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Amtgard Thanksgiving
[11/27/2007] [Randall]

This article would've been something great to write last week. Between a vacation on the one hand, and a half-dozen unposted articles staring at me from the queue in the other, the front page could've used an update of some sort. Part of me says that there's something improper about wanting to give thanks to Amtgard on our national day of thanksgiving, but another part of me - let's not get into which - says that there's plenty to be thankful for in Amtgard. Especially now. It sometimes feels like we're living in a golden age, what with how unified and strong Amtgard has become. The game's had a few golden ages. The first was undoubtedly the earliest years, back when everything was new and anything was possible. The second would have to be the entire middle of the 1990s, when Amtgard really started taking off. Heck, a case could be made that Amtgard from 1983 to 1997 represents one big golden age, but that would mean Amtgard, except from about 1997 to 2004, has always been in a golden age. That can't really be possible, can it? I'll answer with a qualified maybe.

I just concluded a month-long vacation that began just a few days after my coronation as king of Dragonspine, in which my chief promise during the elections was to go away for a month. (Thankfully, in the Althing that followed, my regent promised to work tireless to ruin the kingdom if my absences were not waived.) In that time, Amtgard in the kingdom proper boomed, with solid attendance the entire time. And when I returned, despite the miserable cold and rain, Amtgard was still there. I suppose I should be thankful for that. Not many people live somewhere where Amtgard is reliable. In places where Amtgard is a handful of guys who may or may show up at three in the afternoon, Amtgard isn't something you can count on being there when you need it. If you happen to be fortunate enough to not live in one of those places, then maybe you should give a little thanks as well.

Big or small, Amtgard relies on people to survive - sometimes, very specific people. It can be very hard to find those kind of folks to make your park a success; even harder is to be one of those folks, knowing that your decision to stay home on any given weekend might decide whether or not Amtgard even exists that day. The little parks feel this most directly, since one warm body staying in bed is a pretty high percentage of their overall attendance. Big parks can feel it just as badly. It happens all the time that one guy stays home, so his friends don't go out, and then the kids who drive by the park see only a few people there and decide not to bother. Everybody can make a difference, but not everybody does, and I suppose I should be thankful on two counts: to the people who make a difference, and for (on account of being gone for a month and being able to return to a strong park) not being that guy, even if just for a moment. Maybe for longer than a moment, if I'm lucky. What this means is that we're constantly surrounded by people at Amtgard who make the park what it is - people who matter - and we should remember to be a little bit grateful for the fun they introduce into our lives.

Beyond the park, I'm grateful for the big events and the small events; for the people who run them and the people who show up; for the people who tell their friends and for the people who bring extra gear. I'm grateful for the artisans who win contests and for the artisans who are brave enough to enter their very first quals. I'm grateful to the knights who came before me and (especially) those who will come after. I'm grateful to the people who deal with the headaches of running the big kingdoms and the people who deal with the heartbreaks of running the small shires. I'm grateful to the people who dream of new ways to swing a sword and to the people who perfected the old ones. I'm grateful to be able to play Amtgard at such a wonderful time, and you should be too.

Some people remember the past better than it was, view the present worse than it is, and worry that the future will bring nothing but more disappointments. How often have we heard that there are too many events? And yet nobody is talking about their own events; no, it's those other guys who need to reconsider theirs. It's certainly legitimate to long for the good old days when a thousand people went to Clan. . . but that was a different Amtgard. Less spread out. Less prosperous. Smaller. Would you trade today for yesterday? Even if you would, there's an crusty old saying that declares every cloud to have a silver lining. Amtgard might not have a thousand person event anymore, but what it does have is large events all the time, punctuated by even larger events on a regular basis. If you really want to play Amtgard with a hundred other people, there's almost no time of the year that you can't. I'm grateful for that because it shows how strong the game has become. It means that, every week, there are small handfuls of people in every kingdom dreaming up new ways to make Amtgard fun for other people. How cool is that?

Even as we're living through what is arguably Amtgard's finest days to date, I can relate, just a little, to the people who think the glory days have passed. One of my small passions is Commodore 64 emulation. To those of you who don't know, the C-64 is the best-selling personal computer of all time - the Clan of computers. It's a bit weird to think about that when we imagine how many computers are being made today, but the thing is that today's computers are all different makes and models. They're also, despite being used by fewer people individually, being used by more people collectively - and they're all better than the C-64, no matter how cool I remember it being back when I was younger. The proliferation of computers has democratized computers by making them available on a wider, cheaper basis. Events have worked the same magic on Amtgard. For those unfortunates who live in the smallest parts of Amtgard, where the park meets irregularly if at all, the proliferation of events and the spread of the game means they can still play. In a sense, the game has democratized not just in structure but in substance and opportunity. People who want to play these days can. I'm thankful for that, and I bet they're thankful, too - thankful for every week they get a chance to swing foam, because next week might not be the same.

That wasn't meant to be a rant on event proliferation. I'm just trying to say that Amtgard is better than it was, more folks get to play, and that makes the game better for all of us whether we play weekly, monthly, or just at events - and, with how good Amtgard's become these days, "just at events" and "monthly" are less and less different.

So this, uh, week after Thanksgiving, don't take your foam swords and local parks for granted. There are people out there who don't have what you have. Be grateful for what you've got and for the people who made it possible. And try to make the game better for others by eating everything on your Amtgard plate. Remember, there are children starving in the Rising Winds.

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