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Fischer column: Can’t ignore a good value

I  just flew back from California, and boy are my arms tired.

Jokes aside though, it was an unusual trip.

Not that visiting California is particularly unusual for me. In fact, I was there earlier this year, which is where this story begins.

Fischer column: Can’t ignore a good valueLast July, I made my long-awaited return to Comic-Con International in sunny San Diego. I had bought tickets for the 2020 convention, but that was understandably delayed a bit due to the pandemic.

As part of the trip, I intended to use my one free afternoon to visit the nearby Comic-Con Museum, which is currently hosting an exhibit in honor of my favorite super-hero, Spider-Man. Unfortunately, due to some poor communication about an early closure, I was unable to see the exhibit. I did, however, end up with a comp pass to use at my leisure.

The comp pass was a nice gesture, but it presented a host of logistical challenges to overcome. Naturally, I wasn’t about to take time away from a convention I’d spent two years waiting for in order to use my free ticket, and my flight home was the morning after the convention so there would be no time afterwards.

My immediate thought was to simply wait until next year’s convention and allow an afternoon for the museum then, but then I found that the Spider-Man exhibit closes in January, adding a time window to the problem.

Of course I wasn’t about to schedule a second trip to San Diego just to make use of a free museum pass. There would have to be more on the line.

Enter TwitchCon., as you may or may not know, is the premier live streaming platform for video games. Yes, it is a website where people watch other people play video games. I assure you that makes more sense than it sounds on paper. Twitch is also popular enough that they host several modest sized conventions across the globe where streamers and viewers can come together. The most recent of which was, you guessed it, in San Diego.

I had already been toying with the idea of going to the convention to meet up with some of my online acquaintances, but I’d be lying if I said that the opportunity to make use of that museum pass didn’t factor into the decision.

Thus, I made all the necessary arrangements and flew out to California for TwitchCon.

The museum was great, but the convention was an unusual experience. You see, I’ve been making regular pilgrimages to Comic-Con for nearly 20 years now. I’ve spent more than two cumulative months of my life roaming the halls of the San Diego Convention Center. However, all of that time has been spent during Comic-Con. I’ve never known the convention center in any other context.

Until now.

TwitchCon is not Comic-Con. The number of attendees at the former is a fraction of what you would experience at the latter. At Comic-Con, the exhibit hall is often shoulder-to-shoulder with people as they roam packed aisles of vendors that stretch from one corner of the building to the other. Programming is scheduled for every room in the building and has, for the last several years, expanded into the neighboring hotels.

It was definitely a shock to the system when I walked into those hallowed halls and discovered them to be more like hollowed halls. More than a quarter of the exhibit floor was virtually empty, used during the first day of the convention to house the badge pick-up line and then left vacant after that. Even within the parts of the hall that were being used, it was unnerving to see booths spread so far apart, with wide aisles separating them and a crowd density you’d find at a busy Target.

The experience was similar to walking through your childhood school building, long after having graduated. You still know the layout of the building. You know where the bathrooms are and most of the rooms still serve their same general purpose, but other things are just different. Things that should be there aren’t and things aren’t there that should be. It’s familiar and different at the same time.

Beyond that, the convention was fine. I spent time with some friends, got some free T-shirts and other handouts, and avoided injury in the foam pit battle arena.

Sure, I spent hundreds of dollars on plane tickets, convention tickets, food, rides, and souvenirs, but I did have a good time and I saved $30 on a museum pass so I figure it all sort of evens out.

— Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and is definitely tapped out on travel for the year.

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