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Gaming in the Wild: Where it began, and where will it go?

After one hundred posts for this amazing website, I’ve had a lot of great experiences in the world of gaming, and how I relate to the wider world beyond. In my thirty nine years, what has changed since I started writing these words?


Gaming in the Wild was born out of frustration. If you were to go all the way back to my very first piece, you would find a man musing on the nature of small towns and how they do not support gaming and/or hobby stores well. It has always been a challenge to find that one small section of the population that loves tabletop gaming and other geekery, and get them to consistently spend their disposable income at your shop.

I also discussed just what we were doing about the local store that we had been playing at closing down, as its owner was moving to Moosejaw, to re-open in the familiar city of his youth. We were starting a Community effort. We hated the idea of that beacon of gaming in our little town being snuffed out, so we lit our own candle. Yet the story of Gaming in the Wild didn’t start there.

I had been listening to potelbat voraciously for months, catching up on everything @Fiddleback had been publishing after discovering him on a Star Wars RPG podcast doing his amazing Skill Monkey. These are awesome, go listen to them. After finding my way to the website, I started to absorb the content here as well. Then as we started to look for a location in which to host our fledgling gaming group, we hit an unexpected bump in the road. Somebody didn’t approve of our group because of a perception of addiction and religion. Meaning that they thought that Dungeons and Dragons was addictive and tapped into the more malevolent aspects of human culture and world religions.

That was frustrating to me. I was angry. By now, we shouldn’t even be having this conversation. By now, we should be done with the idea that certain hobbies and pastimes lead to personal destruction, but I suppose for a small number of people they do. Addiction and obsession are two very real things, and I am certainly not qualified to speak on those subjects, but it irked me nonetheless.

So I went to Brian and was able to posit the idea of writing my own blog. I felt that he was a good person to bounce it off, because he and Sammy and Nick were in the midst of pushing this thing off the ground, and I thought he would be a good judge of whether my rantings had any merit on the internet. I was upset, and I needed to vent it out, to people who might understand my turmoil, and hopefully get me through it to a positive end.

So I wrote a sample piece which was really my venting at the response we had gotten, and sent it away privately.

What I didn’t expect was for him to offer me this, my own weekly post about putting together and running an open gaming community, not in a store but out there somewhere, in the desert of the real. I was flattered that they thought I had the ability to do it all, never mind for their site.

Obviously I accepted and the rest is history. One hundred articles later, I enjoy a small readership on our site, and I don’t mind that at all. My bailiwick is not the same as the rest. I keep a fluid approach to my subject matter, and while I don’t write a tonne of practical DMing or tabletop gaming advice, I try and write each week from a meaningful personal place. It’s what I have done right from the start.

What I have discovered over these last couple of years is that by taking what you love and putting it out there on a daily basis, you can have a lot of amazing experiences; enriching and world expanding, tiny and quiet, frustrating and self-destructive, numbing and humbling.

You can meet people you never thought would stick around, and help them develop their own lasting enjoyment of a hobby that you thought you were alone in. Since starting the Bracebridge Tabletop Gaming Community just over two years ago, we have probably had forty to fifty people come through our doors. Some of them came for a week and never returned. Some stayed for a while, long enough to put together a group and find a location among their fold at which they could meet and not bother with us anymore. Some of us were there when we helped out at the store, and made the move to the centre with us. However, they have moved on, either from organised gaming in general, or just moved away for work or school or what have you, and still enjoy their hobby elsewhere. Some seem to have just let the hobby drift away, an experience had and fondly remembered, but enjoyed no more.

Much like this column, there is an ebb and flow to life which we can’t ignore. You can only do a thing one way for so long before you find yourself wanting a change. For some gamers, it’s as simple as switching from running games to playing them. Or changing systems or settings. There is such a variety of subject matter out there now, that it’s easy to keep things fresh and not tire or burn out of something you love, which is an awful feeling.

I have so thoroughly enjoyed the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met along the way, whether we have forged friendships or just briefly locked eyes in the passage of time. There are so many people out there who you would never suspect being interested in this world of ours, and hanging out in a gaming store only gives you a very slanted view of their numbers.

Putting together a facebook-based Star Wars gaming group for our area and then organising X-Wing tournaments has shown me that. Running the BTGC certainly has. Yet I also don’t shy away from talking about what I do, because I’m damn proud of it. I’m not knocking on doors selling it with pamphlets and demonstrations, but you would be amazed at the conversations you can have if you are willing to make a little soft sell on what has traditionally been a niche market hobby for basement dwelling nerds, or so popular culture would have led you to believe.

I study adventure modules on lunch breaks and in waiting rooms. I bring small, quick games to restaurants to help pass the time with my family. Mike and I are working on some exciting new ideas for the coming year that will start gently pushing our group into the light of the community in a more meaningful way.

And I am able to process and publish these experiences for all of you, in the hopes that my belief is true, that there are others like me out there trying to make a meaningful difference through our passions, in the wild.

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