The setting: January 2011. A hotel room in the D.C. Metro area. The evening before MAGFest. A slight tension hung in the air as two friends waited for a third, slated to arrive that night. Few utterances were exchanged during the wait.
"Sure is some traffic out there."
"Good thing the airport has a shuttle."
"Yup, good thing."
After an immeasurable stretch, a knock at the door sounded, accompanied by a voice.
"Let me in, I'm a zombie."
And immediately all tension (real or imagined) dissolved as the both of us rushed to the door, chuckling at the sheer weirdness of the remark, our spirits bolstered by the arrival of our friend.
We three stood embracing for a moment, flush with the excitement of the reuniting. We were members of the Destructoid forums, and had met only a few times previously. Geography was a cruel barrier in the way of more frequent visitations, and as with any rare entity, the few meetings we did have were made that much more precious.
After the greetings (and subsequent arrivals of the remainder of our traveling party), we all settled back into the gregarious rapport we had established just in time for the convention to begin.
MAGFest, a four-day long gaming and game music festival, had way more in store than I was expecting. The myriad of arcade machines were available for play 24/7, and the party-friendly atmosphere put no damper on a spur-of-the-moment plan of questionable legality. And when I say "legality," I mean, of course, in terms of the hotel's rules; there's a slight chance a couple of (over-21) Dtoiders elected to carry a coffee cup full of whiskey around the convention floor one night. But you didn't hear it from me.
Other ventures were more kosher than the whiskey-cup collaboration; a karaoke bar one night, and countless room parties the rest. And here's the kicker: aside from my roommates, I knew everyone in an online-only capacity prior to the 'Fest. Don't get me wrong, many congoers were friends with whom I had gamed, chatted, exchanged pleasantries, you name it. I simply had yet to be physically in their presence.
Yet despite the face-to-screen nature of our prior friendships, I found that I formed an instant bond with these people. The experience of walking up to a near-stranger and saying "hey there, I'm Ruckus on the forums!" (and hearing them reply in kind) gave a more tangible edge to our relationship.
As those four days drew to a close, I realized that I now had a built-in circle of friends with whom to hang out and play games online. Well, not just online. I eventually ended up flying to Minnesota to....oh, never mind.