By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Between Pokemon GO Fest (Home Edition) and Comic-Con2020@Home, this weekend was certainly packed with a lot of nerdy delights to do. With the latter, one could participate in online gaming of various sorts–including teaming up with players in PoGO for remote raids–check out virtual panels or shop.
Believe it or not, I took part in both.
Niantic’s revised plans for their celebration of their flagship game was good. Saturday was better than Sunday. With rotating habitats coming to you instead of you wandering the city with a face mask on is an excellent plan. Players can play for a few hours or go nuts during both days! Sadly, nobody is going to get anything good by couch surfing this game; hundos, shinies and legendaries aren’t going to be in abundance by playing at home. Instead, players have to wander the neighbourhood to maximize their gains. The timed research tasks were not too difficult, and can be done within 3-4 hours.
Day two was a disappointment. There were no more habitats, and everything was just piled into one huge mega eight hour D&D quest where walking and searching is required for those who braved the elements–especially for those hunters wanting a shiny Gible.
I knew I had to get out of my couch and take my chances in the searing heat (it was exceptionally hot in Victoria, BC that day) for doing the second research task. It wasn’t too bad, as the game made sure you can take down the Team Rocket grunts without too much effort, the bosses and finally Giovanni. The fact I got the perfect team when they debuted meant I just had to assemble them like the Mighty Avengers to knock this last boss down and grab that Shadow Mewtwo!
I’m hoping Niantic keeps to this plan to let all players get involved. Not everyone can afford to travel around the world for each event. They do eventually get released some months later, but with this 2020 edition, it’s killing two pidgeys with one stone by allowing all players a chance to get it–provided they pay the ticket price for it.
With an incense stick to draw Pokemon to the player, it was nice playing at home and watching SDCC’s live streaming videos. None of the Pokemon GO Fest’s programming interested me and I also realized I’m not going to find any shinies or have large amounts of junk Pokemon unless I went outside.
For half the weekend, I spent more time in the “gaming rooms” than anyplace else. I appreciate that the Discord channel had it’s own Pokemon hub. Players could play the card game or GO. I got to do remote raids with California players and chat.
In the other channels, I got to learn about Stargate returning to the RPG world and watch D&D Tomb of Horrors get played out. I’ve always been a fan of the older TSR Game editions of the game, and Wizards of the Coast, for better or worse, did a fine job of keeping this game alive. They’ve reprinted classic material and updated the game to become what it needs to be for the next generation of fans.
None of the merchandise that people want to buy at these shows–be they exclusive items or random goodies–really existed at this virtual convention. Ebay is a lot more fun to hunt for rare and one of a kind. It’s doubtful the company will report how well this marketplace did during the course of the digital convention. Navigating the floor plan was a pain, and clicking on the unlabelled vendors meant searching to see if a merchant listed any product they wanted to sell. This concept felt counter-intuitive to what the convention experience is all about. It’d take too much effort to move it to a truly virtual space–in Second Life or Virtual Reality–but if the world is trapped in this Covid-19 lockdown for a longtime, perhaps engaging in a simulated 3D space is needed.
Plus, I loved the fact the panels are not time locked. Almost everything is available on YouTube. Even the content from IGN is there, but for the live-streams, once they’ve been broadcasted, they’re gone! There was even chatter on Discord for that social aspect, and also video watch parties. Sadly, due to licensing, only certain territories were able to see movies like the last two Avengers movies and other countries could not. The works I wanted to see were locked to the USA, so that’s when I turned to mostly browsing the chat forums.
The Stargate the Role Playing Game sessions will eventually come back online so the curious can get a sense of how this upcoming Kickstarter project plays. The fact all these informational sessions are here to stay means I can make this mecca of pop culture last for an entire week; I can pace out what I want part of the entertainment industry I want to know more about and not feel hurried to race to wait in line for the next panel. Getting seats are tough. Hall H events are even tougher.
There was a cosplay element, but without a stage and the energy of the crowd cheering for their favourite cosplayer, that’s just a kink which still needs to be worked out. I’m not as excited to watch a compilation video of the best entries. As for the Eisner Awards, it’s just like watching any other programming celebrating the best in television or film.
I hope the online “global” editions will stay. It’s hard to say if conventions can truly return in 2021. Until there’s a vaccine, I’m sure everyone will feel nervous about being at crowded events. Even with the best precautions in place, it’s possible to have one bad apple sneak through and sour the experience for everyone else who’s close by. Most folks will recover, but their body may not function the same as before.
Perhaps the best idea is to have these conventions become half and half. For those willing to take the gamble, they’ll have live events to enjoy and have a keepsake. It can work because no matter what, the more people there in either form means that the social/event function is really popular, and it’ll be worth bringing back next year!