San Diego Comic-Con 2023 (SDCC) was a decidedly different event this year. As a longtime attendee and devoted fan, I found the writers' strike, and the subsequent Actors Guild joining in solidarity, had a profound impact on the overall event experience.
The energy and star power usually associated with the event's panels were noticeably absent, leaving a void that was noticed by many attendees.
One panel, in particular, encapsulated the feeling of this year's SDCC. Kevin Smith, renowned filmmaker and comic book enthusiast, humorously declared himself "the most popular person at SDCC2023" during his "Masters of the Universe" panel. The crowd chuckled, acknowledging the truth behind the jest.
In the absence of many A-list celebrities and high-profile writers, Smith's self-proclaimed status was unchallenged, highlighting the unusual dynamic at play this year.
Historically, SDCC has been a vibrant melting pot of comic book, movie, and gaming enthusiasts, boasting exciting announcements and engaging demos from industry giants. This year, however, the convention suffered from an alarming absence of key players from the video game industry.
Nintendo, traditionally one of the largest exhibitors, along with Microsoft, Sony, and Sega, did not participate. The vast spaces usually dedicated to their latest games were conspicuously vacant, further amplifying the sense of absence.
However, amidst the undeniably dampened atmosphere, there were still glimmers of the spirit that has made SDCC a beloved event for fans worldwide. The Stern Pinball lounge, offering free play to all attendees, was a ray of light in an otherwise subdued convention. Despite the larger crowds due to the lack of alternatives, the lounge encapsulated the joy and camaraderie that is synonymous with Comic-Con.
Unfortunately, the usually bustling showroom floor felt different this year. It was busy as always, but the traditional giveaways and swag that have become synonymous with SDCC were significantly diminished. It appeared companies were cutting back and overcharging for products and experiences that were once generously provided.
This approach felt out of sync with the community-driven spirit of the event and did not sit well with attendees, myself included.
Yet, despite the unconventional circumstances, we managed to find enjoyment in the shared experience of fandom. Yes, we missed the star-studded panels, the gaming exhibitions, and the generous swag, but we also recognized the unique opportunity to appreciate the bare-bones essence of Comic-Con. This year’s event served as a reminder that SDCC is, at its heart, a celebration of fan culture and community.
In conclusion, SDCC 2023 did not compete with the grandeur of previous years, but it offered a different kind of experience — one that highlighted the resilience of fan communities and the enduring spirit of the convention. It has raised essential questions about the future trajectory of the event, and we can only hope that subsequent editions will strike a balance between the star power of yesteryears and the community focus of this year's event.