I am sitting on plane for Hawaii next to perhaps Dtoid's biggest fan. She has just looked at a picture of the founder and spirit guide, Niero, and asked "Why are we so far away from these people?". I give her a hug, and discover I am holding her for longer than I expected; this is not a short quick hug. When she pulls away I see a tear running down her cheek. She has not spent a weekend at just a gaming conference. She just spent nearly a week with an extended family with whom she has a bond that runs deeper than you would find in many biological families and she is experiencing a separation anxiety that would confound me if I had not just shared the week with her. She has spent her waking hours on this flight (we are more than a little worn out) sorting and viewing the many photos taken by myself and the Ghost.
Just a few days earlier I am standing outside The Whiskey Bar in Seattle's Belltown, more than a little gone on a bit too much whiskey, and I am chatting with the bouncer, a very tall, large and bald fellow probably in his mid-20's. Like many bouncers you will find, he is a mellow guy, and you can feel him projecting an almost bhudda-like serenity tonight, not what you expect from a bouncer. He is smiling as we talk about the large group that has descended upon the bar tonight. No, not smiling. Glowing.
"The bartenders and I have talked about you guys. You are the most loving group we have seen here." Quite a statement, and delivered as a compliment from a man who has the job of keeping order where alchohol and reduced inhibition to belligerence are norm. Yes, he really did say "loving." He is enjoying himself because not only is his job easy tonight, he is basking in the reflected glow of an online community that has come together in real life with a love that transcends time and space and is pouring out into a physical reality with the force of a mighty river, calm and serene yet massive and powerful.
I came to PAX and met this amazing community because Maya is my best friend and mirror reflection and knows me better than anyone else alive. Somehow she knew (as she has good ideas) that it would be useful for me to meet the community of Destructoid in person. When she asked me if I would like to join her at PAX, I looked at the PAX info, decided I would, and when I told her I'd like to go, she said "Good, because I already bought your ticket." What neither of us knew at the time was that by the time we arrived at PAX I would be preparing for new career where gaining a deep experience of how online communities come together into a cohesive and loving whole would be a valuable learning opportunity. There was no way I could have been prepared for what I found and experienced in the few days I spent with these amazing people.
What do you say to a fellow who opens his housemate's house to a bunch of people from the internet, spends the entire evening in the kitchen cooking for them, and presumably had to do a massive amount of cleaning that would be necessary when 50 drunken people invade your home? I am sure there is no doubt that a lot of people would say he is crazy or worse, and yet, simply saying thank you was enough for Kai. He was clearly enjoying hosting this party, meeting his numerous online friends, and getting the opportunity to contribute to the enjoyment of the week for his community.
Maybe a little more than just a thank you. A hug as well. Hugs are important to the Dtoid community. Get 100 people together hugging each other in pairs and groups large and small, multiple nights, group hugs, and even the rarely seen katamaya, and you've got a lot of hugs. And clearly those hugs are important. There is a lot of emotion connected with a PAX Dtoid gathering, and a lot of emotion when it ends. I wonder how many more of the people I just met this weekend are at this very moment missing their friends, feeling a sense of loss, and possibly even crying?
Now that I've had a night's sleep, the chatter in IRC is about how much everyone misses each other. The messages in the google group are about how much everyone had a great time and their friends at home do not grasp how great it was to hang out with this community of online friends. How do you have a transformative experience with a bunch of people and then try to explain it to the other people in your life who did not share it? Moses tossed some stone tablets at the Israelites, but I don't think that option is quite available to the rest of us.
I've seen this before, but not with such a large and cohesive group. That's why I'm so honored to have been a part of this event and experience with you. I've experienced with the Destructoid community a gathering that has something I've not seen elsewhere. It's larger, it's more loving, and it lasts. Most important, it lasts. So far it has lasted for years. That kind of committment is important in my business.
I talked to a lot of people and asked a lot of questions. I'm not a hardcore gamer like so many of you. I was open and honest that I was there to observe and learn how an online community comes together like the Dtoid community does. And everyone simply accepted me. No judgement.
A few people asked me to share my thoughts and discoveries with the community, and I will. These are my first thoughts. I'm still kind of reeling from the intensity of what I have just experienced, and I'm still observing first hand how it affects another member of the community.
I think it comes down to one thing. Heart. And somehow there is a magic field around the Dtoid community where all these people with heart and love for each other feel safe and accepted and secure with each other.
My deepest thanks to you all.