If you don’t play Blizzard games, you can’t possibly know why BlizzCon is important to those of us who do. If you do play Blizzard games and have never been to a BlizzCon, you need to go. Make every effort to make it happen at least once; you won’t regret it.
This year was my second; my first was in 2014. I can’t pick which is my favorite of the two because each had their own, unique experiences associated with them that could not possibly be duplicated. However, of all the unique experiences I’ve had at BlizzCon, the one I’m going to share with you here is second-to-none.
I arrived on Thursday of con week, and stayed until the following Monday. My intent was to find a group of people to join up with who were going to Disneyland on Sunday; I haven’t been since I was 18 and I was looking forward to being a big ol’ kid again. However, I was up past 2am on Saturday night, and the prospect of getting up early did not appeal to me, so I didn’t message any of the people that I knew had plans to go. I figured that if I ended up going, I’d just meet up with whomever was there when I got there.
Having decided that much, I woke up that Sunday morning and laid in bed browsing Twitter, trying to figure out what to do for breakfast. I ended up connecting with my friends Alyssa and Dave and some of their other friends. One of them was kind enough to drop me back off at the Hilton afterward, where I proceeded into the Starbucks to get an iced tea. As I walked toward the entrance, I noticed a woman, wearing a sleeveless shirt, sitting on the bench outside, talking on her phone. She had a tattoo on her upper arm that looked familiar to me, so I looked at her face, and that’s when I realized who it was…
I’m going to pause at this point to give you a bit more exposition to this story. My two favorite panels during the actual con were the two that showcased the actors who voice our favorite game characters: “The Powerful Women of the World of Warcraft” on Friday, and the “United Nations of Overwatch” on Saturday. I attended both in person, and delighted in everything presented. Those of you who only know me as Twenty, the Massage Therapist Gamer, may be surprised to hear that I have a music degree. I hold a Bachelor of Music Education, Voice Emphasis, Choral Concentration, and am formerly a teacher of music at the elementary school level. I’m classically-trained, which means I can sing everything from opera and art song, to musical theatre, blues, jazz, pop, rock, etc. In college I was able to finagle my schedule to do one and only one musical, and it was wonderful to be on stage, in character, performing for an audience. Between this background of music and performance, and the fact that I am now a bodyworker with extensive understanding of the anatomy of the body, and specifically of the voice, I loved every iota of the panels with the actors- not to mention, who doesn’t love the actors for Blizzard games? Seriously, show me one person who doesn’t, and I’ll show you someone wallowing in the depths of oblivion.
Andrea Toyias, the Senior Casting and Voice Director at Blizzard Entertainment, hosted both of the panels. As I sat there watching, I remember clearly thinking during the Overwatch panel that I wished I could speak to her, and thank her for eliciting information from the actors that let us know some of their processes around creating these characters that we love so much. (Seriously, if you have the Virtual Ticket and haven’t watched these panels yet, GET ON IT.) I wanted to tell her that I got it, that I understood innately the thing she was trying to show the audience: the people creating the characters are inextricable from the characters themselves, and that even though we never get to see them in the sound booth, acting the part of Reinhardt or Pharah or Maiev Shadowsong, they become those individuals, and it’s in their bodies and hearts as much as in their voices, if not more.
So, imagine my surprise on Sunday afternoon when I glanced at that tattoo, then at the woman’s face, and realized that right there on that bench was Ms. Toyias herself. She had worn sleeveless shirts both days, and that tattoo was noticeable. Because she was on her phone, I just continued on in to the ‘Bucks to get my iced tea, hoping I might be able to catch just a few moments of her time, to tell her all the things that went through my mind regarding the actors and the process and the performances.
As I walked in, though, the inner fangirl in me went a little nuts: in the corner, among some other people I didn’t know, were Jonny Cruz, Chloé Hollings, Jen Cohn, and Aysha Selim. You may know them better as Lució, Widowmaker, Pharah, and Ana, respectively.
Seriously, y’all, my inner fangirl was melting. down.
So I got in the line to order, and my hands started shaking because I was having a bit of an adrenaline rush (hello, sympathetic nervous system). I ordered my tea and moved off to the end of the bar to wait for it. At the same time that Inner Fangirl Twenty was beyond excited, I resolved that I would not be the rabid fan I had seen them dealing with over the past few days: a crush of people who all just wanted a little piece of their time, their hearts, their souls. All done out of love, but still most likely completely overwhelming and exhausting for the human beings who had the great fortune to book these roles, and play them so well. I decided that I would indeed try to talk to at least Jen Cohn (because Pharah is my favorite Overwatch character) and, hopefully, Andrea, for the aforementioned reasons.
Jen Cohn was talking to a man who was clearly a fan like myself, so I sat down not too far off and tried not to look too expectant. Before long, I had finished my iced tea and was thinking, “Now what do I do?” When I got up to dispose of my cup, I noticed Andrea was saying goodbye to one of the group. By this time much of their group had left, but I was able to introduce myself to Andrea, and to tell her everything I wrote above about performance, and physicality and acting. We talked for maybe 10-15 minutes (it may have been longer, I didn’t waste time looking at my watch), and then….
How do I put this without sounding conceited or arrogant, or like I’m throwing it in your faces, dear readers? The facts are these: Andrea and I had a fantastic conversation, and she spontaneously invited me to a party that she was giving at her home that evening for some of the cast of Overwatch, and some others of her friends. In the moment, part of me didn’t even believe it was happening, but she saved me as a contact in her phone, texted me the information I needed to get to the party, and later in the day she confirmed again that I would be there. She was gracious, and kind, and genuine. For the rest of the afternoon, I had a beautiful secret in my heart. It was overwhelming and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. There were many with whom I wanted to share it, but in the end, I decided to keep it for my own and share it later; she hadn’t invited me to bring a +1 and I didn’t want to be presumptuous in the face of what was, to me, an enormous gift: to be able to interact on a human level with people whose voices I listen to a lot, and some of the people who help them to bring the world of Overwatch to life.
I went to the party that evening, and I was pleased to make the acquaintance of: Darin De Paul (Reinhardt), Aysha Selim (Ana), Johnny Cruz (Lucio), Chloé Hollings (Widowmaker), and Jen Cohn (Pharah) from Overwatch; I also made the acquaintance of Erin Fitzgerald, who I didn’t realize until she was leaving played the part of Yrel in World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor. I also got to meet several of Andrea’s friends and family, some of whom are people who work with her to produce Blizzard voice over performances.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do more than meet Jonny Cruz briefly, as he left shortly after I arrived, but I was able to have wonderful conversations and connections with almost everyone else at the party. I think I’ll keep most of the contents of those conversations for my own memory for now, but, dear readers, you should know that they were beautiful and intense and lovely. I felt like I made friends that night; we talked, we danced, we ate, we listened to excellent music, and it was magical.
When it didn’t seem intrusive to ask for pictures, I did. I wasn’t able to get pictures with everyone, but I did get a few (please forgive the blurry quality):
I left very late, along with the other remaining guests, and had an absolutely terrifying experience taking a rideshare back to Anaheim from Long Beach, but even that couldn’t dull my mood: I was walking on cloud nine. Part of me has remained there in the intervening weeks, not just because I met some famous people, but because I met some wonderful human beings. Not only that, but I returned home to Colorado full of ideas about how to combine my areas of expertise (music, the voice, and massage) into something that could be even more rewarding than my current work. I feel inspired and excited about my profession, and I didn’t realize how much of that I had been lacking until it showed back up in the most unexpected and fantastic way.
I am full of gratitude for this experience, the depth of which I don’t feel I can do justice with words. Serendipity is a beautiful, astounding thing, and I will always be full of wonder for being in the right place, at the right time, on Sunday, November 5, 2017.
To Andrea, Jen, Darin, Aysha, Jonny, Erin, Chloé, and all the other attendees at the party: thank you, a thousand times, for an astonishing, inspiring, truly lovely evening. I will never forget it.