Gaming in DC: The Rules and the Reason

4 years ago by in 2013 Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Dupont Gaming Group: 38.904242, -77.030060
Dupont Gaming Group: 38.902346, -77.033038
The Alexandria-Arlington Regional Gaming Group: 38.798092, -77.047274
The Alexandria-Arlington Regional Gaming Group: 38.809063, -77.253247
The Alexandria-Arlington Regional Gaming Group: 38.800535, -77.053398
Beer & Board Games: 38.813917, -77.136170
Beer and Board Games: 38.885598, -77.097225
Beer and Board Games: 38.834944, -77.051472
Beer and Board Games: 38.873765, -76.971530
DC Game Night: 38.909529, -77.048609
DC Game Night: 38.884552, -76.996886
DC Game Night: 38.900468, -77.038536
DC Game Night: 38.907081, -77.044593
GLBT Board Gamers of DC: 38.909529, -77.048609

Map of DC area gaming groups common areas to play


It has been a hard and long 16 years.

With all the immigrant populations counted all that was left was deciding who had won the ward’s popular vote. Ward 13 was hardest fought, but after three political chips, and a prior power move to redistribute the immigrant cubes, he did it.

“I win,” said Michael Holzer, D.C. Game Night’s weekly game organizer.

Holzer won Tammany Hall, a board game based on William M. Tweed’s corrupt New York- based political organization of the 19th century.

While Holzer revels in his victory a cheer rises up from the group behind him. A player flashes a mocking scowl and everyone grabs a card.

Across Washington gaming groups like D.C. Game Night bring people together with more than just winning on their minds. Gaming allows players to explore their own concept of self in a way that violates or emphasizes the rules of their own lives.

“Games are a safe place to explore who you are,” says Scott Nicholson, associate professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University and the director of the Because Play Matters game lab.

Holzer’s D.C. Game Night is not the only group in town. All around the D.C. area groups meet to play an assortment of games.

Large or small, these groups usually meet weekly in bars, coffee shops, homes, or anywhere that will take them.

Many outsiders have a narrow view on the types of games available to them when they first attend a game night.

“Families are used to the Hasbro, Milton Bradley and so on,” says Mary Ham, organizer of the Dupont Circle Gaming Group.

Founded in 2011, Ham’s group specializes in themed game nights based on specific types of board games each week. Each style of game invokes more than just a different style of play.

On “Strategy Night”, gaming tactics are the main course of the night.

Examples include a board game by the name of Caylus, where players carefully manage resources to build a castle in the year 1289, and the game Power Grid, where power plants are bought and sold to build the most efficient power network.

There are also nights dedicated to playing lighter party games. Common games on these nights are Wits and Wagers, a trivia game with a rule to allow gambling on the odds of a given round, or Dixit, a game where players attempt to match abstract cards with players’ original short stories.

Whether players are silently calculating their next move, or laughing over a card choice, every game allows players to explore parts of themselves and their opponents.

Just as board games vary, so do the reasons people play them.

“For some people it is about crushing your opponent. For some people it is about mental stimulation. For some people they like to pretend,” says Holzer.

The kinds of social interactions players are looking for varies night to night and game to game.

What they have in common is that players are able to break normal social boundaries in controlled environments.

“I am doing entirely different things, both with my brain and with the game,” says Holzer.

Players can explore what it is like to be a ruthless economic mogul or a selfless warrior. Groups can work together or backstab and lie to get ahead. Games give people an opportunity to discover part of themselves that they never knew existed.

“Gaming allows you to engage with each other in ways that you normally would not engage in the real world,” says Nicholson.

While many of us remember board gaming in nostalgic passing, these gaming groups tend to disagree.

“Board gaming does not occupy a place in time,” says Holzer.

Board games have been around for thousands of years but many consider the last decade to be their golden age.

Increasing numbers of games are being published every day. This may be due in part to the proliferation of digital board games, online crowd-funded projects, or it may simply be due to a need for cheaper entertainment.

But most in these groups do not seem to care; all they know is the experiences their weekly gatherings give to them.

“The power of a shared experience is what builds friendship,” says Judy Thomas, manager at the Labyrinth game store.

“There is nothing more satisfying than looking into the eye of your opponent while crushing them. It’s something you can’t get [online],” says Holzer.

“When you come to the gaming table it equalizes things,” says Nicholson.

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In the back of a game store, the Labyrinth, gamers play in a strategy based card game tournament, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Washington, DC. Tournaments and themed game nights are a common practice among gaming groups all around DC. (Photo/TJ Gioconda)

In the back of a game store, the Labyrinth, gamers play in a strategy based card game tournament, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. Tournaments and themed game nights are a common practice among gaming groups all around the region. (Photo/TJ Gioconda)

Kathleen Donahue (left) and Judy Thomas (far right) discuss last night's game podcasts, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Washington, DC. Keeping up with gaming news allows Donahue to insure her store is stocked with the most popular games. (Photo/TJ Gioconda)

Kathleen Donahue (left) and Judy Thomas (far right) discuss last night’s game podcasts, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. Keeping up with gaming news allows Donahue to insure her store is stocked with the most popular games. (Photo/TJ Gioconda)

Tammany Hall the Board Game Explained

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