So this hilarious picture was posted on Reddit yesterday.
We all made lots of jokes about how paying attention to the wife in each picture was the right decision, but eventually this discussion happened:
thatgengirl: At least he looks happy in your photo–we walked away from our photo op with a completely different opinion of Wil Wheaton.
me: Uh-oh. What happened?
thatgengirl then PM’d me, and gave permission to repost our exchange. It’s important to me, and I wanted to share it here, as well as at Reddit.
First off, I want to say that even thought we were a little soured by the experience–I still follow you on Twitter and read your blog. I started with WIL WHEATON dot NET years and years ago. (Your post about your son trying to communicate that he was kidnapped via bizarre text shorthand is my all-time fave.)
When we saw you were going to the Calgary Expo (2012), my husband and I were stoked! We bought a weekend pass for ourselves to celebrate our anniversary there.
The Calgary Expo is probably where it all went wrong. They were ridiculously unorganized, as was clearly demonstrated on the Saturday that everything was shut down. (My husband had to miss his photo op with Adam West because we were refused re-entry after the Fringe panel).
Luckily, our photo op was for the Friday evening, before others had arrived en masse. We stood in line for a very long time, crazy excited about getting to meet you. We knew from reading the Penny Arcade blog that you never touch people during photos to avoid the flu. We were cool with that.
When we were there, we saw how rushed people were being, and that sort of set us back, but we decided we could make the most of our 5 secs by just simply getting to say hi to an idol.
We were called, you didn’t make eye contact. I tried desperately by grinning a big grin, but you wouldn’t even look at us. My husband said he was a big fan, you didn’t even turn your head to acknowledge him. We were told to stand behind you–we did. You forced a smile (In the photo it looks like you secretly hate us) and the took the picture. My husband blinked, so they had to take it again–you seemed annoyed (But that’s probably projecting). Then you turned to someone who worked there and made a comment about the crying baby hating you. We told to leave, and that was it.
We were a little heartbroken. The whole experience felt like we were forcing you to meet us–forcing you to be somewhere you didn’t want to be. And I bet that’s probably true. You had probably just flown in, were tired, hungry, annoyed that the Calgary Expo spelled your name wrong…. You’re a human, and we get that. But gone was the impression that you were the fan’s fan.
The next day, we decided to get your autograph on the photo. Perhaps you were in a better mood? The line for your booth was insane, but it was what I saw when I got there that annoyed me. You had always affirmed that you never charge for autographs, and yet there was a sign at the front of the line that said “Autographs $30.” We could have afforded it, but it was just icing on the cake. We skipped your line and went to see Aaron Douglas instead. Great guy, I can see why you’re friends.
I’m really sorry I said what I did. I needed this reminder that we’re all humans doing a job and our words can make impressions and last forever online.
I love Tabletop, btw. After season 1 we went out and bought Catan, Smallworld, Ticket to Ride and Zombie Dice. We spend more time together as family now as a result. We would LOVE to see Zombicide on there sometime. We got in with the first Kickstarter and damn that’s a great game! Also, have you considered a children’s episode? My 6 year old loves Catan Jr. and I think it would be adorable if you guys got your kids to play it together (especially if most of the kids are under 10, but you made Ryan join too.)
p.s. Please don’t let them lynch me
I’m so sorry you had a bad experience. Last year (2012) at Calgary Expo, I had the flu (Aaron and I went out for dinner one night and I ended up puking it all over a street on the way back to the hotel — good times) and was coming off of a three week performance tour of Australia. I wasn’t 100%, and probably was forcing things to a certain extent, because I felt an obligation to be there and entertain everyone. It was also incredibly emotional for me to be around the TNG cast for the first time in over a decade, so I was a little messed up on top of being sick and exhausted.
That con was the most overly-packed and unprepared for the mass of people I’ve ever been at, and I think that poor planning was most painfully experienced by fans during the photos. I hated that everyone was rushed through like you were, and I made sure that everyone involved knew that I wouldn’t be doing them in the future if they were going to rush people like that. This year, it was organized much better, and everyone was much happier.
I’ve always tried to keep autograph fees minimal or eliminate them entirely, but the reality is time I spend at a con is time I can’t spend working on Tabletop, my books, or any of the other projects I have in development. I give away tons of stuff to people at every con (I never charge volunteers for anything), and I’m never going to be one of those “give me $60 and get out” people cough Shatner cough. That said, it is work for me to be there, and though I’m uncomfortable even talking about it, I want you to know that I do my very best to be fair and reasonable. If someone gave you the impression that it was somehow required to fork over money just to visit and say hello and geek out about stuff, that person was wrong and I apologize for that.
I’m very sorry you had a disappointing time, and I hope that it hasn’t soured you on cons in the future. In the end, we’re all human, and though I make every effort to be as awesome to every single person I meet, when I’m meeting thousands of people I’m going to fall short at least once. I am sincerely sorry that I didn’t give you and your husband the awesome time you wanted and deserved.
I don’t think anyone is going to lynch you, and I honestly wish this exchange had been public; I imagine that you speak for a non-zero number of convention attendees who have had similar experiences. Thanks for taking the time to reach out. I wish you all the best.
Like I said, I believe you speak for a non-zero number of people — especially where the photo-ops are concerned — and convention organizers, the people who shoot the photo-ops, and the media guests who participate in them need to hear this and change the way we do them.
Redditor DireTaco added:
The photo ops are a kind of disillusioning experience in themselves, and not necessarily because of the celebrity; there’s just so many people, and while each fan wants to be able to talk 1-on-1 with you, they only get 5 seconds of a posed shoot and then they’re gone. If everyone got to spend the time they’d like to with you, you’d be there for a week.
And you as the celebrity have only so much time to squeeze in several hundred people, so you want to make the best of each shoot, but then efficiency gets mistaken for coldness. The no-touching rule is an entirely sensible and proper precaution when you have hundreds of people who want to enter your personal space, but it also adds to the perceived coldness.
Honestly, it’s a tough situation to be in for you and other celebs, and I sure as hell don’t envy you.
I also have a certain amount of anxiety, and if lots of people are putting their arms around me, I start to freak out. If I reach out to a person, I can handle it, but when someone I don’t know tries to hug me or grabs me, I freak out, because that’s the way my brain is broken.
A general consensus emerged that the photo-ops at conventions are imperfect, but they’re probably the best any of us can hope for, considering the sheer volume of people who want to participate in them and the limited amount of time and energy that we all have to give.
I know “how does it feel” was asked in jest, and it was a really great joke, but I hope this gives a little insight into how it actually does feel, for both someone like me who appears at a con, and someone like thatgengirl, who attends a con.
I was attending cons long before I appeared at them (and even these days I still attend in ways — visiting artists’ alley, poking my head in on panels, jumping into photo-ops if I can) and I clearly recall how I wanted to feel when I went home, so now that I’m appearing at them, I keep that in mind and do my very best to treat people the way I’d like to be treated.