When EverQuest launched, no one really knew how big it would get or how successful it would become. Similarly, the first fan get-together was a bit of a diceroll. EQ Gathering, as it was called back then, was organized by Cindy "Abigale" Bowens, and while initially organizers thought that only about 100 people would attend, over 250 fans actually showed up.
Bowens hosted several EQ Gatherings throughout the United States, but SOE made the event a once-a-year occurrence in 2004. What initially began as a party-atmosphere meet-and-greet became a full-scale convention that now hosts previews and panels for a variety of SOE MMOs.
The stolen banner
Back in 2002 at the Boston Fan Faire, one rather overzealous fan walked off with the EQ banner, and staff had to beg for its return, threatening bannings and giving a one-time "no questions asked" amnesty deal to the thief. Fans might disagree over which gathering put Fan Faire on the map, but I think the Boston event wins out. This was the first one where you could hear players buzz about it throughout the community, and by this time, there were plenty of successful events to set the precedent for Fan Faire as an established convention rather than just a meet-and-greet.
One of the more unusual yet strangely cool moments in Fan Faire history was the real-life and in-game wedding at the 2007 event. Kelly Kane and Nathan Davalos were led down the aisle by Darth Vader and tied the knot in front of a packed house of attendees. After the real-life ceremony, they logged in their characters for a GM-led ceremony in EverQuest II. While some will surely scratch their heads and wonder why anyone would want to get married at a Fan Faire, it shows the impact that MMOs have had in players' lives.
A couple of years later, at the 2010 Fan Faire, Phil "Snickers" Simmons donned his froglok suit and took a knee to propose to his longtime girlfriend on stage. She said yes, and the two got married the next year. What's amazing about the story, though, is that the woman he married was actually his ex-wife
! Apparently, their 15-year marriage ended in divorce, but the two met in EverQuest
three years later in a chance encounter. The two used the game to renew their relationship and found that gaming together actually helped them communicate better and reduce stress.
Often, MMOs and video games in general are criticized for breaking up families and destroying lives, but in this case, EverQuest
played a large role in actually repairing a marriage. Maybe couples who game together do
The 2011 Fan Faire keynote was a poignant one because SOE President John Smedley
paused from the usual upbeat game news to formally apologize for the attacks on SOE accounts by hackers
. Even the biggest cynic had to agree that it was a sincere and heartfelt moment, and while the company had already followed through with its make-good promotion, it was the first time fans had a face-to-face apology from SOE.
Another touching moment came at last year's Fan Faire. Just a few months before, Star Wars Galaxies
fans were shocked with the news that their favorite game was being sunsetted. Many had already booked their hotels and made plans to attend Fan Faire, but instead of traveling to hear game news and celebrate with friends, they went to say goodbye and have one last hurrah. The panel was a mix of feelings
, and you could see that players and developers alike were happy to have been a part of such a special game but also sad to see it end. After raffling off memorabilia, they all signed a poster to etch their names into history. Players could have easily used the opportunity to lash out at management and assign blame (and it would not have been the first time), but fortunately, no one did, and in the end, it was one of the best yet saddest Fan Faire moments.
The SOE team deserves a lot of credit for being so accessible during these events. Developers are out and about during the entire event, and you can barely turn around without bumping into one. They patiently answer questions, even if it's long after a panel has ended or during a chance encounter on the convention floor. And when you're face to face discussing game issues or things on the wish list, you can see that they genuinely care about the games they're making, something that's often hard to spot in a forum post or thread.
Whether the event was called EQ Gathering or EQ Fan Faire or SOE Fan Faire or SOE Live, the one thing common to all was that it's all about the people. Early on, there were the Best of the Best tournaments, which pitted players in a last-man-standing brawl and led to legends being born. Today, the tournaments are much larger, and the glory of an in-game title is nothing compared to the thousands of dollars in prize money. Meanwhile, the face of the attendees has changed quite a bit, and while there are sure to be many ready to party rock, the atmosphere is much more family-friendly, with special events planned even for younger players. Even the costume contest seems to get bigger and better each year. I'm always amazed at what players create, and they seem to outdo themselves year after year. (Except for you, evil Billy Doll!)
Fan Faire went from an intimate meet-and-greet to a multi-game convention where thousands descend to hear the big news and catch up with friends. There are sure to be some memorable moments from this year's event, but the most important will actually be the little ones shared among friends.
From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to firstname.lastname@example.org.