Gamers enjoy rare opportunity to gather as one

Thursday, September 6, 2018
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Chris Deverell photos

Above: Tyrel Schock (standing, right) guides players through the intricacies of a table-top board game during the Gathering of the Gamers. While the gaming community in Glendive is sizeable, Schock said, it has often had difficulty getting access to facilities and businesses catered to their interests.

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Right: Zebeck Iwen paints a figurine during the second annual Gathering of the Gamers on Sept. 2. The event drew a crowd of roughly 200 people over two days, according to organizers, bringing together a passionate community that is often split into smaller groups.

The second annual Gathering of the Gamers event took over Glendive’s Moose Lodge hall during the labor day weekend, transforming the normally reserved interior hall into a world beyond imagination for its attendees.

The brainchild of husband and wife duo Julia and Chris Neeves, along with several other community members, the Gathering of the Gamers was born last year out of a need for an event space for tabletop gamers, Julia said.

More importantly, she emphasized, was that it was also a way for community members, especially younger kids, to get out from behind computer and television screens and have interactions with one another in person.

“The whole point of it is to make it so that people can come out, get together and network, because in Glendive we don’t have a place to do this,” Neves said.

Contrary to popular misconception that tabletop gamers are an anti-social breed, the Gathering drew nearly 200 participants by Neves’ estimates, attracting locals, as well as people from as far away as Sidney, Circle, Billings and even Great Falls.

To Neves, the total numbers of attendees wasn’t much of a surprise, but how far they traveled certainly was, she said.

“I am surprised at the scale and how far people are willing to travel,” Neves said. “But I’m not surprised at the interest in it.”

Neves, who also co-founded the Badlands Dungeons and Dragons group, said that entertainment space has long been a rare commodity in Glendive, but noted that as interest in tabletop games such as D&D and Magic: The Gathering have grown, so has the need for a place to host the events and players.

Most players, Neves included, start out at home, or in the basement of a friend’s house where there’s enough room for maybe a handful of people. Such was her case, as her home quickly became a go-to spot for people she and her husband played with, along with friends her son brought over.

Pretty soon the group of players was outgrowing all available space, prompting Neves and the group to look for other options. Skillz Entertainment became a viable option for a period of time, but as the business recently announced via Facebook that it will be closing its Merrill Avenue doors, gamers will soon again be left out in the cold.

Which is why events such as the Gathering of the Gamers are so important to communities, local resident and participant Tyrel Schock said.

Gamers will always play and thrive, even if it means that they’ll have to return for some time to playing at home in smaller groups, Schock said. But for him, the closing of a business like Skillz is not only detrimental for gamers, but for a community as a whole as well.

“It’s hard in Glendive, I wish there were more people going out and supporting businesses,” Schock said. “But entertainment is all what you make of it, so if that means playing at home, we’ll keep playing.”

It’s also not surprising to Schock that the gathering was so well attended, as he said that while gaming is typically done in smaller groups in places like Glendive, there has always been a demand for entertainment options, especially in a place like Glendive.

Jenni Robertson, who traveled down from Great Falls with Kelly’s Komix, said that the importance of the social aspect of tabletop gaming couldn’t be overemphasized, and that she and her husband had used it in the past to help returning military service members with re-socializing.

“It’s about finding that positive outlet, rather than turning to violence or drinking,” Robertson said. “And gaming and figure painting, it all does that.”

Indeed, the social aspect was perhaps the most important part of the event for Neves, who pointed out across the hall gamers and people of all backgrounds coming together to socialize, putting aside differences in favor of a shared passion.

“You have experts and novices, you have kids teaching adults, everyone is on the same playing field,” Neves said. “It’s fantastic to get this type of community.”

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“It is hard here in Glendive; I wish there were more people going out and supporting businesses. But entertainment is all what you make of it, so if that means playing at home, we’ll keep playing,”
Tyrel Schock, Gathering of the Gamers participant