WMU gaming convention gives 'social gaming' a new meaning

Feb 4, 2013

Members of the Western Michigan Gamers Guild playing Magic: The Gathering.
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

Simple board games and card games have brought people together for centuries. This weekend, the Marmalade Dog gaming convention at WMU will bring about 300 people from around the country together to play table-top games.

The event is put on by the Western Michigan Gamers Guild. Every Friday night, members set up camp at the Bernhard Center to play games like Magic: The Gathering—a trading card game in which players are wizards who battle against each other.

Guild President Michael Rux says there will be a lot of role playing games at Marmalade Dog like Dungeons and Dragons and ARTEMIS—a Star Trek simulation you play by hooking a few computers together. But even if you’re not into RPGs, Rux says there will likely be a game there for you.

“Anything you could think of in a table-top setting will most likely be represented there,” he says.

But why play table-top games when video games have become as interactive and complex as ever?

“In a video game, you’re limited to what the game program allows you to do,” says Gamers Guild member Joe Celano, moments before the guild starts a game of Dungeons and Dragons. “In a table-top game like this, it’s improvisation all over the place. You can improvise stuff and do just about anything.”

In Dungeons and Dragons, you create your own character and control almost everything it does, from fighting to dialogue. Gamer Brandon Herman says games like this are much more social than so-called ‘social games’ you can play with friends—or even strangers—online.

“But they don’t have the interactivity like this,” says Herman. “Like W.O.W (World of Warcraft), you kind of do your own thing and stuff like that. But in this it’s like his character and my character are best friends and we’re going to go do something crazy together. You know what I mean? You can create relations between the characters in game and you can just do things together.”

Guild President Michael Rux agrees:

“I think it’s important to make a distinction between the nomer ‘social gaming,’ where people get on Farmville and say ‘Oh, help my farm. And then you do clicks for like—I don’t know how long, I’ve never done it myself—And then ‘Oh this is social because I’m helping my friends.’ And seeing someone face-to-face and sharing a gaming experience,” he says. “I think those are two different things. There’s ‘social gaming’ and social gaming.”

Past Marmalade Dog conventions had video games too, but Rux says they just weren’t that popular. However, gamers at this year’s convention can fight each other inside the Battletech pods.

“A side of it slides open and you get inside and you’re in a cockpit of a mech, a mech warrior—like a giant robotic suit,” says Rux.

But no matter how you game, Rux has this advice: 

“Try it, try something new. Try something new every day. Even if that’s coming in and rolling some dice, because you never know what you’re going to be into until you try it.”

The Marmalade Dog Gaming Convention will be held this weekend at the Bernhard Center on Western Michigan University’s campus.