Disclaimer: This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, my first ever convention. NYCC 2011 was, however, my first convention as a member of the press. As it turns out, there isn't much difference between a badge that says "4-day" and a badge that says "press" — unless the person wearing said badge makes that difference.
Thursday Because today is mostly press, there is no cosplay parade to follow on the way to the Javits. I'm very lucky to not get lost.
The press lounge is exactly like a panel room but with less people, all of whom are Very Important, and more cardboard coasters for our Very Important Drinks. Sidebar: No drinks were actually served.
At the "press and pros" only panels, all of which are about libraries integrating video games into their collections and programming, I learn that somewhere there is a library that uses their computers to host a Minecraft server. Note to self—find that library.
The show floor hasn't opened yet, which leaves me to wander the lobby and talk to cosplayers. I meet Goku and Kairi (seperate occasions) and sign up for a 5 Gum Newsletter. That's OK, because Goku has cool hair, and the newsletter entitles me to free gum and a t-shirt. I try using my press badge to get into the show floor early, but no dice.
I have an interview with Michael Grant, who wrote the Animorphs series among other teen/young adult fiction. We talk about his new book, BZRK, which already has a huge online community consisting of a bunch of websites, even though the book doesn't come out until February. The book is about micro-biological war. Michael tells me there are two and a half pounds of bacteria on a person at any given time. There is even some in our eyelashes.
I skip the after-parties I've been getting emails about for weeks, and head home to vigorously wash my eyelashes.
Friday The first "press event" that I get to attend is the Robot Chicken press hour, where Matt Senrich (executive producer and sometimes writer) talks to a crowd of press people about how much he hates talking to crowds. I'm waiting for someone to figure out I'm just an intern and swiftly kick me out of the room; but even after asking a question directly to Matt, I'm not being escorted out!
After the panel, I introduce myself as "Jen Schiller — entertainment journalist with Kotaku" and tentatively hand both Matt and the PR guy from Adult Swim my incredibly just-printed-out-two-nights-ago business card.
After asserting myself that first time, the second, third, and fifteenth times only got easier as the weekend went on.
As it turns out, a little confidence takes me a long way.
My press badge on its own, however, won't take me very far. The Robot Chicken panel follows the press hour and the line is already a couple hundred people long. I go right to the front, hold up my badge and flash a smile. All I get from security is a stern "No special privileges for press. Back of the line."
Can't knock me for trying.
Today I have a meeting with Square Enix, and I'm supposed to have an interview with Sohmer — the writer of the webcomics Least I Could Do, Looking For Group, and Gutters. However, the convention centre is packed, and even with my badge I get hurded into a huge line that literally wraps around the entire building.
Half an hour later, when I find Sohmer for the second time (I met him first Thursday night, just to say hello and give him some red bull...) his table is swamped, just like the rest of the packed show floor. We reschedule for Sunday, and he declares me his "best friend". The title doesn't come with a pay raise.
At the Square Enix booth, I get to play Heroes of Ruin which I have been looking forward to for forever. Unlike previous gameplay previews as one of a billion people on a slow-moving, sweaty line, I had a half hour booked to play and talk to a booth rep. I got to enjoy the early gameplay, instead of feeling like I was holding the whole line up. Plus, I had prepared for the meeting with a handful of questions ready to ask, so I didn't stand there with my jaw hanging open at the end of the preview.
I'm supposed to play FFXIII-2 next, but the overcrowding mixed with a missing booth rep means I'll have to reschedule. When I assure the PR girl that that's more than fine, she sighs with relief. In fact, every PR person I've talked to has been relieved to hear that I'm available all four days. I can see why this might be an exception rather than a rule—I'm already wiped.
I can imagine why journalists don't attend all four days, considering even after I'm home there's work to do—making sure my camera is cleared off for the next day, working on articles to assure I'm not doing everything in one clump at the end of the con, and going over my interviews and meetings for the next day. A journalists work is never done.
Sunday I sleep in, but not by much. The show floor closes at five today and I've still got an interview and a game preview, and that's in addition to the last minute presents I want to pick up.
At 2pm I finally get to play XIII-2 and honestly I can't wait for the game, but you can read all about that in Evan's review. The PR girl thanks me again for being so flexible. Saturday was more crowded than either of us could believe.
I head back over to Sohmer's booth — at this point it kind of does feel like we're old friends. I'm surprised by how casual our conversations are, and all of my conversations with everyone have been. I conduct the interview right at the Blind Ferret booth as the steady stream of fans haven't given up. We talk comics, we talk Archer, and we talk dream Superhero teams. We chat about all sorts of things until I run out of questions and the show floor is about to close again, this time for the whole weekend.
My little press badge was a magical anomaly this weekend—both everything and nothing about NYCC seemed to change with a green bar instead of a red one on my weekend pass. I felt like time not used with my camera or my notebook out was time wasted, but I also sat back and watched things happen to see where the crowds gathered, the cheers soared, and the breaking news was unfolding. And yet, I skipped the Avengers panel, knowing that getting in would mean at least two hours waiting in line, and time was my most precious resource.
Okay, so time was my second most precious after confidence—I had to get used to saying I was a journalist and freelance writer, and started handing out business cards without apologising for the amateurish design quality. It's the same thing writing teachers have been telling me for years—no one is going to come with a magic wand and declare me a writer if I don't declare it myself.