How This Goonie Became a Public Gamer
When I was a youngin’, board games were exclusively a recreation to be shared with family and friends. If I was feeling especially daring, I might sit down to a game of Risk that included a friend of a friend. Playing games with strangers never even occurred to me as being a possibility. If it had, I would have wondered why someone would ever subject themselves to such torture (despite the fact that people do exactly that in casinos all the time). Maybe it was growing up watching shows like The Goonies but, to me, you stick with your clique.
I moved to Regina eight years ago, putting a two-and-a-half hour drive between me and my gaming buddies. That first year or so was a real dry spell. My bloated collection gathered dust… neglected, though not forgotten. Instead of playing games, I spent my spare time engaged in other aspects of the hobby, such as reading up on games I had never tried and buying games I would never play.
I eventually stumbled onto saskgames.com, an initiative started by a local fella named Matt who saw value in connecting gamers in the province. From its humble beginnings, SaskGames is now run by a team of ambitious volunteers who, among other projects, partner with a number of venues in Regina to host regular public gaming events.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back around 2010, I had mentioned in the forums of the SaskGames website that I was relatively new to Regina and wasn’t playing nearly as often as I used to. To my surprise, this local fella named Matt sent me a private message asking if I wanted to join him for a beer sometime to see if we might get along enough for him to invite me to his place to play games with his group. Being a paranoid introvert, I naturally responded with, “Yeah, that would be great! We should do that sometime!” and then never went ahead with making plans. Thankfully, though, Matt is a persistent fella and, a year or two later, we finally had those beers together. I met him on a Tuesday night at a Boston Pizza during a public gaming event. So there I was, sitting among a bunch of people who were playing games I’d never seen before… I didn’t play anything that first night but I knew I was definitely coming back again.
Fast forward to today, and I now play games far more often than I did before moving to Regina, largely because I regularly attend these public gaming events. For those who, much like me as a youngin’, never before considered playing games with people you don’t really know, it might be useful for me to pass on what I’ve learned from my experience.
I’ve met most my friends and acquaintances in Regina through public gaming events. It’s become my strongest social circle here. Sharing a social hobby like gaming has definitely helped build and maintain those relationships.
Tabletop gaming tends to attract people who have a complete lack of social grace. I think it’s because, for some, the rules of a game create a structure for socialization, replacing the need to understand the rules of just hanging out and being normal. Sheldons do exist…
It used to be that, if I was interested in trying newly released games, I had to buy them myself. Now I can let other suckers (read: gamers) buy them instead!
A lot of games really flourish once players become experienced with them. Strategies become uncovered; rivalries develop. One thing I’ve noticed about public gaming events is that the new hotness dominates, but is so quickly and fickly replaced by the next hotness. It’s a constant revolving door of games appearing on the table. You get fatigued after a while learning new rules each time you sit down to play.
Overall, I’m glad that local fella named Matt wore me down and got me to join him for a beer. Since then, I’ve enjoyed many a beverage with many a gamer over many a game. Have I always had a fantastic time at these events? No, I wouldn’t say that. I have had the displeasure of sitting down with sore losers and sore winners, alike. I’ve witnessed rudeness, passive aggressiveness, offensiveness, condescension, or just a complete lack of awareness that others are feeling uncomfortable with obnoxious behaviour. People who act like that can definitely sour a game session. Because, in the end, aren’t the people you’re playing with more important to whether or not you have a good time than the game you’re playing?
Luckily, my experience at public events skews much more towards playing with fun and generous people. Many are quirky, but that just makes them the endearing kind of social rejects. Like the Goonies. Like me.