A metal man standing at least seven feet tall poses in front of a wall covered with Blizzard game characters for everyone to take photos. It took me a minute to realize that this wasn't some paid actor hired to dress up like one of the characters of Overwatch, but just one of the many hardcore Blizzard fans who go all out every year to show love for their favorite game franchises. The convention, which also celebrated Blizzard's 25th anniversary, was held all day Friday and Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center. As someone who didn't know anything about gaming going to this event, I can only say one thing— it was absolutely amazing.
The convention center is gigantic and though every room on each floor was dedicated to a different Blizzard game, most of the action was held on the ground level. With so much going on, I needed a map and a schedule to get a feel for where to begin. So I started where everyone else must also-registration, which was conveniently located just past the large space allotted for the store. It was crazy, I don't think I would have waited in lines that wound like ones at Disneyland, to buy merchandise. Just goes to show the connection people have towards these games. It looked like it would have taken at least an hour to get through it, but judging by all the store bags I seen, it didn't matter.
"People who are here are really passionate fans," said one guest services employee we spoke with. "They come from all over the country. They might not know much about one game or the other game, but they're here to enjoy just being in this culture, in this moment."
The line for the costume contest was one of my favorite spots. BlizzCon costumes put Halloween to shame. Not many of the outfits can be purchased, so I was in awe, when I learned how much time was spent to make these detailed characters come to life with moving parts and glowing lights. The weapons of their characters alone taking 500 plus hours the complete using a 3D printer. As these people walked around the center it was hard to get far with the cameras and paparazzi calling out the character's name for a photo, I imagine the feeling was close to that of a celebrity.
"Honestly all the events here have been amazing, "said cosplayer Natalie McCut. "But my most favorite part is all the creative minds here and all the cosplayers, they're really amazing this year."
During the opening ceremony, Songhammer took over the main stage, music new to me and surprising all their songs are based off World of Warcraft. Blizzard also announced a new hero for Overwatch, the plan to re-release Diablo I in a DIII type environment, a new Hearthstone expansion, new characters for Heroes of the Storm and the new patches coming soon to World of Warcraft.
"The Sombra release was literally like the best thing ever," said San Luis Obispo resident Sky Bueno. "The new character they released for Overwatch, the way they did it. It was kind of predictable, we kind of all knew how it was gonna go, but it was still like amazing. That so far was my favorite thing."
As I walked passed sections of at least a hundred gamers quietly on computers and another long line, I thought "Oh this must be the tournament for this game and the contestants were waiting in line." Nope! The tournament was more like attending a UFC fight in terms of audience and stage set up. Teams of five players from all over the world battled against each other face-to-face on a raised platform surrounded by bleachers filled with hundreds of people watching live and on large flat-screen TVs hanging from the ceiling that encircled them, while an announcer enthusiastically calls the play-by-play of each team. Before BlizzCon, I didn't know eSports really existed, let alone it's competitions played so similar to major sports.
"I always look forward to the opening ceremony, so the announcement of them bringing more professionalism to eSports [was his favorite part], "said Las Vegas resident Ray Mclean. "Kind of like structuring it like, so it's gonna be more like a professional league with paid players."
After covering the first floor of gaming, tournaments, attendee competitions, developer's panels and the autograph signings, I headed to the temporary tattoos, pin trading, and Hearthstone Tavern on the less crowed third floor. I couldn't resist not grabbing a sword and hammer and take advantage of the photo booth myself.
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Just when I thought the event was dying down I found myself waiting to be escorted to the standing room only of the main stage for the closing ceremony. Who knew Weird Al Yankovic would fill thousands of seats and have everyone signing along to his songs. He changed clothes constantly between sets while funny clips of things others have said about him or he has done played. Yankovic is known to be kind of strange and nerdy so what better way to close out BlizzCon.
I expected people to be impatient with all the lines and large crowd, waiting a least 30 minutes to ride the escalator-insane. They weren't though, the gaming community is like a worldwide family all so happy to be in one place, there was no room for negativity. Something I've never experience with so many people, it was awesome.