Let’s face it – SDCC has become a frenzy. From trying to get passes, to crossing every possible appendage for luck in the hotel lottery, to then waiting in seemingly endless lines once you get in – SDCC has probably caused more than a few stress ulcers. And this is what worries me about the state of SDCC… it is becoming all too much. As the years creep on, the idea of camping out on the pavement for hours seems entirely unappealing. Getting into a popular panel at SDCC is becoming the domain of the young, and perhaps a few older folks who don’t have bad backs or creaky knees. Having started going to SDCC at a time when you could still walk up to the door to buy a ticket, the sense of family I used to feel when attending just doesn’t seem to be there anymore; it’s now just a sea of humanity, which is probably part of the reason why so many off site events have been popping up. Nerdist and Geek & Sundry have expanded their presence this year, and I’m definitely looking forward to checking them out… but the place to be remains the Nerd Machine’s NerdHQ.
For those of you who don’t follow all the events around SDCC, NerdHQ is not affiliated with SDCC and remains a separate event. This year, it is being held at the New Children’s Museum, and features “exclusive gaming and tech activations”, as well as the ever popular dance parties. But the best part of NerdHQ are the panels. NerdHQ boasts the “Conversations for a Cause”; intimate celeb panels, where all the money raised goes towards supporting Operation Smile. So why go wait in line for hours to see the cast of Orphan Black or Supernatural, when you can buy a ticket for a reserved seat and see them in a room with less than 300 other people? It’s a win win all around.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that getting into a panel at NerdHQ is an easy, stress free task. Announced panels went on sale this morning, every 15 minutes. Demand far, FAR exceeded supply. Gone are the days when 6 minutes was considered a fast sellout. Now, if you don’t refresh at just the right millisecond, you’re SOL. And as everyone who had a ticket in their cart that then disappeared can attest to – it can be a bit of a gut wrenching experience. But for those lucky enough to get a panel ticket (or 2, or 8), you’re in for a helluva ride. And for those not able to get a panel ticket, this year, IGN is streaming all the panels live!
The one thing that is especially present at NerdHQ is the sense of community that permeates the entire event. We’re one big giant nerd family – and I don’t think anything demonstrates it more than those who pay it forward. At the second NerdHQ, I was at the first Nathan Fillion panel where he started to auction things off. One girl was desperate for an item, but kept being outbid and didn’t have the funds to go higher. The entire audience banded together to raise money for her to buy a T-shirt – a true act of fellow nerd love. And last year… she paid it forward. At one of the Nathan panels, she used the exact same amount she had received previously to purchase an item for someone else in the audience. I may have gotten a few sniffles in that moment. And I don’t think any other event could dream of getting such awesome and dedicated volunteers as those who run NerdHQ, as the event would NOT happen without them. Last year, not only were many volunteers treated to a round of drinks afterwards by attendees who just wanted express their appreciation, but many were stopped on the street or in elevators by people who just wanted to say “thank you”. And THAT is one of the purest expressions of nerd love that I’ll think you’ll find.
Will I be there with bells on again this year? Absolutely. Ok, so not *literally*… bells are noisy. But I got a ticket to see William Shatner, so my convention is pretty much made. I mean really, WILLIAM. Freaking. SHATNER. In a room that seats around 200 folks. I don’t think it gets better than that!