“Everyone was there” and you weren’t

I don’t go to video game or developer conferences. Not because I am against them by any means, they seem like fun and I would probably learn a great deal, honestly, but more that I haven’t been able to afford to travel long distances in many years. It just costs too much in time and money for me to go.

That hasn’t stopped me, though, from living vicariously through other people’s words and pictures. Reading their notes on what they saw or experienced gives me a small look into what something like GDC, IndieCade, PAX, or even, closer to me anyway, MAGFest might be like when I get a chance to go to any of these. It’s a neat way to check in, listen, or see these different events without leaving my house.

Still, there is a phrase that makes me cringe every time I read it. One that I’ve seen crop up on Twitter in particular and other social media in general. It’s always preceded by how much fun the writer had, how nice it was to meet new people or see old friends, or even, if this was their first time, how different it was than they expected it to be for them. Then comes the next three words.

Everyone was there.

It’s a phrase I’ve come to dread. Whenever I see the sign posts in the writing, the listing of all that was good at an event, I always mentally prepare myself for those words. The ones that tell me and others that we aren’t part of whatever group the writer is in and weren’t even expected to be there. We are, as this phrase reminds us, the audience and not participants.

Now, I’m not calling anyone specific out on this. It’s common enough that I’ve seen way too many people do it to name them. Common enough that I see it as a problem within the greater community and one that has become nearly endemic to all event writing or descriptions. Practically part of the genre at this point.

But it’s toxic. It’s commonality demonstrates a trend toward exclusivity of those who can go to such things. Because, in many cases, the people who go to conferences often attend other conferences, it creates a confirmation bias in the attendees. They see the same people over and over and thus those become their “everyone.”

Of course “everyone” was there, then. It was the same people, the ones from the conference last fall or from the year before. It was the same “everyone” they talk to on their social network of choice. The ones who are in line with their group and have such access. Those “everyone.”

Some were there, not all.

If I have learned anything in recent years, it is that video game developer community especially is made up of an uncountable number of micro-producers. Those who add some code here and there. Those who teach some small things they learned. Those who have a single blog post covering some obscure technique or bit of advice. Those who add to the general knowledge of all of us in ways unfathomable.

I’m not asking for a massive change with this. It isn’t a manifesto. It’s just a reminder that, hey, not everyone goes to events. There is a much large majority of people not included in the listed “everyone” who are part of the community. Some of us may wish to some day go, sure, but many others don’t care about such things. All, though, are in the “everyone,” even if we weren’t there. We all contribute.

2 comments

  1. A very thoughtful piece. Something that often strikes me is the extent to which the more visible videogame community — the ones who ‘were there’ — is heavily dominated by people who are old enough to have a degree of financial freedom yet young enough not to have family commitments: a magic 22ish-32ish window.

    Nothing wrong with being 22-32, obviously, and of course its often the period when people start making something of themselves. But it would be a shame for the medium as a whole if independent game development was perceived as solely the preserve of that age range.

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