Gaming Meetup Toolkit

After graduating from college, I’ve found myself without a local RPG group, which is a huge pain. (All those games, all those plots, and nothing to do!) Thus, I’ve spent a lot of time tracking down just how exactly to find some new players and local groups. Thanks to Web 2.0, there’s actually a great selection of resources to find local groups and players, making it much easier than it was… hell, back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, when the groups I played with were either people I knew, or from the tried-and-tested “bulletin board in the local store” method.

It’s an interesting development: gaming has a strong social stigma attached to it, yet it’s also a very social hobby, one where anti-social people tend to get pushed out of the herd. Thus it makes sense to have a strong social media/Web 2.0 presence. Sadly, we’re not there yet, but there are a number of steps in the right direction. (Note that I’m solely using these to look around my gaming area, which would be metro-Detroit, and everyone else’s experience will be different. Heck, I also tend to look around to see if there’s anyone remotely around my old West Michigan stomping ground, and usually nobody is.)

First up, NearbyGamers. This is a fantastic idea: everything revolves around a simple GoogleMaps plugin with little markers for all the registered users. There’s space for a quick bio, and the ability to list your favorite games and themes by way of tagging. (Talk about Web 2.0!) The downside? There’s only 12k members. Worldwide.

The more tech-friendly, slightly larger (15,000+ members), and more expansive site would be Pen & Paper Games. The differences are notable, like they’re going off yet another slice of Web 2.0: there’s a plethora of questions you can answer for your profile, such as favored group size, number of games/week, open hours, and the standard bio stuff. There’s a huge forum, and some blog-like aspects, and it’s all powered through the simple yet time-tested vBulletin engine, so while it doesn’t look bad, it looks a little scrunched. I’ve also noticed a ton of people are running online games with Skype or VTTs; I’ve done that before, and found sit-down tabletop games to have a much cooler atmosphere. (Partly because it’s a communal atmosphere, partly so I’m not stuck in the same room hot as my computer.)

Then, there’s always the tried and true Meetup site, with local/regionalized D&D groups. One of my friends used this to great extent, and managed to find some local English-speaking expat groups when he was in Asia. There’s no less than three D&D Meetups in my area, which encompasses most of the Metro-Detroit area (roughly the triangle of Ann Arbor to Flint to Windsor). They all have varying activity levels; I need to actually make an effort on my part to start actively looking for groups and players using them.

Also worth mentioning is Obsidian Portal. It’s more a Web 2.0 reference work for GMs and their campaigns, but there’s also a large “nearby games” function that shows where all the Portal campaigns are being run. It’s tied into Pen & Paper as part of the Lonely Gamers Network, and when I finally get a game going, I’ll definitely jump on this resource. Usually, my group’s started Wetpaint wikis to handle such things, and while Obsidian Portal is a little skimpier than the stand-alone ones, it’s nice to have everything tied into the other resources the site offers.

Lastly, there’s a bunch of other methods out there. Most publishers, RPGNet, and ENWorld have space on their forums for players/games meetups, which are always better than nothing. Having gamer friends in the area, or people you think you can drag into the hobby, is a step up. And there’s always the flyers and pegboard method: you can tell a good gaming shop from a bad one based on whether or not they have room for gamers to play and a “players/GMs looking for” bulletin board. In fact, there’s no real limit to the player-/game-finding resources; this site has a good overview.

So, which was the most useful site for finding a game? Couldn’t actually tell you, but I’m hoping to use these, along with any store bulletin boards I find, to shill for a game I’d like to run. The big downside to all of these is that they don’t appear to have much in the way of updates; most of the groups in my area have info from 2009 (NearbyGamers) or 2008 (Pen/Paper). My local Meetups are either a tad far away, or don’t have much going on (500+ members, only ~6 who show up to the meetups, and perhaps three times that who run games. Not that I’m helping this trend of entropy, mind you).

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