I'll be 42 this year. And you may ask, "Wombat, isn't meeting people through IRC and organizing meetups more of a college-age activity?" To which I would respectfully disagree.
The Boston IRCUp
The IRCUp started out of my selfish desire to put faces to usernames. I find I'm a visual person, and the lack of consistency between Twitter and IRC names sometimes drives me a little batty. If I can meet someone in the flesh and get a sense of a person, that's a much stronger foundation for me to build on than an ephemeral username. So very many cool gamers hang out on the At-Will Web Chat talking about game design and holding brainstorming sessions about their games, and a fair number of them live in the Boston area. So why not get together?
I gathered email addresses and we organized. I knew @gamefiend couldn't make it since he's a new dad, but @sarahdarkmagic, @mmaranda, @BrianLiberge, and I all came out for dinner at Tavern in the Square in Central this past Tuesday. One of our number who shall remain nameless had to work a bit late, but the rest of us met around 5. And suddenly it was 9:30.
We talked gaming and war stories and the online rumor mill and game design and podcasting and what's happening in our games and the gaming community and conventions and we finally all saw the Cirque de Soleil guy throw out the first pitch on SportsCenter and our favorite settings and we loved the idea of a 4-armed minotaur paladin named Mugar ascending to become the god of healing. It was one of those times where everyone was so familiar that it felt like we had met again after a hiatus rather than gathering together for the first time.
We're going to do this again, probably in the August timeframe. If you're in the Boston area and interested in meeting other gaming types, drop a comment or email me at jim (at) twwombat (dot) com so I can put you on the list.
This is the way communities gather. This is how communities grow. Boots on the ground. A handshake. A shared meal. Paying attention to each other. You can make grand designs about sites and hierarchies and how you think a community should work. But in the end there's no crap about joining a club or getting a login.
Meet people. Talk with them. Hang out. Play. Have fun. Understanding each other begins here. Even if you only have stories that you consider mundane, they're completely new to other people. Share them. Everyone has had different experiences, and in sharing your experiences you strengthen everyone who hears you. If knowledge is power, sharing is a strength buff that never wears off.
The Gaming Community isn't just a community of people, it's a community of games, of gaming groups, of tiny communities who only know each other. There may be no way to unite everyone under a single banner - the nitpicky edition wars is proof enough of that. But to me, meeting people in the flesh will always be worth the effort. This is the way social circles grow to embrace the world. This is the way war ends.
Who do you look forward to meeting?