Sarah Wiezel

Agent Sarah writes on Tuesdays for Agents of GUARD and covers Arrow, console games, anime, and whatever else sounds appealing at the moment. She has a day job in the software industry and thinks cereal is overrated.

After a fun preview night at the con last night, I returned to the Convention Center area on Thursday morning.  But instead of attending SDCC, I was there to check out events outside the con.

You see, in recent years, San Diego Comic Con hasn’t been able to contain everyone and everything about this huge entertainment industry. SDCC started with humble roots many years ago as an art and comics show, but grows larger and more expansive into pop culture and the entertainment industry every year, and as such there are more and more people heading to San Diego to attend the con and be a part of the experience each time. A few years ago, events started popping up in different places- restaurants, rented out buildings, even the baseball field- where con-goers and non-con-goers alike could attend events. This year was no different and I only see this getting bigger and bigger every year.

After a quick meet-up with Agents Justin, Patrick, and Jamal who were heading into the trenches of the exhibition hall, I decided to check out Adult Swim on the Green. I really love Adult Swim shows; I first started watching anime on [as], as well as all their silly but brilliant cartoons in college and for several years was pretty active in their online community, so it’s something near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, while checking online to find the location of the event, my heart sank when I saw that it was “for badgeholders only.” Why should I have to have a comic con badge to go to an event outside the con? That doesn’t even make sense to me.

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I quickly noticed that this was a trend as I walked around the Gaslamp and East Village. I walked by the Game of Thrones “experience” area, which was also “badgeholders only” and saw banners for a few events that indicated one must also have a badge to attend. I started to feel a little disheartened and decided to duck into an Italian cafe for a quick coffee and pastry to mentally regroup. As I was walking out, I noticed an event going on next door that did not require a badge, so I decided to check it out.

The event was a game testing experience for Rainbow Six Siege, a new Tom Clancy game by Ubisoft. I’m admittedly not a big fan of first person shooter games– I’m not good at them, and I often find the players to be hyper-competitive which makes it less fun for me– but I figured trying out the game might be fun, certainly more fun than getting rejected from getting into other events. I was rushed to the front of the (short) line when I got in because I was by myself and a group had been waiting for one more member to join, since you have to play in a co-op group of five.

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“Are you sure you want to get in the way of my morning coffee?”

After briefly greeting my team members and partaking in a quick photo-op, we sat down at the testing consoles and were provided headsets and Xbox controllers. There was one main person who explained the game to us and provided a little bit of narrative context, while there were a couple of other people standing next to our group to provide helpful hints to make sure we didn’t get stuck or frustrated. We were also filmed while playing (probably as a part of the usability testing.) This was my first time participating in a game test like this, so I was really pleased with how well-organized the process was.

Our team completed an initial training round to get acclimated to the controls and gameplay, and then completed a level together. I have to say that I actually really enjoyed the experience. The game was pretty easy to play and the controls weren’t very different from other first person shooters. I left the Rainbow Six lounge feeling much less discouraged than I was when I’d walked in, and eager to check out more stuff.

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Our photo op quickly devolved into silliness.

There were also many viral marketing campaigns for tv shows in particular all around the neighborhood. I spotted a group of soldiers in red barets promoting a show, a group of people dressed in white handing out cards telling everyone they’d come a long and far way to help us, Game of Thrones and Muppet pedi-cabs, stiltwalkers promoting Sharknado 3, and so much more. I even ended up with a red baret myself for the day! Amusingly, there were a lot of people asking me where I’d gotten my Call of Duty hat (I think Call of Duty is cooler than a tv show I don’t know about, so I was all right with this.) I later stuck one of our Agents of GUARD stickers on the hat and repurposed it for my own marketing.

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I was recruited into the Colony, apparently!

The next thing I knew I had to check out was the Nerdist Conival. Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist empire grows larger every year, and this year they set up shop at Petco Park for their own mini-con (no badge required!) I walked in and was right away invited to test another video game, so I enthusiastically got in line.

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Lego-velociraptors at the entry of Nerdist Conival.

This time around I got to play a level from Battleborn, the new game from Gearbox and 2K (coming out Holiday Season 2015.) There were some server issues during the initial setup, so I had the opportunity to chat with one of the marketing managers from Gearbox while we were waiting, which was actually kind of cool. They told me that this game has been in development for about two years now, and that there will be over TWENTY FIVE playable characters. I expressed some skepticism over the ability to create quality characters with that quantity (most game developers have enough trouble with just a few or even one great character, after all.) They said that there was a special emphasis on the characters while developing the game, and that each playable character for Battleborn required about four times more time and effort than a character from Borderlands 2, one of their previous and much-loved games. This is something that really blew me away, and was also very clear during the game test.

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My overall experience testing Battleborn was not as great as Rainbow Six. There were several server issues while getting everything going and our five person team had to roll with only four people because a computer went down. This lead to my group having much more difficulty with the level than we would have otherwise and it took us almost twice as long as the other test group to actually complete it. The look and feel of the game is very similar to Borderlands 2, and the basic controls are the same so it was pretty easy to adjust to it, having logged many hours in Borderlands 2. Ironically I wasn’t wild about the character I played as, although several staff members told me I’d selected a great one (I’m sure it was just a fluke based on style of gameplay and the difficulty of our level situation.)

After escaping Battleborn, I met up with Agents Justin, Jamal, Patrick, and Bobby for lunch at the Hilton. We stuck around and got pictures in the Fargo snowglobe, which was fun but man I really should have made buying sunscreen a priority.

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What we stared at for at least a half-hour while waiting to get our snowglobe picture. It was NOT comfortable in that bubble.

The heat from being outside for so long made me really want something cold, and I knew I’d seen free slurpees at the Nerdist Conival, so I headed back there and walked around a little more. Some of the other displays and sales that were there included Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Espionage Cosmetics, TeeFury (which was out of supplies by the time I got there), and a laser tag activity which looked like fun but it was way too hot out for. After picking up some free gelato outside from the Republic of Gamers, I scoped out the rest of the Petco Park events which included the Hello Kitty cupcake food truck, local radio stations, a giant inflatable Snoopy’s doghouse, a freefall ride to promote Scream Queens and other such things. I decided to head home after saying goodbye to the other agents and finally getting to meet Agent Earl in person!

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The Hello Kitty Cupcake truck!

All in all it was a pretty fun day outside the con! If I could do things differently, I probably would have planned a little bit better and made my day less spontaneous just due to different times for events opening, not knowing in advance what required a badge versus what did not, and also there were some cool panels at Nerdist Conival that I would have attended had I known about them in advance. There were some other activities that seemed fun but I was either ill-prepared for or they weren’t open, including the Assassin’s Creed Experience, the Her Universe fashion show, the Playstation gaming tent, and the Disney events going on outside the con (one of which Agent Andrew covered.)

I don’t intend to head back to SDCC or the outside-con this year, but I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and have learned a thing or two about what to expect at cons! You’ll be the first to hear all about what I’ve learned and any future con plans right here at the Agents of GUARD blog.

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