Coming Together: the Gaming Community At Large
One of the greatest allures to gaming is the sense of camaraderie and spirit of belonging that comes from being part of a group of like-minded individuals. This is true of all walks of life, but the earliest contemporary gamers gravitated towards one another because they felt out of place against their peers; compounding this fact was that these gamers’ hobbies and interests were not considered particularly normal and so many of them were actively marginalized for their passions. Presently, the gaming community as a whole has come a great distance away from being considered the fringe group of days-gone past and achieved a sense of acceptance from non-gamers. However, one specific trait does remain constant: the sense of belonging to the gamer community. And it is that concept of the gamer community that I would like to discuss in depth.
Bonds of Brotherhood
Among gamers, there is a deep feeling of togetherness that brings us to one another and binds us to together. This comes from our mutual love of games of all formats and genres. This is not the only common ground that we tread together; typically, gamers appreciate the same style of humor, comedy, and even idiosyncrasies. As a brief example of that last one, ask any gamer about their dice superstitions and, nine times out of ten, they will explain a couple different means (read: rituals) they use to try to make their dice roll better; not every gamer will have the same superstition about their dice, but they will most likely have one.
But anyways, the main point is that gamers will find each other and forge a strong bond founded upon our mutual passion for entertainment in games. And games are immensely fun; but they are also grounds for social interaction. Despite the stereotypes that gamers are socially awkward misfits (which only very few of us actually are), games of all types are a way for us to meet and interact. In fact, great many board gamers often state that they love board games because it is an opportunity to interact directly with another human; and some have even told me that is why they prefer tabletop gaming to online or video gaming: because they can talk face-to-face with another friendly person.
Community Includes Diversity
To put things as anviliciously blunt as possible: gamers are a childishly curious and experimentally open lot, for the most part anyways. When gamers meet for the first time (either by chance encounter or by predetermined arrangement is irrelevant), they often ask: “what games do you play;” an innocuous and intuitive question to ask. The answer helps us figure out how common our grounds are, but it also gives us an opportunity to hear about different or unfamiliar experiences that we may be interested in partaking. The ensuing conversation is an opportunity for us to find out just how entertaining this strange game might be; and if it would be something we might want to try/own.
For the other person, this is also an opportunity for them to “recruit” someone new into the game. The practical reasons is because this person could be someone new to game (read: play) with and thus provide more chances to actually play our (assuming) favorite games. However, there is the sub-text of trying to strengthen our bond with this stranger; an opening to cement our bonds of friendship and strengthen our relationship, no matter how untested.
Most of the time, gamers don’t mind trying new games and often reciprocate when the opportunity arises. However, there are plenty of times where a game proves to be unappealing for whatever reason. Despite the lacking in common grounds or not reciprocating, most gamers will still associate and even encourage the differences between them to exist. This diversity is what lends the greatest strength to the community as a whole. Our source of fun (and therefore the wellspring of our commonality) is not flavored by just one game but by a whole slew of them. And with each addition, either from new players or new games (or both), the community becomes stronger.
Atmosphere of Attitude
Another major aspect to the diversity of gamers within a given community is their individual spirit of competition. This sense of competiveness is most prevalent among communities and groups with miniature games and card games as the dominant format. Both formats emphasize competitive and organized play (i.e. tournaments and leagues). The spectrum of competition ranges from the casual player to the hardcore; or to put it in (and I cannot emphasize this enough) OVERLY GENERALIZED terms: from those who play to have fun to those who play to win. And to be clear, most people play games to win AND to have fun. Problems only truly arise when these nuanced matters get too broadly applied or when gamers focus too much on either end of the spectrum.
So the big thing to take away is that having fun and being competitive are not mutually exclusive or even diametrically opposed; and as long as both pursuits are kept in moderation, then everyone can still win and have fun. How so? With casual play, the emphasis is on having fun; this includes enjoying the game even if on the losing side. I have seen casual players (being such good sports) that they even help out their opponents during the game simply so everyone can have the most fun; and yes, winning does help out on that. Competitive players are, at the heart of it, seeking out challenge in the games; the greater the difficulty, the sweeter the victory, after all. These players are thus going to provide the greater challenge for themselves and for others; enabling everyone to hone their skills and become a greater challenge in the future.
Relationships: Players and Retailers
Another major component to the gaming community: local retailers. Retailers are the rallying flags of the gaming community; beacons where gamers can congregate and meet one another. Whether a small comic store with a backroom for gaming or a major location with an impressive gaming space, most retail stores that supply the board, card, and role-playing games for their community to purchase will typically have space available for their customers to open up their games and play with friends. Gaming space is an important aspect to the gaming community; if you don’t have room to play then where are you going to play? Retail stores are a great source because one does not always have room at home; nor does one necessarily feel comfortable having potential strangers come into their home to play games and so the store provides a good alternative middle ground. And that gaming neutral ground is great for players to avoid feeling like they are putting a strain or burden on their fellow gamer’s homes.
Another important aspect that retailers provide the gaming community is as a connection to the publishers and manufacturers of the games that entice us all. Which makes sense: the retailers have to order their wares from distributors, who purchase those products from the manufacturers; sometimes, certain products are only available directly from the publishers. A means by which this connection more directly impacts the community is through the representatives and volunteers for the game industry. These individuals help the retailers promote the products in their stores through advertising and promotional events (both competitive and demonstrative). These reps (ideally) work closely with the retailers to know how best to work with the community to help promote its growth, for both quality and longevity.
A Personal Side-Note
I wanted to take a moment to thank Privateer Press and its particular community of gamers and volunteers in their continued support to the global gaming community. I owe much to their volunteers, the Press Gang, and their coordinators; they are the ones who help shape my views and experiences on the gaming community. Their volunteers (of whom I am proud to be one) have supported me and encouraged me to seek out the diversity in my local community and embrace it; if they happen to want to join in the Hobby with Privateer Press products, then bonus.
To Privateer Press, the Press Gang, past, present and future: thank you.
This is my twentieth Hub. So, I wanted to make another dedication of a much more personal nature. To my family: I love and thank you for your never-ending support. If it were not for them, then I would not be the gamer I am now. Thank you.