listeners! Starcraft 2 play area. Here we are. Hmm, this place is huge. Ok, hi sir, do you know The Instance ? No ? Ok. Sorry, hi, you know The Instance ? Hey, I’m Patrick, are you ?… Ten minutes of this. How can so many people not know Scott Johnson?! People are beginning to look at me funny. I’m the master of organizing these kinds of things… Ok, a forum post will take care of rescheduling. Hopefully.

End of part one…

(You thought that was long? Well it’s only half of it! Here are chapters 7-12!)

September 15th, 2008