Four Days of 100% Geekdom

Day 2 ScytheI spent the last four days doing something unique compared to the other 361 days of the year, so I thought I’d talk about it here.

A few years ago when I started to get into the board game industry as a publisher and designer, I decided to attend my first convention. I was a little worried about it, because I’m not one to seek out big crowds of people, but I ended up being surprised at how welcoming and inclusive people were. I’ve returned every year since then.

The convention is called Geekway to the West in St. Louis, and it continues to offer one of the best experiences of my life every time I go.

The basic gist of the convention is it’s four days of playing board games with 1300 strangers who don’t feel like strangers. The games are obviously a huge part of it, but I’ve found–despite my introversion–that it’s the people who make the experience so amazing.

Here are the types of people that make Geekway so special:

  • The organizers: They do such a good job of fostering a welcoming environment, and they really make you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself.
  • People I know only through Geekway: This is my third year, and I love seeing some of the same faces from year to year. We may play a game together, or we might just smile and say hi as we walk by each other. But the cool thing to me is that despite the repeat attendees, it’s not at all exclusive or unwelcoming–everyone seems just as happy to meet new people as the previous year.
  • People who go out of their way to teach a game: I love that you can sit down with a game you want to learn at Geekway, and there’s a really good chance someone will stop by to teach or clarify a rule while you’re playing. It’s this spirit of giving that I really love, and I try to foster it by checking in with various groups when I see them playing my games.
  • People who travel from all over to attend the convention: I ran into a lot of people this year who traveled from far-away parts of the US. It takes guts to try something new for the first time, especially if a plane ticket is part of the cost.
  • People who accept people the way they are: This is one of my favorite parts of the board game community. It’s one of the most accepting communities I’ve ever been a part of. There are people of all shapes and sizes, ages and genders, races, religions, and sexualities. None of that matters at Geekway. I’m speaking about that from the perspective of a straight white male, so it’s partially just my perception, but I think it’s accurate.
  • IMG_4274Kickstarter backers and fellow creators who introduce themselves to me: It’s flattering when someone comes up to me and tells me they like one of my games, my Kickstarter blog, or just to say hi. It takes an extra step to actually go up to someone and say something, and it happened dozens of times over the last four days. That means so much to me.
  • Families: I love seeing families at Geekway. Games are such a great way of coming together as a family, and it really touches me to see dads and moms playing games with their sons and daughters.
  • My brother: Andrew (seen on the right) has flown in from Seattle the last two years to attend Geekway with me, which is so amazing. I’m glad to be able to share my hobby and my career with him. While I played a lot of games with him, I really appreciate that he’s independent enough to wander around and play games with random people when he sees that I need to do official Stonemaier stuff.
  • My friends: Despite how welcoming people are at Geekway, it’s nice to have some familiar faces to play games with and eat with.

My cats weren’t too happy about my absence over the last few days, but it was so worth it.

Have you ever been to an event, convention, or retreat that completely changed the way you look at events, conventions, and retreats?