My Road to BlizzCon: It is hard to type with the BlizzCon pass on my wrist
When talking about BlizzCon 2019 I think I’ll forever remember a few highlights and one lowlight. The highlights were many — getting to go on an awesome Blizzard tour and meeting cool people like Christie Golden, Steve Danuser, Nethaera and more (including a brief run-in with Candace Thomas of the Diablo 4 team) for example. Brian Holinka wearing a Blizzard Watch T-Shirt. The really amazing Con before the Storm meet up where so many of you came out and were so gracious and honestly much kinder than I deserved. The actual opening day of the Con was overwhelming, with the crush of people almost physically frightening at times.
I can’t really express how great it was to get to meet so many of you. People I’ve never spoken to, people I’ve done podcasts with (multiple times, even, in some cases) people who share with me a love for this whole crazy experience. I can’t name you all, and I wish I could.
Sometimes you get lucky
Now, here’s where honesty forces me to admit that my being right about Lilith in Diablo 4 wasn’t so amazing leap of deduction. I’ve suspected Lilith would be the main villain of this game since the original announcement of a comic featuring Lilith last year. So the clues were there, and the idea that Blizzard was working on a Diablo 4 was hardly a surprise.
But still. To be there, in that crowd, as they counted down and stopped on the 4 to reveal that cinematic was a moment I won’t forget. The crowd collectively sucked in a breath. You could feel thousands of people around you, the way they collectively inhaled and exhaled. Sometimes I worry that the fan community is a touch toxic and cynical at times, perhaps because of the times we live in, but at that moment there was no cynicism anywhere in that crowd. They wanted that game announcement trailer as badly as I did. We were united in one sheer moment of anticipation, and it did not disappoint.
Look, I am not someone who will ever be in the position J. Allen Brack was in yesterday, where I have to get up on stage and talk about a controversy involving freedom of speech, corporate decision making, speed of response vs. delay of response, and it’s not up to me how you feel about what he said about Blitzchung. But in that crowd? It was pretty well received and I was impressed with his poise. It helped set a tone, and J. Allen Brack has grown into the role of the MC at BlizzCon. He helped set the tone for the rest of the con, at least for me. That being said, I’m still jealous of his hair.
Sometimes you do not
To be honest, though, I am not someone who is great in a crowd, and I made some bad decisions yesterday as a first time BlizzCon attendee that meant I ended up missing a lot of panels I really wanted to attend. I’ll go home and watch them on the Virtual Ticket, of course, but I really felt that rookie mistake keenly. And I also felt very keenly that if you’re going to be in a line of nearly a thousand people, at least, waiting to play Diablo 4 then you should not be so freaking drunk that you repeatedly hit someone else with the backpack you are too drunk to keep track of, guy in the Husky Energy clothes. When your girlfriend feels the need to repeatedly apologize for your behavior? You are screwing up everybody else’s good time.
We are all human
When I drove out to the Hilton Friday night, I finally got to meet Dan O’Halloran, Mitch “Mitch” Mitchell, Matt Low, Cory Taylor and a whole host of other friends I’ve technically been speaking to for years like Perculia and Terran Gregory, as well as my friend and guildmate Kim (you give awesome tours, Kim) and Kurtis McCathern. So, so many amazing people, more than I can easily remember or recount. I’m sorry I didn’t get to talk more to each of you — my social anxiety had me paralyzed in terror by the end of the evening and I regret that deeply.
One of the things this trip has reinforced in me is the awareness that both Blizzard and the fan base and community that has grown up around it are composed of a great many genuine, funny, friendly, honest human beings. Sitting at the cafe at Blizzard talking philosophy and upbringing, standing behind the table at CbtS chatting with people who came from all over the world to see what Blizzard had to announce next, petting some really nice dogs and knowing my dog will be jealous when I get home — these moments are often invisible when we talk about these games and this company.
Hearing someone talk about a car accident that injured them very badly or the fear of being trapped on a Disney ride, the timber of their voices changing, seeing how they shift from that conversation to a more warm and excited tone speaking about what we’ll see in a day — what we have now seen — was at once humbling and touching. If I have taken anything away from this, it is the knowledge that while I may not agree with the actions or decisions of Blizzard as a corporate entity or the fans of Blizzard as a monolithic community, I find myself in love with them both when I remember these individual moments.
And nothing human is alien to us
These games are made by people. People who oversleep, who work long into the night, who often spend years on a project they can’t even talk about with anyone. And they’re loved and supported by more people, people who travel half way around the world to show in whatever imperfect way we’re allowed to how much that work has meant to them. I have gotten the opportunity to witness that this trip. To really experience the shared humanity that makes this all more important than ‘it’s just video games‘. Terence once said Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto and this weekend has so far made that starkly true to me.
These games and the storytelling they both embody and allow are examples of just that. Not just the stories of the games, either — the stories you all tell about your time playing them. I’ve gotten to hear so many of those stories this weekend and I’m frankly awestruck to know how much you’ve done together — both grand and small, from realm first boss kills to that time you asked a guildmate to report your name so you could change it. We are all human, and nothing human is alien to us. And these games, set in worlds where demons caper in the darkness, where death is a place we can explore and heroes can and do return to save us, these games allow us to make those stories. I even told some myself, like the time I went Prot again during Cataclysm and tanked Heroic Spine of Deathwing because literally all of our tanks suddenly stopped playing.
That’s what these games are really all about. That’s what this weekend has been, a reminder that this is a human endeavor. It’s not always perfect. We make mistakes, we screw up, we do the wrong thing. We get crammed into a demo line with an obnoxiously drunk individual and miss the Diablo 4 panel. But we also get to meet people we’ve always wanted to, and really talk about this shared passion, this amazing thing we are all a part of. Thank you all for allowing me to be part of it too, in whatever small way I’ve managed.
Also there is a cat named Leo in the place I am staying and he is a very good boy.
Expect maybe one more of these once I get home and get to hug my cats and dog and kiss my wife and tell her the story. Because she has always been the best and first advocate for the shared human experience of these games and I would never have gotten to come to BlizzCon without her.
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