July 23, 2014 1:15 p.m.
Miro Copic, Marketing Lecturer, SDSU Business School
Rebecca Hicks, Web Cartoonist, "Little Vampires"
Sarah Gaydos, Editor, IDW Publishing
Asa Enochs, Game Art & Design Instructor at the New School of Design and Architecture
Emer Tanciatco, Member, International Game Developers Association San Diego Chapter
Related Story: Comic-Con Begins!
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, Comic-Con international, it turns downtown San Diego into a spectator's dream and the drivers nightmare. It is the biggest event of its kind in the world, celebrating comics, superheroes, fantasy and entertainment in books, TV, movies, and gaming. Comic-Con 2014 officially gets underway tomorrow, and today we are devoting all of Midday Edition to various aspects of Comic-Con. Joining me for the hour is KPBS Arts Reporter Beth Accomando. Welcome. You are a veteran of many a Comic-Con, how many does it make this year?
BETH ACCOMANDO: I would say more than three decades worth, which reveals my age. I pretty much started attending right after Star Wars. It was movies that got me in, not comics, but I have been passionate about movies all of my life, so there was a lot to find Comic-Con with movies.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What keeps you coming back each year?
BETH ACCOMANDO: It is the one place and the one time of the year where I get to feel normal and comfortable with other people. I can wear my Chewbacca earrings, and I can quote movie lines and have people finish them for me, talk trivia. Sometimes it is actually fun to be in line. If you are in line for a particular panel, more than likely you will be standing next to or sitting next to someone with the same passion as you. Sometimes you strike up really fun conversations and meet people who are just as passionate as you are. There is always something fun, and I highly recommend going with a young kid. I have taken some of my friends kids, six years olds, nine-year-olds, and they walk in and their eyes bug out, and they dart around the place like oh, look at that, that is the game that I want, there is Bart Simpson, there's Batman! They dart around and you kind of lose them in the crowd. It makes you see it fresh again, and it makes it so exciting.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just to mention the crowd, how many people are expected?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Just a few years ago when the Fire Marshal closed the doors because they reached capacity. They have capped attendance, it's hard to estimate exactly what it is, but it is between 125,000 and 150,000.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You spoke with one of the organizers of Comic-Con to get an overview, tell us about that.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I spoke to David earlier this week, and they were about to move offices down to the actual convention center. It was a little crazy, and I got to speak to him at his office, which is a place that I like because it is surrounded with toys, and a lot of pop culture things. It is the craziness that comes each year where you do not think he will pull it off, and there's all of this insanity going on and suddenly it takes off. We started off by talking about some of the things that are new with the convention this year.
[AUDIO FILE PLAYING]
DAVID GLANZER: One of the things that we tried to do in the last couple of years is to have certain panels in a smaller atmosphere. A lot of our panel rooms have ranged in size from 250 people to up to 6500 people. This is an opportunity for some of the most popular panels that are in such huge rooms to maybe either have a more intimate feeling or allow people a smaller venue to kind of see people up close. It really depends upon a number of variables. It is another experiment, it is the first time using this for this iteration of what we're trying to do, and if it works out well, hopefully will do it again next year.
BETH ACCOMANDO: People want to go to this venue it will be a little different than for the venues within the convention center where you just line up and go in, correct?
DAVID GLANZER: Right, these are ticketed events. People within the convention center will be able to get tickets for these things. It is such a small seating capacity that tickets are limited.
BETH ACCOMANDO: There are some panels for educators and librarians, is this something that is typical for Comic-Con, having panels like that?
DAVID GLANZER: It is. It's something that typically does not get a lot of press because it is something that is geared for a certain subgroup of people. We're seeing a lot more librarians use comics as a teaching tool, and teachers do that as well, so this medium is a wonderful opportunity to help literacy, help creativity, help any number of things. I think these specific educational panels really move forward to try to achieve that.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Have you noticed the change in the demographics of either the attendees, or who is in the dealer's room?
DAVID GLANZER: We will certainly know more about the make up after the show. But we have seen an increase in female attendees, and the younger female attendees as well. I think years ago with the popularity of Japanese animation and manga, a lot of that seemed to be geared towards females. We saw a big influx. Currently our breakdown is about 60% male and 40% female. I would not be surprised if that were different after the show, but we will not know until after the show.
BETH ACCOMANDO: The increase in female attendees seems to have changed the dealer's room make up to the point that I am seeing more vendors selling jewelry and clothing.
DAVID GLANZER: I think one of the interesting things about fandom and pop culture, it is a lot more accessible now than it ever was before. People used to say that women or girls are not into fandom. People would say that the first Comic-Con there were no girls there. That is not true, there were and there still are. I think they are more visible now, and I think it is smart for vendors and exhibitors to cater to an audience that is not only there, but has an appetite for this. I think you are probably seeing a change on this and that is certainly for the better.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Since Comic-Con has expanded it has sort of broadened out into the gaslamp district. What kind of things are going on this year?
DAVID GLANZER: It is almost kind of a Comic-Con campus, if you will. It is no secret that we have run out of space at the convention center. One of the great things is our ability to work with the city, the convention center, even local hotels in trying to expand our space outside of the convention center to accommodate all of the people that come. So yes, I think you will see a bigger Comic-Con atmosphere, and we work with a lot of those companies who do those activations. They are sanctioned events, basically, there are things that are open to people with Comic-Con badges, and they help to alleviate some congestion in and around the convention center. It is something that really helps us out, and is an added benefit for attendees.
BETH ACCOMANDO: What kind of impact does it have on the region in terms of economic impact, and restaurants and hotels here?
DAVID GLANZER: There was an economic impact that was that a few years ago, we did not conduct the survey. It was nice, it was impressive in fact, but it was incredibly conservative their there is a great deal that goes on that was not recorded, and I think a lot of these activations that happen outside in the park spaces, there are restaurant buyouts and building wraps, there is a tremendous amount of money poured into San Diego economy during Comic-Con for that one week. Majority of it was not reflected in that survey, but it was really nice that the survey was conducted to show that there is actually a benefit to citizens by having Comic-Con here. And people come in really from all of the world.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Has it taken a long time for the city and people outside of the attendees to kind of recognize that kind of impact?
DAVID GLANZER: You know, I think Comic-Con has flown under the radar for many years. I don't think we ever really grumbled about that, it was our party and we always knew it was a cool event and a fun event, our doors were always open. But now it seems that the general public has taken notice of it, and you're welcome to join our party. I think the city has noticed more as well as of late. That is not to say that they were not aware of us, because they certainly have been. I think that was nice is that they really stepped up to the plate when we were faced with the challenge of limited space.
BETH ACCOMANDO: So, has this grown bigger than any of the organizers ever thought it could be?
DAVID GLANZER: Yes. I don't think anybody thought that this show would be the size that it is. Have to be honest, it will sound a little cheesy, I still don't think that we see it. The organizers and everyone who works on the show is focused on making sure that we produce the type of event that we would love to attend in the in the environment that is fun, safe, and people can be themselves and meet new friends. More importantly, really share and partake in all that comic books have to offer. Now it appears on television and people talk about it and reference it, it is a little odd for us, I think.
BETH ACCOMANDO: You said put on a show that you would like to attend, do you as organizers get to enjoy panels and enjoy going?
DAVID GLANZER: I certainly do, and I think we all enjoyed the show tremendously. But we enjoy it in a different way than we did before. When I first came in 1978 I came in a costume, I went through the exhibit hall, we used to have 24-hour films, and I love movies so I would spend a tremendous amount of time in there. I don't have the luxury of doing that so much anymore, but there is still a lot of stuff I get to see and do. I get to watch news segment after the show to find out what I missed. It is an enjoyable event. We get to enjoy it more now than we probably used to, but we would not all be associated with it for so many years if we did not still enjoy it.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Do you think the popularity of the convention is ever going to wane? It seems so huge right now.
DAVID GLANZER: I am sure at some point it will, you can't sustain anything forever. As long as we produce the type of show that we want to attend, the people who put on Comic-Con, a lot of them have been with the organization twenty, thirty, forty-five years. As long as we stay true to that, we will have a good show, and I know that there will always be some people who will join. I think that is the important thing. Also, if we can educate some people as to the real rich history of some of these areas of popular art and their contributions to art and culture, it is a great thing. We never looked at the numbers as being a test of our success. We always looked at the enjoy ability of people who attended and what we get back is that they are having a good time, and they like the show.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Comic-Con has contracted to stay in San Diego until 2016, and the convention center expansion is currently on hold because of a lawsuit. How does this affect whether you will stay longer or if you will go anyplace else to move to temporarily?
DAVID GLANZER: The truth is, our decision to stay in San Diego was never predicated on an expansion. I think the expansion will help us, the expansion will be for the city, but the truth of the matter is, there is no expansion. If our decision had been based on an expansion we would've had to have left a long time ago. Again, the city coming to us and working with us in terms of utilizing outside space and hotels making space available, things of that nature, that has allowed us to stay here. If the expansion doesn't happen, I think it will be a challenge for us, but we have made it work until now, we may be able to make it work as well. I would not like to see that scenario, but we will have to cross that bridge when we get to it. It is really an unknown, how things will progress. I guess once we find out what the final decision is, that will give us a better idea on how we will move forward.
BETH ACCOMANDO: And the expansion itself, will that be big enough to actually make a considerable impact?
DAVID GLANZER: It depends, people sometimes throw around numbers of how many people were turned away. There is no way to know how many people were turned away at the convention, because you just don't know. Having additional space if nothing else will certainly allow attendance to feel less crowded, we help. Again, until the building is built and we are in there we will not know. I think it will be a positive thing for us and the city.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Thank you for talking with me, I've been speaking with David Glanzer, spokesman for Comic-Con international.
DAVID GLANZER: It was a pleasure, thank you.
[ END AUDIO FILE ]
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now for more on the economic impact of Comic-Con, I would like to welcome Professor Miro Copic with the College of Business at San Diego State University, welcome back to the show. We heard from David Glanzer that San Diego profits from Comic-Con, but he did not give us any figures. What do we know about the conventions economic benefits?
MIRO COPIC: It is huge. He was correct, it is probably understated. A study was conducted years ago that suggested about $175 million of economic benefit accrued to the region. That is huge. They talked about in almost 3 to 1 multiplier effect, that every dollar spent in Comic-Con, two dollars got spent in the San Diego economy.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The event keeps growing, and one of the reasons for that, I think marketers believe that they get some sort of outs or buzz for a particular product out of Comic-Con. How does that affect marketers coming to Comic-Con?
MIRO COPIC: It has become a beacon for all entertainment. That is one of the interesting things. It used to start out as a comic book convention, and it has really grown into comics, TV, film, graphic novels, publishing, and video games. It is huge, and everyone is fighting for space. That is where it you will have celebrities make surprise visits because it is good for their career. People who attend Comic-Con are incredibly socially connected. They will be talking about these celebrities for the entire upcoming year.
BETH ACCOMANDO: David Glanzer talked about the fact that we have a growing Comic-Con campus. How far out do you think it can continue to expand? It has almost taken over the gaslamp area, and there are companies that come in and take over restaurants and bars. It's amazing.
MIRO COPIC: That is the $64,000 question, because it is tied to two things, it's tied to the convention center expansion, and it is tied to the development into the East Village. Right now, there are physical natural barriers, once you cross downtown and cross the five freeway, it does not stay that campus. People will stay in great areas and San Diego. They'll stay at the beaches, La Jolla, or an ocean or Pacific Beach, they may stay in old town but they will be a little bit removed. They want to kind of be close. Those are important factors going forward.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You talked about the threefold impact of every dollar spent at Comic-Con and how it reverberates through the San Diego economy, and that is the aspect we have not been able to calculate dollars. There is another aspect that I think it is hard to calculate in dollars, that is the sort of intangible goodwill that the city gets out of the convention like this. How does that help the city?
MIRO COPIC: This is a global showcase event. You will have press from all over the world. It elevates the city's prestige, it elevates international standing, and elevates it's role in pop culture. It's not a beach town, it's not somewhere just to go on vacation, it is a destination defined a little differently. It allows us as a city to be able to talk to other huge events. When there was the bid for the Olympics or the World Cup, we can handle hundreds of thousands of people at one time and do it effectively and efficiently without straining resources. See what we do with Comic-Con. It is an important event for San Diego.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thanks a lot.
BETH ACCOMANDO: And we will be back with more discussion on Comic-Con, especially focusing on women this year. That will be exciting.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Beth, you spoke earlier with David Glanzer about the many panels that there are, the events that people flock to at Comic-Con, which events expect a huge crowd this year?
BETH ACCOMANDO: It is a little bit of a tough call, but Comic-Con actually has an app to sign up for to pick your favorite panels. While you're doing that it is actually calculating how many people are interested in this panel and it comes up with a list of the top 50 panels. At the top are actually TV shows, and TV has been pretty strong for the last few years. We have Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, those are one and three. Those are going to be the tough ones to get into. They are starting with a new wrist bending technique to see if you can gauge when you will be able to get into the room or not. Those are probably the most popular. Some that are a little under the radar, there will be a Batman panel in hall H, and this is not the new Batman. This is the Batman TV series which has never been released on DVD due to rights disputes. Amongst a lot of my friends, they are pretty excited about seeing Adam West and Burt Ward on a big panel.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what other celebrities are expected this year?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Since we are KPBS and many people have been Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch is coming. He is not coming for Sherlock, but it does not matter, he is going to be there. That is pretty exciting. A lot of studios are keeping it a bit under wraps about who is coming out. There has been some talk about the studios not having a strong showing this year, but movies go through cycles. Comic-Con has panels based on when these films are coming out, and studios seem to be moving out release dates. A lot of movies are coming out in May, so they have fewer films, especially pop culture titles to promote at Comic-Con. This year it is a little quieter on the movie fronts, but there is still able strong presence with Marvel, and they will probably do something on Guardians of the Galaxy. It should be some fun stuff.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you about a subject we will expand upon in this segment. Comic-Con has been known over the years as a kind of male oriented events. Apparently, what we heard from David Glanzer, that has been changing. What can you tell us about the increase of women at the convention?
BETH ACCOMANDO: I ran an anime club at my son's school, and anime and manga really did bring out a lot of young girls and women. That was kind of the start of the shift over. What you see are not only more women attending, but there are more dealers catering to women now. As you can find more booths selling jewelry, clothing, shoes, and I had spoken to a dealer a couple of years ago who had tried to produce her own comic book and was not getting much traction with that. She decided to start selling jewelry, I think it's called Bonsai Chicks. Suddenly she found increased popularity, and actually made a much more profitable booth by catering to the women that she saw.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As you said, women are just becoming a more enthusiastic audience of fantasy and comics, they are creating superheroes and comics. I would like to welcome Rebecca Hicks, she is a web cartoonist and creator of the series Little Vampires. Welcome. And Sara Gaydos is editor of the San Diego-based comic publisher IDW publishing. Sara, welcome to the show. Rebecca, how are women artists viewed in the comic book industry? Is it a welcoming place or is it a struggle?
REBECCA HICKS: It really depends on whereas, and what time of day. But I have found, and this is an incredible generalization, but I found in the web comics community I am so proud to be a part of, it does not matter at all. The focus is on the work, is your comic funny, is a well-written, does it dry well? I found a lack of gatekeepers, where we can just draw something and put it on the web for people to see, there are no gatekeepers for us to go through. The community as a whole, I have found to be very welcoming. What I would call the traditional comic book industry, I have had a few interesting situations and run-ins where people were surprised that I knew who Batman was, because I am a girl. But, overall, that has been very rare for me. I know it varies for others.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sarah, you are one of those gatekeepers.
SARAH GAYDOS: Yes!
[ LAUGHTER ]
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you have female artist working at IDW?
SARAH GAYDOS: Yes I do, and I take my role as a gatekeeper very seriously. When I give hiring, I am always looking for the person who will tell the best story or draw the best arts. But it is very important to me that I have female representation not only because I think it is right. I value the stories, and I think they will tell equally wonderful stories. I also want to tell those kind of stories so that our readers are interested in them and come back for more.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Which artists do you have, which comics? Give us an example of your female artists.
SARAH GAYDOS: I have a lot of female artists working on my Cartoon Network books. It is quite easy to get talented female artists and writers on all ages and books. It is a little harder when it comes to Star Trek, another book I'm working on. But it is getting easier every day.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Among the comics that you publish, there are also more female characters. There is a female Transformer in there, tell us about that.
SARAH GAYDOS: Yes, it is very exciting. IDW Publishing has the Transformers license, and a recent miniseries that we were doing focuses on a new Transformer named Windblade, was the first female Transformer. I don't edit this book, but it is also the first female team working behind the scenes on Transformers. A writer named Mary Scott and an artist named Sara Stone. They are both fairly new to comics. Again, it is looking outside of the normal people you may go to and bringing more people into the fold.
BETH ACCOMANDO: When I was speaking with David Glanzer, he mentioned the fact that Thor was revealed to be a woman, they brought that up, and he felt that people who were genuine comic book fans might not be as surprised or shocked by it as the general public. What you think about that? Do you think that people in the industry are little less than they used to be?
SARAH GAYDOS: Definitely, there are so many Green Lanterns, Robins, Thor has been a frog and an alien space horse. That doesn't mean I'm not excited to see where this goes. Again, the writer, who is a guy, is that this will not be Thora, or Lady Thor. She is Thor. I'm really excited to see where it goes.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us about your web comic, Little Vampires.
REBECCA HICKS: It is about Little Vampires, quite literally 6 inches tall, and they try to be big and fierce and fail spectacularly at it. I am up over 500 comics, my goodness, that just hit me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You must get feedback from people who read your comic, what we know about the popularity of comics among girls? Beth was just telling us that anime has a popular following. But what about comics like yours?
REBECCA HICKS: Web comics also have a large following. Actually, an incredibly diverse group of people read web comics because they do not need to go to a comic book store, or download a digital comic. If they have access to a web browser they can read the comic. The audience can be incredibly diverse. My comic is for all ages, so I have an audience of all ages, and I have male readers, female readers, it is amazing to me how my people seem to enjoy my work. It is really awesome to see how I am able to reach such a diverse fan base through the medium of web comics.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sarah, it seems to me that comics, as we sit here today, are still primarily a boy thing. Do you see that changing?
SARAH GAYDOS: Absolutely. I have been in the industry for about eight years, and even if that relatively short period of time it is absolutely changing. I think a lot of that has to do with the internet, like we mentioned gatekeepers, people who might make you feel bad about going to a comic book shop and quiz you on what you know. That is not a problem on the internet. It has changed a lot in most comic book stores as well. It is really moving in a good direction.
REBECCA HICKS: The comic book store I used to shop at, the manager was a woman, this is back in the 90s when I used to go every Wednesday, and there was my box with my favorite comics from Batman and strangers in Paradise. That store closed, unfortunately. But I can say San Diego comic bookstores, all of the ones I still go to are so wonderful. I have heard horror stories from people in other parts of the country, we are very lucky here in San Diego, we have such a great group of store owners.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There was a backlash to this, the whole idea of more girls and more young women getting involved ñ
BETH ACCOMANDO: Are you referring to Twilight?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I am referring to Twilight!
REBECCA HICKS: My vampires don't sparkle, just so you know.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me just say, a couple of years ago Twilight at Comic-Con right in so many girls and young women, there was an awful lot of eye rolling and sarcasm among convention goers, that Comic-Con has changed and it is different. Tell us about that, tell us about that reaction.
BETH ACCOMANDO: There are couple of things going on there, because the increase in women really did come from anime and manga. Nobody was complaining about that, especially since a lot of the cosplayers are quite adorable in their costumes, so I don't think any of the men were complaining about that. I think the thing that turned most people against the twilight crowd, is that the twilight people came and camped out overnight, even two nights, and took over Hall H. There were panels before Twilight, that a lot of people were not able to get into, and I think that built a resentment. There are all of the Twilight kids in there, and they don't care about Batman, comics or whatever. We didn't get into our panel because they are sitting in their not paying attention. I think that is part of what bothers people, they felt like they were kind of crashing the party. I felt like Comic-Con is the kind of place you should embrace any kind of geekdom, and I think it was ridiculous for anybody to harbor any resentment.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there any kind of feeling of the old boys of Comic-Con, that the convention is getting too girly?
BETH ACCOMANDO: I think the old boys would be complaining that there is not enough comics, it is to Hollywood, I think that is the bigger complaint.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So it is not changing, is the increase in girls changing the convention? Is it bringing it back to comic roots?
BETH ACCOMANDO: I don't think so, I think it is bringing it in a completely different direction, and I am hoping it never goes back. Like we said, there is jewelry and stuff like that. It is accessing things that women are interested in, telling women's stories, and the Hollywood problem is just because there is limited space and the footprint grows each year, while small comics recede. It's important that we establish a balance.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Rebecca, how do you think women at Comic-Con is changing it?
REBECCA HICKS: For the better, definitely, I like Comic-Con the way it was before, but I like it a lot more now that the audience is a little more diverse. I agree that the TV and movie presence, though I enjoyed it too, it can be overwhelming, but it's not become of women. Men like TV and movies too. It's really that there is limited space and time, and I think one of the reaction to bring up Twilight again, there was limited space and limited time and a whole group of people that other people did not recognize, very typical human reactions, they are taking our resources and we have to fight, Hall H is the watering hole that we're trying to drink from, who are these zebras we have never seen before? And they like Twilight!
BETH ACCOMANDO: And their vampires sparkle!
REBECCA HICKS: My vampires don't sparkle.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to talk for a minute or two about how female characters in comics are changing. Recently, there is a big splash about the new Batgirl costume.
REBECCA HICKS: It's wonderful. I want yellow Doc Martens so bad now.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It looks like Batgirl could actually run for more than half a block in the new outfit. Why is that important, Sarah?
SARAH GAYDOS: I think that is just a breath of fresh air for so many of us. A lot of those comics have become very dark, and this is kind of like a big exciting splash of color and light with the relatable person. The comic is not out yet, so we will see, but it is being written and designed by Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher. It is interesting to bring in younger readers, especially younger girls, that is important to me. A lot of books can be very deep in mythology and a little bit challenging to get into, but you look at her and want to read more about her, and want to see all of the fights that she gets into, it's going to be great.
REBECCA HICKS: She is going to get into fights, and I don't think, just judging by the costume, I'm judging a character by the costume and a book by the cover, I don't think she's going to be worried about looking pretty, that is what is important to me. I worked really hard to be an independent artist, I don't always have time to do my nails, but they look fabulous for Comic-Con this week. I don't have time to always put on makeup and do my hair. So how does Wonder Woman, who is always saving the world, always look so good? I like the practicality of the costume. Men's costumes in comic books are very practical, they're not wearing that sexiest outfit they have in their Batcloset. No, they are wearing clothes they can fight it. This Batgirl is wearing clothes that she can run, climb, fight, and kick butt in. They are not worried about making her an object of men's desire.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Which is a real different move. I want to close by asking you guys your favorite female comic characters who you are inspired by when you were younger.
REBECCA HICKS: You saw I was excited I absolutely love Kitty Pride, also known as Shadowcat. She has been in the X-Men movies, and about all of my favorite X-Men comics. She was one of the first characters I saw who was just really smart, and showed potential to be a leader. It was so rare to see a female character in a leadership position, and the X-Men in general have had a pretty good track record with storm. She was smart, young, and leadership capabilities, the wonderful power, and was often dressed practically.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sarah?
SARAH GAYDOS: Wonder Woman, definitely. I have a framed picture of me at my desk in a Wonder Woman costume. I was happy to now be working in comics, I am a lucky girl.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I have to go with Catwoman, I don't like my women to be too good. I like a little bad and evil in my characters.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have to end it there. Thank you both very much.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When it comes to science fiction fantasy entertainment, the biggest industry of all, bigger than TV, movies, is gaming. In fact, it is so big that gamers have their own convention, Gamer-Con, just blocks from Comic-Con in downtown San Diego. KPBS Arts Reporter Beth Accomando is back joining me as cohost. Beth, I just mentioned what a big industry this is. Can you give us some numbers about how big it is?
BETH ACCOMANDO: It is surpassing movies right now, and it is about a $24 billion a year industry now. There is a documentary out right now called Videogames the Movie, at the Digital Gym Cinema. It looks at gaming and the growth that it has gone through in the years, and it has made leaps and bounds.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What is Gamer-Con, and how does it differ from Comic-Con?
BETH ACCOMANDO: It is a lot smaller, you don't have to wait in line, this was developed a few years ago basically as an alternative to Comic-Con for people who did not get in, or people who had gotten in and needed a slightly quieter space or something that is not quite as crowded. So, there are different gaming rooms, rooms where you can play board games, there are retro old-school games, state-of-the-art new games, it is a place where gamers can come and I think they are having new ones where they can actually test them. They also have competitions, it is mostly focused on gaming.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I would like to welcome our guests. Asa Enochs is Game Art and Design Instructor at the New School of Design and Architecture and Art Director for Juggernaut Games in San Diego. Thank you so much for coming in. And Emer Tanciatco is a member of the International Game Developers Association in San Diego and works as Lead Artist with Sony Computer Entertainment. Welcome. A lot of kids want to design games. What kind of talent does it take to get into the business?
ASA ENOCHS: Games have a lot of different things that go into them. The big division that we have a lot of times is between programming, art, and game design. It is interesting because the game industry has been developing over the years, and most people didn't come into the industry from an education in games. Now we have some schools, like I teach at the New School of Architecture, that teach about games. A lot of the stuff can be learned online on YouTube or things like that. We deal with a lot of different things, 3-D computer graphics for movies and things like that. We also deal with game design, how to make something fun. That is hard to explain, because everyone's idea of fun is different. You have to be able to quantify that and bring it to a game. On the outside, we deal with a lot of classic arts skills and have an artistic eye, and we bring that to the game.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As a lead artist in Sony, isn't one of the things that you have to do is bring other people's ideas to life.
EMER TANCIATCO: Basically we start out with the concept, and the concepts can start out in different forms. We have a concept artist to create art for the content for the game, or could be a paragraph or some photographs, or a source from the internet that we basin on. We will have a talented artist interpret that, and put it into 3-D that we put into the game. Especially for Sony, most of the things we create is in 3-D.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How many steps would you say it took to go from someone's idea to actually being able to create a game?
ASA ENOCHS: It depends on the size of the game. We talk about different kinds of games, right now we have a lot of different games and it is an exciting time. We have AAA, which is people think of classically when they think of consul games now. Then we have indie games, like the game that I'm working on right now, and we also have social games and smaller cell phone games and things like that. It really depends on the scope. If we're talking about a large AAA game, there are hundreds of people working on it divided across very specific skills. If you are character artist, then you just focus on pretty characters for the game. At the company I am working at we are six people right now, it is a little different, have to wear a lot of different hats and do a lot of different things. In our case, we don't have as long. They games take several years to make. Our games take about a year with six people, and we go pretty quickly to that.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I'm not a gamer myself, but my son is. One of the things that really impressed me, for his but they I rented a theater so he could play games on it. He was playing Skyrim at the time. I have to tell you, it was like watching a movie. I was so surprised to see how much work had gone into it, and how much story there was. Does that seem to be a trend now, putting a lot of storytelling into some of the bigger games?
ASA ENOCHS: I think with the games we have story in different ways. We have traditional stories like you're talking about, where the people are telling larger overarching things that happened in the game. We also have visual story. Games are going into different directions where we have really big games the tell epic stories and they are hiring people from movies to do the music, the story, and different things. On the other side we have indie games try to tell a story like an experience. The stories come from the visuals, but it is really stripped down. It is still between those two things that the experience itself is something that games have that no other medium can do.
EMER TANCIATCO: And has grown so big since the days of Atari. Back then it was basically you have a goal to win or beat the person or score more. Now, it's not about scoring. It's about being a part of it, and being immersed in this cool story line, a part of the movie.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Like a gamers seem to a lot is the fact that their entertainment dollars are better spent on a game which you may invest hundreds of hours and as opposed to a movie where you watch it once and maybe your not interested in seeing it again and you get to have that interactive experience.
EMER TANCIATCO: There are times, when you talk about interactivity, you can watch a movie and say I wish I was that character, I wish I could do things too, and they have tie-ins and games too. They make video games based on popular movies that just came out. After watching the movie, we will have a game that people can actually buy and be that character that they want to be, and do what they want to do, as the story unfolds.
ASA ENOCHS: I think some games become lifestyles, also. Some people have characters in massively multiplayer online games, and they have characters that they have had for decades now. They identify with them. Some people meet real-life significant others through the games, some of them are married in the game but not in real life. They have a life of their own, and they devote hundreds and hundreds of hours to it.
BETH ACCOMANDO: That addresses one thing, a lot of people say that gamers are antisocial, or playing by themselves. But there is this ability to play online with other people, I know that my son used to stay up late because he wanted to play with people in Japan. That is a misconception nowadays.
ASA ENOCHS: I think so, I think when you talk to a gamer in real life they sometimes are a little bit less social, but the internet changes that completely. They can have another life. A lot of times they are role-playing games, so they go into a character and become a character and they can excel and be someone they want to be.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One of the unseen or not often talked about aspects of gaming technology is how it is being used in so many different educational ways. Teaching people from doctors to people who are in the Army how to deal with different scenarios. That continues to grow, doesn't it?
EMER TANCIATCO: I think it is. There's a lot of different technology out there that people can use. As a matter of fact, there is a gaming engine, a platform that you can take to make your own game based on the tools provided. People can actually take those tools, you'll have to make the game, you can use it to make scenarios or simulators to whatever purpose you want, military simulator or something that deals with assembling cars or something like that. Or architecture as well. There are different uses they can use for those kind of tools. Even though it was made for making games, it can be branched out for different things. As far as education, there are more possibilities for that as well.
ASA ENOCHS: I think games are one of the best ways to teach people things. If you think about again, it's a bigger scope, tag is a game and you could say that that teaches you survival skills as a kid about running away from people or whatever. Every game that you play tells you something specifically about how to play that game specifically. If we immerse you in a game that teaches you something that actually applies to the job that you do, now you're learning it and having fun while you are doing it.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Also as an educational tool, in the documentary Video Games, one guy pointed out that he thought history was so boring to him, and that he was watching this six-year-old girl talk about medieval weapons, and she knew about them in a firsthand sort of way because she had actually use them in a virtual reality world.
EMER TANCIATCO: I hated history. When I grew up, and nowadays when games come out and there are a couple of titles that came out, this one series called Total War, where some of the different scenarios of different battles it talked about the dates, and tries really hard to reenact the battles. It goes over all of the dates, here I am playing this game and learning the dates about these, I wish I had that when I was kid.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: To bring you out of the book and closer to real life.
EMER TANCIATCO: Here I am reacting the battles in history.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It gives you a different perspective and as a kid it is so much more engaging.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: My final question to you guys, what is the bias at Comic-Con or Gamer-Con that you're looking for this year? One of the new things you are expecting to see?
ASA ENOCHS: I guess Comic-Con or any of these you're looking to see the new demos they are bringing out, the new games that they are putting out. We have several conventions, but Comic-Con is just growing with games. So you will see a lot of lines of people thing new games that no one has touched before, and it is really cool to see what is coming out.
EMER TANCIATCO: I remember maybe ten years when I went to Comic-Con there were almost no games whatsoever. It was really just a focus on comics and maybe some movies, but now it has grown so much since then. I've seen it grow, I've been going to Comic-Con every year. I don't know if you have heard of E3, they have a big Expo on games, and their displays are huge. That kind of budget is being used for Comic-Con. Some of the displays are just crazy.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I think last year it really exploded.
EMER TANCIATCO: The displays are really large now, it is really nice, and it is a public event. For E3 it is industry only.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Before we wrap this hour of Comic-Con up, I want to aim a couple of questions more at you, Beth, if I may. I know you'll be doing a lot more reporting on the event. What will we see on Evening Edition tonight?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Tonight will see a little more of David Glanzer and a little bit more of an insider view of Comic-Con, and just kind of a sense of some of the things that are changing for this year, it is just always an exciting time.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You will be hosting a booth on the convention floor for a local nonprofit, right?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yes, the booth is called Film School Confidential. We raise money for a student scholarship, that is administered by the Media Arts Center of San Diego. It is a great opportunity to get the next generation of film makers going.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And it puts you right in the heart of everything.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It give you a place to rest! You can have water, fans, supplies, it is like combat out there sometimes because it is really crowded!
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well I am glad that you spent some time before the war started! I would like to thank my guests. It was really great, thank you all for doing this.