Creative Gaming Club caters to many types of people

by Hank Leukart | 5/6/98 5:00am

If the Creative Gaming Club has one thing to teach Dartmouth students, it is that the card game bridge is not only for old people, chess is not just for geeks and role-playing games can be played by women.

Well, almost. Although President Alik Widge '99 said the club "is diverging from a bunch of complete and total losers sitting around a table at night," he also said "very few people do it casually; you either have little to do with gaming, or you become involved and it becomes one of your major social interests."

According to Treasurer Paul Nicklas '01, the club acts as a clearinghouse for students to meet others interested in gaming -- any type of gaming. Nicklas said the club meetings usually only attract about 10 people, because most members do their gaming outside of meetings.

The club, which has about 70 members, allows Dartmouth students to explore a variety of gaming interests from typical card games like bridge to the eclectic "Vampire: The Masquerade" role-playing game. Widge said the club focuses primarily on role-playing and war games.

"A lot of what gaming is, is doing something pretty fun with a bunch of friends," Nicklas said. "It really depends on who you do it with."

According to Nicklas, in a role-playing game, characters assume the part of a character in the game -- usually with the characteristics of magician, criminal or warrior. Then, players interact with each other in a contrived world, controlled by a person known as the "Gamemaster."

In war games, players create armies, write moves on a piece of paper and then move their armies accordingly. According to Widge, war games are so strategically accurate that the head of the College Army ROTC program, Captain Paul Lehto, is on the Creative Gaming mailing list and "uses the games as part of his training exercise."

Games can last only a few hours or for months at a time. According to role-playing gamer Lisa Pogoda '98, because games can be so lengthy, the College's year-round Dartmouth Plan sometimes gets in the way.

Also, some role-playing can be played as "live action." In live action role-playing (LARP), players physically walk around and interact with other characters. Characters determine the winner of battles by using the game "Rock, Paper, Scissors" in place of dice.

Pogoda said she has participated in this type of role-playing at organized conferences, but it is rarely played at the College. According to Widge, this is because LARP is difficult to organize.

"LARP is difficult to run and run properly," Widge said. "You need to get yourself a hall, you need to decorate it, and lay out certain areas -- it is sufficient work that no one who is taking classes has time for."

According to club officer Joe McIntyre '01, some of the most popular role-playing games include "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons," "Gurps," "Vampire: The Masquerade," "Cyberpunk" and "Shadowrun."

All of these games are variations on a generic role-playing theme, and many use different methods of determining the skills and motivations of the characters involved. Players also enjoy card games such as "Magic: The Gathering."

Players are not only Computer Science majors or students who hide in their basements. For example, Nicklas spends more time with other activities than gaming. He participates in many campus activities including Tai Kwon Do, fencing, intramural ice hockey and softball and the Dartmouth Community Mediation Center.

Additionally, McIntyre also is very involved in campus happenings; he captained an intramural ice hockey team last term and stays active in Aquinas House.

Nicklas said some members are not as well-rounded as him, but he does not think anyone in the club spends all of their time at the College role-playing.

"It does attract a fair number of intellectual people -- geeks, nerds, that type of thing -- but I wouldn't say that that's everyone," he said. "I wouldn't classify any of us as geeks."

Nicklas also said there are many more men involved in the role-playing than women, but women still participate. Widge said, "The hobby as a whole definitely sees more men in it."

Pogoda, who became involved in role-playing due to her brother's influence, said that being a female and involved in role-playing is not typical.

"It is an issue because, traditionally, it is male," she said. "It's just that women are not exposed to it as much."

Pogoda said women traditionally become involved by being recruited by a friend. She said most of her friends have become involved in role-playing because of her influence.

In role-playing, Pogoda explained that most players choose characters based on their own sex, and it is rare that men will play women and vice versa. She said a character's sex in a game does not usually have much of an impact.

"Usually, you will not have sexual situations with other characters," she said. "You can if you want to, but usually you're playing with your friends; it's just too weird."

Pogoda is heavily involved in role-playing, but still finds time to participate in the Glee Club, sing in student productions and act as an officer in Hillel.

Although the club receives funding from Committee On Student Organizations, McIntyre said the club does not require much money because most of the games used are owned already by College students.

The club has a library of books about their various games, but most are donations from students who no longer need them.