As six students sat around a table in the Nontraditional Student Center, a Western high noon drama unfolded between them.
Ian Carmichael, Weber State University custodian and AV lead, eyed the cards in his hand, coming to a decision. A number of cards already sat in front of him, showing off the trappings of a classic Western. He set down a card labeled “Bang!” He pointed across the table at another student and announced, “I shoot the sheriff.”
This is a typical Friday meeting of the WSU Gaming Commission, a student club celebrating tabletop board games. Last week the club played Bang, a card game that simulates a classic Western showdown.
The club meets every Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the Nontraditional Student Center, Room 322 of the Shepherd Union Building. It also meets Tuesdays at noon in the Student Involvement & Leadership Office, Room 326 of Shepherd Union.
Tuesday meetings are reserved for exploring new games, with club members teaching gaming strategies and discussing what makes a good game. Friday meetings are more casual, when members come to play their favorite games and perhaps try out new games in a friendly setting.
Russell Reeder, the club president, said he welcomes all to the meetings, no invitation required. After someone attends three times, he or she is officially part of the club.
The club was founded last fall, as a result of earlier discussions between Reeder and Noel Wilkinson, the club’s faculty adviser.
“Noel and I talked a lot about board games,” Reeder said. “We figured this would be the best use of our time, to help other people like board games.”
Tabletop gaming isn’t just Monopoly and Risk, Reeder said, referring to games infamous for long play times and frustration.
“I think many people have had terrible or poor experiences with gaming,” Reeder said. “This gives us a chance to show other people the fun that can be had in gaming.”
The club is trying to build a library of good games, showcasing the breadth of the genre. Eventually, Reeder said, he wants a large enough collection to allow people to borrow games for their own use.
“There’s something to be said about the interpersonal communications skills that you learn,” Wilkinson said. “There’s lots of evidence of teachers in elementary schools using games to help their kids be better and improve in their scholastic abilities.”
One study conducted in 2009 at Carnegie Mellon University found that preschoolers who played board games at school showed a dramatic increase in mathematical ability compared to students taught similar math concepts without playing a game.
Wilkinson also talked about the benefit of friends or family gathering to play a game.
“It’s kind of like being able to sit down and eat dinner together,” he said. “For those who can’t eat dinner together, sit down and play a game together. It will have the same effect.”
Carmichael, a newer member of the club, said gaming has benefited his life, allowing him to be more social with friends and family. “I always really enjoy being able to play a game, because it’s a way for me to interact with them, and not feel the pressure to be social when I’m maybe not that comfortable with it.”
The club’s events coming up this semester include participation in SaltCon, a tabletop gaming convention being held March 28-30 this year in Layton, and a local celebration of board games on International Tabletop Day, an event created by Internet personalities Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day and sponsored by their popular YouTube channel, Geek and Sundry.
International Tabletop Day is April 5, but the club is holding its activities on Friday, April 4 to better accommodate college students’ schedules.
More information about the WSU Gaming Commission is available on its Facebook and Google Plus pages. Those interested in joining can also email Wilkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.