This past weekend I attended GnomeCon, a convention dedicated to board games, card games and role playing games of all types. One participant quoted his wife’s account of the Con as a bunch of hermits climbing from under their rock to join all the other hermits. Depending on which generation of gamer you’re talking about I take issue with this assessment.
My gaming days began around 1978 with two games I still get misty eyed talking about; Starfleet Battles and Squad Leader. In the following years I picked up several similar board games and also RPG’s like D&D and Champions. And while my gaming buddies and I saw less sunshine than others, we spent plenty of time together laughing, griping, growing, and learning. I’ve never been very athletic and only spent time playing neighborhood basketball and football because I knew these other fellas from our gaming sessions gathered around the table.
Fast forward to today. I’ve played various video games from the days of the NES to the X-box 360 and while I’ve enjoyed many, few offer a social element comparable to the old gaming group gathered around the dining room table, splitting a pizza and sharing stories. To be fair, I’ve argued with less people and I’ve had to clean up after a smaller crowd at my house, but as I retreated from the world in so many ways I wonder if we’re seeing a part of ourselves atrophy as a result.
One of the staff at GnomeCon mentioned a difference she noticed in the new gaming crowd. While many of us read books like Lord of the Rings and jumped into D&D to play a game similar to our stories, gamers today tend to have less of a literary background coming into the games. I’d like to think that conventions like GnomeCon can turn the gaming tide and reacquaint a new generation with the creativity, imagination, and camaraderie that comes from tabletop games.