Will Hindmarch writes and designs stories and games. You can find some of his stories at venues like Amazon and DriveThruFiction. He blogs at wordstudio.net and teaches at the Shared Worlds creative-writing camp—registration’s still open!
A few years ago, I spent a month of blog posts writing about people I admire. On February 11th of that year, I wrote about Wil Wheaton:
… [H]e’s an energetic creator who strives to promote positivity and enthusiasm by creating fun, funny, touching things and spreading them to his friends and fans. He’s always creating—when it’s hard, when it’s tough, when it’s easier not to, he’s always making something new to post, to share, to publish. [...] His enthusiasm spreads and warms like good scotch. Let’s get drunk.
One summer night, on a high-rise building in an emerald city, a flock of geeks like us gathered to play. We sat at a handful of tables to play myriad games. I sat at a Fiasco table with Wil and our friend Andrew and a few people I didn’t know very well but I’d admired because Wil had spoken highly of them. We elected to play one of my playsets, “The Zoo,” so I was excited to show off my work and nervous that it would somehow suck.
It totally didn’t suck.
One of those players I didn’t really know was Stepto. He wrote about that game earlier this week. At the time, I felt like Wil had climbed high up a tree for the view and was reaching out to help us climb up, too. I feel like everyone at that table took up Wil’s dare. It was a great fiasco, though we didn’t get to see the whole thing because we spent so much time digging into our characters in the first Act that we, uh, sort of ran out of time to play.
Partway through that first Act of play, people behind me started to sing the happy-birthday song. Wil smiled. They were getting closer. My friend, Lily, was singing in Hebrew. I don’t know what my face was doing but my insides fluttered. The hard candy shell on my heart formed a craquelure. It was my birthday.
I turned around and saw a host of friends—new friends, many of them—gather around, singing. I admit, part of my brain panicked. What was I supposed to do? But a part of my brain also immediately transported through time. I thought of ancient people singing to warm themselves around winter fires. I thought of people trilling together on tall ships swaying in the sea. I thought of packed pubs and bars where people raised their glasses in a chorus of cheers. Not all of us knew each other that night, but we all knew the song—in different tongues, with different memories of birthdays past and absent friends—we all knew the song.
Honestly, I don’t know whose idea that was. I don’t want to know. I like doling out my thanks in equal portions to everyone that night.
I bring it up now, though, because it’s one of my favorite memories of things happening around Wil. I met a lot of those people through Wil. I used to say that Wil’s built something remarkable here at WWdN, but the truth is that I think he’s gathered it—gathered us. So, here’s to this place. Here’s to the refrains we recite among friends. Here’s to singing in the comments section.