After an isolating and damaging incident, a Bloke from the middle of nowhere in South Australia was ready to cancel his dream holiday. Turning around this almost lost dream, this is how he built a family of over 300 from all walks of life; giving all the square pegs a home, creating friendships and relationships. But most importantly, a lifetime of memories in an environment where everyone is welcome regardless.
Known as Hugebloke, Leif Wilson from from a small part in the world known as Adelaide, South Australia will take you on a journey….
I have been a gamer all my life, been playing blizzard games since my dad introduced me to rock n roll racing. No matter what life is doing Video games have always been my constant.
This starts off as my story but soon becomes our story.
In 2014 I started on a WoW based podcast…it was literally my life. In 2015 I came to Blizzcon for the first time with my wife on our honey moon, to co-host a podcast and dinner party that was being held around Blizzcon.
On the way back to the room a random bloke from a nearby room handed me a bottle of Titos vodka “Brave adventures, I have to go home early, take this!”
And from this small kind gesture cocktails on the pool deck was born, that and I was too tight to buy drinks in the lobby for 20 AUD. We invited everyone we met to “cocktails on the pool deck” to drink this new drink that this poor Aussie kid had never tried. It became a thing every night we would all gather on the pool deck and have a few drinks before heading down to the parties.
I left the podcast early on the following year as real life was getting in the way and something had to go. I threw caution to the wind and went back for Blizzcon 2016 this time riding solo. This time though I Was intentionally and purposely isolated and “frozen out” by the very people I had flown half way around the world to see and spend time with.
On day one of the convention I had a massive panic attack in the middle of the con floor.
It hit me for whatever reason that I was totally alone on the other side of the world, away from my wife and newborn with no one around that I REALLY knew or trusted. Basically I had a full turbo breakdown and barrelled my way out of the con into fresh air.
I got back to my hotel room and luckily my roomie wasn’t there because meltdown continued on in spectacular fashion (sorry to the house keeping lady that witnessed that mess!). I ended up on Skype to my wife and tears came pouring out. I hated it, I’d made a mistake, I shouldn’t have come, and I want to come home. This is messed up, I don’t care if it costs 1900 dollery doos to change flights I want out.
My superstar wife talked me down per say. Reminded me that this is a dream opportunity.
To calm myself, don’t worry about others or losing friends and to do what I do best and make new ones. To seize the carpe ( a weird saying I have adopted over the years, but that’s another story)
I pulled myself together, listened to a motivational speech by Metzen from a previous Blizzcon on YouTube, got myself cleaned up and stood proud in front of the mirror telling myself I could do this.
I hunted down the few people that I knew and clung on for dear life, made them aware I was having a rough day and that I was going to wing it and see where we landed.
I decided it was time to bring back Cocktails on the pool deck, a year might have passed but I’m stingy with my money. I invited the people I knew, and their friends and their friends back to the pool deck for the traditional cocktails and the adventure began.
Thirty odd folks in a room all laughing and smiling and chatting and getting to know each other, Learning some fine Australian slang. It was then I realised I’d done the right thing.
One of the jokes that came out of that night was along the lines of we should make a club of people that have cocktails on the pool deck every night at five. So that’s exactly what happened. Every night at five, the new group got together and did our thing leading to laughter, memories and friendships that will last a life time
Long story short, within a week of being home, Club Titos was not only born but had a Facebook page and a thriving discord channel.
My Co-pilot and “team Manager” Burnie was on the exact same page when we started the discord.
We both agreed, we need to do something with this, we need to turn this joke into reality and keep it going. We agreed it had plausibility and possibility because we knew it meant so much to so many people.
I decided that I wanted to make Club Titos the anti of everything that was wrong with my second con. To create a home for those that didn’t have one. The square pegs in round holes, the people that don’t quite fit in other cliques, groups, social circles. The socially awkward or those with unseen health issues be it mental or otherwise, would find a home within Club Titos.
To achieve this we set rules early on in discord that basically made it point blank clear that everyone is welcome except drama or shenanigans, rudeness or bullying.
We made it clear that we don’t care where you’re from, what you look like, how old you are, what sex you are or what sex your into, healthy or not healthy, able body or otherwise, your skin colour, religion and backgrounds all get left at the door when you log into club Titos. Except if you like nickleback ? sorry Burnie…
Nothing was planned, nothing was organised, everything we have done was purely organic and self-driven within opportunities that arose.
Then Blizzcon 2017 happened.
From that point on It was growth. Posting about the club on various fb groups, reddit threads and instagram, we literally have had no idea what we were doing or where it was going but we had matching shirts, because what club doesn’t have a uniform.
We actively sought out people, first timers, socially awkward, quiet, just “different” for one reason or another and made sure that people knew we were there as a safety net. Con Veterans and newbies alike were there to help. You don’t have to Con Alone…
We made a clear point to say to people, if you’re having a rough time for whatever reason (and we don’t need to know details) or don’t feel safe, find someone from club Titos in the white shirt and we will safety net you. You don’t even have to say anything, just wave or give us a random high five and you will have our undivided attention and feel welcome.
We even made flashing led club wristbands “homing beacons “as we called them, that were blindingly bright so that people could easily find us.
Sort of like a mobile inclusion nexus type area, where the folks within the Club can be trusted and want to help others have the most amazing time possible.
As a group we decided that was our function. That was our giving back to blizzard/Blizzcon while enjoying the event. Regardless, we were together and the adventures we had while looking after others will be told to the grand kids, and their kids.
One of our newest members that year coined our very catch phrase “Never Con Alone” (thanks ALLAF!)
From there it’s just been growth and success in numerous forms
Our discord channel now has 300+ members from numerus parts of the world including America, Canada, Australia, England, Sweden, Hungary, Iraq, I think there might even be a kiwi in there somewhere. We have a 16 year old kid who sends report cards so we can keep him on track and help him out. A bloke in a wheel chair, different addictions, different sexual orientations, different health issues. We have talked through depression, break ups, high risk mental health and suicide. We have found people homes and couches to crash on. We even have a roll call for different cons so that you truly don’t have to con alone where ever you are…
This group has not only formed friendships but more so “family ships” and a few relationships too!
We have stood together side by side and farewelled a friend we never met, to comfort a now lifelong brother
We have travelled the world to visit each other in our homes.
Our kids, the next generation of gamers have had video calls with each other and played games together.
We have literally saved each other’s lives be it from choking on chicken bones or looking the wrong way while crossing in traffic.
We have had a chance encounter with Mr J Allen Brack and got a chance to share our stories and personally thank him and the Blizzard team for giving us the games that have given us family and a home.
We shared Tim Tams with Roadhog and Slyvanas. For crying out loud we even have a Club Titos sea shanty theme song written by the very talented Jay the Tavern Bard
Most importantly, we shared these adventures together and created memories that even when I’m 97 and have sundowners I’ll be sitting in my rocking chair chuckling at the memory of the conga line of train whistles through the Hilton lobby.
I can honestly say the only downside to this club…is the end of Blizzcon when we all have to go home to reality. Not because we don’t want to go back to the real world but more so because it will be a year before we see each other again. The tears are real…
I remember saying to one particular member who was fighting back tears at the traditional fountain farewell, if we have changed your life so profoundly that you feel you need to cry, I think it’s safe to say you can just let it out and nobody will mind.
This might have started as a story about how Club Titos started but the journey does not end there. There are many more adventures to be had, new people to meet and precious memories to be created.
Remember, NEVER CON ALONE…