Friday, April 2, 2010

Homesick for Blizzcon

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.

SF conventions
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.

Size matters
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.


Jim said...

As a older person who has been to Blizzcon (Twice!) I can tell you that its fun but for me there were a few big problems which made it less enjoyable than the hype would lead you to believe. 1) the QUEUES they are long and exhausting. You spend at least half the day if not more depending on what you want to experience, The goody bag line is a hour or more, the store lines took me 2 hours last time, and standing up for 3-4 hours when you are 50 years old takes its toll.
2) The food. Its really bad. No question and again with the lines.
3) At the first Blizzcon the guild meet up schedule was mishandled and I did not get to meet anyone from my server it was disappointing.
4) At the first Blizzcon I was excited to hear the new things about BC first hand, before I even got in a cell phone call from my guild master told me all the details! It was released on the internet and people at home knew more than I did because I was in line! That was also disappointing.

Grumbling yes? Yet the people are fantastic. The sessions are interesting and there is much fun for any fan, and I did have fun. But I will never go again because its just too taxing for me now.

Since tickets sell out in minutes its now a elite event that is inaccessible for most people. I am glad there is a Blizzcon and Blizzard just keeps getting larger, sooner or later they need to get a bigger venue.

thenoisyrogue said...


This year Blzzcon tickets are apparently transferable, (mind you, I heard this on the Instance and it may have been an April fools joke ...).

Anyway, seeing as you can buy 5 tickets, the profit on the other tickets could well fund your trip. Just hope you're on of the lucky ones who manage to get theirs in the first 2 seconds.


Malande said...

To be honest the Blizzcon thing doesn't stack up too well in the "fan conventions" these days :(

Went to the EvE Online Fanfest last year and it blew Blizzcon out of the water.

3- 4 days of partying and dev talks in Iceland (Which is beautiful), with a reasonable number of people.

You get to actually meet the Devs who are there for the party too, and have a chat with them down the pub if you bump into them too :)

And finally if you have a partner who's not interested in the game, while the dev conferences are on they get taken out to explore the Icelandic glaciers and spend time in the local Icelandic spa!

Oh and finally, no rush to buy tickets as there is always a few going free ^^

Rem said...

Oh, I so know what you mean. There's nothing quite like arriving at a LAN-party (usually after a 4-5 hours drive), standing in line for the check in and, hearing people behind you say stuff like "I really need to upgrade my RAM", turning around and saying something along the lines of "yeah man, this is home".

I don't miss sleeping on the floor, in my car or, at best, on a camp bed. I don't miss hauling my gaming equipment ("screw it, I'm getting an LCD and a Shuttle, if I have to lift an Iiyama 19'' monitor or a Chieftec tower once more, I'm losing it"), don't miss wondering how my super-pro-48cm-mousepads are going to fit together with my keyboard into the 80cm table space. I don't miss having a 400-500km highway drive home after having had very little sleep over the previous 2 days, nor do I miss the outrageous parking fees. Don't miss the jokers who'd get drunk and come yelling into the sleeping (or competition) areas, don't miss the idiots who'd lie down and then hold an hour long conversation about things and stuff with a few hundred people around them desperately trying to fall asleep. I don't miss many things.

But I do miss entering a building and knowing that I'm sharing it with two to four thousand people who are just as mad as I am. That this weekend belongs to us. That for the next 48 hours, not being a geek is the strange and laughed at thing. That when the shutters would come down on late Friday afternoon, they would not only block out the sun, but all the world outside, that it wouldn't matter who you are, where you're from, what you do. You were a gamer. You were at home.

As for Wil Wheaton, I'm so incredibly thankful to Hatch for linking his blog and his keynote speech video from 2007. I watched it. Twice. I think I'm still smiling.

tyra said...

You could also watch the live stream, assuming thewy do it again. I'm not sure if it's available in europe... although you can get it for free from less savory sources on the web. There's no way I could afford going, but atleast on the direct tv line I could get a feel for it. Whether the teaser will help or make you more homesick is up for debate though.

Nosnum said...

In a previous job, I worked for a software company with an international presence. Every year, we held a User Group meeting in the U.S. at some plush resort, but we would also hold scaled-down versions in Europe and Australia. Perhaps if enough of you over there clamored for it, Blizz would consider a European version of Blizzcon, making it more accessible. Lord knows, they've got a much larger user base over there than my old company ever did.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

The size thing is an issue for me. (Yeah, that sounds dirty.... :P) I'm an introvert (extroverts get energized interacting with people, introverts get energized in quiet contemplation), so I don't get the same "buzz" being around a lot of other people that most others do.

Personally, I like smaller conventions (to a point). At larger conventions, you're a face in a crowd. For example, at the GDC I don't know probably 95% of the people there, even though I'm a fairly well-established game developer. At an MMO-focused conference, I probably know closer to 50% of the people since the MMO part of the industry is smaller and fairly well networked. I've even helped to organize a small MMO-focused conference for indie developers ( not happening this year due to venue problems *sigh*), and that's a wonderful experience. It's great because even though there are maybe 100 people instead of 20,000 at the GDC, I get to talk to a lot more people and get to know them better.

So, yeah, while it can be exciting to see how many other people really share your passion for something, like games or WoW, being just a face in the crowd and waiting hours in line just to get some crappy food isn't always a great experience.

Gevlon said...

Maybe it's for the best. A big commercial gathering is not surely what you wish for. It's better to wish for it than going there, paying the huge price and get disappointed.

Rhii said...

Wil Wheaton is sort of my geek-hero, mostly because he can say the sorts of things you quoted, and mirror exactly how I feel. And partly because, even if only geeks care who he is now, he's still sort of "out there" - a D list celebrity maybe, but a celebrity geek. And he's not trying to get mileage out of it... at least not with anyone but the crowd he identifies with (ME!)

But on the subject of conventions... I've never been to one really, but I've been to a few things that capture the "coming home feeling" you describe. The SCA's winter market, where I can wander around and look at everything from costumes to roleplaying books to really out there board games is an environment like that. I've moved away from where they hold it now, and I do miss it.

I'd like to get to a convention sometime... it sounds like somewhere I'd like to be. I'm still young enough to crash on the floor! (barely...)

Daergel said...

Something I think a little odd about this is that Blizzard also have an European HQ near Paris, so why don't they hold a Euro convention?

I am sure it would be well-attended

Larísa said...

@Jim: ouch. That sounded very trusthworthy and definitely very un-fun. Maybe I shouldn't be so unhappy about going after all. It's a shame they can't make anything better of it. Perhaps they should rather have several smaller conventions over the year than that huge arrangement that seems to have overgrown them.

: well, as I said: the holiday aspect is the worst one. But for people who can take a week off more easily, it might be an idea to finance it that way.

@Malande: that sounds absolutely awesome. Maybe I should change game to Eve...

@Rem: I've never been to a LAN, but it sounds like a place where I'd feel very much at home!
I just loved your description, thanks for sharing!
I've stumbled upon Wil Wheaton on several spots the last few days, I think because of this PAX thing. Hadn't seen the 2007 speech before. Somewhere I found someone who had recorded and posted the keynote speech for this year in several parts, but I couldn't find it now that I was writing this post, not even on his own website.

@Tyra: well... as I said: the point isn't just the panels and the programme, but seeing people. And you don't do that from your PC. Last year I didn't bother about live stream. Everything was published more or less instantly anyway through blogs and Wowinsider, if it was the news you were looking for. Which mmo-champion had come out with on beforehand anyway...

@Nosnum: They had one in Paris a couple of years ago, which I missed. But I hope they'll come around to do it again.

@Brian Psychochild Green: you definitely have a point. How I'd love to see a SMALL WoW convention, if it was possible to do it. The conventions I attended in Sweden were fantastic in the manner that the authors and the fans really came together. I've spent a dinner talking eye to eye with writers such as Harry Harrison, Brian Aldiss and a brittish one, Brian Stableford, sitting at the same table at the major convention dinner party. How likely is that to happen at Blizzcon?

@Gevlon: aye. Maybe what I would like to see is a non-commercial WoW convention. The question is: would Blizzard allow it?

@Rhii: Yeah, I think the SCA thing is pretty much the same feeling - it has the geeky touch. Myself I'm going to attend a huge annual medieval week at Gotland in Sweden this year. And sometimes it has a bit of that feeling. I'm currently in a project making new mantles for me and my daughter...

@Daergel: they had one a couple of years ago. I wonder though if they're really prepared to make another one. I guess the Asian markets are more interesting? Hopefully I'm wrong though...

We Fly Spitfires said...

I'd love to go too but it's never going to happen. My wife would destroy me if I even mentioned that I wanted to spend all of that money on flights and hotels just to attend a games conference :)

Didn't they do a Blizzard event in Paris a few years ago? If they did another, I'd definitely go.

Perdissa said...

It's already hard enough to go off on critical business trips, considering how closely my 2-year old likes to stick to me. And yeah, blowing precious vacation time on it seems a terrible waste. I've always fancied the idea of going off to Blizzcon (and the San Diego Comic Convention before that), but I'm getting old enough to understand that perhaps, the wish to go is somewhat more magical than actually going.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to consider which aspect of the Convention is carrying you over?

The community? Most people there are from the US. It is not an easy stop over for anyone outside the US and those like you will probably have come to the same conclusion as you did, when they made up their own calculation.

If you are eager to meet the people who actually play with you, why don't you just arrange a meeting?

We do this once a year at changing locations, so everyone has a chance to catch up with the rest. It's usually one weekend, with people you just meet once a year. I am really looking forward to our meeting this year in Berlin (although I don't like Berlin).

Of course you are in a European guild, so the scale might increase, but it's still comparable to a City-Weekend.

If you really feel enough courage, you might even organise a whole community meeting in your town.
Your blog is an access to the community, just check if the reception is good enough and organise it.
It's very likely that you will stay beneath 100 persons, but that is probably more rewarding than meeting thousands of strangers.

Just ask your guild and other guilds you are in contact with, your fellow blogger etc.
Gordon's wife might kill him if he spends an awe full amount of money to visit a geek meeting in the US, but visiting Sweden on a weekend probably sounds sexy enough to convince her.

The trick is to change locations, so you just need to arrange reservations and plan a very rough schedule. First evening meeting in a big brewery, so everyone can catch up with the rest and have a chat. Getting to know each other.
Next day, start at a meeting point, walking together through the city or location towards the next point, where everyone gathers again. Or meet at restaurant near a lake / river, where the people can take a walk along.
This afternoon programm simply gives something to experience and talk about together. It's not much, but it usually helps strangers getting together.
At the evening end it with a Barbecue, this is usually the most entertaining part.

You could call it Pigtail Con.