WASHINGTON — Game Club is one of the more popular after-school activities at Washington Community High School.

The roughly 70 or so students and staff members in the club don’t play video games. They play board and role-playing tabletop games at their weekly 90-minute meetings in the high school library.

The board games include Pandemic, Risk, DC Deck Builder, Settlers of Catan, Flux, Tsuro, Dungeon Mayhem, Ticket to Ride, Legends of Drizzt, Star Wars X-Wing and Star Wars Destiny.

The role-playing games include Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars Edge of Empire.

Those games are a blast from the past. Or are they?

“Board and role-playing games are seeing a resurgence, especially in the age 20-40 group,” said Game Club founder and sponsor Tom Gross, the high school’s librarian.

“People want the face-to-face interaction with other game players,” Goss said. “It’s fun to sit across the table from someone, to get to know him or her as a person.”

Game Club members represent a cross-section of the high school’s students, according to Gross.

There are exceptional students, and students who have academic challenges. There are athletes, and those involved in the arts.

For several of this year’s club members, about 25 percent, the club is a connection to the high school.

“It’s their only extracurricular activity,” Gross said.

Busy seniors Caleb Clague and Brooke Patterson have been in the club for four years and are leaders.

They said they enjoy club meetings and look forward to them.

“Our club is all about having fun, trying new things, and meeting new people who have common interests as you,” Clague said.

Patterson likes the atmosphere at club meetings.

“We’re competing to win and it can get hectic at times, but everyone is excited to learn and play games and that makes each player 10 times more energetic,” she said.

“I love seeing the emotions on everyone’s faces … when someone gets lucky and is saved from certain doom, as well as the look of defeat when someone is out of a game.”

About 20 club members last week played Dungeons and Dragons, a role-playing game that debuted in 1974 and now is in its fifth edition.

The sound of rolling dice was permeated by laughter and chatting at several tables, each led by a Dungeon Master, who serves as referee and storyteller and oversees the setting in which game adventures take place.

Each Dungeons & Dragons player creates a character and tries to earn experience points, which makes the character more powerful.

Clague said he didn’t intend to join any clubs at Washington, but Gross convinced him to join the Game Club. Clague also is a member of the high school’s Mechanical Monarchy robotics team and French Club.

He’s headed to Bradley University to study electrical engineering, but he plans to return to Washington after he graduates to work with new Game Club leaders.

Patterson said she joined Game Club “because who doesn’t love games?”

She’s an officer for other high school clubs and secretary for concert choir.

While playing games is fun, there’s a serious side to Game Club. There are rules, and there’s a Code of Conduct.

Respect for each other and the games is mandatory. Playing during the school day, and being loud, disruptive and arguing during games aren’t allowed.

When each club meeting is over, games must be put away and students must leave the school through the nearby Bondurant Street doors.

Club attendance is important, and so is staying eligible academically.

As part of the Code of Conduct, club members must acknowledge that their “behavior in school, attitude at school and effort in classes” are a reflection of the Game Club and if those standards aren’t being met, it could mean ejection from the club.

This is Gross’ sixth year as the high school’s librarian. He began the Game Club in his first year at Washington. What started as a smattering of participants each week has grown to about 20 to 25 at each club meeting.

The club got statewide attention last fall and could get national attention this summer.

Gross talked at the Association of Illinois School Library Educators’ annual convention in October about how to build a successful game club, focusing on the blueprint he’s used at Washington to build club membership.

He’s applied to be a presenter on educators day at Gen Con this summer in Indianapolis.

Gen Con is the largest tabletop-game convention in North America in terms of attendance and events.

“It’s the Mecca of tabletop gaming,” Gross said.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.

 

 

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