"Never again. #GPRichmond" - me on Twitter
With those words, I began my journey through GP Richmond. Since GPs Charlotte and Las Vegas last year, I've been publicly vocal about my dislike of record-breaking events. I wanted to explain my position because apparently some people think that I hate Magic and want to see it die off or some other nonsense.
First, I am absolutely thrilled by the growth of Magic. For 3 years of my life, I worked at StarCityGames.com, a job whose life was directly tied to the health and growth of the game. Even after leaving SCG, I judge on a regular basis and hope to land somewhere in the industry where I can make a living off of something related to the game. More players is absolutely a great thing for such a future. I just wish there weren't so many players at any individual event, especially at ones that I am at.
I've commented in the past that I have social anxiety issues related to large crowds of people. I've also commented that Magic tournaments are generally okay because most of the crowds have a purpose and are going somewhere. Events like GP Richmond really break that mold, and I know it, which is why I've tried to duck the record-breakers like Charlotte and Vegas in the past. As the hype on social media started to hit a fever pitch, it really began to tap into my anxiety in a way that I've never experienced before.
As everyone grew excited over the pre-registration numbers, I grew more anxious. It got to the point where I was seriously considering canceling on the event. I wrote a fairly grumpy post about judges and social media, partly because I just wanted to see less of it show up on my feed. Yes, I had other more altruistic goals like being considerate for the judges not on staff, but mostly I just wanted to get my anxiety under control.
When I got to the Greater Richmond Convention Center, things got worse for me. We were there at around 11am, an hour before doors were set to open to the public. Magic players were everywhere. Every seat in the hallway of the GRCC was filled. People were playing games on coffee tables. A group of players was outside smoking. And the line. The line outside the main door to the event hall was already out of control, spilling this way and that.
Seeing that line really set me off and I've been trying to understand why. It was a line with a purpose, to get into the hall, so it should have been similar to a line to board an airplane, which I obviously have no problem with. Being inside the hall helped calm me down, but it was almost as if I could feel the crowd outside, growing larger and more chaotic.
I was hoping that when the doors opened, it would be business as usual, just a bunch of Magic players playing Magic. Unfortunately for me, the Mini-Masters events were a huge cluster-F and didn't help my emotional state. The fact is, this whole Mini-Master thing is still new and we are still trying to figure out the best way to run them. What we did in Richmond wasn't it, and my hope is that we can learn from this experience.
After Friday, things improved for me dramatically. I was in the "Pink Room," which was the third of the tournament in a separate Ballroom. That cut down significantly on the noise and chaos of what we had to deal with. It was "only" a 1600-player event with no other distractions. I can handle that, and handle it I did. More on how I did what I did as Pink Paper Team Lead next time.
In the meantime, I want to thank everyone who reached out to me, remotely or on site, to reassure me that everything would be okay, offer to do stuff for me, or just give me a place to vent my anxiety. Sometimes it wasn't easy to talk about what I was feeling because I didn't want to say "I'm fine" when I wasn't. But I truly appreciate that you were willing to look out for me. I especially want to thank Jared Sylva. He sat down with me on Sunday and asked me what he could do for me in the future for me to be able to attend GP New Jersey. Right now I'm honestly considering never working an SCG GP again because it seems like with their marketing machine, 3000+ will become the norm rather than the exception. But Jared being willing to talk to me about it gives me hope that I may be able to find a way come back. My first suggestion was to sneak me in through the back entrance to avoid seeing the line.