Tired of “Pokemon Go”? Played out with “Grand Theft Auto”?
A group in Tacoma would like you to drop the joysticks and pick up a deck of cards.
Whether it’s “screen fatigue” or the need to connect with people face to face, hundreds of South Sounders are giving up their smart phones for a few hours each week to play board and card games.
In the Tacoma area, a Meetup.com group that goes by the name of Gamerati is leading the charge.
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Gamerati, with more than 1,000 members locally, has several free meetups each week with an all-day event coming up Sept. 24.
Make no mistake: Video gaming, a $23 billion industry in just the United States, isn’t going away. Even minor celebrities make videos of themselves playing video games.
But card- and board-games are seeing a resurgence.
“I guess people decided they like to look at each other again,” said enthusiast Joey Turco, the event manager for Gamerati.
On a recent Wednesday, about 25 people gathered at tables at Sammy’s Pizza on Tacoma’s North I Street. Dice were rolling, cards were pressed against chests and game pieces were moving around boards.
One table was piled high with games boxes.
Groups were playing Valeria, Dead of Winter, Portal, Lords of Waterdeep and other games.
As he usually does, Turco was manning the door. His job is to welcome newcomers and make sure they find a game to their liking.
“I sit them down, get them playing and have fun,” he said.
April Wire was one of those newcomers on this night. Wire, 26, just moved to Fife from Oklahoma.
“I like board games and it seemed like fun,” said Wire, who grew up on Clue and Apples to Apples.
TESTING GAMES UNDER DEVELOPMENT
Gamerati events aren’t for hidebound traditionalists. They frequently feature new games being tested by their developers.
Designed by Sandy Petersen, The Gods War is a strategy game where players summon gods, build temples and cast spells. Players go on quests, destroy enemies and capture territory.
Starcher had a “print and play” version of the game. Users can download it from the Internet for free and print out the playing board, cards and figures. The real game, which is still in development, will have 3-D playing figurines.
“We like giving it away for free so people can play it and see if they like it,” Starcher said. So far, the company has three games completed and three in production.
Starcher also was offering up the company’s Cthulhu Wars for Gamerati players. That game is based on the work of horror fantasy author H.P. Lovecraft.
“We definitely want the feedback,” Starcher said.
Other companies at Gamerati events include Crafty Games, Paizo Games, Obsidian Entertainment, Evil Hat Productions and Smiteworks. Most will be at the Sept. 24 event.
NO MONOPOLY ON GAMES
While games such as Monopoly and Guess Who? might make an appearance at a Gamerati gathering, players are more likely to sit down to a game of Cards Against Humanity.
The game cheekily bills itself as “a party game for horrible people.”
In the game, a player reads a question or statement off a card. The other players then choose a pre-written answer from the cards in their hands. The funniest combo, as determined by the card reader, wins.
Thus, “Hey baby, come back to my place and I’ll show you ________.” might get “a PowerPoint presentation” as a response.
Some cards require two responses so, “With enough time and pressure, _______ will turn into ________.” could get “an ether-soaked rag” and “some peace and quiet” for answers.
Those are some of the milder possibilities. Most can’t be printed in a family newspaper.
Danielle Logan, 18, of Fircrest, and Freddie Heinz, 24, of Tacoma, are regulars. They, along with several others, were engrossed in Cards Against Humanity that night.
Logan has been coming to Gamerati events for almost a year, sometimes twice a week. Heinz started six months ago.
“What keeps me coming back is the people,” Logan said. “Before I started coming I had never played board games before. But everybody here is really friendly and I’ve made a lot of friends.”
Logan likes to play shorter and social games while Heinz attends day-long Gamerati events at Stonegate Pizza.
“I spend the whole day … different voices … freakin’ people out,” Heinz said. “It’s super fun.”
Heinz prefers strategy games such as Werewolf, where villagers and werewolves conspire to do each other in. Each game begins with the werewolves silently identifying each other (each player has drawn a card) while the villagers have their eyes closed.
Rules for each game might be a bit complex for newcomers but regulars help them understand, Turco said.
THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN
The illuminati behind Gamerati is Ed Healy, a DuPont game marketer and promoter. Gamerati is the name of his for-profit business.
“We try to find the good people and the good games they’re making and help other people learn about them,” he said.
Healy, 42, started his first gaming company while in college. He put out an a role-playing “X-files”-like game and a pre-zombie craze game, All Flesh Must Be Eaten.
After college Healy joined the financial services company Deloitte but joined the army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I left the corporate world behind and turned in my suits,” he said.
Four years later, he had a family and knew it was time to get out.
While still deployed in Iraq, Healy began assisting Wolfgang Baur, the founder of Kirkland-based Kobold Press, with advertising.
Baur signed Healy on as a game promoter in 2008.
“I told (Baur) he didn’t owe me any money if I didn’t get him any results,” said Healy.
In 2012, he realized almost 300 people just in DuPont were visiting gaming websites. So, he decided to hold his first game day at which enthusiasts could meet each other face to face.
“We rented out the AMVETS (building) and had 80, 90 people show up,” Healy said.
He held more events and soon was using Meetup.com to organize them.
“They just got bigger and bigger,” said Healy, who employs Turco to manage the events.
“He is dedicated to making sure people don’t feel weird sitting down next to strangers if they’re new,” Healy said.
Only the 12-hour game days require a membership or entry fee. Healy uses the money to mostly cover expenses.
Aside from giving back to the community, Gamerati helps his consulting business, which involves Kickstarter campaigns. Healy offers everything from public relations support to managing the entire campaign.
It turns out game development (both video and analog) is Kickstarter’s most lucrative category, with $480 million in successful projects. Fans can’t seem to donate fast enough. At least to companies with proven track records.
Petersen’s Glorantha: The Gods War was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. It attracted more than $585,000 when its campaign closed Thursday after asking for $100,000.
It’s not the only game that’s gone way over its requested funding.
Seattle-based Lone Shark Games had more than $380,000 in Kickstarter pledges on Friday for its new graphic novel adventure game Thornwatch with 19 days still to go. They had asked for $78,000. Another Seattle-based developer, Monte Cook, had more than $606,000 in pledges for its role-playing game Invisible Sun on Friday after asking for $210,000.
With his various marketing efforts Healy estimates he’s had a hand in 8 percent of all the traditional gaming money raised on Kickstarter, or about $50 million.
Some game developers are established companies. But not all.
“They are just normal people who had an idea,” Healy said. “What continues to amaze me is that people invent and reinvent entertainment when you might think there’s nothing else to do.”
When: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 24
Where: First Christian Church of Tacoma, 602 N. Orchard St., Tacoma
What: Board and card games; role-playing games; prototype lounge where unpublished games can be played.
Admission: $10 monthly membership or $20 tickets at door; kids, 13 and under, with adults are free.