For the past seven months, I have been traveling the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. I was excited for my new adventure—hellbent on the hiking I’d be doing, as well as the many different sights I’d get to see roaming each town I passed through. There are many pros to traveling on your own, and I was eager to jump on all of them, but a hefty con was the human interaction.
One of the largest myths of gaming, I think, is that gamers have an aversion to social interaction. If that were always true, how are MMOs and co-op gaming some of the most sought-after games? Halo, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, and even Mario Kart 8 are all fantastic examples, and that isn’t even getting into board games. And please tell me you’ve heard of San Diego Comic Con by now. Even The Legend of Zelda Symphony is finally gaining enough notoriety to be on national television (go Colbert!).
Thus, it is no surprise when I travel the world that the top thing I’ve missed most are my gaming friends. After weekly bouts of The Elder Scrolls Online, Mario Kart 8, Dungeon & Dragons, and Settlers of Catan, plus my daily chats with friends on the latest Nintendo event or what games we’re excited for in 2016, I was suddenly without consistent Internet in a completely different time zone. Schedules were difficult to sync up. I was doing my best to keep a balance of exploring the new lands I came to while also keeping up with a hobby that was definitely more akin to a lifestyle.
I know I’m not the only one who has gone through these changes. Maybe you’ve traveled, too. Maybe you’ve moved out of town. Maybe your gaming friends moved to a new town, or they are traveling. Without further ado, here is how I’ve survived wandering the world while doing my best to surround myself with those who spoke my geek language.
I know this one seems obvious, but it made a huge difference for my travel needs when I knew I was sticking around an area for a longer period of time. When I knew I was going to Ireland for a couple of months, I remembered that The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses was still on their world tour (thanks, Twitter!). I did a quick search to see where they were at. Turns out they were playing in Dublin the first week of my arrival! I managed to score tickets and, when the evening arrived, bathed in the splendor of my Zelda love with the hundreds of others who felt the same way.
I also found out that there were some anime and comic conventions coming up for pretty cheap—all in the areas I’d be exploring. In less than an hour, I had options to sate my nerdy needs, and a comfort zone in a new place I’d never been.
Along with my research of events, I’d typically do a sweep of stores I knew I’d be interested in. While I knew I couldn’t buy everything (there are weight restrictions to luggage, unfortunately), just being in an area filled with games, plushies, and the people who played with them felt normal and satisfying.
At one point, I ended up finding a gaming store that, for only five euro, I would get a drink, a doughnut flavored to a gaming reference, and a slew of board games at my disposal until the they closed. I’d bring some friends from the hostel, and I made some friends at the store itself. For two months, I had a weekly game board day we all looked forward to.
The people who work at the stores usually like to talk, too, and give fantastic references to what else is going on that may not make it to the Internet. Yes, I saw larger franchise stores, but it was the local ones that I kept going back to for their social atmosphere.
Gaming is as social as you want to make it. There are enough RPGs or FPS games to stay solo, but for those of us who love to laugh IRT at our friends’ terrible situation trying to tank a troll by themselves, there’s Leaping Tiger. It’s an app that started in New Zealand, all dedicated to finding people who are playing video games nearby. The app tells you what game and system the person is currently using, any gamer tags they wish to share, any social media sites they decided to add, as well as an option to send an invite to play something or join whatever another person is playing by sending a quick message. Time zones be damned, you can find a friend to play with anywhere! And check their social media to see who they are, too. No need to get into a situation with a gamer troll.
If that is a little too direct for your own person, I made sure to follow some gaming communities (like Geek & Sundry or FemHype itself) on the off-chance I could join some of their own gaming sessions. Large group with as much or little involvement as I chose?
This one may seem odd (and probably not anything out of the ordinary), but I cannot tell you how many quick friends I’ve made traveling when I happened to wear my Tri-Force earrings. It sparks conversation with random people I otherwise would pass right on by, and these simple things made me feel more at home and connected when I found out how many people enjoyed The Legend of Zelda. When I knew I’d have to meet and see new people in a new hostel, I’d wear them or maybe my Skyrim shirt as a small shout out to other nerds: “Hey! Listen! I like this thing and I’m totally down to talk about it!”
While awaiting my fate to a lonesome overnight stay at an airport, a guy asked to sit across from me to wait for his own flight because he saw my Zelda decal on the back of my Surface Pro 3. We not only talked the evening away about gaming, traveling, and important life events for the each of us, but I’ve now got a friend in the Netherlands who is as in love with Zelda lore as I am.
A simple show of what we love in geekdom—even if it is drawn on by marker—makes all the difference. I certainly took the opportunity when others wore their geek, a perfect segue to playing Jenga games all night.
Does anyone else do anything special when they’re traveling, or if they’ve moved? How did you break back into your social geek scene?