Game players play

August 24, 2009

At this year’s Gen Con, an annual convention for tabletop game players, there was a fire alarm which resulted in the evacuation of the convention center.
Gamer Nate Price tells a story about the evacuation.

Naturally, the herd of gamers occupying the room simply stared in stunned silence for solid thirty seconds before reluctantly heading to the exits. I think Brian David-Marshall put it best when he told me his story. He had just cracked open the second pack in a draft when the alarm started going off. He glanced around the table, saw that no one was really making a strong move to leave, and then offered a solution. “Do we all agree that we would rather burn to death than have to put this on hold and come back to it?” When everyone else nodded, he just laughed and went back to making his pick.

Okay, these guys are pretty serious about their game. They are competing for a major prize, though. But what about everyone else?

I [Nate Price], on the other hand, had the safety of my friends to think about, plus I still wasn’t really too sure what was going on. So, like a pig to the slaughterhouse, I joined the great gamer exodus. Upon getting outside and watching fire engine after fire engine race down the street to the Convention Center, I realized there was a growing congregation of people at one of the entrances. […]

After milling about for a bit, I heard some veiled whispering coming from behind me. All of a sudden, there was a gasp of air, like an airlock shooting open, followed by the bellowing voices of well over a hundred gamers.

“RED ROVER, RED ROVER, SEND TOP-HAT GUY OVER,” came the cry!

The people on the other side of the street looked confused. That is, until a guy with savage muttonchops and a dashing top hat went sprinting across a four-lane street to join our side. A massive cheer erupted. After about thirty seconds without another response, the chorus yelled, “YOUR TURN, YOUR TURN!”

Silence.

Unwilling to let the game die, the crowd turned once more and screamed, “RED ROVER, RED ROVER, SEND STEAMPUNK GIRL OVER!”

Within ten seconds, we had a cute little steampunk girl dodging traffic on the way to our side. Apparently shaken by the loss of their steampunk girl, the north side of the street erupted with rage, set on taking one of our most precious resources: Tie-Died Shirt Guy. For three or four more rotations, the epic game of Red Rover across Maryland Street raged on. Eventually, we were given the all clear to reenter. With one more guttural bellow, our newly bolstered forces called out for the end: “RED ROVER, RED ROVER, SEND EVERYONE OVER!” And with that sign of truce, the Great Red Rover Standoff came to a peaceful resolution. And best of all, no one got hurt.

Play is a skill and a mindset that must be cultivated in order to be enjoyed. In Indianapolis a group of adults, all of whom play games as their primary leisure activity, spontaneously played together.

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