Social Gaming w/ ACG in the Age of Covid-19, circa September 2020

by Accidentally Cool Games

Article Summary:

  • How to participate in our Saturday @ 6:30 online Commander Play
  • Warhammer 40,000 In-Store Play returns 08/22... with safety measures
  • Why no D&D? Pokemon? YuGiOh?
  • A Personal Check-In

Online Commander Play - Saturdays @ 6:30 PM

We experienced a wonderful success last Saturday when 8+ of our local community got together online, using Discord and a web-based platform called Spelltable, and played multiple games of Commander for the first time as a local community since March 2020.

It was an experience absolutely worth repeating—and we are repeating it this very next Saturday, on 08/22/2020 @ 6:30 PM.  Message Drew on Facebook for the invite link to our Discord server, and in the meantime make sure you create a profile for yourself at https://www.spelltable.com/.  Read on to find out what's required:

What Discord Does

Discord allows players to join a digital chat room where they can use the microphone in their headset, computer, or even phone to communicate with one another by voice.  A player might also share their visual computer screen on Discord, allowing observers in the chat room to watch the game being played.

We also post the join-link for Spell Table games in the Discord rooms, so that players can join into those games.  Spell Table doesn't really have an open chat area to do this.

What Spell Table Does

Spell Table create a 4 cell screen in which 4 players each use a webcam, computer, or their phone camera to record their playmat from a bird's eye view (directly face down gives the best visual for your opponents).  It also provides an interface that allows players to click on a card in frame, Spell Table tries to visually recognize it, and will provide you an easy-to-read digital version of that card for reference.  Spell Table provides links to each players' Commanders, as well as an interactive Life Total widget.  

It technically handles audio, but this feature is in beta and has lower quality than Discord.

Warhammer 40,000 In-Store Play Returns 08/22 (RE: Safely)

When cases started to spike in the back half of July, we called off all in-store play to wait and see how things were going to progress.  We were seeing repeating days of 10+ cases with hints that #s were getting worse instead of better—and we weren't going to put people at risk and be part of the problem.

We've now gone multiple weeks with cases lowering, this week at <5 day, and just as importantly we aren't seeing cases actively growing from day to day to day.

The Details - Inside & Outside Play

Starting tomorrow, Saturday 08/22, we are going to open up Warhammer 40,000 In-Store Play to 4 different players, in 2 different time slots, for 3 hours each.  Those time slots will be 12 PM (Noon) to 3 PM, there will be a 3 to 4 break for cleaning, and then a second opportunity from 4 PM to 7 PM.

The first and most important step is that you may only attend if you are feeling perfectly well and are not demonstrating (and have not) symptoms of Covid-19.

Players will wash their hands before entering the play area, and immediately upon exiting the play area.  Masks will be required and tables will be set up to allow for constant social distancing of 6'+ from your opponent.  Spectators will not be allowed and nobody else will be in the play area except the players (and possibly one employee, who will be 10'+ from all games).

We can also move one of those play tables outside if players would prefer to play outside.  Masks are still required if playing outside, but being outside does make it easier to step away (re: 10'+) and lower your mask if you just need to be without it for a moment.  We get it, and even have hand sanitizer we're providing.

Why no D&D? Pokemon? YuGiOh?

Many of our D&D groups have already made a transition to some form of online play with one another, and that is totally awesome.  So many have done this, in fact, that we're just an extra cook in the kitchen.  Please message Drew on Facebook if you're looking for a digital group and I'll see what I can do to connect you with someone who may be able to include another.  

As for Pokemon, the answer is bluntly that re-organizing the social experience we were offering on Saturdays is just not possible online.  Many of our players were coming for the social connection, and it was easy to tell that what was important there was the physical proximity, the tangibility of being with peers, the cards, the shared experience.  We're very excited to return to something that resembles that, but an online experience is going to be like herding cats while fighting with tech, all to realize that the most important parts of the experience didn't translate anyways.

YuGiOh?  The curveball answer there is that YuGiOh players are actually invited to join Discord and can use Spell Table to play their game just as easily as Magic players use it to play their's.  We even have YuGiOh rooms built just for you!

The Personal Note

The last time I asked Bruce (now within months of turning 14) was many, many years ago.  He was enthusiastic because he had a front row seat to watching players enjoy themselves with the game, but was quickly confronted with the fact that Magic is basically all reading... and reading was a bit of a struggle.

Since then, Bruce has discovered multiple series of books that he's really enjoyed.  He discovered web comics and subtitles on anime and now had all of these positive experiences that have encouraged him to develop his linguistic skills.

So I risked it, and asked him again to see if nearly-14 Bruce would be interested in getting one of the new Ikoria 2020 Commander decks for Magic.  He liked the idea, we grabbed one... which quickly meant we grabbed two... and he's having an absolutely blast!

We know there are other kids about his age (many of them might be YOUR kids) that might have lots of fun with a digital play experience, so that's something we're kicking around as a possibility.  I'll be showing him the Spell Table format tomorrow, and see what he thinks.

Blog Art is "Exploration" by Mark Poole, Magic: The Gathering

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