It’s Called Community

           There is no better feeling than being welcomed and accepted by your peers. When you find a place, a home, filled with people who share your interests and welcome you as part of their family, it’s unparalleled serenity. Creating this atmosphere is a difficult task not many people are willing to undertake. However, any up-and-coming game must have “community” as one of the foundational pillars of its design and development. This is the story of my experience developing board game communities.

           When I first moved to New York City I was just getting into board and card games, and I wanted to find other people to play with. I was lucky enough to meet someone who introduced me to a much larger local online community. He organized local meetups for anyone looking to make new friends and get involved helping with small businesses and the Boys and Girls Club of NY. I saw this as a great opportunity to start organizing board game meet-ups. At first, they were small, only about 5–8 people. But after several months they were as large as 35 people! I was both proud that I was able to bring these people together and overjoyed at all the interest people had in this niche hobby. Then two things happened, one great and one terrible. The venue we would frequent was closing down and we would need to find a new place to organize our events. This left all of us scrambling to try to help the venue that had supported our board game community for so many months as well as find a suitable replacement when the inevitable closing happened. Simultaneously we discovered a TOTALLY SEPARATE board game group! The two groups merged and immediately bonded over their shared love for games. So while our favorite bar went out of business we were able to continue playing AND added a host of new people to our board game family in the process.          

           Reaching out that first time was a bit scary, but when people reacted positively and wanted to play games it showed me how the best way to find people who share your interests is to go searching. I wouldn’t have made these friends without first putting myself out there a little bit.

           Some years later, a university friend invited me to PAX East in Boston. This was in March of 2020, right before everything shut down for COVID. He said he wanted to get into Magic the Gathering and needed someone to learn and play with. Little did I know that it would sink its hooks deep into me so intensely. I took this newfound interest and did the only thing I knew how to do: find a bunch of people who also like it and start organizing events. Now this was during the height of COVID, in NYC, during the summer of 2020, when there was very little information and everyone was afraid to leave their house/apartment. After asking around and making some new friends we decided to set a date for our first draft. With extreme caution and a shared need for socialization we started doing MTG drafts at least once a month. It was a great way to get out of our apartments and be social in an increasingly uncommon face-to-face setting. It was also nice that the group was extremely conscientious and diligent about testing and reporting positive COVID cases. I became great friends with these people and continue to grow this MTG drafting community to this day. Even during a nationwide lockdown people still wanted to be social and get together to play a few rounds.

           It was through one of these communities that I was introduced to Gem Blenders. The same friend who invited me to PAX and got me into Magic the Gathering discovered them at a local game designer convention called PLAY NYC. After he taught me, we played a few rounds and I was hooked. I decided to get some cards of my own and start making decks and trying to be active on the Discord. Considering Gem Blenders had their first successful Kickstarter in 2020 during the height of COVID demonstrates how strong and passionate the community is about this fantastic game. When people had to stay indoors, they ramped up online play with official mods for common card game programs like Tabletop Simulator. Today, the online products are supported so well that entire tournaments have been played using them. Not even COVID could stop the Gem Blenders community from continuing to shuffle up to play a few games, only now it’s digital.

           The Gem Blenders community does a great job at uniting people from all backgrounds. Daily discourse is always interesting, and people have an infinite number of great ideas. There are conversations about new card ideas, strategies, and fun synergies. I believe an indicator of a strong community is when people can disagree but the conversation stays civilized and productive. That is something Gem Blenders has in spades! They also host in-person events at a local venue which always brings people together for some great in-person games. This kind of grassroots scene makes for some of the strongest friendships.

           Creating this sense of community and friendship was an incredible experience that I hope everyone participates in at some point in their lives. Making sure everyone is welcome and invited are two of the most important social skills I have learned, and I hope to continue to put them to good use in the Gem Blenders family. The Gem Blenders community is one of fun, jokes, and friendly competition. Everyone wants to see each other succeed and have a good time in the process. I look forward to growing the game and the community.

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