BlizzCon 2013 is the year's richest opportunity to hobnob with fellow WoW enthusiasts. Thanks to Blizzard's polished event management, you can expect an entertaining weekend whether you're a party animal, a die-hard e-sports fan, a cosplay enthusiast, or simply squeeing at the opportunity to rub up against all things Blizzard.
Make no mistake: With something in the neighborhood of 30,000 fans expected to attend, BlizzCon is most assuredly a social event. You'll be interacting with a great many people in close quarters, some of whom will be eager to meet you and some who won't. (The Drama Mamas will be there, too -- say hello at the WoW Insider/Wowhead Meetup on Thursday night, or come rest your tired dogs and review the weekend's fun with Drama Mama Lisa and others from the WoW Insider staff at the Meeting Stone at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon.)
Connecting with guildmates face to face for the first time? Meeting Blizzard staffers and well-known members of the WoW community? Making new WoW friends? Just enjoying the show? Bring it on -- but let's avoid bringing the drama by clarifying how not to act like That Guy in what's sure to be a spectacular nexus of WoW geeks and Azerothian energy.
Geeks behaving badly
First of all, let's make one thing perfectly clear: There will be massive crowds of people at BlizzCon, and many of them will not be on their best behavior. "Regardless of their age and gender, there unfortunately will be plenty of inconsiderates harshing your Blizzard buzz while you are trying to enjoy the con," says Drama Mama Robin.
With that many people under one roof, noise levels will be high even in panel and presentation areas. Don't contribute -- and don't be That Guy With the Cell Phone. Leave the audience area if you need to make a call, and don't chatter to seatmates during a presentation when everyone around you wants to hear what's going on.
What if someone near you is ruining the moment with their own bad behavior? Don't get aggro. The classy, effective way to handle this is to be firm but polite. Robin's advice when others are showing their obnoxious sides:
- Talking during the panels Just like at the movies, people will talk loudly during the panels -- either to each other or on cell phones. You've traveled across the country (or around the world!) and paid all this money to hear the latest game news on expansions or your class, and some jerk won't shut up. Advice: eHow suggests starting with a glare, then moving on to a polite request to be quiet, should the glare fail. Follow the link for tips on how to finesse your escalation.
- Barrens Chat everywhere In lines, during the presentations, while the performers are onstage -- rude people will shout out random comments and Chuck Norris references. It's like they can't survive without general or trade chat. Advice: Think of it as a kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show experience. We can't turn off the channel like we can in game, but we can try to find fun in their comments whenever possible. (And I must admit, some of them are funny.)
- Heckling Over and above the misguided attempts at interacting with the entertainers and developers, there will be hecklers shouting out personal insults and vicious criticisms. I was livid at the outburst from a guy in my section when he swore loudly at the person on stage for mispronouncing a word. That's right: You think you can avoid trolls by not reading the forums and comments, but you will still have to deal with these people in person at BlizzCon. Advice: Take several deep breaths and mentally pretend you are downvoting their posts.
How to meet other people
One of the best things about BlizzCon is the opportunity to connect with guildmates and social media buddies you've never met, other players who are enjoying the same things at BlizzCon that you are, and Blizzard employees and WoW community members you've always wished you could meet in person. Magnify your hopes and expectations by the number of people attending BlizzCon, though, and you've got a recipe for awkward situations if you don't keep certain social boundaries in mind.
Use the Meeting Stone. The best way to connect with others at BlizzCon 2013 is the Meeting Stone. This is the place for meeting people who want to met! Even if you're not such a social butterfly, if you're interested, give a shot to hanging out at the stone. There's bound to be a bubbly extrovert about to keep things hopping. (And don't forget, WoW Insider will be there Saturday at 4 p.m. Come see us!)
Don't come on too strong with people who are, after all, only virtual connections. The Blizzard employees or well-known community members you've always wanted to meet may remember your mutual Twitter conversations with as much fondness as you do and be delighted to share a hug and a laugh in person -- or they may not be able to place you among the sea of 30,000 other players. When meeting people you feel as if you've always known but haven't actually met, give them a chance to warm up to you. People who are perfectly comfortable livestreaming a show or tweeting to thousands can be remarkably introverted in person. Be friendly and natural, but do be wary of overfamiliarity with someone you feel a virtual connection with.
Respect personal boundaries -- and germs. The same principle of moderation goes for physical contact. Don't overwhelm someone you've never met in person with a hug unless they clearly show they're up for it; consider a handshake or a friendly clap on the arm. If someone moves a step back from you, whether it reflects a cultural difference or a personal preference, respect their boundaries.
And speaking of taking a step back, don't be That Funky Dude that everyone keeps shuffling away from. It's Southern California, dude, and air conditioning in crowds only goes so far -- as Robin says, there will be funk. Take regular showers, use your deodorant, and keep things clean. That means washing your hands frequently, too; con crud is a risk wherever so many people are packed closely together. A final note: Keep your clothes on, kid.
Keep things safe
It's easy to get caught up in the togetherness of BlizzCon. "You and your fellow attendees have common interests -- duh -- else you wouldn't have spent the money, time and effort to be there," Robin says. Even so, she notes, you should still apply plenty of common sense and follow basic safety measures:
- Don't be alone. If at all possible, keep to the buddy system. It worked in grade school and it works here too. This is particularly true when meeting up with friends you only know through the game. And always meet people in public, whether you have a buddy or not.
- Let someone know where you are. If you don't have a buddy, keep in constant contact with someone you trust -- significant other, best friend, family member, etc.
- Be careful how you use social media. Live-tweeting the con is fun; feel free to do it. But if you end up someplace alone (for instance, grabbing a meal), don't update Facebook with your food pic until after you are safe with other people again. No reason to make it easy for stalkers to find you.
And finally, don't be a creep. "Don't follow cosplayers around, and definitely do not touch them -- even when getting your picture taken with them," Robin advises. "In fact, don't follow anyone around." Just because you felt a connection with that person from the same realm, she explains, doesn't mean he or she wants to spend the rest of the con with you. Unless you both agree to spend more time together after meeting, go your separate ways. "Sure, you may bump into people again after meeting them, but don't do it on purpose," she adds. "As Lisa says, respect personal boundaries."
The Drama Mamas hope to meet many of you at the WoW Insider/Wowhead meetup Thursday night or at the Meeting Stone on Saturday afternoon. We'll see you then -- and to those of you holding down the fort at home, we salute you!
Dodge the drama and become the player everyone wants in their group with advice from The Drama Mamas Drama-Buster Guide. Got a question for the Drama Mamas? Email the mamas at firstname.lastname@example.org.