Citizens' Corner: Real Life Events
There is a lot to say about real life Tower events. It would probably take 20 pages and 8 articles to cover everything so in this installment of Citizens' Corner I exclusively explore my first time at a large, official event. This is my personal experience. Results may vary.
Before the thought of meeting a single Tower person in real life ever crossed my mind, a respectable member gave me a warning. He said, "There are two types of Tower people—those that use the Boards as a tie-over to stay in touch with people between real life events—and those that don't." I didn't really understand what he meant at that time, but after having been to the 13th Anniversary Party and a couple local events in Atlanta, U.S. I think I have a better idea.
In a lot of ways, real life events are the highest form of social intimacy you may attain with the Tower as a whole. That is to say, you may find your best friend, your husband or wife, or a long-lost adopted sibling through interaction in the Tower. However, on the whole, meeting people in real life at a place away from home requires (1) money and real life assets such as gas, vacation time, food, and drink, (2) enough personal connections you have developed remotely to feel comfortable attending, and (3) the commitment and wish to contribute to the Tower—essentially where it has given you enough that you want to understand it more and also—give back. You may never meet a single Tower person in real life, but parts of the Tower you could experience/share/hold will never be accessible to you if you do not.
I would say that meeting a single person counts as a “casual real-life event." For your reference, the official location of all events on the Boards is Forums → Events. If you go to this forum, you will see there are many different types of real life events, encompassing different scopes. Meeting up with a friend with whom you've exchanged PMs at a local restaurant will not be listed in this forum, but meeting a handful of friends at someone's house to play Cards Against Humanity would be listed here. Such events such as the latter are called “local events,” as you will see listed. I've found there are 'cells' of Tower people in different regions. I lived in Atlanta—and there was a generally-established group. There is also a group in Boston which I have yet to meet, though I now live here. Some of these groups have pre-established events that happen regularly, and I assume some do not. There is typically an existing dynamic, and if you're lucky you will fit in. I am sure most everyone at real life events will be friendly and accommodating, (though not having been to an event in every single region I cannot say for sure,) but Tower people are generally friendly so it's probably a good bet.
Local events mirror large events since they are often organized by region, as you will see in the events forum. Each continental region has its own annual set of events. The “ultimate” Tower events (in my opinion) are big events like Anniversary Party (also called simply “Anni”) and Fall Ball—where the most people attend. Euro Party (you guessed it! In Europe!) is also growing steadily in size, and I heard the last one was super fun. Each of these events are so big, they have their own forums, so I think calling them “ultimate” Tower events is pretty legit.
I attended 3 local events in Atlanta before I moved, and both times I met roughly the same crowd. My first impression was surprise at how revealing meeting senior members (SMs) in real life and watching them interact informed me on the innerworkings and dynamics of the Tower. By attending 1 event early on as a brand-spanking-new citizen, I observed how Aes Sedai treat each other, and the impact roleplaying has on members in real life (the amount Tower folks roleplayed with each other was practically non-existent, to my surprise.) As an aside, I've learned that Tower folks roleplay more in their own minds than with each other in real life, as the site is an authentic group of friends, not based off fantasy (per se.)
I would definitely go to a Tower event with someone. If you don't have a friend with whom you want to hang out, you may find the class/culture/personalities of a local group's pre-existing group may not be your cup of tea, and if you planned to go with someone ahead of time, you at least have one person you can hang out with. The friend with which you attend doesn't have to be a Tower person—it can be one of your friends you convince to go--or your significant other. There is 0% repercussion of going to a Tower event, deciding it's not your thing, and never going again. I think it's safe to say that Tower people with any experience on the site, are accustomed to seeing new people try out the Tower and wander away (or just wander away from a particular kind of interaction.) One of the great things about the Tower is that it's there if and when you need it.
Though it may go without saying, always be safe when attending any meeting with anyone you've met online—Tower or elsewhere. The Tower is great because people who make it to Senior Member must be “made real.” In other words, it is confirmed that you (1) exist and (2) are who you say you are if you are a senior member. You may be “made real” at a local event, but it is mandatory for larger events, regardless of rank. This is to your benefit because the majority of people who attend all events are Senior Members, and they've already been confirmed by administration as 'relatively' honest people. Please keep in mind that local events are a bit more flexible, and not all members may be Senior Members. I would not advise meeting a Junior Member alone anywhere unless you know them very well. More information on being “made real” is here: Being Made Real It's great that the Tower has a bit more of a security measure in place than a random website you may visit—or say, Facebook or other social media site, where you have no idea if the person with whom you plan to meet is authentic.
The three local events I attended in Atlanta were fun. There was drinking, games, copious conversation... There was a pool at one party, Cards Against Humanity at another, and music and cats at a third. I believe you may be any age to attend local events, (again this is very casual—people just deciding to meet up,) but I'd definitely say that parties are adult-oriented. Furthermore, I met a friend I would be quite lost without in my life on a regular basis at my second event. This friend provided with me with a lot of support right away after meeting him, directly after the event to this day. Though Tower events may be scary and new, the potential to connect with people and make them such close allies in your life is a huge benefit to attending.
So here we are—the point I wanted to reach. Roughly two weeks ago I attended my first Anniversary Party—the 13th of such parties in existence. (Schedule here) I had attended a couple local events and wanted to see if large, official gatherings were for me—especially after hearing they were essential to the definition of the Tower to some SMs. So why did I choose Anni? (1) I wanted the largest event possible in which to immerse myself, (2) I hoped to connect with as many people as possible whom I had forged relationships with remotely, through my time on the Boards, and (3) I had real life friends (who happened to be Tower members) already planning to go, and reducing costs and easing time commitments and transportation was simple.
I planned to go to Anni almost a year before attending—so I had a lot of prep time. During that time, my interest, activity, and love of the Tower waxed and waned. I was actually in a 'low' period directly before Anni. The number of people who had planned to attend was actually the lowest since they started to track Anni attendance. I'd reached a roadblock in reading The Wheel of Time, and I had stress in my life with jobs and moving that made the extra effort to travel and spend extra money a bit of drag. Though as a Novice asked me upon my return, would I go again? Yes, I would—or I'd attend another big real life event, given I had the money and vacation days.
Can I tell you a secret? Anni was like camp. I mean, yes we were in cabins and technically 'roughing it' in the woods, (though I think typical camping is a bit more difficult than accommodations in the outskirts of Los Angeles where we had running water, and I could walk around all day in high heels for a costume contest, though it was a bit challenging.) Anni was like a typical retreat / camping trip /semi-convention, except unlike when you were at camp as a child, there's practically no regulation. That is to say, we had to be careful about lighting the forest on fire, (there are droughts there this time of year,) and there were strict rules to which he had to adhere for the facility, (also the location was kosher so we had to use our plates and obtain our meals in particular ways to be respectful to other groups on the site,) but there were only 2 events which we were required to attend. If you wanted to take a nap in the middle of the day—go for it! If you want to stay up until 4:00 AM and drink and be merry—go for it! (Don't be dumb in your safety of drinking—but go for it!) It was camp with a little bit of going away to college with a nerdy convention—all with a Tower twist like a delicate lime or orange placed on the rim of your glass.
There were events. I specifically enjoyed participating in the sword fighting tournament (part of the Amyrlin's Tournament,) during which I made a new friend whom I absolutely adore. (How can someone else's drastic style of sword fighting be such a challenge to overturn??) Other notable events which I enjoyed included a costume contest, (I participated but did not win,) and a Da'Covale Auction. (I could be wrong, but I pronounced this “da-coh-vall.”) During the latter, our members provided goods and services typically on-site during the weekend for a fee, sold auction-style. All proceeds went to the Tower. It might seem self-serving, but this is actually a great way to share Tower resources, mingle with people with similar interests you didn't know you shared, and give back to the community that gives to you. There was a grill-cooked meal that was served (that I bid a bunch for,) people that provided cuddles for the evening in exchange for Tower donations, and cool services like professional photo shoots, graphic design, handcrafted cloaks, and a dress up and photo session. It was a really fun experience to bid and watch people compete (or team up to try to win at the auction) but also watch the Da'Covale as a Tower tradition. This was clearly customary, and it was another opportunity to learn more about the traditions and typical forms and interactions that occur within the Tower. If I had one complaint, it would be that they saved a traditionally popular bid for last. I think there would have been more bidding generated if the winner of the best prizes weren't last. That way, if you didn't get the really shiny prize, you could still go for other cool services that caught your eye.
As I said, this year's Anni was smaller than usual. I'm not really sure why that is, and I'm sad there were much fewer people at the event (of those to which I specifically wanted to connect,) than I had hoped. However, I made a lot of unexpected friends I had not anticipated meeting, and I got to have good conversations, fun gaming interactions, and participate in a lot of entertaining events. (There was what seemed to be a casual pick-up game of real-life mafia that became a huge highlight of the trip for me.) As a side note relating to this, there were very few citizens in attendance. There were literally 3 citizens, and almost all of the other Junior Members were Accepted and Soldiers that were raised live to Senior Member during that weekend. Out of the three citizens, one was a 'gone-yesterday and here-today' citizen who was well-acquainted with the Tower, myself a two year member (not as new as most citizens,) and a citizen who was very close friends with Tower members in real life before he ever considered joining the website. Being a new member and going to this big event is not typical for new citizens. As I said, it is one of the most intimate forms of social interaction you can attain while belonging to the Tower (in my opinion.) However, it's good to know that this huge thing is out there, available to you potentially as a goal, reward, and possibly gratifying identity.
Did I decide if real-life Tower events are for me? Honestly, I'm still a little undecided. I don't think I'll make it to every Tower event—all the time—for the rest of my life. But I had a great time, and if the Tower continues to be the kind of force in my life that it is now, I will certainly make it to more big, official events, and look forward to doing so.
Before I close, I would also like to share that large Tower events have a fundraising element to an outside organization. We receive donations (monetary and goods-based from attendees,) sometimes give blood, and typically have a committee that oversees our whole external fundraising process. As always, we are a service-based organization (and it is a presence at official events, even mixed with the revelry.) There are also committees to which you may donate your time and efforts to make the event a success. These are non-paid positions, as with all administrative positions on the site. However, they are people like you and me, working hard to make the Tower amazing and rewarding, so it may be appreciated by all.