What was once considered a sure fire way to get your grandmother to swear at your dad, playing tabletop games also used to have an air of antiquity to them. Well, no longer.
From Magic: The Gathering and Settlers of Catan to Pandemic and Android: Netrunner, tabletop games are drawing a lot of attention in the current gaming scene. While staples like Monopoly and Balderdash are still played, a modern world calls for modern games. And they are on their way.
“The sheer number of games that are coming out is baffling,” says Brianna Johnson, assistant manager at Table Top Cafe. “There has been a bit of a board game renaissance over the past couple years.”
Over at Variant Edition, owner Brendon Capel agrees.
“Thanks to Kickstarter, there are a ton of board games that circumvented the usual models,” says Capel. “Now you have these awesomely designed games that go directly to the people who want them.”
Both Table Top and Variant are part of the same social scene. While Variant sells comics and holds various game based events (mainly Magic tournaments), Table Top Cafe is strictly for gaming and hanging out with friends. They have food, drinks and staff there to teach you the finer points of some of their games. Along with Avalon Knights, Hexagon and a few others, these businesses are part of a burgeoning industry all embracing geek culture.
Recently Table Top, Variant and the X Reals escape room co-facilitated a ‘geek crawl,’ which is akin to a pub crawl. Except, in this incarnation, you get some informative geek culture tidbits from Variant, then visit the X Realm escape room and end up at Table Top Cafe. It is a three-way marriage made in geek heaven.
“The biggest thing that has changed over the last few years is that it has become, not just more mainstream, but more acceptable,” Capel explained. “A lot of the stigmas of doing nerdy stuff has dropped away. People see people having fun at it and that makes people curious. With that it becomes more economically viable.”
From Johnson’s perspective, it is not just people accepting the Table Top scene, but the scene accepting people.
“We have femme nights, we have LGBTQ nights, we are all about inclusivity,” says Johnson. “The community is super inclusive. I rarely meet people who are gatekeepers about board games. Generally people are very willing to invite you into a game or talk passionately about a game that they like that you may not have played.”
There seems to be a hint of idealism in those words, and there should be when a business is succeeding. But Johnson and co. aren’t ignorant to what negative things may come. They understand that there are bad apples everywhere and recently Table Top created the “Rules of Enjoyment”. This wasn’t because of any specific occurrence Johnson says, but more for a kindly reminder to those “who don’t understand what being a good person is,” as she eloquently put it.
“Mostly, it is to have something to point to if someone is getting a bit rude,” she says, laughing. “But it is something to say we firmly stand behind too. Especially now when we are doing events like femme nights and LGBTQ nights. We are trying to make sure that it is a really safe space for everybody.”
This is all well and good, but what if a group is playing a ribald game of Cards Against Humanity?
The rules read, “We get it; some games, like Cards Against Humanity, make this kind of thing unavoidable. Just try to remember that what might seem like a funny joke to you could be incredibly hurtful to someone sitting nearby, and use your discretion when you’re reading your cards aloud.”
Put the responsibility on the players, not the game.
When it all comes down to it, modern tabletop games are just like the old ones. Except now we use words like inclusivity, socialization and tech-friendly. All in the name of fun.