This March, I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to head to Texas for a couple weeks for work. I don’t travel for work often, and I jumped at the chance to get a fresh perspective on things. The only downside is that I would be traveling alone in a city I’d never before visited – sitting in a hotel room alone at night eating takeout and watching TV (with full commercials) sounds pretty dreadful to me. In a situation like this, it really pays off to be a gamer nerd; aside from knowing to pack my Chromecast so that I could use my streaming video services, it also meant that I could rely on the ever-present network of gaming, comic, and technology enthusiasts to both find things to do and find people to do them with.
ACT 1 – SAVING ST. PATRICK’S DAY
St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. It combines whiskey, beer, food and the color green. What else do you need? Well, it turns out you really need people to celebrate it with; alcohol and food are really only enjoyable if you have someone to share the experience with.
Anyone following me on Twitter or Facebook got to see a manic-depressive moment from me over the course of an hour. The St. Patrick’s Day event I was planning on attended had oversold. I could still get in, but it would be 3+ hours before I could get food. I’m not a college frat boy, so I can’t just drink beer for dinner. I ended up just going to a restaurant, hoping to sit at the bar and make some impromptu friends. Sadly the bar was also full, so I sat at a bar table looking across at 3 empty chairs and thinking about how utterly alone I was.
While I ate my pretentious yet disappointing dinner I reflected on why I had accepted this work assignment. That’s when my phone rang.
It’s amazing how quickly I can go from utterly hopeless to feeling blessed in life. On the other end of the phone was a friend of GDC’s own Dave. Dave’s friend (whose name I will leave out for his privacy) isn’t my friend on Facebook and doesn’t follow me on twitter. He didn’t know I was wallowing in my own self-pity. Dave had passed on his friend’s contact information, and we had emailed a couple times about meeting up while I was in Houston. As it turned out, this friend of an internet friend that I met through a friend that I’d met from EDH social media saved my holiday. We talked about life and Magic until a crazy drunk woman and her son decided to try and pass to us some life lessons; At that point, it was time to get on the road before too many others like her got behind the wheel.
ACT 2 – DALLAS-BOUND
After just a little time in Houston, I had made up my mind to head to Dallas and visit some friends up there during the weekend. There were three main people I wanted to see while I was in Dallas. Chuck (aka @TheBigMek, Dave (you know Dave), and Chris (aka @EDHGhost). Ironically, Dave and Chris were both unaware that they lived less than 30 minutes apart, so this was an easy excursion to pull together.
After five hours of driving, I checked into my hotel in Dallas. In a twist of sweet irony, I had inadvertently booked at the same hotel as All-Con Dallas. I literally checked in just before Super Mario and the Ninja Turtles did; later that evening, Chris and I had the very special pleasure of watching Leonardo twerking on Mario to Lil’ Jon and the East Side Boys’ “Get Low”.
Chris played ambassador to Dallas for the weekend and met me that night while I was chatting with a very friendly woman who was hoping to be a female storm trooper as part of the 501st aka Vaders Fist. Chris and his friend/coworker took me out to dinner, where we got free stuff for ordering beers and I tried some Tex-Mex dish that looked like someone spilled breakfast on soft tacos. We played X-Wing, drank too much, and watched the cosplayers party late into the night. At this point I’d spent nearly 8 hours with people who I would have never known if not for Magic, and yet played exactly 0 hours of Magic with them.
On Saturday, I met with Chuck for lunch. As two Warhammer 40k nerds, we talked about beer, politics, him being a new father, and football. Like Chris and Dave’s friend, I had never met Chuck before in real life; we chat pretty regularly, but we met online first when I won a speed painting competition for his podcast about the hobby side of Warhammer 40k.
After lunch, Chris resumed his ambassadorial duties and we did the first Magic-related activity of my trip by trying to get a Chaos draft to fire at his local store. We got more free things for buying beverages. (I really hope he was able to convince his son that he was sponsored by Mountain Dew Kickstart by giving him all the merchandise we got.)
With the Chaos draft failing to fire, we decided to play frisbee-golf. We ended up playing a three-player game with a random guy we met on the course. Why not?
It wasn’t until nearly 10 at night that I finally played Magic in Texas. Chris, Dave, Chris’s friend and I played several games while drinking Dave’s fancy coffee (and Chris’s fancy whiskey!) They both succeeded in getting Chris’s friend hooked on the finer things in life. The games were great in the sense that I don’t remember who won which games; I just remember playing against a deck that was all commons and uncommons, but played guru lands, Mana Drain, and Force of Will. I remember Dave and I taking people down to just a few life when we could kill them – just because. I remember getting Mishra, Artificer Prodigy countered with the logic, “I don’t understand how that can work in EDH, and that scares me.”
Cassidy would be proud, as it was all about the journey of the games – not the destination.
The rest of my trip was nice, and I did many fun things – including meeting up with Dave’s friend and playing straight casual Magic by bashing the Duel Deck precons against each other, watching the movie Strange Brew on the big screen in true ‘3-B’ (watch the movie to understand), and playing darts and pool with my first boss from back when I just got out of college.
ACT 3 – THE POINT
If you made it this far in the article, I commend you. I simply wanted to paint a picture of how great of a time I had in Texas. If I was just a regular guy, chances are I would have been bored and had a terrible time on my trip. Stories like these highlight the importance of the gamer community and network; when you feel depressed and alone and you question your life, gamers are there for you.
This isn’t the first time I have had myself pulled from depression into exultation by the gaming community. Whenever I have been at my lowest, someone whose only connection to me was a shared love of small painted figures or pretty pieces of cardboard has reached out a hand and pulled me up. Whether it is something as simple as making a business trip fun, something as terrifying as getting into trouble with the law, as exciting as getting referenced for a job, or something as critical as having a place to sleep and a roof over my head – gamers have been my salvation.
This is the reason the social contract is so important. When we play games, we aren’t playing to win. We are playing to build relationships and a community by having fun together. It’s easy to play a game,worry just about winning and not care about what people think of you; that simply doesn’t attract the type of person we need to keep this community as great as it is.
The Social Contract is about making the game as fun as possible for as many people as possible. Gaming gives us a community, and the social contract is what keeps us together.
I love this community, and I couldn’t be prouder to call myself a gamer.