To be quite honest, most of my best ideas start out on a negative. Normally they are problems or things I can’t stand. I tend to hate something to the point where I feel the need to act rather than simply criticise or put it behind me.

Which brings us to this post in 2011 and my new-found resolution. But what came before that? It started with my problem with gaming organisation, which seemed to develop over time between 2000 and 2009…

I love LARPers, role-players and gamers on the whole. They’re interesting, witty and tend to be very creative. So much so that if you put a group of gamers in a room long enough, you will find as many games as there are players willing to take part in them, mostly because people want to see their own ideas, their own imagination realised. I even know some Dungeon Masters, Narrators, Storytellers – whatever you wanna call them – who make multiple games and task themselves with a continuing stream of unfinished projects, much to my frustration when I want to conclude the first game we started years back.

For me the number of games was definitely not the problem and, from what I could tell, geek chic was becoming increasingly popular. With comic books now well into mainstream culture, card games breaking through to the young and touching new boundaries with the Internet as a way to bring collectors together and role-playing games very close behind and becoming almost inter-related to MMORPGs and other computer games, I don’t think player numbers are the problem either.

What then could drive me to the depths of negativity to actually want to change how I game, how people actually get together and play? It’s just a game, isn’t it? Gaming being my ‘how’ of choice to escape from a world, which, from time to time seems to have a majority that thinks getting wasted on drink and drugs is the ideal solution. No, for me, gaming is the only solution for a true escapist.

For me the problem is local.

Despite being abroad, I hear from multiple folks from back home about gaming groups shrinking, disbanding or gamers simply unable to find a game. If it’s not player numbers or the will to run games, then what is the root of the problem? What could be destroying my precious escapism and creative outlet when I see thriving gaming scenes in England and America.

I realised the answer when a LARPing friend of mine criticised an idea for a recruitment drive of mine when I tried to start up a gaming club in my hometown 2 years ago. As a city-dwelling role-player he pointed to the people in my local countryside area as the issue: “You’ll never get them to stop playing World of Warcraft.”

Although initially it seemed harsh, he was right. Out in the country, player numbers are lower and connectivity to other gamers is low. Then of course there’s the politics that a small player base brings – some players become big fish in small ponds, even to the point where they boss other players around and dictate what games are played in the clique! Meanwhile other more conservative players in the group want for something different to whatever the diminished player base is offering but must patiently wait their turn instead or leave disgruntled, either permanently from the gaming scene or back onto online gaming.

As a result, the Internet and popular games like World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs took over when players couldn’t get the interaction they wanted – particularly in a numerically small country like Scotland where the overall number of gamers is smaller and get-togethers are reduced by crappy public transport. Naturally, Scottish gamers turned to technology as a substitute when they couldn’t find like-minded groups.

In return, rather than offering creativity, these games turned potential gamers into grinding munchkins with little other role in life than to live in their parents spare rooms and get kit for their level 80 (what are we up to now, level 90?) paladins. It made me want to Leroy Jenkins all the way into the city to get away from it all.

So I did. In 2002 I moved to Glasgow for university and my world opened up. My gaming and roleplaying interaction got better as I met new groups and societies of like-minded people.

However, since 2005, I couldn’t help but feel that the LARP and card-playing groups I joined there had started to diminish and languish into little pools of big fish in small self-created ponds of gaming. Collectable card gaming now seems to revolve around Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon, attracting mostly young neds or competitive Magic the Gathering players who are friendly enough until the tournament scene forces them to be cut-throat and ruthless uber-assholes.

Meanwhile, Vampire LARPs waxed and waned depending on the internal politics of those groups, of which I was no small part of. I even tried scampering off to rubber-sword LARPs in Glasgow but found most rubber-sworders travelling down south to England for larger games with little regular local action besides experimental games and projects that didn’t quite take off permanently. It felt like the Scottish scene was dying before it ever got off the ground.

But what do I care? It’s 2011 and I’ve been living in exotic Japan for two years, right?

Well, no. Escapism is escapism wherever you are and I think it’s safe to say that everyone needs some form of it, none more so than here. As you may have guessed Japan is an entirely strange and foreign country with rigid manner systems that create a need to escape, which isn’t helped by a distinct lack of player base, mostly down to my inability to speak the lingo and widen my pool of players I can interact with.

That and doing something meaningful matters a lot to me. I recently redrafted my CV and amongst my proudest and most real achievements on there, sandwiched between my qualifications and my knowledge of Microsoft Excel was my experience in helping run and organise LARPs. It stood out on my computer screen like a lonely gamer at a work social function.

Even standard social networks create divides between gamers. If we’re not choosing one form of social media over another we’re ignoring them altogether to activities that seem more important than updating one another about who’s in what relationship and the number of sheep we can save in Farmville.

I decided recently that I needed to focus on fix the way in which gamers interact, which brings us back to the original problems of the local scene that I originally left in 2009.

Cue frustration… followed by hope.

I’ve decided I can bring gaming and gamers together. I know the problem, I know the solution, I just have to figure out the bit in between. There are too many people sitting behind computers with similar interests who just don’t know that role-playing is a possibility or LARPing could be the key to them losing the weight they gained during the festive season – running around a forest in a full suit of chain mail will do that for you after all.

I am now on the mission to find out as many comic book clubs gaming groups, LARPs and other geeky activities as possible. This will begin with research while I’m here in Japan – discovering what’s available where on the Scottish central belt. I will then continue to build up a pool of players when I arrive in Scotland who aren’t yet sure what’s available to them as gamers. Essentially, it’ll be a recruitment agency for gamers.

“And in the end we lie awake and we dream of making our escape”

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