Friday night was quite the night for me. Along with a bunch of friends and co-workers, I got a bleacher seat at AT&T Park to watch the Oakland Athletics play against the San Francisco Giants. I'd never seen a baseball game live before, and so I was looking forward to it, but ultimately it wasn't too fantastic. What was fantastic was the 80's Night garb that some of our guys donned. After the game was finished, I came back to the office to wrap up some work on a few projects and wait for another group of friends to show up, because we had a whole different type of outing planned--a decidedly crazier type of outing.
Saturday marked the final North American stop of the Metal Gear Solid 4 World Tour 2008, and game creator/director Hideo Kojima was scheduled to show up at 4pm for a two our signing session along with Ryan Payton, Yumi Kikuchi, and Kenichiro Imaizumi. With the knowledge that I could get a Kojima autograph, I decided to join Patrick, Julian, and Chris in the waiting game.
It all started out at around midnight, when we did the first location spot check. Granted, we were crazy, but we didn't want to be the first guys in line. That entails a whole different kind of responsibility that we weren't willing to assume, and we really only wanted to be in line as long as we could. The office is only a couple blocks walking distance away from the Metreon, and so we walked down to check for the early stages of a line forming, and upon discovering that there wasn't any we came back. At 1am we did another spot check, and again returned to the office, where we got a few hours of precious sleep in.
At 5am, we ended up doing our last spot check, upon which we discovered that there were already nine people there and quickly got in line. The group that had already formed was full of some really nice people, but I couldn't help but notice how under-prepared I was for the event--some of them had camping chairs ready, and they were definitely wearing some thicker jackets than I was or had blankets. Being unaccustomed to overnight line camping, I just had a hoodie, my DS (with a game I'm doing a review of in it; yes, I worked while I was there), and a book (Altered Carbon, a good sci-fi read). In the very unlikely event that I do something like this again, I'm coming packed for bear.
Those guys at the front of the line had been there since 2am, a fact they pointed out with pride to anyone who asked. They also fought tooth and nail (and believe me, they had to at some points) to make sure that everyone knew they were at the front of the line. For a significant stretch of the day, one of the good-natured guys, a huge black fellow wearing camo who was incredibly nice but had a fantastic stern glare, held up a hand-written sign that simply read, "START OF LINE" with "WE GOT HERE AT 2AM" written beneath it.
At around 7:30, we needed to make a food run. Across the street was both a Mel's and a Denny's, and we decided to go to Denny's. Mostly because the food at Mel's always looks and smells so appealing, but is ultimately incredibly disappointing and borderline terrible, whereas Denny's is consistently somewhat awful. But when you hadn't eaten real food in 15 hours, you'll pretty much eat anything, right? So Patrick, Julian, and I made our way there while Chris stayed behind to hold our spot, and await the fruits of our return, because apparently Denny's does to go food (I really had no idea). It was a little while after we got back that things started to get real crazy.
By 10am the line was already most of the way down the 4th street side of the Metreon. The day before, I had stopped by the PlayStation Store to see if they had any plans for the event, and it turns out that they of course had no idea how they were going to do anything. The complete lack of planning started to show around this time. The Metreon opened its doors, and of course the crowd in line began to surge inside the building. It wasn't until a significant portion of the line was already inside and waiting that the PlayStation Store manager came out and indignantly informed us that we weren't allowed to wait and had to move it back outside. For reals man, it's not like you didn't see the line, it would've helped if you actually tried to look like you knew what you were doing.
So the Manager Jerk pushed us all back outside, all the while with an attitude of bitter resentment that would continue throughout the day. As the day went on, more and more people showed up, and at this stage some crowd control methods were called for. Despite the fact that the Manager Jerk knew where the front of the line was, several of the people at the front reportedly had to enter the building and double-check that everyone working knew where the line began. This had to happen again once they finally managed to get some ropes up to keep the line orderly, as there was again confusion by the Powers That Be about what part of the line was the front and which was the back. All throughout the day, I had heard horror stories about how the LA event was botched by the group behind us, who didn't even make it inside the building and drove all the way up and got in line at around 5:30am just to make sure they didn't get screwed out of it again. I was hoping that wasn't going to happen this time.
Cosplayers began to show up throughout the day, including a guy about 7 people back who donned a Naked Snake outfit complete with face paint. Out of the people that I saw though, the best costumes belonged to a group who had unfortunately shown up too late to nab autographs (though they hung out by the window looking in the entire time, so here's hoping they were seen). The group consisted of an Old Snake, complete with awesome looking Octocam suit and a wicked sweet 'stache; a crocodile head helmet wearing Naked Snake with a slice of watermelon; a decked out Frog soldier; and a really good Meryl Silverburg. Update: I've since heard that I must've seen Meryl at a bad time for a variety of reasons. She actually seems pretty nice, despite what I had here before.
Around 2ish I want to say, Manager Jerk showed up again (having reared his ugly head several times earlier to make sure we were all standing and lining up against the wall properly or something). This time, he came with a couple ladies bearing wristbands for us all, proclaiming that without a wristband you weren't getting in. Finally, some order, if not a bit late. He ended up trying to screw a couple of the guys that had been there since 2am out of wristbands because they weren't in line the precise moment that he came by, but they did get theirs after a lot of complaining--unfortunately, I heard that there were a few others who didn't manage to get wristbands later on, despite complaints. In addition to wristbands, Manager Jerk also brought a series of draconian rules that he proclaimed loudly:
- Kojima will only sign the gunmetal grey special edition PS3s or a supplied slipcover, nothing else. The store had no gunmetal grey PS3s in stock, nor did they have any limited edition copies of the game.
- You aren't allowed to pose with any of the guests, nor could you ask them to pose for you
- You have to be in and out ASAP
- You cannot look directly at Kojima, nor can you speak unless directly asked a non-rhetorical question**
Apparently, Kojima would sign anything you asked him to sign (I saw posters and limited edition copies of the game signed), but I decided not to press my luck and ask for a DS signature (hey, he was a producer on Lunar Knights). I blame Manager Jerk for not knowing what was going on, and also the dude who asked him to sign a pack of Marlboros. I mean, really dude, WTF?
At around 3:30pm, a car came up to deliver Kojima and group, and the line surged down to look on to see him wave and smile. There weren't many people who actually stayed in line at this point, and I was thinking to myself that it would have been the perfect time for some less scrupulous types to try and sneak their way to the front, but apparently that didn't happen, or I didn't see the fights. I think the weirdest thing that happened to me the entire day was that someone came by asking for where the line ended (at this point, it literally wrapped all the way around the building and was over 500 people long), and then ended up chatting with me for a bit when he recognized me for my Super Smash Bros. Review. That's the first time something like that's ever happened! I wish I remembered his name, but I blanked out on it due to sleep deprivation as soon as he left. Sorry dude!
Finally, at about 4pm, we were let into the building where we were pushed through a signing gauntlet that began with Kenichiro Imaizumi, moved on to Hideo Kojima, and ended with Yumi Kikuchi. Sleep depraved, I didn't really do much besides thank them and tell them that I loved Metal Gear, and then I headed out and collected a rad MGS4 dogtag, and then it was over.
Looking back on the ordeal, it was certainly a crazy but awesome experience. It was fun, and I'm glad I did it, but I'm not sure I could do something like that again. In the end though, it was totally worth it, and I'm proud to have gotten a Hideo Kojima autograph by waiting in line for 11+ hours. Special thanks go out to Patrick, Julian, and Chris for setting this whole thing up and making sure I tagged along!
* All photography by Chris Lovos
** Not really true