The Wednesday before the convention began, my cheeks touched the seat of my desk at 8am. 28,800. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I should have gotten paid for work that day. 28,790. I opened my email inbox and pretended to read a few work messages. 28,755. Like a fool, I glanced at the lock screen on my iPhone. 28,740. Ugh. 7 hours and 59 minutes to go.
I have been playing Blizzard titles for just about a decade. I began playing World of Warcraft in my freshman year of college. Nearly ten years later, I still play the game semi-regularly. I don’t always keep my subscription active, but I’m always down to dive right back into the fray. What I’m trying to say is, I am a big Blizzard fanboy. But when I say I’m a fanboy, I feel I should qualify that statement. I consider myself a very thoughtful, reasonable person. Those qualities extend to the way I think about the games I play. I am able to distinguish the difference between a game I like and a well-designed game. Heroes of the Storm is a beautifully designed game. Blizzard has identified a lot of the shortcomings of the MOBAs that came before it and have done their best to mitigate them. That said, there’s something about the game that I find distasteful. The movement speed feels wrong and I find myself dissatisfied with the game’s simplicity. The reason I mention any of this is because I don’t want my thoughts about Blizzard and BlizzCon to be confused with blind fanaticism. I’ve always dug Blizzard and their games, but in a measured, self-aware sort of way.
So, what did I think about the convention?
BlizzCon is the single coolest convention I’ve ever attended. No wait, BlizzCon is the single coolest video game event I’ve ever witnessed. No, that doesn’t quite cover it. Going to BlizzCon was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life. Yeah. That’s the one. The sheer size and scope was epic. The mood over the duration of the con was one of joy and wonder. The convention hall was Blizzney Land, complete with Mickey Metzen. 25,000 attendees filled the halls of the Anaheim Convention center. We came in all shapes and sizes, but our common appreciation and gratefulness for Blizzard bonded us as a community.
The magic began at the opening ceremony. If I can recommend one event at BlizzCon, it’s gotta be this one. You simply can’t miss this presentation. Sure, the coverage itself is cursory, but its the sense of togetherness that makes the opening ceremony so special. If the aura and experience of the convention could be distilled down to one event, it would be that first hour and a half on the main stage. Many of Blizzard’s Project Leads took the stage and shared with us their passion for the games they create. I’ll be honest, there may have been some grown-man tears shed that day.
My friends and I made sure to do as much as we could at the convention. There was a lot of ground to cover. I attended a ton of panels. Sure, I could have just read up on the news on a website, but hearing about a game from its creators is special. It’s one of the things that makes Blizzard such a great development house. These guys and gals love their work. And it shows. On the Heroes of the Storm panel, it was obvious that the team has been absolutely stoked to talk about Cho’Gall, the first MOBA character-specific to be controlled by two players at once. The team wasn’t dissuaded by what must have been an enormous developmental undertaking simply to deliver a unique, thrilling experience for their players. They were just as excited to share it with us as we all were to hear about it.
We also waited in lines to play with all the new goodies. My friend Terry and I sat down to play some tandem Cho’Gall at the Heroes of the Storm setup. I accidentally picked Kael’thas. God I’m bad. Luckily, one of the three strangers playing with us agreed to play the other half of the ogre duo with my buddy. We won the match, and Terry made a friend. Our group also waited in line to get our eager mitts on some Overwatch. It’s truly amazing that a studio, having never dabbled in first-person shooters, is able to produce something as tight as refined as Overwatch. The game has all the usual polish and pedigree one might expect from a Blizzard title. And even though the arena shooter genre is not particularly suited for narrative, the studio revealed this weekend that they will be producing animated shorts to tell the game’s story.
My friends and I were sure to get down on some e-sport goodness. The convention acted as the venue for the world championship tournaments for four of the studio’s titles: World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, and Starcraft 2. We scoped out some Starcraft 2 matches and also watched the semis and the finals of the Heroes of the Storm tournament. Rabid fans packed the seats in their respective halls and the matches were all covered with the highest production and professionalism, complete with spotlights and camera crews. It was something to behold.
Being on the show floor didn’t feel like just being at a convention. It somehow felt like more. And it wasn’t just the snazzy colored stage lights that lit most of the 800,000 square feet of the convention center. It was the feels! It’s hard to describe, really. Even after a thousand words, I still don’t know if I’m able to communicate just how awesome my time with Blizzard was this weekend. When I began forming my thoughts on my drive home on Sunday, I was conflicted. I knew how I felt about the con, but I didn’t want to come off as disingenuous, or as some sort of shill. I told all of this to a friend of mine, and he said, “Screw it. Just write what you feel. Tell your readers what you told me.” And so I will. As pragmatic as I am, and as much as I think over my experiences, I can’t come to any conclusion other than this: Blizzard is doing something very special. BlizzCon is a place where gamers and game-makers come to celebrate joy, community, and killer video games.
BlizzCon 2015 marks the 9th Blizzard convention, but for me it was my very first. It will not be my last.