Looking back at Nine Worlds

by Edwin on August 13, 2014

This past weekend, I attended the Nine Worlds Geekfest convention at the Radisson Blu Edwardian near Heathrow airport. The convention website explains the event thus:

“It’s about gaming, film, cosplay, fandom, literature, science, geek culture, meeting people and having a really big party.”

Now, that’s a pretty good start, but there’s one crucial word missing: celebration.

More than anything else, Nine Worlds turned out to be a chance to celebrate being passionate about something with like-minded people. Not necessarily people who share the same passion you do, but people who grok just how important that passion is to you, and who would never judge you for having it – just as you would never dream of judging them for theirs.

It didn’t matter that I felt like the only one in the room not nodding along at the perceived simplicity of the Dr Who round in the Podcast Games quiz. After all, I knew that Drogo Baggins is Frodo’s father – something that stumped the panel. When an audience member stated “I don’t read comics” at one of the panel sessions, this was simple statement of fact, taken as such – not “fighting words”.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the hotel on Thursday evening. I’d read through the very comprehensive programme, picked out what I thought looked most promising – and by mid-day on Friday those careful plans were out of the window where they belonged. Everything was just so interesting that it felt safe to experiment, to pick something out of my narrow comfort zone coming into the convention.

That’s how I stumbled into my first LARP experience, trapped in a small room with two dozen strangers, with no memories other than a sense of dread and impending doom, trying to piece together what had happened by means of clues drip fed from the envelopes we each carried. Over the two hours, mini groups formed and splintered as the flames of our paranoia were fanned by new discoveries. Thoroughly confusing, thoroughly fun.

Social gaming was another revelation, whether playing “ninja” or trying to out-hear and out-shoot opponents in blindfolded nerf gun duels. So much so that I returned for a second helping the next day.

There were so many things to do, so many possibilities, that at times I froze like a rabbit in headlights. Pitching up against a convenient wall or pillar, I would fumble frantically through the programme trying to decide what to sample next. In the end, there were no wrong choices – only roads not travelled.

The panel on time travel reinforced how much I like the genre. The one on cyberpunk reminded me just how long it had been since I’d explored a mirrorshaded world (annual re-reads of “Snow Crash” notwithstanding). There were things to do from morning (coffee and doughnuts for the early risers) until well after nightfall (evenings ents, and board game sessions long into the night – “Firefly” was my poison).

There’s something incredibly liberating about taking part in a real-life “choose your own adventure”, where entertainment, thoughtfulness, fun and laughter await in bite-sized chunks, with 30 minute breaks to catch your breath.

So much so that I didn’t want it to end. But all good things must end, because otherwise how can we hope to internalise just how good they are? Indeed, while I felt I was enjoying myself throughout the three days, it was only as I was checking out on Monday morning that it hit me that I’d just had the most intense, concentrated dose of fun ever.

Needless to say, I’ve already booked my ticket for next year

A few random thoughts:

  • It was great having a room in the hotel. The 30 minute gap between sessions was just long enough to get back to said room, use the facilities, grab a snack and/or drink, take a quick peek at the options for the next session, then head back out into the fray. I think I would have run out of steam a lot quicker if I hadn’t been able to retreat to a “place of refuge” for a quick reboot.
  • There were so many people in fantastic costumes. Wish I’d had the courage to ask them for photos – not that anyone was standoffish, it’s just me… Perhaps next year there could be a lanyard clip saying “I’m very happy for you to take photos of me” which would act as a “welcome mat” for shy folk who can find initiating new interactions a struggle. (That’s me to a T. I’ll happily talk your ear off once the ice is broken – even a teeny, tiny crack will do – but it’s really tough being the instigator of that break. Perhaps I should have picked up a blue lanyard clip…)
  • Next year, I’ll probably try for a bit more doing and a little less listening. All the panels and presentations I went to were fascinating, and I have pages and pages of notes on stuff to read and watch, but they were still passive experiences.
  • The frequent free buses doing the short Heathrow loop meant I was able to get to the airport, buy salad and sandwiches at M&S, and get back again in under an hour – all before events kicked off for the day. Came in handy by Sunday, when my body was begging for something even vaguely nutritious… Of course, I could have made time for a sit down meal – either in the hotel or nearby – but that would have meant the sacrifice of at least one session, which would never do.

Finally, here are links to tons of other writeups about Nine Worlds 2014, from all sorts of angles. I imagine that, between them, just about every panel and session must be covered!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Iris August 13, 2014 at 8:20 pm

I didn’t want it to end either! I agree having a hotel room was definitely essential. Last year I travelled in on the tube every morning and it was just exhausting.

Love the sound of the social gaming and LARP, my schedule also went out the window and I never ended up doing that.

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Amy August 13, 2014 at 8:23 pm

I LOVED the Choose Your Own Adventure storytelling! So simple, yet one of the highlights of the con for me this year as it was a great way to just talk to new people are glimpse their incredible imaginations.
See you next year :o)

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nikki @bookpunks August 27, 2014 at 4:35 pm

I’ll admit to being a little jealous about the hotel room. They were a bit too expensive for me, but the luxury! It is a tempting thought for years to come.

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Ed Fortune September 29, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Loved the event. We were in a hotel further up the road and I think next year we’re definitely booking into the Radisson instead, as well as trying to bring some more friends along.

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