A Fun Kind of Work (Blizzcon 2013)
TLDR: Press access is work, but neat. Make sure to have your stuff planned out. Don’t be a d-bag. Believe in yourself.
This past Blizzcon really rocked. Granted, Blizzcon usually does, but this last one especially will hold a special place in my memory and my heart. As most people who follow Ceraphus or our podcast know, we somehow managed to convince Blizzard PR that we would make great use of press access. I say “somehow” that way because I frankly believe that there are folks out there better at this than I am. Like, WAY better.
That’s not to say that Ceraphus and I didn’t work our tails off –especially Cer. He jokes around about how great he is all the time (trust me, we talk all the time so I hear it a lot) but really, he’s a pretty neat guy. I think a huge part of why we were given this opportunity was because of the effort that he has put in to our show, this blog, and our recent successful event at Blizzcon, World of Podcasts. At the end of the day, I’m just here to make this look good (kidding)!
I wanted to take a moment to write about the experience, what we did to prepare, and what I wish we would have known so that for future persons that gain press access to Blizzcon, they’ll know exactly what to expect. Plus, I think for those who have not yet had this opportunity, knowing what goes on behind the scenes might be kind of cool. Finally, I end things with a few encouraging words.
When we found out that we were granted press access, we immediately created and shared a Google Doc that listed a ton of questions, broken down by game, so that we would be prepared to talk to just about anybody. Make sure to give yourself offline access to this or print it out so if you need to reference it, you can do so quickly. We also started finding pictures of developers and Blizzard employees so we would know names and what they do (this ended up being moot as I’ll discuss later).
As for Blizzcon itself, first of all, there is no secret room full of strippers. Sorry to disappoint. I had my hopes up, but was sorely let down by this.
Friday morning, press is corralled into a side room and led freakishly early (we were allowed in like, 2 hours prior to the start) to the main stage area. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we sat next to Scott Johnson of The Instance and his very sweet wife. Everyone just kind of talks, jokes around, takes pictures of the stage, and hangs around while they wait for the attendees to be let in. There wasn’t any mimosas being handed out or fancy dinners going on, nor did Metzen wander out and do cartwheels (which would’ve been amazing).
When the attendees are finally let in, it’s a stampede.
One guy went hard on the paint trying to find a chair. He slammed into one of the poles holding up the press area chains and face planted on the floor. It was complete madness.
The opening ceremonies were amazing (they always are). Luckily a camera was right in my face to capture it.
Afterwards we wandered up to the press room and checked in. They give you this sweet USB file that lists all the Blizzard employees, bios, pictures, and what they do at the company to give you an idea of how to frame your questions when you interview them. (rendering our document listing the employees moot). Since I’m awful at names, this tool was a life saver.
The press room is a fairly large auditorium lined with tables with places to hook up your laptops. Television screens playing panels that are taking place in real time allow for you to keep up without racing downstairs. In the back there are snacks, water, coffee, and meals are served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nothing crazy — mostly just green beans and typical buffet fair (regardless, this was a really nice thing to have).
Across the hall is a room that has all the new games/expansions available for us to test out. I didn’t notice any kind of time limit and no one breathes down your neck, so it allowed us to get a really nice feel for each of the games (Cer and myself will do our best to write about all of our experiences with this new batch of games, so check back for that).
The most important part are the way interviews are handled. These are done first come, first serve. So the earlier you get upstairs and queue up with PR, the more folks you’ll get to talk to. You walk up to PR, tell them your company name, and let them know which game you’re wanting to discuss with a developer. Depending on how many people have beat you to the punch determines how many interviews you’ll get. I wish I would have known this — Cer and I showed up too late on both days, so we were only able to have two one-on-one interviews (20 minutes each). Other than that, I actually prefer this way because it allows underdogs like us a chance to talk to someone instead of big named companies hogging all the interviews.
Unfortunately, I only had the chance to walk the Blizzcon floor once due to focusing on getting crap done up in the press area. So I’m bummed to have missed out on my favorite booth, the World of Voiceover. We didn’t spend as much time with our friends as we would have liked either. I’m not complaining, it’s just a different kind of experience. It was work for sure, but a fun kind of work. The climate of the press room is not fanboyish and people aren’t freaking out if a Blizzard employee walks in the room. It’s very focused, quiet, but friendly and polite. You wouldn’t have thought such a huge convention was taking place downstairs.
I learned a ton from this experience. Blizzard devs really are just regular people, who are super nice, humble, and genuinely care. They get excited about us being stoked about their games. I think sometimes we only see things from the consumer end, where we see this huge, faceless company. It definitely made me rethink how they consider us.
This experience taught me that the only thing holding you back is yourself (well, and Blizzard saying yes of course). Cer and I never thought we’d have this kind of experience due to the Sundering being such an explicit show. But we kept pushing, kept getting our names out there where we could (but not in a pushy way if we could help it) and didn’t let anything stop us. World of Podcasts is a great example. We knew what we wanted and went for it, and I’m proud of what we accomplished. Don’t let someone else tell you that an idea is stupid, or crazy, or unachievable. There’s not a show that I can think of that could just as easily get press access if they want it.
Next year, we will try and apply again, and just go for it. If we don’t get it, we won’t be discouraged, we will focus on what will make our blog or show better. We’ll think of ways to positively give back to our community so that folks will take notice. As my buddy Joe (Wowmartiean) will tell you, live a “why not?” kind of life.