I have been meaning (for 2 months!) to post some reflections on my OMGESSEN! experience. They may be well-spaced, but here’s the first – and the topic is Loneliness.
But there are 148,000 audited people at OMGESSEN!, you might think, why might loneliness be a problem?
Let’s start with the fact that, as of October 1, I had met FOUR people who were at OMGESSEN!: Neil, Al and their little boy; and Tanja, who lived in Australia for a while 3 years or so ago.
From my observations, it was hard for people who went to OMGESSEN! on their own. Not impossible, by any means, but hard. If you are looking to pick up a game, it is easier if you have a ready-made opponent or three with you. If you want to do something in the evening, it is easier if you have a companion. Hotel costs are obviously cheaper if you have a roommate – and it’s easier to try out that new game you bought, too. You have someone to help you schlepp the big box of games to the cloakroom, or to share luggage allowance, or to go for the great buy-three-games-get-them-cheap offers.
If you’re on your own, you can do it. First, you find a group of people who are starting a game you want to play. Then, you work out whether there’s room for one more (and ask). Of course, to do that, you need to know what language/s they speak.
So what changed for me between October 1st and October 20th? And what can you do, either for OMGESSEN! or for another gaming event, to get it working for you?
First, I travelled around, and met lots of people. Jon and John, Martin, Mike-who-didn’t-make-it-in-the-end, E and his friends, Werner, Hanno. I started with a base of people that I could hang out with if I needed to. That made a big difference, because I started out knowing some people who would be there. This was kind of planned. You can do this too.
Second, although I did this before First, I made contacts. Except that I didn’t call them contacts, I called them friends. Or weird-people-I-only-knew-on-the-internet, which works as well. All those people in the list above fit into this category as well. And I arranged to meet them, both individually (yay Tuesday dinner with Ann, Marina, Conny and E) and en masse (through the BGG meet-up on Thursday evening as well as a general “I will be here at 3pm each day”). Both of those things worked really well for me and made sure that there were people I could talk to and connect with, as well as wander around and play games with (OMG!). The meeting-people-at-events was planned, the knowing them simply evolved through being an active participant on BGG. You can do this too.
Second-and-a-halfth, I told lots of people that I would be there, and how excited I was about it. You can do this too (although I am not sure how useful it is, which is why it is only a half).
Third, and really I have to thank Hanno and Lookout Games for this, I was recognisable. I had ginormous orange shirts with MELISSA across my chest and back in 10cm-high letters. So if anyone knew my name and wanted to talk to me, they could, because they recognised who I was as I walked past. This was a fantastic thing and helped me to meet so many people. Some of them even recognised me in my civvies, too 🙂 Other people did similar things by printing their BGG avatar on a shirt or hopefully several (*waves to Jon and Jens, among others*). It really works. This wasn’t something I had understood before the Messe, but obviously it was something that Hanno understood. You can do this too.
Fourth, I had a collectible card for a hot game which I was signing and giving away. This helped me to be verrrrrrrrry popular. This is probably harder for you to do.
Fifth, I started early. I was there on Setup Tuesday, when I met a bunch of people (*waves to Valerie, Dale, Brian, Jeremiah, Jonathan, Patrick, Ann, Scott, um who have I forgotten?*) and on Press Wednesday, when I met even more people. And it was easy to be visible Thursday morning when I worked the queue at Lookout Games. This meant that I had met **lots** of people by noon on Thursday, and even more after the BGG meeting evolved into a dinner on Thursday night. I did not understand how important this would be but it meant that, as I wandered around the fair, I ran into people who I already knew. You can do this too, at least up to a point.
Don’t get me wrong: I think OMGESSEN! would have been a great experience regardless of any of this. Just the feeling of standing in one of those halls and seeing all the games was amazing. But I am a social creature, and I like to have people around to share the experience – and these are the things that helped me to experience that.
I’d love to hear what other tips you have for meeting people at an event like this (which was different to a convention – I suspect it’s easier to meet people at a con, where the focus is on playing the games). Was there something I missed? Something else that works?