A Gateway to Gaming

BY AMBER MULLEN FOR THE ASHLAND DAILY PRESS – Apr 7, 2014

Have you ever considered that Monopoly or Scrabble may be your “gateway game” to an undiscovered world of new and international board games? According to avid game lover Maria Gaycheck mainstream board games are “games that just encourage people to play even more games.”

On Saturday, Gaycheck, Jennifer Flo and Wendy Moore held the inaugural International TableTop Day for the Chequamegon Bay 2014 in the basement of the Saron Lutheran Church as a way to introduce the community to new and internationally acclaimed board games. The goal of International TableTop Day is to unite board game lovers from across the globe by playing cooperative, micro and solitaire games on the same day.

“Many people don’t know what International TableTop day is. It’s very new. When they find out they usually say ‘I would go to that,’” Gaycheck said.

Six people from the Chequamegon Bay region attended the event. Organizers of the event attribute low turnout to a lack of community awareness about International TableTop Day. Regardless of the low attendance, Gaycheck dubbed the event a success.

“Even one-thousandth of the population is a good turnout,” Gaycheck said. Organizers of the event suggest tabletop gaming has positive social and cognitive benefits for all ages. Game play requires people to communicate effectively, work together as a team and strategically plan moves. Gaycheck discovered her passion for board games in college and uses them as a way to socialize and unwind from the pressures of daily life with friends and family.

“There are very few things in this world that we can share with the community. We all just have to worry about day-to-day living…Gaming is the best form of escapism and you can be social,” Gaycheck said.

For Ashland resident Alex Amundson the International TableTop Day for the Chequamegon Bay gave him the opportunity to meet other people who enjoy playing board games as much as he does. According to Amundson, the United States “is not exactly a board game culture.” He said game play in countries such as Germany is much more prominent, making it easier to find people with similar interests.

“In Germany people go out to the pub, play a board game, and just socialize. Over here (in the United States) it’s just not like that,” Amundson said.

Amundson and Gaycheck agree that board games are much more social than video games and are grateful to see them “making a comeback in the community.” Gaycheck will be hosting game nights at the Vaughn Public Library in Ashland starting as early as May as a way to extend the overall idea of International TableTop Day.

The tables at Saron Lutheran Church were packed with numerous types of board games including cooperative, micro and solitaire games. Each game was displayed for attendees to test out. Flo and Moore agree that people’s personalities and interests determine which types of games they like to play.

Cooperative board games encourage players to work together instead of compete against one another. Players must unite to achieve specified goals and either win or lose as a team.

“These (cooperative games) are so fun to lose because you are thinking it through, playing it through, and working as a team. Just by playing you have already won the game,” Gaycheck said.

Micro games have very few components and are designed to be played within minutes. Moore uses micro games such as Zombie Dice, Love Letter and Timeline when she dines out with her family as way to pass the time.

Solitaire games are games that can be played individually. According to Gaycheck, many games can be adapted for individual play. All of the games that were on display at the event can be purchased through Ashland Fun and Games.

Organizers of the event plan on hosting International TableTop Day game play and demonstrations in Ashland indefinitely. A date for the 2015 TableTop Day has not yet been set and it does not occur on the same day each year.

“People don’t realize it is a big deal,” Gaycheck said.

Last year, International TableTop Day 2013 had a reported 3,123 gaming events in 64 countries. More information about International TableTop Day can be found at www.tabletopday.com.