A few years ago I hopped in a Smart Car, drove from Edmonton to Calgary to pick up someone I’d never met and continued on to Vancouver. It was a grueling 14 hour drive in a car that was horribly inadequate for crossing the Rocky Mountains. So why did I submit myself to this butt numbing and dangerous trek? One word, community.
For years I had been part of the Rooster Teeth Community and making friends online who were from all over the world. I embarked on my journey because one of the more prolific community members, Luke McKay (yes our Luke McKay), started a Red vs Blue fan meet up for members in the Pacific Northwest. It was an amazing success, I meet a whole community of warm friendly people and made many new friends. On the long drive home I had time to reflect on the amazing experience I had over the last 3 days and I asked myself, “Why aren’t there more gatherings of people passionate about the same things I am and why did I have to drive 1100 Km to meet them?”
Geeks and gamers are social people but we don’t always make it easy to meet each other. Sure we connect but it seems only through online games, forums and instant messaging as opposed to saying hello to a stranger in the grocery store or at the bus stop. I think the tendency not to reach out and connect with others who might share in our passions comes from a fear they may ridicule or judge us for having a nerdy or childish hobbie. Which of course is ridiculous since the average age of a video gamer is 35 and enormous success of entertainment like the Avengers movie proves geeky things are enjoyed by millions.
The only time we seem to let down our guard and share our enjoyment of the things we love is at large community events like Penny Arcade Expo or Vancouver Fan Expo. Even then large “safe” geek or gamer events tend to only happen once or twice a year and are generally cliquey affairs that can be equally insulating to the people attending as they are intimidating to people not already very involved with the community.
There is one exception I’ve found, EXP Restaurant + Bar. Created by gamers for gamers it’s a place where people can go and share what they love in a cool welcoming atmosphere. The Button Mash crew spends an inordinate amount of time at EXP and we see groups of people from all different walks of life come to enjoy a meal and a pint together. It’s also the only place where I know I can walk up to any table, say hello, ask what they think of the latest superhero movie and not be met by incredulous stares or confused worried faces. I know this because the people who frequent EXP all have something in common, they love some part of video game or geek culture. In fact often someone I’ve never met before joins our table having been brought over by owner Brian or bar manager Jimi. Like I said, we are social creatures but unless we’re allowed or shown that it’s okay to engage others we don’t.
Luke and I have been talking about this and we think that if given the opportunity and the right environment not only will more of our crowd get to know each other but we might actually get those too intimidated by the massive conventions to participate. We need an event or gathering where strangers can be free to interact and get to know each other without worrying about what others are going to think of them. Not a gathering just for cosplay or video game developers or comic book enthusiasts but for everyone and anyone who wants good conversation about the things we all love.
The Button Mash was founded on community values and our mission is to help create and foster community anywhere we can. So we’re going to hold the first ever Player Twosday next week at EXP. It’s a Tuesday evening long table meetup for geeks, gamers and those just curious about what we do and who we are. Come alone or with a friend to meet strangers, make friends, share common (and uncommon) interests and help build this wonderful community of ours!