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General Forge Forums => Publishing => Topic started by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 14, 2005, 11:52:41 AM



Title: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 14, 2005, 11:52:41 AM
There's been a lot of talk lately about gaming stores. Some people go so far as to say that we're killing them by selling off our websites. Piffle, I say. Piffle and twaddle. If game stores are dying, it's for a lot of reasons that we don't have to do with. But I have an idea.

What if the indie world went so far as to leave the living rooms of their constituents and set up a game dojo, where people play, design together, play, talk theory, and play? Here in New England, there are lots of old mill buildings from the time when things were manufactured here and most cities that have them are desperate to have them filled with interesting people and things. Rent in one such location here is $200 a month for a huge floor.

This could be run as a tax-exempt organization, like an industry association, a community center, or a dojo. From what Bankuei told me, there are apparently such clubs all over Asia for things like Go, so we might want to look at those models and see what works and doesn't.

But, really, what I'm thinking is that these are Forge "cells": independently operated organizations that support what the Forge supports. People can get together group orders of indie games, talk with each other about making them, and have a community that will playtest them.

As for membership, cuz this is a membership thing, I think we should probably look at gyms for their guest/matt fee/becoming a member rules.

I don't know if this makes any sense. I've never done anything like this at all. I'm not even sure what's involved in renting a space like this (uh, heat and lights, I guess...) so if anyone's run a store, dojo, or any such thing, I'd love to know what you think.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: JarrodHenry on December 14, 2005, 11:59:37 AM
My friend, Karl, ran a game store. (Yep.. he's shutting down.) 

His utility bills were about four times what they are for personal use.  So.. if you're talking about 2000 sq feet, I'd wager you're spending about $400 - $500 on Electric/heat, and $100-$200 on phone.

I like the idea otherwise, though I do have to wonder if it'd pay for itself/the time to use it.

You might be better off finding a good community center and meeting once a week.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Keith Senkowski on December 14, 2005, 12:01:30 PM
Joshua,

You are basically describing NERD NYC (http://www.nerdnyc.com/) or Ithaca Gamers (http://www.ithacagamers.com/) only without the need for membership fees, a set space or any sort of Forge games only sort of thing.

Keith


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Judd on December 14, 2005, 12:05:34 PM
The Get Your Geek On-a-thon is a quarterly event that has been going on for a year now.  We get by on a community space that a local book store rents out.  The game shop, Odyssey Games, pays for the bill and we take up a donation hat during the gaming and pay what we can.  Last time we had it, we paid for the space and then some.  It was pretty awesome.

This doesn't have to be instead of the game store but along with it.

I'd suggest looking towards your community spaces.  VFW halls, public libraries and community centers for support and thoughts.  Go talk to the facility managers and program directors and tell them your thoughts.

There is also the Game Loft in Maine, http://www.thegameloft.org/, well worth looking into and asking questions about how they came to be.  They seem to be fairly close to your model idea.

Good luck, I'm eagerly watching to see how this discussion pans out.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 14, 2005, 12:07:06 PM
You are basically describing NERD NYC (http://www.nerdnyc.com/) or Ithaca Gamers (http://www.ithacagamers.com/) only without the need for membership fees, a set space or any sort of Forge games only sort of thing.

So I understand. How do they pay for their two well-lit studios in Manhattan? Do they have a patron or something? Is it in Luke's house?

I also forgot to link to The Game Loft (http://www.thegameloft.org/), which is a community center that serves kids by playing RPGs, CCGs, and the like. They're really decent guys. Make a donation if you can. (Oop, Judd posted it while I was writing this.)


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Keith Senkowski on December 14, 2005, 12:11:44 PM
Joshua,

If I recall correctly they pay a fee at the door or some such.  Thor would have better knowledge of this shit since he is a part of it and lives in NYC while I am half a continent away.

Keith


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Josh Roby on December 14, 2005, 12:15:42 PM
While I have been carefully crafting my response, roughly three hundred people have already posted lots of what I was going to say.  Nevertheless, I actually have been mulling over a similar prospect, and I think I've got a nice 'transitional' step that can get us from where we are to the permanent locations you envision.  I was inspired by the Stealth Gamers thread that can be found with a simple search.

I'm thinking of something like a "Whittier Area Open Gaming Day."  Rent out a community center's multipurpose room (stupidly cheap and more common than you'd think -- a local park probably has one available and underused) for a weekend day.  Set out tables.  Invite people to come and bring the games they want to play.  Do it regularly on a monthly/biweekly/weekly basis.

I was thinking that participants can pay a slight entry fee to cover rental expenses (or skip the fee for the first few to generate some regular attendees), but I think that can be easily combined with a membership dealie.  If you got really adventurous, you could even run a little snack shack deal (what's gaming without caffeine?).

You'd either need to start off with a largish group of people you know would be interested (half a LARP community, for instance) or do some advertising in game stores, maybe online rah-rah threads on RPGnet, hit up FindPlay for some direct-mail advertising.  The best way to go about doing this would be to start up a centralized website that had listing for the different regular events being run in different cities.  People have already mentioned a couple; an umbrella site might increase traffic to all of them.

I'm in Los Angeles, and I'm thinking this would work best in cities with a large enough population.  Location of the event would also be rather important (near multiple colleges would be best).

Note that your largest population would be (a) college students if near a college, and then (b) high schoolers.  Do you remember gaming in high school, trying to find a place to game and not be interrupted?  Yeah.  This could be billed as providing just that.

In any case, it's more than feasible that, if the model worked and you got a regular membership, you could eventually move into 'permanent' digs.  I worked for a company that ran youth recreation leagues, and did just this with their karate program.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Thor Olavsrud on December 14, 2005, 12:16:57 PM
So I understand. How do they pay for their two well-lit studios in Manhattan? Do they have a patron or something? Is it in Luke's house?

We've incorporated as a non-profit, which makes the studio rates cheaper. And we charge dues from people who participate in our GGG roleplaying program and boardgame nights. We charge separately for our Recess game days, which are held four times a year at a different location, as the attendance tends to be higher.

The roleplaying is going for about $50 per person, which covers 7 sessions (about $7 per night). You also get a discount card that entitles you to 10% off a purchase at The Compleat Strategist after you've made 10 purchases. This has been making a profit, which is being put into paying for hosting/maintenance of the site and putting away money toward a more permanent location.

Board game nights are about $6 or $7 per night. Recess is generally about $12.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Josh Roby on December 14, 2005, 12:28:53 PM
You also get a discount card that entitles you to 10% off a purchase at The Compleat Strategist after you've made 10 purchases.

Is the Compleat Strategist a local game store?


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Thor Olavsrud on December 14, 2005, 12:30:32 PM
Is the Compleat Strategist a local game store?

Yes.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Josh Roby on December 14, 2005, 12:35:26 PM
That discount card is a sweet idea -- I'm assuming that Compleat Strategist advertises for you, or at least has flyers posted?  It would be a relatively simple thing to do this sort of tie-in with a lot of game stores, which are dying for more traffic.  "Let us leave these flyers lying about, and we can give you a reference to our membership -- your logo on the back of our membership card if you want to offer a little discount to people who show it."

The principle I'm working under goes thusly: I'm in freaking Los Angeles.  There are people all around me.  Enough of those people have to be gamers (or financially invested in gaming, as the game stores) to get them together somehow.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Iskander on December 14, 2005, 12:36:29 PM
Board game nights are about $6 or $7 per night. Recess is generally about $12.
One-shots are also $6-$7, and GMs don't pay (in general). Sessions are billed as four hours, sometimes run short, more often run to the limit and frequently have preliminary chargen/setup or make-up games at the participants leisure/expense.

It helps that there is a lot of relatively inexpensive rehearsal space in Manhattan... even if some of it's a bit skanky; the space is inevitably not ideal: there's a lot of noise overlap from four concurrent games in one studio, and there are usually either martial artists upstairs making room-shaking thuds, or actors outside shushing people or yelling.

Nevertheless, it's been the best gaming of my life, and means cons have a lot to live up to if they're to justify the expense.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Thor Olavsrud on December 14, 2005, 12:45:21 PM
That discount card is a sweet idea -- I'm assuming that Compleat Strategist advertises for you, or at least has flyers posted?  It would be a relatively simple thing to do this sort of tie-in with a lot of game stores, which are dying for more traffic.  "Let us leave these flyers lying about, and we can give you a reference to our membership -- your logo on the back of our membership card if you want to offer a little discount to people who show it."

I think the Strat has some of our flyers and whatnot. I'm not exactly sure what the deal is. Much of our exposure has to do with going out and meeting people at local cons, and letting them know about it.

In 2002, I was pretty sure that there were almost zero gamers in New York City. They just weren't anywhere to be found. Since the establishment of nerdnyc, they're crawling out of the woodwork. They've always been here, but it was much harder to find each other.

Another especially important note: nerdnyc is a community FIRST. It's not about the gaming. The gaming is a happy thing that happens between friends. But the important thing is that we know and like each other, go out to movies together, catch dinner and lunch together, celebrate our birthdays together, etc. I think this is the reason it works so exceptionally well. I've recommended to some of the founders that they put together a con panel about building communities like this. I'll have to mention it to them again.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Josh Roby on December 14, 2005, 01:45:32 PM
I hear you about the community thing.  Who are the founders, exactly?  Do they have a nice, public email address or other means of contacting them that I can get ahold of (dunno if webmaster@nerdnyc.com goes to a person or gets dumped in a mailbox bin)?


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: jenskot on December 14, 2005, 02:24:00 PM
My email is john@nerdnyc.com. Although I'm happy to discuss any details publicly on this thread. Work is a bit insane at the moment but I will try to post more in the next 2-3 days. This topic is very dear to me and it would greatly please me to see you all succeed in similar efforts.

Rock,
John


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Marhault on December 15, 2005, 05:13:14 AM
I'm a member of the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society, which operates much like this.  It's a non-profit organization, embership dues are reasonable and pay for rent and so on.  We also organize a mini-convention every year, and participate in Origins.  It's been running for almost ten years, and has around 100 members.

Obviously, the model can work, and I bet an RPG version would do just as well.  The older members might even be able to give some suggestions on how to go about setting something like this up, especially in this area.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on December 15, 2005, 07:37:07 AM
I'm trying real hard to do this here in North Carolina, starting with a Meetup list (http://roleplayers.meetup.com/315/). When I lived in Seattle, Alan Barclay and I started what was, for a time, the best damn game club I've ever seen. We weren't giant, but we had 10-20 people come out every Monday night to play RPGs.

Replicating that elsewhere's been difficult, but I think this one's going to take off. I'm having our first Monthly Game Day Sunday, where we'll be playing Otherkind and Burning Wheel.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Iskander on December 15, 2005, 07:48:03 AM
I think Thor is right: one of the cohesive factors of nerdNYC is that it's not just a gaming club. RPGs are what bring many people to forum, and keep some people coming back, but it's all the other stuff that has created a genuine community. There's a friendly (if basically implicit) acknowledgement that the community enjoys a lot of different play: from boardgaming through classic illusion to bleeding edge playtesting, and that some of the nerds just aren't gaming nerds: There's room for the punk vegan chefs as much as the Polaris junkies (not that the two groups are necessarily disjunct).

If you're trying to set up a local gaming community, leaven the gaming with the yeasty goodness of social events, movie trips, music discussion and politics.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: jenskot on December 15, 2005, 09:12:48 AM
Hi all,

I'm not sure what specific information would be most valuable to you so I will throw out as much as I can now and answer any specific questions as they come up.

Nerdnyc started as a venture with for profit goals of opening a nerd bar centered around gaming. But there are better ways to make money with less effort. Similar ventures I've observed focus on RPGs to start but quickly switch the focus elsewhere as monetary issues pile up. And most of the gamers in our community do not drink alcohol :) So the nerd bar concept died. But the community that nerdnyc's founders started to build kept growing. Myself and a few others jumped in to help organize, converted nerdnyc into a not for profit organization, and turned the focus completely onto the needs of the community first.

At the moment, nerdnyc offers:

Gotham Gaming Guild.
http://www.nerdnyc.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=20
3 seasons a year.
7 four hour sessions a season.
8+ RPGs changing every season
45 members.
6 who haven't played RPGs for 10+ years.
2-3 who never played RPGs before.
All GMs are hand picked and interviewed.
GGG3 Games: Burning Wheel (2), With Great Power, Unkown Armies, Shadowrun, D&D, WoD variant
GGG4 Games: DiV, Kill Puppies, MLwM, PTA, HeroQuest, Buffy, Cyberpunk, Over The Edge, Cthulhu
$50 per season (roughly $7 a session, GMs play for free).
The majority of the collected admission goes to renting 2 rooms from: http://www.440studios.com/
A small portion is saved for company expenses and future ventures (small cons, a more semi-permanent space)
No one is paid salary; everything is on a volunteer basis.

Recess
http://www.nerdnyc.com/recess/
4 times a year.
10 hours of gaming (soon to be 12).
70-100 members.
Many first time gamers and several children.
$12-15 admission (GMs who run 8hrs of games play for free).
The majority of the collected admission goes to renting a 2,000+ square foot room from:
http://www.brooklynx.org/bricstudio/ or http://www.gaycenter.org/
A small portion is saved for company expenses and future ventures (small cons, a more semi-permanent space)
No one is paid salary; everything is on a volunteer basis.

We sell T-Shirts through Indie Press Revolution:
http://www.indiepressrevolution.com/products.php?publisherLink=sloeBrownWolf

And on occasion we organize board & card game nights:
http://www.nerdnyc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=19433

Eventually we would like to collect quarterly admission to rent an apartment or commercial space with room for 3-4 tables. But there are many obstacles and issues with this. Many martial arts schools are having similar issues. It makes more sense for them to rent studio space on an hour basis than to shell out for monthly rent. Ultimately, as long as we have volunteers, we are going to do whatever the majority of our member base wants. There is more information on the issues with renting space on a monthly basis here:
http://www.nerdnyc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11273
http://www.nerdnyc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=19121

How we got here:

We didn't focus on gaming. We focused on getting people together any way possible. We started by finding 3 already established small groups of gamers. Then we exchanged players and GMs. All of a sudden you have a member base of 18 people. Just by merging 3 groups. Then we focused on the social aspects. Celebrated birthdays together. Went to the movies together. Started converting member's significant others into gamers. Have parties. Spend new years together. Picnics. Paintball. And much more. We created T-Shirts and business cards so we could spread the word. We went to local cons and had nerdnyc sponsored games as well as booths selling indy games. We started Recess. Then we started the Gotham Gaming Guild. We are starting to partner up with the local gaming stores. I'm over simplifying. But we focused on hanging out and being social. Gaming is itself social and was easy to integrate into all this. We have 600 registered users on our message boards. Realistically, probably only 200 actually read the website. And only 30-40 are active on a daily basis, closer to 80 on a monthly basis. We're striving for a real community. I've met my future wife through nerdnyc. For me, gaming has always been about friends. We're trying to stay focused on that.

Our biggest problem is organization. In our age group (early 20s to early 40s) people are getting busier and busier. Getting married, starting carriers, having children. You can't rely on certain people too long. You have to spread the work. That's our next step. Becoming better at delegating responsibility. I feel we are really only doing 10% of what is possible. I'm very excited to see what the other 90% looks like :)


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Josh Roby on December 15, 2005, 09:28:19 AM
John, I don't see much apparent moderation on your bulliten boards.  Is your membership really that well-behaved -- a side effect, perhaps, of many or most of them knowing each other?


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Thor Olavsrud on December 15, 2005, 09:35:30 AM
John, I don't see much apparent moderation on your bulliten boards.  Is your membership really that well-behaved -- a side effect, perhaps, of many or most of them knowing each other?

Most of us are very well-behaved. Although the politics boards get out of hand every once in a while. I believe that this is because most of us know each other on a face to face basis. It's a lot harder to be an asshole to someone when they're more than just a screen name.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: jenskot on December 15, 2005, 09:42:19 AM
John, I don't see much apparent moderation on your bulliten boards.  Is your membership really that well-behaved -- a side effect, perhaps, of many or most of them knowing each other?

Most of us are very well-behaved. Although the politics boards get out of hand every once in a while. I believe that this is because most of us know each other on a face to face basis. It's a lot harder to be an asshole to someone when they're more than just a screen name.

What Thor said (you will probably see me say that a lot, hahaha). Sometimes things get out of hand but we try to keep moderation to a minimum. We also self moderate in a way. If someone comes in who isn't part of the community and starts trouble, no moderation is needed, the community often takes care of it. Things could definitely be better. And more friendly for newcomers.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 15, 2005, 09:53:05 AM
This is very encouraging. Now, New York City has a population some 200 times the local area here, but because of the five colleges here (Hampshire, UMASS, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Amherst), there are a lot of graduates who stay around, which is a gamerful and mature group.

This is a lot to digest. Thanks.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Josh Roby on December 15, 2005, 10:17:55 AM
Yeah, and we have the same sized population, just spread out over four times the area out here.  I'm trying to figure how to make such a thing work for LA/SoCal.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: Chris Geisel on December 15, 2005, 11:32:55 AM
It's a lot harder to be an asshole to someone when they're more than just a screen name.

LOL! I think what Thor means is it's a lot harder to be an asshole to someone for very long, if they're more than just a screen name. But it's easy to be a dick for a couple of posts or so. :)

Incidentally, I moved to Vancouver from NY last year and was all about trying to start the first nerd.franchise out here. I spoke to a bunch of the folks I game with in Vancouver and the idea never really got any traction. I haven't given up, but one of the main reasons it works in NY so very, very well (besides the herculean efforts of Jenskot and Co, that is) is that in NY, people live in shoebox sized apartments, where having a group of 4-8 people over is a big deal.

Here in Vancouver, apartments are bigger, plenty of people live in actual houses. For the NY crowd, houses are like several connected apartments, but inhabited by one person or family. I know, I didn't believe it until I saw it either. :) So anyway, people don't feel the burning desire to pay for a large space to game in, because they already have one.

Also, and this I don't know why, but when I told people that GGG is about $50 for 8 sessions, they looked at me like I had two heads. Which might have something to do with the fact that the cost of living is much lower here, and also might be because there are about five local game stores, all of which run regular game days for free. However, I will say this, of the few game days I've been to, none of them have 1/10th of the energy of GGG. There are also three local cons per year, and those do have the energy of a GGG.

So what am I getting at? It might not work if you live somewhere that people have basements and such for gaming. I still haven't given up though. I would love to get a vibrant community of nerds together. And the thought of some kind of old skool social club, replete with pub food, beers and gaming... wow. That would rock.


Title: Re: Sky pie in the form of gaming clubs and community centers
Post by: nerdnyc on December 15, 2005, 02:02:45 PM
Yeah, we should do a workshop at cons about this topic. I'll grab John and we'll set something up. Maybe for ICON.

John said it all. I sent this in an email to Joshua, but I figured I'd post it here too:

So, I feel like I'm restating what John said, but:

1. Make a site w/ a message board. One of the other founders is a programmer and he set-up our phpBB. I'm a web designer and I got a great illustrator (Jordan Worley) to make our flaming d20 logo. I think having a professional-looking site really help establish our credibility.

2. Get your friends on-board. Alot of the early NerdNYC people weren't big gamers, but were nerdy and my friends. Make some areas that are more accessable to everyone (TV, Movies, Food). We even have some hidden areas on the site that social circles use to organize their games and have conversations that others don't need to know about. John was totally right that we started as 3 gaming groups; his, mine and Luke Crane's. THe group of friends is really important for setting the tone. As you can see nerdnyc is a pretty chill environ. We have little fighting and even less moderation. Make sure you keep up the community theme or it will turn into a regional rpgnet. I can't stress how important this is.

3. Print up some biz cards or postcards and hit up the cons. I made up some real simple biz cards that had out logo, web address and a catch phrase(get your nerd on, mint-quality nerds, etc) and got them printed at 4over4.com. These were great. I'd work the table and sell shirts, but also I'd get into conversations with gamers and gave them our card. Some of the most active people on nerdnyc came from the area cons(Uber, ICON, Dexcon, etc).

4. Find some cheap rental space and host events. Make sure you make a little more than enough to cover costs. This will pay for hosting and the couple times that no-one shows up or you forget to cancel the space.

5. Start looking inside the community for people who are willing to help. You're going to have to do everyhting at first, but it wears thin after a while. I would have totally dropped the ball if John and Tim hadn't gotten more involved and made some of my dreams a reality.

6. We'll see.