The Blizzcon Dairies (part 2)

This is Part 2 of The Blizzcon Dairies.
If don’t know what this is, find out here with part 1!

7 – The panels

The opening ceremony is about to start. I make my way to the front row… May I see your pass please? Well of course you may, good sir. I look for a good spot, thankfully there’s a lot more seats than there are journalists. Here’s Kathleen Sanders and the guys from the one up show “Hey, it’s Mini! Love the show!” “Thanks!” Mini’s owner smiles back. I sit down, the ceremony starts. Morhaime on stage, giving numbers. Then Starcraft 2 and Wrath of the Lich King, we already knew all of that… Still cool, but a little bit underwhelming. “Damn you, Interwebs!” I hear Chilton screaming inside his head.

The ceremony’s over, and… The horror. Regular people are ok, but “ze journalists” enter a stage of panic that I’m no stranger to. Quick, update our pages we must! Blog and post and announce we have to! Well, the cool ones are sitting and chatting, cause they already live updated everything from their palm-treo-PDA thingies. Curse you technology savvy professionals!
I run and plug in and start typing. Maybe some kind of PHP script would have been a good idea, instead of actually coding the page and formatting the pictures by hand… And maybe this could have occurred to me, oh I don’t know, TWO WEEKS AGO?!

Ok, site updated, crisis averted. Now it’s time to get to the Wow conference. Wait, did I forget something? I think maybe… Oh, right, food. Hmm, ok, dilemma: Warcraft panel or sustenance? Hell, I’ll grab a couple of energy bars and a drink and I’ll be fine. Ok, almost time, let’s start running.
The panel starts, and it’s everything I hoped the opening ceremony would be. Zones, classes, professions… Now I’m really pumped. I’m ready to take on Arthas and to show him who’s the boss. Hopefully he’ll be gentle.

On my way back to the press room I come across Mike Morhaime. Will I dare? No I can’t. The man’s busy, he won’t. Oh but, he’s here, and I probably won’t have another chance in my whole life! My whole life… life… life… life… The words sound as an echo as I repeat them in my head for dramatic effect. So I wait until he’s done with the other morons asking questions and smiling in front of the camera, and I go to him and ask if I may, please, if it’s not too much trouble. Apparently he’s the sweetest person alive (no mom, I’m just saying that, you are) and it’s no trouble at all, so I take a picture that is probably the worse picture of me in the entire range of possible worseness. He looks fine though, so fair enough.
– “So what magazine do you work for?” Asks Morhaime gently
– “Well, I don’t really work for a magazine; do you know what a podcast is?” I ask, suddenly realizing I sound like I’m going to try to sell him some sort of magic ointment or try to get him to join a cult. “Now that I listen to podcasts, I am eighty three percent happier, and my cat poops in his box! Podcasts changed my life!” I muse.
– “Podwhat?” he says in much more tactful way I can’t recall.
Never mind, most people have never heard of us. This is the price you have to pay when you’re a pioneer… And I ask for a couple of sound bites.
Hi, this is Mike Morhaime, and you’re listening to Atherot tot… Wait, Ateroth… no… Azrot dot… Hey, why is this such a tongue twister?” You got me pal, I’m French, I’m not even supposed to speak the language. I thank him profusely, both for this and for the games his company makes. He smiles like a six year old kid, and he seems genuinely happy.

The day goes on, I set up another meeting with the guys from The Instance for the next day, and go to another panel. Damn, these panels are cool! Wait, did I just enjoy a panel about items? Am I getting way too geeky here, or are they really making these things enjoyable?
Well, it’s probably a little bit of both; besides, the geek part is ok, we really are among friends here. A thought enters my mind: it must be like a gay person going to a gay bar. In their everyday life, no matter how ok everyone is with it (and they might not be), they are still the gay one. In the bar, everyone is, so everyone feels like they belong. In a way, Blizzcon is the Geek Bar. We’re unapologetically geeky, and we feel good about it. And the guys around us are just the same. It’s the Woodstock of Wow nerds.
Hey, stop daydreaming you moron, it’s time for the EU press conference!” Says the little voice inside my head. “I know”, I mutter to myself, slightly upset because I didn’t really, and off I go to room 208.
About fifteen to twenty of us here. Chilton, Pardo, Sams, Pierce and Browder are here to answer our questions. Awesome. The trick is to go first, when everyone is shy and reserved, so you’re sure to get your question in. So as usual I raise my hand when Julia invites us to. She nods at me with a smile. I ask a question about level progression, and they say the leveling curve is indeed going to be revised. Hey, I didn’t make a fool of myself!
A few other questions then me again. Did you ever cave to the player community’s pressure and ended up happy with the result? “First of all, we don’t “cave” to anyone”, Chilton fights back. But he got my meaning. Goes on for a while. Good spirited conference, I think everyone was happy with it.

Back to the press room, I see Karen Chu from the one up show (the nice thing about video shows is that you know what people look like! Apparently Alachia from Wowcast was there too, along with a few others, but their shows are audio. Stupid audio podcasts!) So I go to Karen and say hi, and we start talking, and it turns out she heard my show a few weeks back! Apparently some people in her guild speak French and they played it in the background on vent… I’m stunned, I like her show and she knows mine, we congratulate each other on knowing each other and start laughing out loud and generally making fools of ourselves. And it’s already time to go to another conference.

I make my way to the panel. And another one after that, and then the stupid costume / sound alike contest… Man, this is going to be so stupid, maybe I’ll skip them. But people insist it’s really cool, Aguilar swears by it, Ben and Julia tell me it would be foolish to miss it… Ok ok, I’ll go. But first I need to find a quiet place to record my show for day one with Aguilar and Julien.

We walk and walk and walk… Is there no quiet place in this huge building?? Well, apparently the geek army is too large. All your quiet place are belong to us. So we find an almost quiet place and tape a forty five minute show, and then we head back down for the contests.
Hey, I still haven’t had time to play the expansion! Well, there’s still tomorrow.

8 – The contests

Jay Mohr makes an entrance, and starts his act. Makes fun of us, but respectfully, and aside from a couple of “World of Warcraft 4” mistakes that would have gotten him killed in other circumstances, he does a pretty good job. And, my, I think these contests are actually pretty fun! The dances are predictable… until they’re not.
The expected “I am a girl and I am fit so I’m going to dance around half naked and get my moment of fame among my geek friends” is very cliché but still enjoyable, and you have to give them props for actually going through with it. Some deserve even more props because they go through with it even though they are so obviously unprepared and so much worse than the ones that came right before them. Jay encourages everyone and he seems genuine. And everyone seems to share that good spirited empathy. And even when there is pity, it is heartfelt. Again, these pitiful geeks are like us, and we love them too…
And then a couple of ogre dances by what looks like a couple of genuine ogres that lose their shirts, much to everyone’s horror and delight, and then awesome better than the real thing Napoleon Dynamite who manages to stay in character until the end of the contest. Well deserved win my friend. I think the only way you could have lost was if I had entered the contest myself. Unfortunately an old war injury prevented me to, you lucky lucky teenager.

Sound alike, costume and machinima contests go the same way, and are very entertaining. I think everyone’s tired and it’s time for Jay to say goodbye, and he reads my mind and says goodbye. Thanks Jay, you rock.

It’s almost ten, but the night isn’t over for me: I need to go meet the Instance guys for dinner!

9 – Instance dinner

I get to the downtown Disney thingy again. It looks like the one we have in Paris, except the hotdogs and pop corn cups are twice the size. Of our largest sizes.
I make my way to the restaurant and apologize profusely for being so late they already finished their meal! Well, they’re kind enough to wait while I order and devour my dish, and of course we start chatting about a million things Wow, and not Wow even. There’s Michael and Moises, and John, and John’s nephew, who is an absolutely adorable seven years old attention whore. They are all really cool and we have a great time, and we end up leaving around one in the morning which is really nine the next day for me, so I’m barely standing.

Back to the hotel… Still need to edit the show and post it. Good Lord, why oh why did I ever start a podcast? Ok, shower, edit show, edit page, edit RSS, publish, done. Time to go to sleep. Oh crap, wait, the alarm! I almost forgot the alarm. Here, it’s set up, time to slZzzzzzzZZZzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZzz.

10 – Blizzcon Day two

So I get up on time, thanks to some miracle I didn’t deserve, and make my way to the breakfast buffet, drawn by the mere idea of the bacon waiting for me there. And waiting for me it is, crispy and full of one year worth of fat and delicious.

The bus takes me to the convention center; we start the day with one on one sessions. I didn’t realize we were going to have one on one time with some of the guys from Blizzard so I panic a little. I go to Ben: “so who did I get?” the poor guy looks at me with eyes that say “I’m so sorry but the world is sort of crumbling under my feet right now, can I get back to you on that?” and still rummages through his papers and manages to find a free spot for me. He’s my hero. “I can get you in with Mike in twenty minutes” he says. “Morhaime?” I ask, as if he could answer “no, Jackson”. “Yup” he nods, and I beam at him. Awesome! So I go to the hall where Mike and the PR guy are waiting, and start a series of silly questions that hopefully will depart from the usual.
So Rob Pardo was named one of the one hundred most influential people by Times magazine last year… How jealous are you?” “Not at all” he lies through his teeth, red with rage and anger that I discovered his well kept secret in my daydream. “Not really, Rob is an awesome guy. I’m very happy for him, and I don’t really crave the attention”. Somehow his smile and the sparkle in his eye convince me that he’s sincere. I’m easy.
The ten minutes go by in a flash.
– “What would it take for you to stop doing what you do?
– “I really don’t think I could stop doing what I do.” Good answer…

I go back to Ben, who seems to have calmed down as the machine started rolling a little bit. He tells me he can get me in with Paul Sams. Of course! So I sit in with Paul, with Julia sitting next to us, watching and checking that I don’t reach out and steal his PDA or something. A couple of silly questions again, apparently he doesn’t like being referred to as “the numbers guy”, which I can understand. We start chatting about the company in general, have a really good time, and end up going over by at least five minutes. And then I make a complete fool of myself when, out of the blue, I start talking about what people thought of my accent when I lived in Japan. He politely smiles and says goodbye and I think I just slipped into the “insane geek person, best avoid” category in his book (mug shot and police plate number included).

And then the panels again. The day before I kind of decided I would go to all of them, because all panels are created equal and they are all beautiful. Even the scrawny little ones in the back. And they were; it’s incredible how they managed to make each one interesting. Panel after panel after panel, with a couple of Wow and SC2 play sessions crammed in there. And no time to eat, again.

At some point I go back to the press room and meet Karen again. “Hey, what class do you play?” she asks. “Well, mage of course, I like to blow things up”. “Huh, funny, I play rogue, cause I like to gank mages” I imagine her answering. But she doesn’t, and instead hands me an Arcane Brilliance buff pin, cause she’s awesome. And we start talking and she tells me that she went for a run after she finished working at to two a.m. the day before. I assumed it’s because she’s also crazy, but it turns out she’s planning on running the marathon and she’s got discipline. She explained the concept but I can’t seem to remember what it was about.

And finally the day draws to an end. I meet up with the Instance guys and we manage to record a segment for Scott and Randy. I was aiming for ten minutes, it’s thirteen… It’ll do. I’m pretty happy with myself again. I watch a little bit of the Wow arena championship, which insists on being a nebulous bunch of small guys running incomprehensibly no matter how hard I tried to understand what was going on. And after going to the Starcraft 2 panel that turned out to include a totally awesome presentation of the single player campaign, I head towards the Arena where the Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftain and Video Games Live concerts where going to happen.

So I sit down in the press area of the arena and I whip out my computer to start editing the segment we just recorded, waiting for the show to begin. Jay Mohr appears, and starts doing his thing. I don’t really pay much attention to him, because it goes on for fifteen or twenty minutes and I’m sort of busy. But then he’s sitting right next to me. “Hi Jay.” I say in the friendliest possible manner. “Hey man, what are you doing?” he asks. And I lose myself in an improbable blabber about how I’m editing the show for the thing and the hoopla and the what not. “Hey, is there any way you could make that more boring?” Oh snaaaap! The arena explodes in laughter. I could so see this coming! Damn! Ok, this is not the end of it. I have a mighty snappy comeback, and if you start taking me on I have an army of geeks at my side, and I can so easily rally all of them and you’ll be ridiculous and you’ll be booed and I will laugh and you’ll cry and you’ll lose and I’ll win! Ok, snappy comeback time, now!
Hello everyone, and thank you for coming” Mike Morhaime says as he enters the stage. Jay takes off, taking the mic away from me as I was about to say that he sucks ass, only in a much more clever way. “Why oh why do you cramp my style so, Mickey? Did I hurt you with those comments about Pardo being better than you? That’s not what I meant, I assure you! You have to understand, I was just doing my job and” “HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” DUM DUBUDUM DUBUDUM DUBUDUM the L70ETC band rudely interrupts my thoughts to myself, and the whole place goes nuts.
People singing, yelling the lyrics, which are really funny I must admit, blood elf chicks throwing T-shirts in the crowd, said crowd fighting for said T-shirts (one would think they would fight for said blood elf chicks, but whatever).

Thirty minutes of hard Blizzard rock, surprisingly good. And then the Video Games Live part. It’s an impressive effort, but it really can’t compete with the energy of the previous band… One nice moment was when people got their cell phones out and waved them as digital age lighters. A beautiful sight to end a beautiful evening. The event is coming to an end, and I’m too tired to even be sad about it… Plus, I need to finish editing The Instance’s segment, and record and publish my show for the second day of the con!! Patrick, to the Pat-mobile! Ok, no car. To the bus!

11 – Last night

Julien is nice enough to co-host the show with me again. Half an hour about the second day, and so much more to say… This will have to do, I think we managed to cram most of it in. Edit edit edit publish. All this while chatting with Julien who’s still here; damn I’m good. With this satisfying thought, I bid my Belgian friend good night, and jump from my clothes to the shower, from the shower to the bed, and from the bed to sleep.

12 – Last day

I’m leaving for the airport at five p.m. with the other French guys, so we have a few hours to kill. What would you do when stuck in the middle of Anaheim for five hours? Well, we went to a mall, which was pretty disappointing. At first. Because after a while of aimless walking, I came across an Apple store, and in the Apple store was a bunch of iPhones, and boy was I going to test this puppy out. What? I’m a geek and I want an iPhone, deal with it.

So I’m standing there, pinching and tapping and double tapping, and opening my site on this little device, and making it crash on the Wrath of the Lich King’s site, and we’re generally having fun together. The security guard is apparently amused at my iPhone deprived country’s vibe, and I hold no grudge to him because it’s not his fault. But man, if Steve Jobs was to enter the store this second, I would so go to him and like, tell him what I think of his careful planning and skillful strategizing of his new venture in the telecom business that has us in the old continent waiting and begging for his good pleasure! I so would!
Well, he didn’t so I didn’t, and after about half an hour I got bored. The guard was still there and the security system seemed solid I decided I couldn’t really make a run for it, so I walked away without any iPhone whatsoever.

We went to the food court to get some lunch. I was hell bent on trying out a “real” Whopper (read “American”) but there was no Burger King to be found. Fine, a Big Mac then. No Mac Donalds. Karl’s Junior is all they had in the burger department, but what a burger that was. I went for the smallest one there was, and there was still some cheese and some bacon in it! And everything else in the food court was burritos and burgers and ice cream and cake… No wonder you guys can’t eat properly, even the electronics stores had candy bars at the checkout counter!
I considered for a moment the amount they would sell if they replaced the candy bars by fruits and vegetables. I then thought of the boxes of double stuffed Oreos I had in my cupboards at home, but quickly dismissed my doubts by deciding, as I often do, that I was right and they were wrong. Which I am usually fine with.

So the guys and I went to the electronics store, and after considering buying a PS3 for the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes in France (the US dollar is so cheap) we decided against it because of the hassle it would be. And we sadly realized we had to finally depart for the hotel, and from the hotel to the airport, because our trip was coming to an end…

The trip back. An hour drive to LAX, an uneventful line to check in and an even more uneventful eleven hours on the plane (most of them spent sleeping and not having my legs crushed by the seat in front of me) made for a pretty painless trip back home. The pain started when we landed and the weather would have been considered dreadful even in November, and I realized the Blizzcon was behind me now. No more I’m going to Blizzcon, no more yay.

Only when closing my apartment’s door did I realize it was now “I was at Blizzcon, yay!

September 22nd, 2008