I was recently in Fort Wayne, IN for the annual Winter Fantasy gaming convention. As I remarked to Paige on our latest recording for the Round Table, I considered Winter Fantasy to be my absolute favorite gaming convention that I go to each year. The emphasis there is on gaming, as most who know me know that DragonCon is by far my favorite convention. At DragonCon, I have ~90,000 of my closest friends. I know I can find any random stranger at the con and strike up a conversation and we will have some shared interest. I know that no matter what tiny little nerdy niche subject I want to gush over, I can find someone at DragonCon who shares my interests. Furthermore, I know that no matter what sort of absolute garbage-fire my life might happen to be at that point of the year, DragonCon will always be a blissful escape from reality. It’s a homecoming for me, but it’s a different beast entirely from Winter Fantasy.
At Winter Fantasy, I know there will be maybe 1000 people. (Edit: I’m told there were 500 this year!) I’ll recognize most everyone by face even if I can’t remember their name — sorry to everyone that I’ve met over a dozen times that I still give the blank “oh shit, I know I know you” look to when you first say hello — and most everyone knows me in return. For most of us, Winter Fantasy will be our first convention of the year. We’re ready to get out of the house, see friends, and have fun gaming; so that’s precisely what we do.
It’s a relatively small show, so Winter Fantasy has that comfortable feeling of camaraderie where you don’t have to plan out every single minute of your time. You can just go with the flow. Sleep in a bit, eat a leisurely breakfast with friends, and then amble over to the convention center to find your friendly marshal to get seated. If you didn’t coordinate with your gaming group to buy tickets, who cares? You know that you’re probably still going to get a group of random new (or old) friends to head off on your latest adventure with.
Looking back on my recent time in Fort Wayne, I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made over the years. I saw so many faces that I know, so many people anxious to check in on me and see how I’ve been. So many people who genuinely care about one another. For me, where DragonCon is the big class reunion party each year, Winter Fantasy is the big family reunion where it’s my chosen family that I love to see. Whether I’ve haven’t seen someone since the last con in November, or whether it’s been an entire year, I know that I’m going to be able to pick right back off where I left off and have an excellent time catching up with friends and making new memories. This year I went into the con a bit uncertain where my life is headed. I’ve been out of work since August, still relatively new to the Chicago area, and trying to get accustomed to traveling without owning a car. Recounting all of this to my friends at the show, they all offered to help in any way they could to try and find a job, to line up editing or writing work, or to let me ride/stay with them in order to get me to future conventions so that I can continue to be a part of their lives. To me, that’s the biggest difference in my two favorite shows. At Winter Fantasy, we’re family. We take care of one another. We game together and we grow together, and to me, that’s what life should be. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who continues to make my life a little brighter year after year by being in it. Especially to those of you that made WF2020 such a bright spot for me. I hope to continue seeing you all many many times in the future and to be able to repay even a small bit of the kindness that you all have always shown to me.