Play is serious business.
In my line of work, I dedicate myself wholeheartedly to ensuring that the folks who come in to my workplace are enjoying themselves.
My line of work is rather unusual of course, since it's my job to recommend board games and teach people how to play them. But it's more than that. I'm also a representative of Snakes and Lattes. I'm representing an ethos that stands for something.
So when I attended GenCon in my official capacity, there was a lot of self-inflicted pressure. I felt like I couldn't be seen to have any negative opinions about any particular game (and believe me, I do have some) or any particular company (sadly, I have some of those too). It wasn't just about behaving like a professional. I wanted to be an even-handed exemplar of appreciation for all different flavours of fun.
So far so reasonable. But there was more to it than that. On the floor of the exhibit hall, I worried constantly about how I was using my time, or rather, my company's time. There was so much to see and learn, so many potential contacts to form, so many products to scout.
And that was the problem. In trying to behave like a professional, I found myself looking at games and seeing products. I found myself looking at people and seeing contacts. In the middle of North America's biggest celebration of my favourite kind of fun, I turned play into work. And it nearly ruined the experience.
Without letting go and simply playing for the joy of playing, I couldn't judge the prospective value of all the beautiful new titles on display. Without letting go and simply sharing my love of games, I couldn't form meaningful connections with the people I met. All work and no play made Jonathan a dull boy, and unproductive too.
In the end, it was the people who shook me out of it. Whenever someone recognized my voice from the SnakesCast, suddenly it wasn't about contacts and products any more. It was about games and it was about people. Over the course of that long weekend, I met some really cool people and had a wonderful time just talking about the joy of our shared hobby, not for business but for pleasure. And it was in those moments that the reason for my being there truly came into focus.
I hope I can return to GenCon on Snakes' behalf next year, because now that I've put myself through the wringer of professionalism, I think I can finally relax and enjoy myself. And through that enjoyment, I can be properly open to the people and the games I come across. In the end, that will make me better able to discover good products and make meaningful contacts.
To be serious about this business, I need to play.