Like many people in technology, I have enjoyed my fair share of time playing video games. My particular poison was an MMO, World of Warcraft. My brother played, and my best friend played too – and they both started telling me how great it was. Pretty soon, we were all in my brother’s guild having a great time.
The guild part was key. We had hundreds of people in the guild, and there was always 10-50 of them online, no matter if it was 3PM or 3AM. The guild really defined my enjoyment of the game. Every time I logged in, I might see people online that I liked. They might be people that I could talk about my day with, or talk about music with. Most of the time, it was just talk about the game we were playing. We might work on some game content together, maybe a quest or a dungeon. We had a shared passion. We scheduled times when we would all get together to try to do something in larger groups. We were a casual family guild, so we played every Tuesday and Thursday night usually starting around 9PM. It was a great time – group dynamics, good friends, making jokes on our headsets, taking a video game way too seriously. No, it wasn’t a great time. It was an amazing time.
Of course, as I got married, and my career progressed, I found I naturally had less time for WoW. And, unfortunately, once I couldn’t play enough to “keep up” with the guild, it wasn’t worth it to me anymore, and I stopped altogether. C’est La Vie. I didn’t miss the video game, and I still talk to my WoW buddies on Facebook – but I really missed the camaraderie.
Over the last few years, with some of the free time left over after WoW, I’ve started to spend time in the amazing tech community in Toronto. It started with XP Toronto, a really great group that a co-worker introduced me to. Then I started going to Metro Toronto DNUG. These are large, established tech groups – at first I was thinking of them purely as a recruitment tool to find talented developers and see some great content too. Gradually, however, I began to find the camaraderie I had been missing. I began to seek out more groups. Then I found MeetUp.
MeetUp is this website absolutely filled with little groups. Ruby developer in Toronto? Try Toronto Ruby Brigade. Aspiring Electronic music composer in Edmonton? Electronic Music Producers has a meetup scheduled for March 11th. Crazy about dice games in the suburbs of Kansas City? The Rolling Dots meets soon.
I started drinking from the fire hose, first HTML5 Toronto, then Toronto MongoDB User Group, and even starting one called Toronto Code Retreat with the help of a fellow MongoDB enthusiast and tech entrepreneur. So now, a few times a month, sometimes a few times a week, I meet up in the evening with all sorts of like-minded folks who are passionate about a subject that I am also passionate about. Sometimes in groups of 25-40 with pizza and t-shirts and professional speakers, sometimes its just 5 people, a couch and some folding chairs. And its always worth it. The content is great, the people are amazing. And the camaraderie? Never been better.