I love New York Comic Con.

There, I said it. It is loud and it is crowded and it doesn’t have the same cache as it’s San Diego big brother, but it puts a lot of people who love the same, geeky, things in the same place at the same time. The networks are there, some movie studios are there, and there is a whole lot to see and do over the course of the four days (Thursday thru Sunday).

For me though, NYCC doesn’t start on the Thursday, it starts on the previous evening, when Hasbro throws their annual pre-NYCC party. While some light snacks and drinks are available, the real draw is the opportunity to see what cool things Hasbro has just released or is going to release in the near future. Being a comic-y crowd, a lot of the wares on display focus on Star Wars, Transformers, and Marvel, but it extends out beyond that to My Little Pony and NERF and various odds and ends.

For me, two items stuck out above the rest, neither of which is currently available. First, Hasbro is putting out a Darth Vader version of the classic game, Simon. Essentially, it’s a massive, flat, Darth

Vader helmet which has been divided into quadrants which replicate Simon’s four sections. One then just plays Simon as they normally would, but they do so on Vader’s face. Plus, it game offers up a version of the Imperial March when you turn it on, and who doesn’t want that.

Less techie, but perhaps not less cool, was the display of NERF’s “Accustrike” technology, which takes the NERF darts that fire out of guns, and rejiggers their noses slightly so as to provide a longer, more accurate, shot. A side-by-side comparison of Accustrike versus traditional darts was not available (a separate traditional dart area did exist, but targets were at different distances). Even so, the Accustrike weapons and darts did go exactly where they were aimed… and it’s really not my fault in any way that there was an open window behind one of the targets.

The Hasbro party is actually the perfect lead-in to wandering about the NYCC show floor, which is the first thing I like to do every year. As stated, it does get pretty crowded, but those folks who arrive first thing on Thursday morning tend to find it more empty than it will be later. Consequently, it only took about 10 minutes of waiting to do the “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” escape room (yes, my partner and I won) and 5 minutes to do the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” wand training (those lines seemed far longer later in the day). This last involved waving a wand properly at a TV screen and watching a live feed of myself doing so. With the right wave (and maybe saying “leviOsa” instead of “leviosA“), the spell is performed on the screen and everyone walks away happy (because I think it happens even if you get the spell wrong… which I’m sure I did).

That experience piggy-backed nicely into my next stop which was a VR section setup this year where the “Empire Stage” used to exist (rather than having two very large panel halls on-site in addition to the smaller ones, The Theater at MSG was added as a panel site and only one very large hall was at the Javits Center). Multiple VR booths were setup for various big and small-name shows and those I experienced followed a pattern – slap a VR headset onto you and ask you to point and click at various things… or just slap a VR headset onto you and have you watch as stuff unfolds. The interactive videos worked better than the passive ones, but all the ones I saw at the Javits had a not-ready-for-primetime feel. Images were ill-defined, clicking on things didn’t always work, and there was a definite distance from the real.

The best part of that area was near the back corner. It featured a small, unassuming, table and three people all dressed in white. Right in front of the table was a little sign that read “Westworld.” Having seen the pilot (NYCC took place before episode two aired), I inquired and was given a card to visit, at a specific time, a place a couple blocks from the Javits.

At the off-site location, which again featured people in the reception area dressed solely in white (see that second episode of “Westworld”). I was ushered into a room and given another headset, but was told this time that rather than sitting I could walk around. Unfortunately, the entire experience took about 10 minutes (and would have had added depth following the second “Westworld” episode), but it was head-and-shoulders better than the others. It was far more realistic, far more immersive, and far more interactive. The quiet, off-site location was part of that and the walking around was part of it, but I think the video in which I participated was just better as well. I didn’t want to play an extended version of the “Man in the High Castle” VR experience, but desperately wanted more of “Westworld.”

If you have read the rest of my coverage, you will know that I attended several panels during my time at NYCC as well, including one on “Death Race 2050,” and ones for the BBC America shows “Class,” “Dirk Gently,” and “Doctor Who.” This year, I even brought my son to the Javits on Sunday so that he and I could do wand training, sit in the “Star Trek” captain’s chair, and just generally geek out.

Every year that I have gone to New York Comic Con, I have enjoyed it more and more – whether that’s because they’re getting better at it, I’m getting better at it, or some combination thereof, I don’t honestly know. I can promise you though, that I’ll be back there next year for another go-round, and this time, on Sunday, it’ll be with the whole family.