Thursday, November 6, 2014

4.13. Return to BlizzCon

A mage with polymorphed target,
BlizzCon 2010

If You Could See What I Hear

In the first episodes of "The Guild", a hyperkinetic gamer faces her worst fear: the people she games with become a part of her real life. As Codex's dual realities collide, awkward shenanigans follow. The show's beauty is in how comically accurate Felicia Day's characters mirror common stereotypes: The Antisocial Introvert, The Model Parent, The Infatuated Stalker, The Bitch, The Commander Obsessed With Practicality, The Kid That's Not a Kid And Tired of Being Treated Like One. The Guild's portrayal of gamers is meant to be light-hearted and satirical, but peel away the jokes and the show's accuracy hits closer to home than you might think. We don't often get an opportunity to interact with our rosters in real life -- it's an invaluable trove of peripheral data that helps you understand motivations and intent. Navigating the personalities of your guild is already a challenge, and if you aren't paying enough attention, you may miss the cue that walks you directly into a tree.

Options for getting face time in Descendants of Draenor was limited. The locals were the most obvious contenders: Graulm, Evilexan, Selga, Volitar, Kizmet. Those who traveled to (or through) Denver were the next best bets. Burburbur flew in for his twin brother's wedding one year, and we hooked up at the Mongolian BBQ near Market Street Station. He was burly, with a thick head of hair and a beard covering a wide grin. Bur was the kind of guy you'd expect to prefer game hunting as a hobby, rather than moving a digital warrior in and out of a Vaelastrasz rotation. As if to fulfill some prophecy, he famously held up a boss pull one evening to put a bullet between the eyes of a raccoon getting too familiar with his garbage.

Bheer was another visitor, showing up for a conference one year. I bolted out of the office and raced down 16th St., to meet him for beers in a hotel lobby. He was a big boy, perhaps a reflection of the love of his namesake, but to be fair, it isn't difficult to dwarf me. We sat for hours in that lobby, drinking and sharing tales of Vanilla raiding, how the game had changed, and what was next in store for DoD.

Last on the opportunity list were those I visited when travelling, and those options were far and few between. Work took me to Dallas, TX on corporate sponsored trips, stomping grounds to my warlock officer Eacavissi. I got a chance to sit down and listen to him unravel the mysteries buried deeply in organic nanomaterials. His Ph.D. was still several years away, but Eaca's knowledge of solar cells was intimidating, if not borderline least, to the lay person.

Those who lived near me, those who came to visit, and those who I visited, didn't even add up to a baker's dozen. The only other opportunity to meet guildies face-to-face was at the pivotal event for all things Blizzard. This time, I'd face nearly twenty of them at once.

Chris Metzen delivers the "Geek Is" intro,
BlizzCon 2010

California Dreamin'

BlizzCon eluded me for four years. I was able to fit the initial event in, back in 2005, but obstacles conveniently got in the way in the years to follow. Blizzard took 2006 off, assumedly to focus on getting The Burning Crusade out the door. When BlizzCon returned in '07, the fall date had been pushed forward, conflicting with our trip to the Great White North. The timing was right for '08, returning to October, but their freshly launched online ticket purchase system had other plans. I spammed F5 as best I could, but only the very lucky made their way to the 'Con that year. As for BlizzCon 2009, it once again crossed over the family vacation, so I traded the company of nerds for those invested in hydraulic fracturing.

At long last, plans to attend BlizzCon finally came together in 2010.

Goldenrod was my host and chauffeur. Slightly taller than me, his brownish hair and beard bore the faintest tinge of red, and he greeted me at the airport with a warm smile and a firm handshake. We darted through the traffic of a surprisingly busy parking garage, ending up at his Scion, which he affectionately referred to as his "toaster on wheels". As we drove off into the night, my phone unrelented with non-stop arrival announcements.

"This is my life," I said, Goldenrod laughing in response, "even when I'm not online, I'm guild leading."


The morning of October 22nd was layered a thin, almost fog-like mist. It was nothing at all that I expected of California, but Goldy confirmed it not uncommon in that climate, guaranteed to pass. We ate at Ruby's on Balboa Pier, the pacific ocean painting a backdrop behind my guildy. I watched his mannerisms carefully as he spilled his guts. The breakfast confessional began with his history in DoD, WoW in general, his love/hate relationship with mages. Soon, he transitioned into real life: relationship struggles, his faith, career aspirations, and living in California. As the conversation carried on, he was attentive and nodded frequently, shoegazing at times with particularly difficult reveals, but looked directly at me when acknowledging his past. There were no surprises here: he hated his mistakes. I reassured him not to dwell, "Join the club." I told him to put his first guild exit out of his mind, and agreed that emotions govern more than what we'd like to admit. "You're aware of it, now. That's huge. More than can be said for a huge group of humanity that lives in denial." The rattle of my phone snapped us both back into reality, and it was then that I noticed Goldy's prophecy fulfilled -- the mist was gone.

Goldy dropped me off at the convention center, then disappeared back to work, hoping to finagle an early dismissal. I meandered my way through the massive line-up wrapping around the convention center, snapping pictures of cosplayers and searching for my next guildy: Joredin. He found me, and spent a few minutes catching up, having to yell over the occasional wave of FOR THE HORDE screams that cascaded across the crowd. It was great to have him back, and the work he'd done for the guild's 10-man team management helped set the stage for the Tactician rank I was about to bestow upon him.

The line began to move, and we wove our way into the convention center. Before long, we were seated and watching Chris Metzen deliver his infamous "Geek Is" introduction. After digesting a barrage of reveals like the Demon Hunter and DOTA for StarCraft II, I was eager to navigate the conference floor, but the loss of time was dizzying as we bounced from one display to the next. The buzz of incoming text messages continued to flood in, and I elbowed Joredin, "That was Taba. There's a handful of them at the hotel." As we headed toward the doors, Chris Metzen himself stepped out of the crowd of faces, just long enough for me to stop him for a picture.

Joredin (left), Chris Metzen, and Hanzo,
BlizzCon 2010

Information Overload

Taba waved me up to second floor from the balcony. I climbed up the steps, slapped Taba on the back, and shoved my way into his hotel room as a pushy guild leader should. Four more faces awaited Joredin and I. Taba's girlfriend Nikada, freshly inducted into DoD as a Death Knight, was there, her most noticeable feature being long, dark black hair. Omaric rose to meet me with a handshake, "In the flesh." I was immediately struck by how short he was. "Omaric, what the Sam Hell is going on?" I glanced past him to see Sixfold and his girlfriend, immediately locking in on his hair swept up into a fauxhawk,  and a single silver loop punctured through his eyebrow. I bypassed the formalities, "Did you bring them?" Six rustled around his suitcase and produced a small red box with a label that read du MAURIER. He handed me the familiar Canadian brand of cigarettes, and I tore the plastic off. Taba looked surprised, "Wow, Hanzo. I didn't know you smoked."

"I don't," I said, shooting him an unwavering stare while I lit and inhaled, "Let's eat."


Sixfold lounged in his chair, the glint of the afternoon sun occasionally bouncing off his eyebrow ring. His ultra laid-back casualness was in stark contrast to Taba, who seemed to fidget in his chair, shifting constantly as he discussed the 'Con. Omaric reached across the table to grab a handful of nachos, "So, Hanzo. You upset about them cancelling the contest?" Both Omaric and I came to the 'Con prepared with a arsenal of possible options for this year's voice talent contest, only to find that the contest had been cancelled due to lack of interest.

I took a drag off my cigarette, "I'm fucking distraught over the decision, to be honest."

He laughed. It would've been a great challenge to go up against Omaric's incredible vocal talent. My plan was to hit the audience with a recreation of the entire Wilfred Fizzlebang/Lord Jaraxxus intro, complete with a new hilarious ending that the raiders of the 'Con would appreciate. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. As Omaric revealed his own plans to knock out a kick-ass impression of Prince Malchezaar, I was continually struck by how much presence his voice carried, not at all matching the frame of the guy sitting next to me. Omaric was easily the shortest and youngest looking of the group, with large blue eyes and tufts of whiskers struggling to burst forth from his chin. He was tearing his way out of boyhood with ferocity, his commanding, deep voice leading the charge.

Taba definitely gave off that youthful vibe; easy, considering he was ten years younger than me. I kept going back to his glasses: rectangular (like mine), but with much thinner frames, and more prominently squared off at the corners. I can't tell you why I hyper-focused on this particular attribute, yet I was continually distracted by it. I watched as he trading talking for drinking, slowly bleeding the pitcher of beer away amid random bursts of cheers and excitement that he'd been known for over Ventrilo.

I turned to the gal sitting next to Bonechatters, revealed as Rainaterror, who had been quiet thus far. I quizzed her on career choices in an attempt to learn more about the people comprising my guild, "So what do you do?"

"I'm a teacher."

"Ah, nice. Education. And why'd you go that particular route?"

She shrugged, "I dunno. Something to pay the bills, I guess."

Who becomes a pay the bills?

My phone rattled again, this time, from Moolickalot:

Drecca's here.

I thumbed back a response that we were on our way, then sat up and made an announcement to the table, "Let's wrap this up, folks. We've got another Pally in the house."

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