It wasn’t Occupy Wall Street. It was more like Occupy Nerd Street. The New York Comic Con was a strange but effective conglomeration of diverse businesses, all parading under the banner of “We are EveryNerd.”
So you had to be smart and aware while traversing the floor. Some true nerds were overly aggressive, pushing and elbowing, much more so than, say, at Pax East. And there were fake nerds, much worse than true nerds. At one booth, a dozen HD monitors shone, massive speakers boomed, and some sci-fi bed of ball bearings vibrated when you sat on them as the visage of Terry O’Quinn cautioned you, “What happens when the senses are not cared for?” Just when I thought, "Yay, Lost’s John Locke is starring in a game I haven’t heard of," I discovered it was all a promotion for orange-flavored gum. Fail!
Games were displayed in more abundance than in any other year. While there was game news, it wasn’t the wealth of news as in, say, the San Diego comic convention. Yet it’s getting there. Rockstar Games showed off the dark story and fluid game design of Max Payne 3 (check out our NYCC preview for more info) as well as a fascinating, well-thought out reboot of Grand Theft Auto III for its 10th Anniversary (first look impressions right here).
And while the long-awaited BioShock Infinite wasn’t on the floor with a new booth and demo, Irrational Games mastermind Ken Levine did a signing on Saturday. He brought the two stars of Infinite with him, the thoughtful Courtnee Draper, who voices Elizabeth, and Troy Baker, the uber-confident actor who plays Booker. “We didn’t have a new demo. But we had a presence that satisfied the fans who came out,” said Levine.
You could tell which games are going to be huge just from looking at the massive lines at four booths. Mass Effect 3 seemed to draw the biggest crowd. Giant, snaking lines were also seen for Batman: Arkham City and next year’s Max Payne 3. The latter line was helped by thousands of free t-shirts being given out at the booth, perhaps the best swag at the event.
It was a shame, though, that comics seemed to be shunted aside and booths for cars and chewing gum were given priority. Still, if game developers looked hard enough, they’d probably have gotten inspiration for some intricate, new tricks. Take for example the Avenging Spider-Man comic book preview that was available. In a two-page panel, there’s a staggering New York City scene with hordes of sharp-toothed, troll-like creeps yelling “SSSCCCCREEEEE!!!!” loping over what’s probably the Queens Midtown Bridge. Imagine being able to take out massive amounts of these unrelenting baddies in the next Spidey game from Activision: the mind boggles.
In you looked hard enough, you’d find an indie entrepreneur who’s making interactive graphic novels with game elements for the iPad – in 3D. The World of VIVO features a complex scifi story and hyper-realistic graphics. “But what I’m really waiting for is for the iPad to go 3-D without glasses,” said Thundercould Studios’ Mark Sroufe. The creator believes that Apple will manufacture a 3-D iPad without glasses within the next couple of years.
Sure, Hasbro premiered some cool Avengers action figures. But of the thousands of toys on the floor, one really stood out. The unreleased Titan Joker from Batman: Arkham Asylum was massive, scary and raised a few goosebumps. Well over a foot tall, it was even more impressive than the Arkham City figures on display, so much so that I thought hard about clearing part of a shelf for the sharp-tongued, lizard-looking, claw-wielding mutant. Check out our collectibles roundup to see some of the other figures that caught our eye.
One of the joys of Comic-Con is wandering the floor to check out the nooks and crannies. Almost hidden in a corner was a booth for – strangely enough – The Museum of Natural History. A revered museum at Comic-Con? “Sure,” said a spokesperson. “Space is big with this crowd.” Indeed, there was a short line waiting to get inside a black, inflatable igloo, actually a mini-planetarium which took convention-goers on a high definition flight through the universe – along with some the ability to check out some augmented reality.
This year’s panels featured everyone from the independent-minded beauty Rose McGowan to jut-jawed Eric Balfour. And the gaming panels were more varied than ever. For instance, the Arkham City panel featured a possible spoiler about The Joker, Coheed and Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez drooling about his hard-driving soundtrack song “Deranged,” and Kevin Conroy, basking in the glory of Batman fandom.
Still, after six years, the New York Comic-Con is suffering from growing pains. The floor is stupid-hard to navigate since the aisles aren’t wide enough, and it’s nearly impossible to find just about anything. It’s one thing to have a successful business that offers a cornucopia of choices for nerds. It’s another thing to grow so big and crowded that you begin to alienate the very fans you sought to attract.
By Harold Goldberg