After a welcome reprieve from pounding my face against the keys, it’s nice to get back at it. There are a few things that I noticed, and ideas that I had over the last little while. Let’s just how many of them I can remember, because making notes would have made too much sense…
First, I have to make note of what it is that makes a community based, public gaming organisation tick: the community.
If it was just me trying to make this thing work it would have died before it hit the first year. I say that because I am just one man. When Michael and I thought of this venture a few years ago, we took on the mantles of grand gaming poo-bahs in an official capacity. Yet I have never forgotten that our brainstorming sessions were held in the parking lot of Game On amongst our fellow gaming enthusiasts. They helped to bring this thing to life. We discussed location ideas, membership fees, format and a host of other ideas.
Jay, Sarah, Alex, and others were essential in those early days, and while I tend to point out the continued efforts of Michael and myself, I am constantly reminded that it is a far larger and more subtle team which exists and continues to help make this group a reality.
The most recent examples of that are found in my necessary hiatus from the BTGC to perform in the Huntsville Theatre Company’s production of “The Wakowski Brothers,” a Canadian conceived one act play about two brothers in the vaudeville era of Cape Breton and their struggles. It had me singing, dancing, acting and pummelling my co star, and it was a lot of fun. A very satisfying experience, to be sure.
Alex stepped forward once more, taking the responsibility of opening the Centre and setting up the tables for each Thursday evening’s events. I still needed someone to run my table.
Shayne is an old friend from high school, I think I’ve mentioned him before. His daughter Morgan used to attend our group, but adult life has swept her up in a sea of responsibility. Shayne used to play in our high school aged gaming group, and it has been a great pleasure reacquainting ourselves. He has taken the DM’s chair for me in the past, and volunteered to do so again for the three weeks I would be absent.
Such small gestures on the outside, but without finding someone to lend a hand when you need it, I wouldn’t have been able to open and my table wouldn’t have been able to play. On the other hand, if I had no support from the community group, I wouldn’t have been able to take the opportunity to participate in the production, and it’s important to step back from your hobbies now and again. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
I’ve always spoken about consistency in running a gaming group, and how important it is that when people take the time out of their lives to come and participate in a thing, you had better be open when you say you are going to be. Otherwise you are seen as unreliable and uncaring, and people don’t come back. The same is true of running a business. You post your hours on your storefront to let people know when you are open for business. You have to keep up your end and be there.
And that’s another piece of the community puzzle which the BTGC has been very fortunate to have working in its favour, the community itself. We have had for the most part, very good people come through our doors. Whenever I have spoken about the group, I have always tried to emphasize the idea that we are an open, inclusive, respectful and supportive bunch. I feel that those qualities are extremely important to our success, because they are the spirit of what we have tried to do here.
For some people, gaming is old hat, a thing we have done for years. It’s second nature. We know all of the references, read all the articles and memes, and have constant links to twitter pages and RSS feeds with all of the podcasts and product release articles for everything we love about this little world. It’s an amazing life, but it can cause us to lose track of what it can be like for someone who is just beginning to explore this strange, new world of science fiction, fantasy and everything in between.
For some people, this is a very vulnerable experience. They are not confident, worried they won’t fit in. They are scared of feeling stupid for not understanding the rules, which veterans refer to offhandedly, as though speaking about lessons from kindergarten. They desperately want to explore this new landscape, but for some it can feel like walking into a public place naked, and they need a community that will put a blanket around them and help them find their place.
Our community is fortunately very much like that. The people who run the games have accepted that attendance can be spotty, that their tables can look very different from one week to the next, and they have embraced the idea of welcoming new players whenever they happen to pop up. They also understand that sometimes those players want to shift to another table, or that this isn’t for them and that they just don’t come back. And nobody takes it personally.
Our players are supportive and helpful. When building or levelling up a player character, there is always someone at hand to lend some help or a handbook. Nobody begrudges those who don’t have a handbook or dice, either. Some people can’t afford all of the things that go along with gaming, but they love the hobby. That’s what we are here for. To provide a place where tabletop hobby gamers can meet and play, and where everyone has a good time. I have seen friendships created and blossom in our hall, and it is a wonderful feeling.
It’s not to say that we don’t have our problems, every group of people does. I just want to highlight some of the things that make our rural gaming community work. I’ve drawn some of these same connections between other community groups, and I want to explore those ideas in the coming weeks. What makes a good team, gaming group, or theatre company? How does a local music scene survive and thrive? There are common traits among them all, and I have had the time to sit back and observe. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, but in my small town-ish world, I have seen things, and they have given me pause...