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Building Your Own Community

June 01, 2016

Humans are by nature social creatures. We self-group around any number of social, political, religious, or entertainment-related areas of our lives. Baptists, Democrats, Video Gamers, Foodies, Left Handed Basket Weavers; at our core, we simply want to be with people who understand us. With the explosion of the internet, and our increasing move into digital relationships, that in-person connection is more important than ever before. If you haven’t found that connection yet yourself, then perhaps this article will help you take the steps needed to start your own community.

Identify Your Interests

Everyone has a horror story about games of Monopoly or Risk that took 3 hours, or games of Scrabble with their grandparents. Board gaming has been around for thousands of years in various forms, but has been experiencing a renaissance in the past 2 decades. Modern board gaming has moved so far beyond its roots that it’s barely recognizable. Today’s board games are sleek works of art that offer intelligent choices, tons of strategy, and loads of replayability.

I played games growing up, but didn’t really get into board gaming as an adult until about 2-3 years ago. I got hooked, and big time. I started gaming a few times a month, and then I started looking for others who were like minded. It turns out that there are lots of us. Lots. I couldn’t find an existing group of people who met when I wanted, so I decided to start my own. The office manager at my company, Eventbrite, was cool enough to let me host my first game night after hours, and even paid for food and drinks and gave us $100 to spend on board games for the office (thanks Heather!!). I told some coworkers, and a few friends from around town, and that first night we had 15 people playing board games.

Gather Your Party

An interesting thing began to happen. What started off as 15 or so people playing games began to grow. It’s not like I did any marketing, it was strictly word of mouth. Attendees invited their significant others, told their coworkers, and their friends. At first I called it “Technology Game Night” because I want the tech companies hosting each event to be able to tell attendees about products, or services, or job postings which might be of interest to them. Over the next year Game Night grew from 15 people who were all involved in the tech industry, to nearly 50 people from all walks of life: brought together by their love of board gaming.

Over the following months people began to recognize each other, and look forward to seeing certain people on a regular, if infrequent, basis. A small contingent of us decided to use our interest in technology to our advantage. We began using a free (at the base level) service called Slack as a chat room. Instantly we were able to begin talking about games we had played, games we wanted to play, games we had heard about, and more. The chat room also grew from 20-30 people to over 100 people.

Meet Regularly

After those first few months, it was decided that Game Night was a great success and so I decided to do it regularly; the 3rd Thursday of the month. Once a month is infrequent enough that people don’t feel like you’re trying to monopolize your time, but often enough that you can start to build relationships between attendees.

I didn’t want to continue to take advantage of Eventbrite’s generosity for too long, so I started asking attendees if their companies would be interested in hosting. It was slow at first; Eventbrite hosted 4 of the first 6 nights, but little by little other companies expressed interest and were added to the schedule.

In some cases the person who made the decision to bring in Game Night was the same person who attended Game Night. In other cases an attendee worked for a month or more with their company’s decision makers before they persevered and we were allowed in. In all cases, the companies were excellent hosts, providing safe spaces to park and game, excellent accommodations, and wonderful food and drinks.

Make It Happen

Community is important. If you can find other people who share your interests, and have just a little bit of motivation then you can start a community of people who share YOUR interest.

About The Author

My name is Andy Matthews. I’m a husband to 1, father of 4, and a software engineer living in Nashville, TN. I love to cook, read books, and play board games with my friends and family. I also run a board gaming review website called Meeple Mountain.