Our day at BlizzCon began with a quick trip to the front of the line winding around the Anaheim Convention Center to check on the brave souls who have been waiting outside since yesterday. They seemed rather cheerful, for a particularly overcast and chilly morning in Anaheim.
As much as people want to be the first in the door, or have the best seat for a panel, or the first to get a shot at playing Diablo III or the first to pick up a Pandaren Monk marquette, the social aspect of anticipation appears to be chief among motivation.
They're just guys hanging out and sharing excitement.
This tied to a greater notion touted throughout the BlizzCon opening ceremony speech by CEO Mike Morhaime, the idea that a solitary gamer is part of something bigger. Whether it's your raid group or your guild or meeting at the convention itself, a collectivist ideology is present throughout the convention.
The notion of making friends in World of Warcraft or at BlizzCon is central to the message Blizzard is sending out. I'd usually dismiss such a thing as a bit of advertising, but even I had to admit I'm enjoying the company of a bunch of folks I wouldn't have met anywhere else.
In their recap of Blizzard's 2009, they showed the midnight launches, winding lines and packed parking lots, with gamers lining up essentially to be lined up for hours.
The line and the wait is a real world gaming mechanic. This obsessiveness has been clearly important in the quick rise of gaming culture, coupled with Blizzard acknowledging and embracing the childhood geek culture that everyone has consumed.
Chris Metzen’s keynote speech emphasised a number of childhood nostalgic properties, from G.I. Joe action figures through to Thundercats. Emphasised was the childhood wonder of seeing Star Wars for the first time. On the cusp of its 20th anniversary, nostalgia now plays a more prominent role in Blizzard products.
However, when the first Diablo came out, a lot of mid-twenties players were scarcely 12 or 13 years old. Naturally, Blizzard is embracing the nostalgia value in their own games.
Alongside the dark themes that Diablo III wears proudly on its sleeve, there is a cheekiness and cartoonish aspect that harkens back to its aging predecessors, from the comical rain of frogs that can be called upon by Diablo III's Witch Doctor to the hyperactive near-deliberately unbalanced team PvP that was being play-tested at the Con.
Similarly in the StarCraft II Maps panel, we saw developers basing mods on bad puns (see: Aiur Chef) or casually riffing on competitors' products, such as the Left 4 Dead tribute mod Left 2 Die.
This humor is integral to the image of the company and the culture that surrounds it, just as it is in our enjoyment of the old Thundercats.
BlizzCon is over the top, which is suitable for the games the company makes. The BlizzCon main hall stage is reminiscent to a pay per view set for World Wrestling Entertainment. The giant lighting rig coupled with music that sounds like Harry Potter is in a huge amount of trouble, sets a fairly dramatic scene.
It began with the epic surround sound and light show that introduced the familiar WoW: Cataclysm trailer then ended with a 13 piece band playing throughout the flamboyant costume and dance contest.
Most fittingly, the BlizzCon 2009 recap video emphasised this, with footage of quiet and unassuming champion StarCraft player Fruit Dealer rising out of the stage amidst smoke machines and strobe lights.
Tomorrow: We talk with the fans and play some dang games!