People keep asking me, "What was the best thing you saw at Comic-Con?" And I keep dodging the question because I didn't camp out overnight waiting for a back-row seat to the big-name panels. Instead, I turn to what I think is a better question: What was the worst thing I saw at Comic-Con? No hesitation: The Intelligence Google Glass Experience on the exhibition-hall floor.
Intelligence is a show premiering in February that revolves around a secret agent who has all of the government's surveillance feeds flowing through his brain. I don't know why CBS needs another big-data spy thriller featuring a Lost alumnus (Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer) when it already has Person of Interest (starring Michael Emerson, who played Ben Linus). Yet, because I have an interest in surveillance-themed pop culture due to my day job at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, I waited in line for a half-hour for the Glass demonstration, figuring it would be an innovative new application for the wearable computing technology that I wrote about back in May.
Again, I had the same problem trying to wear the device over my glasses. The "experience" just involved watching the preview with one eye while struggling to hear the audio transmitted through my skull over the din of the exhibition hall. Compared with the big-screen projection of Seventh Son or the mobile 3-D movie theater playing an extended clip from Gravity, Intelligence was just dumb. Nevertheless, I took my Comic-Con exclusive Intelligence poster and hung it on my office wall, because, well, I'm a swag-rat.
Here are some of the better things I brought home from Comic-Con.
A sudden need for a video-game console: I haven't owned a game system since Sega CD in my early teens, but I waited in line twice for the exclusive gameplay preview for the upcoming Ubisoft game, Watch Dogs. Although gamers will cringe to hear the comparison, the game is like an enhanced Grand Theft Auto, except that your gun-wielding character is also a super-hacker who has the ability to hijack cell phones, WiFi-networks, traffic lights, fork lifts, laptop web cameras and ATM machines. I'm not even that interested in playing the game; I want to explore the hyper-realistic simulation of Chicago, where every non-player character has a back-story and you can use crime-prediction technology to play street vigilante.
Later, I found myself standing in front of an Xbox Kinect demo, manually cracking the whips on a horse-driven cart, and realized that if I don't learn how to maneuver these games now, I'm going to be seriously behind the curve when the grammar of games becomes the prevalent way to interact with digital environments. Whenever you read this column between now and December, know that my writer's fee is going toward a Playstation 4.
An appointment with Dr. McNinja: Each Comic-Con, I roam the exhibition hall floor looking for the ultimate T-shirt. In prior years, I picked up a Whalcano shirt (yes, a volcano whale) and a Cookie vs. Wookiee shirt (Cookie Monster squaring off with Chewbacca). This time, I snatched up a shirt featuring a gorilla high-fiving a shark in front of an explosion, with the word "Nice." Turns out, it's a reference to a hilarious web-comic called "Dr. McNinja," about a ninja with an M.D. and his mustachioed, gun-slinging juvenile sidekick who battle giant lumberjacks and a BMX-ing royal named "King Radical." It's been around since the mid-2000s, and I'm throat-chopping myself for being so late to the game. Check it out: DrMcNinja.com.
Commenter wrath: My press credentials were tied to writing for SyFy Channel's blog Blastr.com, a job that mostly entailed putting together slide shows of cosplayers. Now I know why many macho-men love hunting: There's something pleasurable about scouring the nerd-wilderness, pointing the cross hairs at creatures and pulling the trigger.
Less satisfying was discovering the immediate reaction to my posts wasn't vicarious glee but anal-retentive fans calling me shameful. Trying to write while on as many hours of shut-eye as cans of Red Bull, I accidentally spelled Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch's name "Cumberpatch" and my editor, on even less sleep than me, mistakenly labeled the Ghostbusters Ecto-1 as "Echo 1." Now, while I do appreciate having all those free copy editors to fix my errors, it's eminently irritating that raging nerds don't understand that convention journalism is way f'in harder than it looks.