Are you going to Blizzcon this year?
Oh, you are? Good for you. Or rather: I hate you. Because there's no chance in the world that I'll be going and it bugs me.
Did you notice how cleaver I put that? By writing "this year" I kind of imply that I won't be going now, but that I've done it many times before; this year is just an exception due to some unforseen circumstances. It suggests that I'm a dedicated WoW community member, so of course I plan my life and set my priorities so I can attend the yearly we're finally coming together as a huge-family-event.
Why I won't go
But to be honest that's not the truth. I won't be going and I can't see myself going anytime soon. Even for an established adult person with a decent income the cost for participating in such an arrangement is enormous, especially if you're living in Europe.
I'll make you a quick list:
- Flight tickets across half of the world.
- Outrageously expensive hotel room since sleeping on the floor or coach of some fan living on the location, as we did when I was a SF fan in my youth, just doesn't cut it anymore. I'm old, spoiled and squishy compared to how I used to be.
- Astronomical costs for food because you can't really bring your own or put up a camping kitchen at the convention, but have to accept whatever junk food they're offering.
- Ridiculously overprized franchise stuff sold at the event - silly, but hard to resist.
- And of course the convention fee not to forget.
The biggest issue however, which effectively keeps me away is that I really couldn't use several of my precious days of paid vacation just for my own amusement instead of spending them with my children.
I may be a WoW fanatic, but Blizzcon is definitely out of my reach.
And you know what: even if I haven't ever been there, I feel homesick about it, because I believe I have a pretty decent picture of what it's like.
As I've told you before I have a passed as a member of the Science Fiction Fandom. I never went to any of the world conventions, but for several years I attended the national ones, in a community that resembled a lot to the World of Warcraft blogosphere. Our panels featured SF writers, publishers and such rather than game developers, but in the core I dare say it was the same kind of event: geeks meeting up around a common interest, enjoying the company of each others.
Some of the participants were pretty classical nerds, the stereotype of a no-lifer living in his mothers basement coming alive. Some of us on the other hand led a life outside of the conventions that appeared to be pretty normal - including having a job, wife, kids, car and house. But deep inside we all had a hidden geek that needed to be let out in full freedom.
Arriving at the conventions was always a feeling of homecoming. For a couple of days we were in a protected area, where we could speak and think for hours about our passion, without any restriction whatsoever. We could use fanslang expressions and make references to books and TV series and expect everyone else to get it. We didn't have to apologize, we didn't have to make excuses, we didn't have to explain anything or try convince skeptics that what we were doing was acceptable. We didn't have to pretend to be normal. We were safe among friends.
Every convention was like a little bubble and all those bubbles tied together like a pearl necklace. It was sad when we parted, but somehow when we came together the following year, it was as if no time at all had passed. Geek conventions have a time logic of their own.
Maybe I'm completely wrong. The conventions I attended never held more than 700 participants and Blizzcon hosts thousands and thousands of people. Size matters. The SF conventions were arranged by fans and were non commercial - Blizzcon is big business.
If I as by a miracle was given the opportunity to attend Blizzcon 2010, it's definitely possible that I'd become utterly disappointed. I imagine you can easily feel a bit lonely and lost, because of the scale of it.
On the other hand - there will surely be some initiatives to make smaller, more cozy meet-ups for the community during those days. I know Twisted Nether are planning for something, and there will be others.
Actually I think that's the part of the convention that I'm most envious of - the opportunity to hang out with people in the community in real life.
It was the same thing with the SF conventions I used to attend. Many times I didn't bother all that much about the official scheduled program. It was nice that it was there; I might watch a bit of it. But the best conventions were often the ones where I missed almost every single panel or speech since I had too much fun sitting in the bar, talking to other fanzine editors, just relaxing.
Wil Wheaton's homesickness
The other day I stumbled upon the brilliant blog by Wil Wheaton. (BTW I must have been living under a rock to miss this one for so long, it's really a shame.) He quoted a few lines from the keynote speech that he held at PAX, some sort of gaming convention that was recently held. And I couldn't help smiling, because I could recognize his sentiments so well:
All of the things that make us weird and strange in the real world? Those things that people tease us for loving, those things that we seem to care about more than everyone else at work or school? Those things make us who we are, and when we’re at PAX, we don’t have to hide them or explain them or justify them to anyone; instead, we celebrate and share them.
We have come here this weekend, and we will go to PAX Prime in Seattle in August, and we will be back here in a year, and back there next year, and the year after, and the year after that, because just playing games isn’t nearly as fun as playing them – together – surrounded by thousands of people who love them as much as you do.
And in the post he also added a few concluding lines as he was sitting in his hotel room and the convention was about to end:
as I sat on my bed in the hotel, zoning out at something stupid on television while my HP and Manna bars slowly climbed out of the red, I began to feel a familiar sense of ennui. I feel this way every time a PAX is over: a sense of sadness and loss that I've never really been able to identify more eloquently than "post-PAX blues." A fellow PAX attendee e-mailed me this morning, though, and summed up the feeling in one word: Homesickness. I'm home, yet I feel homesick. I know that may sound weird, but it perfectly sums up how I feel today.
Wil's post is about PAX and not about Blizzcon. However this is exactly how I picture it would be for me to go there.
I've never been to Blizzcon. I probably never will. But the thought of it makes me homesick.