The kickoff party went fairly well from where I was standing. Er, sitting. It was fun, and a lot less formal than I feared it would be.
I arrived at Buckhead Saloon at 7:15 due to parking issues, but it wasn't a big deal. I got in line to pick up my conference bag and name lanyard, then proceeded into the bar.
As with most "free" parties, beer and wine were free, but liquor was not. Needing a stiff drink to calm down my hyperdrive (I was understandably excited), I said to heck with it and started a tab. Opting for a Midori sour, I sat at the bar, taking in the sights and sounds. It was unbelievably loud in there, but that could just be me. I haven't been to a club or bar in more than a year. Anyway, I didn't immediately see anyone I knew at the meeting, so I looked over my conference packet, noting that while the bag contained a map of the Expo Hall, there wasn't a map outlining the layout of the conference center. Curious. . .
By that time, my drink was gone and I ordered a glass of white zinfandel, since it was free. Here's a tip: If you're a big fan of wine, DON'T order it at an industry event unless the place has an upscale dress-code. The free wine at an event held in your typical bar runs from distinctly average to incredibly awful. This one was average, so I consider myself fortunate. If you have to stick with the freebies (which most of us games-biz newbies do), go with the beer.
Right as I started getting a little bummed that I hadn't successfully struck up a conversation with anyone, I spied another wine drinker amongst the sea of beer enthusiasts. I quickly walked up to the bar under the guise of ordering more wine and started talking about our wine choices. Her name is Alicia and as it turns out, she's not an industry person, but tagged along to the with a pair of her friends, Gabriel and Tobias. I believe they are students at one of our local schools, but I can't be certain because Tobias bought a round of tequila shots for the four of us and things got a little fuzzy for the next hour. Another tip: If you aren't sure you can hold your liquor, DON'T do this. Or at the very least, don't drain your wine glass afterward. Which reminds me, I owe someone a drink. . .
By that time my buddy Marq from Red Storm came up to the bar and things really got rolling. We swapped the usual weekly update, and he began pointing out people I needed to know, like Dana Cowley, the head of our local IGDA chapter, and some people who work for Wake Tech and WomenGamers.com. Wound up getting my picture taken (by one of the WG.com people, I think) and then the actual introductions began.
Marq introduced me to Caroline Moore, a composer from Virginia that he met at GDC, and she introduced me to a handful of students she knew at the meeting. Mark Rubianes, Charles Scott-Spain, and A.J. (No explanation of the initials was given on A.J.'s nametag, sorry.) All really cool people, all whom I hope to meet up with tomorrow at TGC.
I stayed out far too late for my own good, but it was lots of fun and I managed not to make a complete fool of myself. I'm pretty sure that's because I avoided being roped into playing Rock Band on the big screen in the game room, but still. Not looking dumb + still having fun = Really Good Thing.
Tomorrow, I'll bring you an update on the first day of the Triangle Game Conference, and my tips for successfully navigating an industry conference. See you then. ;)