I've never been hugely into comic books. I've read and admired some classics of the medium--things like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns--and I went through a period as a kid where I was obsessed with collecting every issue of Marvel's The Transformers series. But my experience with comics is pretty limited, and so I wondered if a show called Comic-Con could really have much for me.
What a fool I was.
Everywhere I looked, there was a celebration of something I'd once loved, something that part of me still did.It only took about 15 seconds on the show floor to realize that this show is totally for me. Everywhere I looked, there was a celebration of something I'd once loved, something that part of me still did. A large Castle Grayskull sheltered figures that celebrated the Masters of the Universe toys and Princess of Power toys that I'd coveted as a child. Nearby, Ghostbusters figures fought valiantly to protect the people of New York from the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. And just a short distance away, life-sized, fearsome-looking replicas of the trolls from The Hobbit looked ready to crush passers-by and turn them into stew.
As much as I love this stuff, though, it would all feel crass and corporate, if it weren't for the fans everywhere; the people who, like me, were just brimming over with enthusiasm for these stories and characters.
It was just over a month ago that I was at E3, and in some ways, being at Comic-Con feels similar. The show floor is crowded, and everywhere you look, stimulating displays compete with each other for your attention. But the energy at Comic-Con is completely different. There's an electricity in the air at E3, but it's a frantic kind of spark that comes from the fact that nearly everyone there is working, scrambling around the convention center to cover the daunting amount of stuff that needs to be covered.
Comic-Con, on the other hand, is a celebration. Most people here aren't here to work; they're here to celebrate the comics, the movies, the TV shows and games they love. I know that sounds obvious, but there's a difference between seeing pictures of cosplayers and actually being at Comic-Con in person to feel the energy in the air. At no time has that energy been more apparent to me than during the game-related panels I've had the pleasure of attending.
Of course, one would hope that those of us who have the privilege of attending shows like E3 are enthusiastic about games, and indeed, there's no shortage of whoops and hollers during E3 press conferences. But during the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary panel that I attended on Thursday, there was an unbridled enthusiasm in the air, a pure, unfettered love for the franchise of a sort that you rarely feel at trade shows. Corny as it sounds, you could feel the love in the air, and that's something special.
Knowing that millions of people around the world share that affection is great. Actually being in a room with hundreds of those people and feeling it is incredible.At the Assassin's Creed panel I later attended, I felt chills run down my spine as the audience cheered Connor's sneakiness, his grace, and his brutal effectiveness. I felt those chills because the intensity of their enthusiasm mirrored my own. I'm incredibly lucky to work every day with people who love games, and I never take that for granted. But nonetheless, being in a room full of hundreds of people who share your passion is a rare occurrence, and for me, the experience is a powerful reminder of the pure joy that brought me to games in the first place, of the childlike affection that has been with me for so long. Knowing that millions of people around the world share that affection is great. Actually being in a room with hundreds of those people and feeling it is incredible.
A few days ago, I wondered if Comic-Con was for me. Now, I know that the people who attend Comic-Con are my people, and that I am one of them. I won't come away from Comic-Con with lots of cool merchandise. Much as I might like to, I won't go home with any of those awesome He-Man toys or Ghostbusters figurines. But I will take with me something better: a memory of how it feels to be one fan among many, and to know that you belong.