There’s a part of me that longs for convention floors. I just love being a part of an inclusive, open-minded crowd gathered in one place for the common enjoyment of a hobby or interest. I’ve been writer’s conferences, anime conventions, and gaming expos, and they all give me this positive, uplifting charge that can last for weeks afterward.
And yet, I know they can be dangerous places. I know people can violate the space of others. I know lines can and do get crossed. And I know that these communities, especially when it comes to gaming, are not as inclusive as I’d like them to be.
To which I have to wonder, “Why the fuck not?”
Creeps do exist, and I don’t mean the sort of guys and girls who are enthusiastic and well-meaning but don’t always say the right thing or aren’t adept at handling meeting new people or maintaining/ending conversations. I mean the ones who think it’s perfectly okay to berate people for being different, to undercut others so they can increase their own sense of superiority, or to introduce their genitals to any situation regardless of circumstances or permission of the other people involved. I’m not sure why these people are so unaware of the fact that this behavior is not okay. It’s not okay on a basic level and it’s also not okay as a means to get attention.
So how do we approach the people we idolize? How do we behave when encountering others of our craft or hobby? What should aspiring con-goers keep in mind when entering the hall for the first time?
Listen to the Rolling Stones, kids. “Have some sympathy, have some courtesy, and some taste.”
It’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when entering the convention, firing up the console, or just walking through town. The people you encounter are people, nothing more or less, just like you. I doubt most people in this world are really dedicated to going out of their way to make your life miserable. Those that are probably have personal reasons for doing so, and that’s a different kettle of fish entirely. When meeting people you haven’t met before, keep in mind that it is impossible for you to know every circumstance of every aspect of their lives that lead up to them meeting you.
If you appreciate their work, tell them so. Say how happy you are to meet them. If it feels like an honor to do so, say so. If approaching someone who’s signing things, and you have something for them to sign, ask them politely to sign it. Ask them if they’re having a good time. After that, if you’ve been standing in line, chances are others have been standing in line behind you, and you should probably move on. Otherwise, let the conversation flow from there; don’t steer it constantly back to subjects centered on you so you can run off at the mouth. Good conversations don’t work that way.
I know, reading it dryly like this, these seem like common sense tips. But when meeting someone we know through work we thoroughly enjoy, it’s entirely possible for rational thought to simply stop working. When I met my first Internet celebrity, I pretty much lost my face. Thankfully, I doubt he remembers me, and as I can’t afford to go to the Escapist Expo this month, it’ll probably be some time before I see him in person again. The next time I encountered one, things went much better. I followed the advice given above, and we had a great talk about Boston, movies, PAX, and various other things. It felt good, and I never got the impression that he was uncomfortable.
Just think before you speak, people. It isn’t that difficult. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. It’s very good to shake the hand of a stranger, introduce yourself, and get to know them and their way of life, but don’t be overbearing when you do it. If you keep talking, you can’t listen. And who wants to talk to someone who won’t listen to them?
Do these things, and not only will you not be a creep, you may find yourself overcoming that awkwardness. A little confidence goes a long way, and it’ll show. Try a little sympathy, courtesy, and taste the next time you’re in a situation with new people. You might be surprised.