One of my 2012 personal goals was to get more involved with people in general. I'm not quite as social as I used to be back in my 20's, and growing up, getting a real job, getting married, and buying a house took a big chunk out of my free time and finances. But I decided this year would be a good a time as any to try to (re-)connect with some people, since online interactions really don't hold a candle to face-to-face hanging out.

The problem is, I'm sort of a socially awkward penguin. I never really fit in in high school, but I made friends with a number of fellow nerds at a technical college. Being surrounded by people who understood computers, sci-fi, gaming, and nerdery in general made it a lot easier, but that also dropped off after college. Aside from the usual "rooming with old college buddies until I can afford a place of my own," I lost touch with a lot of them as real life and its responsibilities set in. Facebook can only do so much to fill the void when your closest friends start to move several states away to take better jobs.

Unfortunately, I never really connected with too many people after college. I tend to keep a pretty small circle of close friends as it is, so it's been bittersweet trying to replace that interaction with other people. When I actually do run into people I can get along with, that high school outcast part of my brain DERPS something awful and I usually get in my own way when it comes to getting to know people better through conversation.

Who has two thumbs and sucks at real life? TRICK QUESTION. Penguins don't have thumbs.

Then, a few weeks ago, I had a great opportunity to go to a friend's friend's housewarming as a +1 guest. The host and several guests were people I'd played various games online with, as part of a big extended circle of Xbox Live friends. I'd mentioned to my friend in the past that, for a bunch of guys that wrecked me in Gears of War with chainsaws to the face, they all seemed like awesome people, and it would be neat to actually meet them at PAX or something one of these days. So, she asked nicely, and I was invited along to the party.

Apparently, bringing booze to a party is still a great ice-breaker, and after a round of cold drinks and learning names (that I would associate with all the wrong faces by the end of the night,) that outcast feeling was gone. It's oddly comforting to find yourself in a crowd where people react more to hearing your gamertag than your first name, but that was the common ground here. Gears of War, Hot Pursuit, Mass Effect. It was also great to finally be able to meet some of those people I'd spent numerous games playing with online, and get to know them more than an online handle.


Pictured, left to right: Drell Vanguard, Human Adept, Turian Sentinel, Krogan Vanguard, Vorcha, Geth Infiltrators...

And just like that, I could actually cross an item off my 2012 resolutions list. (Your day will come, "exercise more.") Another one on that list is getting to know the GIO community better, and besides being more active with blogs, comments, and groups, Extra Life and Team GIO is a great way to do this. Aside from the chance to play some of this year's biggest releases with fellow gamers, we're hoping to raise a decent amount of money for a really good cause. If you have the time and want to contribute, visit the team's page and donate to one of the members.

There are obviously a lot of ways to connect with this community, but this one's coming up soon and it's for charity, so it's always worth mentioning one more time. I'm looking forward to maybe finally getting to enjoy some co-op with some of you on October 20th, or really, any day. You all seem like you're a great bunch of people (despite potentially murdering me with chainsaws.)