Nerd HQ 2015 – New Location Offered SDCC Attendees More Than Ever Before

nerd hq exterior

As Comic-Con attendees, we don’t really like change.

Which is perhaps why we were all a little apprehensive when Nerd HQ announced that they were moving from Petco Park – which had been a great location for the offsite event in 2013 and in 2014, though last year it did start to feel a little too crowded. Although Petco was the only location that Nerd HQ has stayed in for two years during their five-year-run, it came to define what the event was for a lot of attendees, as during those years its popularity boomed (and for good reason).

In the end though, there was nothing to fear – as The New Children’s Museum offered not only a stellar new location for this year’s Nerd HQ, but also brought back the hangout vibe that had been missing a bit last year due to the crowds.

nerd hq couches couchcon

Couches! Beautiful Nerd HQ couches!

With three floors offering gaming, drinks, celebrity-studded Conversations for a Cause panels, and a place to relax, Nerd HQ was easily one of our favorite spots this year to sit down for a few minutes and just let everything soak in. They had more seating than ever (and new sofas!), as well as food trucks outside, a “Share a Coke” station, a brand new line of 2015 Nerd HQ merchandise, activations from X-Men: Days of Future Past the Rogue Cut, and more. Best of all, although there were lines (it is Comic-Con), they never felt outrageously long, as the flow of people moving in and out seemed steady and kept things moving at a fast pace.

Attendees could also swing by on Thursday or Saturday nights, when the venue transformed into a dance floor for the popular Nerd HQ dance parties open to the public. Fans dropped by for a chance to dance the night away, dance with raptors, and snap photos at the Nerd HQ photo booth.

The shining star of Nerd HQ though was, as always, the Conversations for a Cause panels. This year brought back a lot of familiar faces, as well as some exciting new ones, for intimate panels. Because of the venue, the amount of seating for the panels shrunk a bit – but if anything, that just led to feeling like the event was going back to their roots of trying to make the Conversations extra special for the lucky few in attendance (and honestly, we can’t imagine squeezing in more seats to the room without adding stadium seating).

nerd hq hayley atwell james darcy marvel tv panelThis year’s guests included William Shatner; Sherlock; Con Man with Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, and more; Elijah Wood; Stephen Amell; Orphan Black; The Maze Runner (three years in a row!); Joss Whedon; Supernatural; Marvel TV with Chloe Bennett, Clark Gregg, Hayley Atwell, and James Darcy; Heroes: Reborn; Supermansion with Bryan Cranston, Seth Green, and more; The Last Ship, and so much more.

We say this every year, but if you’ve never been to a Nerd HQ panel – the difference between the panels happening across the street are palpable. Here, although most attendees are there to promote something, it feels more like an informal chat with the fans. Questions aren’t screened, which is how you end up with a wide range of Q&A’s, in which you get everything from fans asking the cast of Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to do a DubSmash for Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood (which they did), to Joss Whedon answering a fan question that perhaps Steve Rogers could have picked up Thor’s hammer in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and simply chose not to. Anything can happen, and it’s that excitement that will always make Nerd HQ one of the hottest tickets around Comic-Con.

nerd hq zac leviThey also offered more gaming panels than ever before this year, with special presentations for Battlebots, Project Morpheus, and even a chance to play a 20 versus 20 battle of Star Wars Battlefront. Also on one of those teams? Zachary Levi. Where else would you get that opportunity? Plus, it’s all for Operation Smile.

Sure, we’ve got a few minor quibbles with this year – the venue got a little toasty at times, but that’s a problem widespread across most of San Diego. The buttons on the redesigned app were so small it felt a bit like extra promotion for Ant-Man.

But overall, this may have been the best year yet for Nerd HQ – and if they choose to utilize The New Children’s Museum again next year, we’ll know there’s absolutely no reason to worry.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite moments from Nerd HQ 2015, and if you couldn’t attend the panels live, you can also catch all of the livestreams from IGN.

nerd hq bryan cranston seth green supermansion

nerd hq hayley atwell marvel tv panel

nerd hq james darcy marvel tv panel

nerd hq zac levi

nerd hq joss whedon

nerd hq zac levi

nerd hq seth green bryan cranston zac levi

nerd hq zac levi

nerd hq james darcy marvel tv panel

nerd hq james darcy hayley atwell nerd hq panel

A closer look at the new venue:

Did you stop by Nerd HQ 2015? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

 

About Kerry Dixon

Kerry Dixon is Editor-in-Chief of The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog and the site's resident panel guru.
  • Heidi

    The ONLY downside to this venue over Petco’s was the lack of stadium seating for panels. At Petco, you could still truly be golden with a backrow seat because you had no one blocking your view. But all in all, the much needed elbow room during parties and daytime browsing was a relief. Having Smiles 4 Smiles line up outdoors was also a major improvement.

  • JtK

    Totally agree with seating comment being the only downside. I also totally agree with everything else you said Heidi about the upsides too. I will definitely continue to make NerdHQ part of my Sdcc experience😄

  • Mel

    I agree about the panel seating being the ONLY downside; however, it was a BIG downside. Visibility was the worst facet for me (I couldn’t see even though I was seated in the 8th row), but it could easily be addressed by having the talent on a higher platform. Ventilation was a definite concern, as were the blue lights that blinded much of the audience while clips played. I will definitely continue to support Nerd HQ because it is such a unique and overall enjoyable experience, but some improvements to the panel area are needed.

  • MediaSavant

    You couldn’t just “swing by” the parties. I got in on Thursday. But, when I “swung by” on Saturday around the same time, there was a long line around the building to get in that did not move an inch. I gave up after a half hour and went somewhere else.

    The other downside of the parties is that once you got inside was the amount of time it took to get a drink. On Thursday, it took me over 30 minutes in line. That’s lost revenue.

    I didn’t even attempt the dance floor, but I heard there was shoving going on. Even if I was a dancer, there was no way I would venture into that.

    As a five time Nerd HQ attendee, I will continue to support it, but I know the people that run it want to make it the best fan experience they can. So, I’m giving my honest feedback here.

    I agree with what everyone else said about the panel room. Even when it was in Jolt ‘n Joes, it wasn’t this bad. They could remedy that with a small stage for the panelists to sit on.

  • MediaSavant

    I was in the 4th row of a panel and couldn’t see anything thanks to the large person right in front of me.

  • slimpunk

    The area for the dance party wasn’t even close to big enough. There were so many people crammed onto the floor, it made it impossible to get through to the other side. I seriously considered calling the fire marshall on them.

  • epic_skyline

    I disagree. They seemed to get a lot out of the space they had, but there were definite areas for improvement. The bar situation was TERRIBLE. Were they not expecting people to want to buy drinks? We left on Thursday when it took over 30 minutes to get a drink. We just gave up and didn’t bother making the long trip back on Saturday. Still appreciate the panels, despite the bad seating, which would be easy enough to remedy for next year.

  • David

    I’ll echo the other comments about the viewing issues in the panels. It was terrible unless you were in the right spot(s). The only thing that might have worked was to make the stage higher (I saw a number of panels in the venue they used the year before Petco and it had much better sight lines with no stadium seating). I had tickets to a number of panels, but after being disappointed in my first two, I returned the other tickets I had purchased for the remainder of the Con. I truly respect and appreciate what Zach and team do with this event each year, but if they are planning on remaining in this spot next year, they need to do something different with the seating. While I give them props for the effort, (in my opinion) this was a big step backwards compared to prior years.

  • Jamie

    I completely disagree. The panels were a HUGE disappointment in their set up. The chairs were tiny and zip tied together. If you or anyone next to you wasn’t a size 2 it was incredibly uncomfortable. And if you weren’t in the first or 2nd row you couldn’t see. They needed to raise that stage to double the height. And it was HOT in there. So you’ve got everybody smooshed together in a hot room where they can’t see. Ugh. Smiles for Smiles were also hugely disappointing. There was ONE on Sunday. And it wasn’t all that better on other days. And the staff all had different things to say about who could line up, where, and when (some of them flat out lying to the people who were waiting). Last year I got 7 or 8 Smiles for Smiles. This time around I got one. 🙁 I also felt like there was less to do than before. I love Smiles for Smiles and I love the intimacy of the panels but I sure do hope they fix these things for next year or Nerd HQ might drop off my list. 🙁

  • Devon Baltz

    I’ll echo the bar situation. Thursday they at least had an upstairs bar so you could sneak up there for a quicker line. Saturday I’m guessing they had VIPs so it got closed off which sucked. Saturday also had drink tickets which I’m guessing was an attempt to alleviate the wait except it didn’t and then you had to essentially stand in two lines for one drink. Then the bar tenders at first would only serve one drink per person because I tried ordering two so I didn’t have to get immediately back in line after receiving my first drink. Later they reversed course and an intelligent bar tender went through the line with beers for those that wanted it. Additionally the little attached cafe had the WORST cashier ever you could tell he wasn’t prepared and was so incredibly slow that he was shaking in fear (literally shaking). He wasn’t a bad guy you could tell he was trying but he needed to be relieved or sent home because it shouldn’t take 30 minutes for me to get an iced tea

  • MediaSavant

    It’s amazing that after the hubbub about the ticket sale and how all panels sold out that people actually returned tickets. I heard a lot of later panels had empty seats. But, instead of letting people spread out (which would have been nice), they forced people to compress into fewer rows.

  • raybdc97

    Indeed, the seating in the panels (I went to 2) was not well thought out for lines of sight. While I’m slender and 6’1″ and could see pretty well, others like my wife (5’5″) had a challenging time. Throw in the fact your back side needed to be tiny not to overlap on the 2 seats next to you (I’m 165lbs mind you), balmy temperatures, and that some blue led flood lights are shining in your eyes, you just created a the perfect storm to make folks uncomfortable. Good note, I had ample leg room though. These are simple fixes, that are easy enough to correct next year, but really should have been address in 2015. With that said, I still enjoyed the panels. Thanks for all your efforts NerdHQ gang. The volunteer staff was the bomb, helpful and upbeat, well done. However, the wait time in even relatively short lines at the merchandise booth and bars totally needs to be revamped….Time is money, and I saw more than a few people leave the line for both these money making stations (money that could have helped more smiles). I wonder how many didn’t even bother to try. There was soooo much opportunity and money lost, it was mind boggling. How about more than 1 register at the merchandise booth??? Or better yet, equip everyone with phones and “squares” so every staff member can check someone out. The staff at these stations need to be well trained and experienced with crowd control and high volume. Again on a positive note….they were some of the happiest staff around. My Best, see ya next year.

  • raybdc97

    Oh…forgot….while not a critique about the venue per se….the NerdHQ app?….forget it….burn it and start all over…too many problems to list.

  • MediaSavant

    “Time is money, and I saw more than a few people leave the line for both these money making stations (money that could have helped more smiles)”

    It should be noted that only the panels and photo op money goes to Operation Smile. The merchandise, and, I presume, booze money was revenue for the company that helps pay for the event. Even The Nerdmachine doesn’t claim that all the revenue goes to the charity. They call it “conscientious capitalism”.

    But, I made the same observation. There were a lot of lost revenue opportunities.

  • Devon Baltz

    The problem was it seemed like the people they had were part timers. Which is fine if they are experienced, but for example I didn’t see pourers on the liquor bottles. Stuff like that is really simple stuff they could have gotten right but didn’t for whatever reason.

  • HavokJD

    I disagree as well. This is by far the worst NerdHQ I had been to. I echo the complaints about getting drinks at the parties. Ridiculous, especially considering it was a ticket exchange. That supposed to speed it up, not slow it down. But that just means the bar staff were SLOW.

    The venue itself was HOT during the day. I played Battlefront and left. It was miserable inside.

    Don’t even want to talk about the Conversations for a Cause this year. Ugh.

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