I have have been going to San Diego Comic Con for the past 9 years. I have never experienced the pre-Twilight years of Comic Con where the atmosphere was significantly less hostile and relatively less chaotic, but even within those 9 years it was apparent how much the hostility increased and how even more hellish the environment had become over time. San Diego Comic Con is no longer a friendly communion of people who have similar interests, rather it is a convention willingly taken hostage by large corporations and knowingly testing the attendees on how far they are willing to go to get what they want.
The demands of SDCC have been well-documented; having to camp out two days in advance just to guarantee entrance into Hall H (an individual I was standing in line with just to get into the convention center itself told me with a completely straight face that camping out for Hall H is a “rite of passage”), camping out overnight to get a ticket to buy Funko figures, LEGO models, and/or Hasbro toys, having to stand in line for 7+ hours just to get into the bigger panel rooms (Indigo Ballroom and Ballroom 20 primarily), and being forced to line up hours in advance of a smaller panel because the majority of attendees who sit in these panels are merely waiting for the panel they were actually interested in and thus never leave. Almost everything has a line, and there are lines to wait in lines just to be able to wait in another line! Even more frustrating is how every year the staff NEVER start on-time (a line to get into a line for a ticketed signing didn’t let people in until 40 minutes after they were actually supposed to let the line move).
The Comic Con staff, even after over a decade of holding the event at the convention center, still consistently provide misinformation, having personally witnessed countless times where staff tell attendees directions that lead to the exact opposite side of the convention center. If I had a nickel for every single time the staff would answer an attendee’s question with “I don’t know,” or blatantly lie to attendees about where a line or event is being held, I would be a millionaire. It doesn’t help that Hollywood studios like Fox outright refuse to release info online about when signings for most of their shows or movies are, which leads to more chaos as people desperately ask for directions on how to get the tickets (most likely having been burned in years past by incompetent staff). There is no doubt whatsoever that Fox knows exactly what it is doing by keeping this info close to its chest, and that makes it all the more disgusting.
The exhibit hall has as of now lost the excitement of discovery. In years past, you might have been able to stumble upon a writer, voice actor, or game director (who was enjoying the show floor themselves) that you know and like and interact with them. Now, everyone who might be even remotely popular is gated off from the unwashed masses, guarded by the rudest booth exhibitors and security staff I have ever witnessed.
The most striking example was on Saturday for the War of the Planets of the Apes movie signing, where I was standing around (trying to ask questions to completely oblivious booth workers) after the signing was wrapping up. A woman (probably in her 30s), comes up to the booth riding a scooter provided to elderly individuals who have a hard time walking. Holding a ticket she had waited god knows how long to get just for this signing, she tries to explain what happened, stating that her leg was trampled on by attendees who were going to the Marvel booth (while I couldn’t verify that that actually happened, her leg did look pretty injured, and she did indeed have a ticket for the signing), forcing her to be taken to the onsite nurse and be treated for her injury for at least 40 minutes, making her a little late to the signing. Even though there were still at least 10 people waiting to get an autograph for Andy Serkis, the booth worker refused to let the woman in, consistently telling her that it was too late (It started at 10:30 AM and was supposed to last until 11:30 AM, the time was 11:21AM when the woman arrived at the booth). Appallingly, when the woman asked the booth worker, “do you know what it is like to have your leg trampled on,” the booth worker responded with “do you know what it’s like to be working at the Fox Booth,” as though being annoyed by attendees was equivalent to having been injured by apathetic comic con attendees. Much to her credit, she was persistent, finally having the guy go and get a signed posted for her (although the booth worker carelessly bended the poster), but still outright refusing to let her meet Andy Serkis in-person even though he was still at the booth signing posters, justifying that Andy Serkis needed to start interviews with the press at 11:30 or so (which is probably why you primarily here the press focus on the superficial glitz and glamor of the convention in that they aren’t interested in being there and/or get priority over the fans who leap through hoops just to meet people like Andy Serkis). Eventually the booth worker, in an attempt to get her off his back, let her into the booth to wait in the back for the remote possibility that Andy Serkis would go back there. Looking at a picture of Andy Serkis signing a mural in the back of the booth on social media, she might have successfully met him in-person as you can see her scooter in the background, but I can’t say for certain. Regardless, the fact that this woman had to practically beg the guy to be let in even though she had a ticket and was technically on-time is inexcusable.
San Diego Comic Con brings the absolute worst in people, with this form of desperation and apathy being gleefully enabled by the Hollywood studios, major toy companies, and major television shows. There is a sign, however, that SDCC is starting to lose momentum. Hollywood studios like Paramount Studios, Universal Studios, Legendary Pictures, Lucasfilm, Lionsgate, and Sony Pictures no longer have a booth in the exhibit hall and have less panels than years past. Hollywood is slowly losing interest in San Diego Comic Con, no longer seeing it as an advertising spectacle and is instead turning its sights overseas to appealing to the Chinese market. Perhaps this is partially a good thing, as they made SDCC a boring and especially painful place to be.