Friday, June 04, 2010

Building a Community Out of Gamers

Last night I went to a birthday celebration of someone who used to belong to my game group, but who had moved to another town. Several other gamers who have played in my group, or in his new one, were also at the party. This was not a coincidence.

I started my game group over ten years ago, and I'm now friends with a good percentage of those who have passed through its doors. To look at a typical game night, you might think this a bit odd. At group sessions, we don't often talk about personal lives outside the group. Most of our conversations revolve around what we're playing, what we want to play next, and whether anyone wants to get in on an order of takeout.

Yet, in the last several years, I have eaten at the houses of people whom I met at the group, and they have eaten at mine. I've gone to their childrens' weddings - or their weddings - and other celebrations. And it's not only me; fellow members have done the same for each other. I know that former attendees of my group have started a half-dozen groups in other towns; in all of these, the same dynamic occurs.

I don't claim that there is necessarily anything special about gaming in this regard. I'm sure the same happens to people who attend knitting circles, book clubs, and, of course, religious community centers.

I don't personally connect with my Facebook friends who are neighbors more often than I do with those who live across the world from me. When I meet fellow bloggers or online gamers at a conference, some of whom I've had email correspondence with for years, I say hi, but I don't sit down and talk with them more frequently than I do with strangers at the conference. There's something about face-to-face interaction that breaks down layers of distance. I know the people with whom I sit at my table; people on the screen are one-dimensional.

They're my community.

1 comment:

Dug said...

Ding. Got it in one.

Gaming, as with so many other things in life, is more about who you play with than what you play. It's been true for me in making music, in where I live, in who I play games with.

When I started what would become the Rip City Gamers back in the late 90's, my goal was to build community - a group of people who shared the same values, goals, and needs, in this particular case boardgaming. I called it "building community" even back then, and remarked to friends that it was a big part of who I was.

There is an online community for gaming, although one as arguably broad as boardgaming is hard to coalesce around. I find that there is a much more active and interested board wargaming community online. That said, I will always opt for a face-to-face game rather than an online game whenever possible. We communicate so much better when it's not just text.

It's also very rewarding to see your community (and by that I mean the community you belong to, not the community you "built") blossom and branch out. That can be to new groups, or in building the larger community or gamers in your region, or just seeing people get excited about Tuesdays.

It's all about the community. I too have made some really great friends through boardgaming, and in that alone it's been my second favorite hobby (performing music wins that one hands down).