Friday, September 7, 2007

Real-life friendships made, celebrated at meet and greet

The second annual Meet and Greet for World of Warcraft players on the Shadow Council server is coming Sept. 22 at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, Md.

Renaissance Faire admission is $18 at the door. Costumes are optional.

Organizer Amy Bullach of Herdon, Va. (better known as “Sheva”), said she has made real-life friends while playing World of Warcraft—friends who can relate to each other outside of the virtual world.

After chatting online with other players, and discovering common interests, Bullach learned some of them lived nearby, and decided to try to meet with them last fall.

“When a number of people expressed an interest in visiting it kind of naturally morphed into an official meet and greet,” she said in an online interview.

“I've gotten to know a lot of fellow Shadow Council folk on a more real, personal basis, and consider myself very lucky in that regard,” she said. “…I consider many close and trusting friends and often can share hard times with them as well as celebrations and am met with a lot of love, support and friendship.”

Christina Cericola of Collingswood, N.J. went last year, and plans to come again this year.

“I think people who play/role-play on WoW are a creative bunch, like me,” Cericola said. “The kind of people I would hang out with in real life.”

In fact, Cericola has been playing her character “Engl” ever since her husband took her to a Meet and Greet in June of 2005.

“All I knew about WoW was it was a game (my husband) played for hours while I went shopping,” Cericola said in an in-game interview. “Then he says, ‘hey, let’s go meet some people.’ I said sure, not really paying attention.”

That meet and greet was hosted by “Ruzska,” a player who was a minor server celebrity for her numerous in-game events. There, Cericola met people who were “so cool” they convinced her to try the game.

Organizer Bullach said she will arrive early at the festival to stake out a table at the main tavern, which participants can then use as a “home base” between shows. The faire opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m.

According to the organizer, 14 people came to last year’s event. Though she expects a smaller number this year, she said she is looking forward to meeting some new players.

Agoriss” will be one of those new faces. He hopes the Renaissance Festival will provide a good social icebreaker “for meeting those strange people who geek out on WoW, role-playing all day long.”

“I also look forward to maybe making friends that I can see away from WoW,” Agoriss wrote in an email, “ ‘cause let’s face it... we can't spend our whole lives in the darkness of our computer room playing WoW all day!”

The organizer said she tries to keep things flexible. The group may tour Washington, D.C. the day after the Renaissance Festival if there is interest.

Sept. 22 starts “Adventure Weekend” at the Renaissance Festival, which is a sailor- and explorer-themed weekend. Costumes are optional. Performers will include the Medieval Times, a jousting group.

--L. Waymire