Saturday, September 14, 2013

Joining an Adult Gaming Community

I'll start by saying I have been teaching kids how to play tabletop games for a while. This goes as far back as 2003 when I was a youth mentor for a mission church. I used tabletop games (especially Settlers) as a way to teach positive social skills, build relationships, and have fun. It was a way for me to connect with the sixth graders I was working with and we could talk about difficult topics while they played. My experience might go even further back, but those memories are limited.

Gaming in a group or with people is not something that is new to me, but gaming in a group where everyone is a gamer and are part of a great community (essentially an adult gaming club) is new to me. What is also new to me is being the minority or new person in a group of gamers. I've typically been part of the primary group and not the newcomer. For example, in my husband's circle in North Carolina when I first became part of the group, other people would enter the group, but I always knew everyone.

Last night was my first night being the newcomer to a gaming group and my first time coming into an established adult community of gamers. My husband and I had been looking for a way to game now that our lives are settling down a bit (locationally speaking). Right as we moved out of the Milwaukee area, we had found a group we could have been a part of through a local game shop. With the Oshkosh/Appleton area being rather new to us, we didn't know where to start or how to find what we were looking for. Several Google attempts made, randomly over several months, finally turned up a gaming group in Oshkosh.

Unlike my husband, I have a need to jump into things. So I signed up on the forum he had shared with me. I started lurking a little bit to learn more about the people and how to introduce myself. I've had a bad history with forums, so I was nervous, but I knew if I didn't take the first step, Ray would just waffle on it FOR-EV-ER! So I introduced myself. I was welcomed warmly and, because I was super eager, I kept nagging  my husband (as wives love to do) to get on the forum and introduce himself. I finally pushed him when an Epic Game Night event started to approach. I even went a step further and made arrangements for our daughter to visit her grandmother (Isabelle was in desperate need of a haircut). Finally, I told him there was no turning back and I put in an RSVP on the forum.

Almost instantly we had the super-secret location for that night's game. Okay, it's not really super-secret, but they don't post it publicly, but it felt super cool to be sent the location. Ray had to pick me up from work, so we planned a bit of an evening before heading over for the gaming. I insisted that we bring a snack to share. Down the road from my school is an adorable little bakery and their specialty is cupcakes. So we went and got half a dozen different specialty cupcakes. I figured we could put our best foot forward and bring a really nice treat.

Next, we went to have a little dinner out together. It was here that my anxiety started to kick in. See, I have a mild social anxiety disorder. I've been overly judged by so many people that my self-confidence is essentially in the crapper. In an attempt to thwart judging I start to over-analyze everything about myself. This leads to incredible nerves and just a lot of talking and making a lot of ignorant comments about all sorts of stuff. The negativity starts to take the front stage in all the things that I say. This drives my husband insane, which leads to more judging and then moods become irritated and. . . well. . . it's a vicious cycle.

So as we arrived at the location, I'm in the car trying to break my awkward mentality. After some nagging on the part of my husband, I get out of the car and we made our way upstairs to the game room where we all of a sudden met people! I can still feel my nerves in full force and I'm surprised I didn't snap the bones in my own fingers I was wringing them so hard.

Everyone was great. I fear that if I go into detail the secret society might be revealed, but it was a group that felt familiar to me and that is a great feeling to have. I was still nervous, though. I have a tend to run in the more-nervous emotional pack. I also can be a quiet gamer when the game requires more thinking. So at times I think I was a little out of the mix, because of the way I wanted to play.

See, I play games for fun. If I know a game is a bit too intense for me (mostly the first time playing), I enter my chaos frame of mind. I play stuff just for funsies. If I can't have fun or make myself happy, what is the point of playing the game? Especially since I don't play to win. If I win, it's a happy moment for me. If I get too caught up in having to win, I can turn into a pretty horrible person, so I'd rather just play for fun and learn how to win through my own trial and error of playing the game.

What did we play, you're asking yourself as I ramble on about me, myself. and my night out. . .We played Struggle of Empires. . . It was Epic Game night, where gaming goes on past midnight and usually means its more intense strategy games.

The host and the Game Master both gave us fair warning that it might not have been the best night to be introduced to the club, but that they hope we had fun and would come back. Oh trust me, we had fun. I just hope they had fun with us.

The bottom line of this whole entry? Meeting new people is scary. I have realized I have a crazy anxiety disorder, but I love games too much to let it truly stand in my way. Everyone we met tonight was amazing and I can't wait to game again. And if I want to be Pruss-American Caribbean Pirates who just take over the whole left side of the board. . .dammit. . . let me do what I want! I think we found something good!

My geek-points are going up!

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