Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Come Together

Last week I spoke somewhat on how a community needs the support of its members to help it not only survive, but to grow.  This week I want to touch on another essential aspect of a successful gaming community…

I am an X-Wing player.  It is a somewhat addictive and can be a highly competitive game to those who know where to look.  You race pre-painted plastic miniatures of famous (and obscure), Star Wars ships around a 3’ x 3’ play mat making pew pew noises and try to destroy the other fellow.  There are podcasts galore that pour over the latest expansions and discuss in detail the viability of said expansions and their included pilot and upgrade cards in a tournament environment.  I love that aspect of the game, and look forward to the three small tournaments we organise every year, as well as the Ontario Regional events that we as a small group of Muskoka players travel to attend.

I recently found a podcast on the subject of the game that intrigued me.  It’s called Shuttle Tydirium Podcast, named after the ship used by rebel forces in The Return of the Jedi to reach the surface of the moon Endor, where an awful lot happened for a such a small space mostly occupied by massive trees and tiny bears.

The Shuttle Tydirium Podcast concerns itself mainly with every aspect of X-Wing that is NOT competitive.  They represent the casual players, the ones for whom tournament play is too stressful, too competitive, too exhausting.  The players who want to play all of the ships, regardless of their viability.  This group of people want to write out and test their own thematic scenarios based on the vast and epic universe that George created.  For them, creating new game modes such as an actual trench run, or making prop turbolaser batteries from cardboard or paper and using them to play over a couple of drinks is way more fun than testing out the latest and greatest and most vicious list the meta has to offer.

And they came together over that shared interest.  And they started a grassroots community in their city that has spread to the internet, and they are doing quite well, thank you very much.  It would seem that there are a lot of hobby gamers out there who share their interest in the casual side of the game.

In December of 2015, I decided to join a theatre company to play bass for a small, local production of the Rocky Horror Show.  I have always loved the film version, and would have loved to play the role of Frank N Furter.  I was quite happy in the end to fill the bass chair.

After Rocky ended in August of 2016, I had the opportunity to work with the Huntsville Theatre Company again on another production, The Wakowski Brothers.  I chose to audition, but not just because the play seemed like a lot of fun, which it is.

I chose to go out for a role because of the people involved.  They all possess this amazing focus and devotion to creating top quality community theatre shows and sharing them with the area.  Like the podcast guys, the started small, working hard to find others who felt the same way.  They put on small productions and gradually increased their scope and vision as the community grew.  These days, their shows can draw a few hundred people over a svene to nine show run, which is pretty darn impressive.

I was involved for a few years in an online venture which was the birthplace of this blog, The Mad Adventurers Society.  What started as a plea for advice on how to start a gaming community in a small town became an offer to write about my experiences, and so Gaming in the Wild came to be.

And once more this thing appeared.  Focus, dedication, shared vision, mutual support.  A group effort concentrated on furthering the common goal.  A genuine affection for each other created by shared interest.

Over the last few years of the Mad Adventurers, BTGC, and the Huntsville Theatre Company, I have seen the fruits of a shared hobby, interest or passion.

Not only do you meet new people and get out of the house, but you forge friendships, sometimes with most unlikely people.  You spend time around those with whom you would not otherwise have had the opportunity.  And you’re not just hanging out.  You start to pour your energy into something.  You direct the enthusiasm and energy created by your interests, and you turn it into something.

What an amazing thing it is.

Perhaps you enjoy your weekly game nights.  You look forward to packing up your stuff and meeting your friends at somebody’s house, a local game store or a gaming cafe/restaurant.  For me, Thursdays are it.  I pack up my things in the morning and count the hours until quitting time.  Changing clothes after work, I don’t even go home, unless my kids are attending, which is an amazing feeling as well.

I know that when everyone shows up, they are just as excited as me.  And most of them I don’t really even know.  We have been lucky enough to gather so many people over the last three or so years that there are members I have never played with or run games for.  I feel really lucky.

And there are no egos, no pride or sense of entitlement.  Nobody is vying for position or standing.  We are all there to play games together, to focus our energy on a thing together.

Just like the HTC, we don’t get anything out of this except the chance to do something we love with people who love it just as much as we do.  Just like the shuttle Tydirium Podcast, we are trying to spread that joy around.  Just like MAS, we all work together to make it better, because that benefits everyone.  And we do it without ego or a vision of profit.

And that kind of selflessness and focus and dedication is essential to creating, expanding and sustaining a community of any kind.

When you step back and think about the people you share a hobby, interest or lifestyle with, do you see those same things?

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