By Kendra Sitton | Editor
As the Comic-Con Museum moves closer to opening, its Balboa Park site hosted a weekend exhibit on April 26-28 celebrating the 20-year anniversary of “EverQuest.” The video game, developed by San Diego-based Daybreak Games, revolutionized online play by popularizing massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). Fans gathered at the former Hall of Champions locale for the weekend event to see art inspired by the franchise, listen to talks from developers of the game and participate in a special quest.
A preview night for the media, Comic-Con officials, and Daybreak developers included Brell’s Blessed Stout (named for a god-like character in “EverQuest”) from San Diego brewery BattleMage, brewed in honor of the 20th anniversary of the game. As visitors gazed upon the art and took pictures alongside cosplay character Firiona — a royal high elf in the “EverQuest” world — all while sipping their beers, Comic-Con Museum Executive Director Adam Smith said the pop-up exhibit excited him because it previewed what can be done in the planned museum.
“We’ve got a building and in the next couple of years we’re going to remodel the space and make a year-round Comic-Con. The idea is Comic-Con has been holding a major event every summer for the past 50 years. This is a big project because we are going to be open every day of the year. We’re trying to capture the magic of Comic-Con in a building,” Smith said. “This event tonight makes me happy because it’s a little taste of what it’s going to be once it opens.”
Smith explained that the “EverQuest” event fits right into his vision for the museum, which also includes plans to offer later evening hours and regularly host events year-round for the community (contrary to many museums, which only occasionally extend hours and host events sporadically).
“There’s lots of little pieces that we plan to put in the museum in here now… art’s a really big part of popular culture and the world of Comic-Con. We’ve got original art so people can see the talent in our community. We’ve got history — the artifacts that tell the story of how ‘EverQuest’ came about. We’ve got fan art — so participation,” Smith said. “We’ve got a little bit of fun in the tavern there. A little bit of rule-breaking. I don’t want this to be a stuffy traditional museum.”
One of the main ways he sees the future Comic-Con Museum being different than other groups is that it will hopefully build a sense of community and bonds of friendship around a shared passion for something. He stated a couple at the exhibit actually met and later got married through their interactions while playing “EverQuest.” Comic-Con spokesperson David Glanzer echoed the hopes of creating a community at the permanent location.
“Comic-Con has a great community and I think we’re hoping the museum will do that as well,” Glazer said, noting 2019 marks the 50th year since the convention began.
In addition to creating community, he remarked Comic-Con was essential in showing popular art was a valuable and dynamic art form.
“One of the things that is important to us is education and celebrating popular art. There was a period of time where people looked at movies, comics, whatever, as forms of entertainment that were easily discardable. There was no thought that anyone would want to see [it] again [or that] there was any intrinsic value other than a first watch or a first read,” he said. Glazer asserted the founders of Comic-Con did not have that mentality, “They thought this isn’t just something fun for entertainment, this is actually art.”
The early disregard for popular art is making filling the museum difficult, as so many items were not preserved. Comic books and early movies that did survive have skyrocketed in value. The Comic-Con Museum hopes to showcase them.
“It’s a way to acknowledge art — popular art — 365 days of the year. We don’t realize what we have until it’s gone,” Glazer said.
Smith said that for events like the “EverQuest” anniversary, he is working with the architects of the museum to make sure there is no point at which the building is completely shut down while it is being remodeled.
“EverQuest” Executive Producer Holly Longdale was at the event and talked about the release of the low-budget creation and explained how it turned into a global phenomenon.
“In 1999, a team of a whole 20 people… in only three years and $5 million, launched this incredible product and they hoped to have 50,000 people to sustain it. They were completely overwhelmed. They disturbed San Diego’s internet for about a week. Their hosting service had to pipe more lines to LA because people were losing internet,” Longdale said. “Servers were melting — literally. They had to move them to cooled areas. There were guys in parkas in a cold room just monitoring them and making sure they had air space. They didn’t know what they were doing.”
The game kept its fan base past the initial rush and was even nicknamed “EverCrack” for its addictive qualities.
“The game had crazy momentum,” Longdale said. “People were getting married. Some of them unmarried. Some of us got jobs in the industry as a result. Some of us lost our jobs.”
She claimed “EverQuest” is credited with giving some of the major players at other gaming companies like Blizzard Entertainment (developers of the “Warcraft,” “Diablo” and “StarCraft” series of video games, among others) their start as well as revolutionizing what an MMORPG could contain.
The next major event at the future museum is scheduled to be held during Comic-Con itself (July 18-21). The Batman-themed event will include batmobiles and a bat cave experience. Smith said he is looking for a way to open it up to everyone attending Comic-Con so they can get a taste of the museum to come.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at email@example.com.