One of the things I love most about the world of gaming is its community. Communities exist all around the world, in all sorts of cultures and subcultures. And they absolutely fascinate me. From the cultural and religious communities to music cultures, youth cultures, sports clubs, to the pen spinners and rubix cube racers. Humans find themselves belonging in all sorts of weird and wonderful places.
But the community I belong to, the one which feels home to me, is the tabletop gaming community.
What I love most about this community is, by and large, it reflects the values which are core to my personal being. It’s inviting, accepting, and doesn’t judge you by anything except if you are a filthy blue player in Magic: The Gathering. I’ve been at tables with guys dressed in purple suits, girls dressed in buttresses with parasols, people in superhero shirts, casual clothes, gym wear, and more colours in hair than there are in a rainbow.
Communities are important. And it’s even truer in tabletop gaming than it is in a lot of others. With our hobby, we actually rely on having other people to game with. At our regular Boarding School events, one of the regular comments we hear is people are unable to play as much as they’d like at home because they don’t have enough people to play with.
Let’s take a step back and think about the video game industry for a moment. Let’s think about how its humble beginnings have boomed into a massive international multibillion dollar industry. What has this done for their community? It’s invited more opportunities for gaming. It’s given us more unique and interesting games with more diverse mechanics and interesting stories. Sure, it’s created a lot of annual consumer pandering games as well. But there are so many more interesting games coming out than there would have been without the growth in its international community. The same can be said for tabletop gaming. The bigger this community gets, the more money being pumped into it, the better quality components, the more interesting games and (most importantly) the more opportunities for gaming.
Today I want to take a minute to reflect on the gaming community. And talk about 4 of the things I feel make our community great.
From the moment I first walked into a gaming store, nervous about whether I’d find someone to play Dungeons and Dragons with, I noticed how inclusive the tabletop community is. Sexuality, sex, gender, age, religion, race. None of it matters if you’re keen to sit down and roll some dice.
In truth, people at the gaming table care very little about those elements, not in a dismissive way, but you’re there to play a game and so are they. It’s one of those few areas where the politics of the world seem to fade away and you can embrace each other in the moment. Sure, you’re not going to like everyone, but everyone truly tolerates each other. It really is magic at the gathering (took a year but I read this and thought “I MISSED A PUN!”).
I sometimes see people struggle with the fact gaming can often attract socially awkward people. There’s something about the unique imagination, environment and gameplay which coalesces with people who struggle with perfect social skills. Don’t mistake those quirks for being uninviting. The fact those people are at the table should tell you just how inviting the community is, they feel safe enough to be there and put their ideas and stories into this shared world.
I’ve made some great friends from the gaming community. From people I’ve met at events to people who just happened to mention they play Dungeons and Dragons at University. I’ve met people who I otherwise wouldn’t have known and whose world views I hadn’t even considered. Because the community is so inviting, it’s opened up my exposure to people of all walks of life. And helped me form and keep friendships I never would have had.
The core of any gaming community is fun. I’ve been at gaming tables where my cheeks have hurt from laughing so hard. Or I find I’m holding my breath over the excitement of what comes next. Tabletop community has fun in spades. People find their fun in a variety of game types and gamers. When you walk into a gaming store, you should hear the engaging conversations, the roar of exciting plays, and the cogs turning in the brains of people trying to work out how to win.
This core principal is the same whether you’re at a gaming store or in your own home with a few friends around. No matter what type of gamer you are, no matter what type of game you enjoy or where you enjoy it; you’re there because you find it fun. You’re there because it makes you happy. And there’s something so pure about that.
Deckbuilders, Eurogames, War Games, Amerithrash, Social Deduction, Casual, Solo, Roleplayers, 4X, Dice Games, Card Games, Drafting, Constructed, Cooperative, Team Based, Defector, Puzzles, Chance, Collectable, Living, Legacy. These are just off the top of my head. There are so many types of games and gamers who encompass a massive spectrum. Personally I’ve enjoyed each of those categories at different times, and my tastes have refined and become more personalised over time. And I have no doubt my tastes will change again. However, no matter where I am in my tastes, or even how I’m feeling at a particular time or which friends I’ve got around me when we want to play – tabletop gaming has me covered.
While such a fantastic element of the community, I do recognise this diversity is an area of conflict for some gaming subcultures as well. Some people believe other types of games don’t deserve to be respected. For many years I heard people saying this about Eurogames (until they actually had some exposure to some great entries and learned to shut up). It might be common sense but it’s really true – just because you like a type of game, doesn’t mean someone else is going to. Someone liking something different doesn’t ruin the thing for you. So let them enjoy it. If you turn people down or make them feel bad about the types of games they like, you’ll scare them from the community. You’re lowering the pool of people who will encourage others to join our hobby, lower the publicity the hobby gets and the money being brought into it. There’s a meme floating around on the internet somewhere which I fully believe in – “there are two types of people in this world. Those who like tabletop games and those who haven’t played the right game yet”.
I once travelled to Brisbane for an Android: Netrunner tournament and miscounted my cards. Believing myself to be unable to play, I mentioned this to a guy who was attending who I recognised. Within minutes I had four people looking through their spare cards and one guy willing to run to his house a few blocks over just to help me out. I didn’t know these people, I’d never spoken to them before or even seen them. They just cared that a person wouldn’t be able to play and they could do something about it.
At every Friday Night Magic I’ve been to, there’s inevitably a new player who’s interested but doesn’t have a deck or know how to play. They’ll often purchase an intro pack and then someone helps them construct their deck from spares they’ve got. This usually isn’t a staff member because they’ve got an event to run. Community members line up and throw cards at new players to help get them excited and into it.
If you want to learn to play any game, go along and ask about it and I guarantee if anyone knows anything about it, they’ll give you a hand to get started.
I’ve traveled all across Australia playing in a lot of different gaming stores. And in my experience, the community has largely been amazing no matter where I am. Sure. No community is perfect. I acknowledge in some cases some pockets of this community can become hostile or lose sight of the list above. In those cases, it’s often about taking a step back and recognising where things are going off track. Maybe things are getting too competitive. Maybe you need to take aside a few people who are causing damage to the community and ask them to stop being jackasses. But even in those pockets of disharmony, there are still fantastic people who are keen for a game.
It’s up to each of us to foster our community to help it continue to grow strong. And with a community as amazing as ours, I have no doubt it will continue to happen.
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Please comment, lets get the conversations flowing!