Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teens ‘Battle’ Regularly at Hamilton-Wenham Library in Innovative Club

By Christian Brink
Gordon College News Service

(This story appeared Thursday, April 21, 2011, in The Salem News.)

Wenham, MA—For Trevor Attridge, 18, of Essex, MA, Saturday mornings are no time for breakfast in bed. Instead, they’re for epic battles. But this isn’t a videogame or blockbuster movie – it’s the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library, home to a group of teenagers who gather weekly to play epic multi-dimensional battle games.

For the past three years, Attridge, the founder of the club known as Battle-Gaming of Massachusetts (BOM) and a senior at Manchester-Essex High, has met with friends on Saturdays at the Hamilton-Wenham library from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. to play battle games. Attridge’s hobby began after seeing a game set modeled on
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Then he gathered a few friends in his attic to play the game, but soon moved to the Hamilton-Wenham library for a larger venue.

“I think it’s good for kids to play games (like these) and get together in real-time instead of online,” said Kim Claire, the Young Adult Librarian, who has helped maintain and promote the club since coming to the library. “It creates a community for them.”

At their most basic level, battle games are based on a traditional board game format with a point system where each player takes turns rolling dice to determine their next move. However, there is no formal board like with checkers. Instead, these games are played on either purchased or homemade terrain that’s then spread across large tables. To best get a sense of battle gaming, said Attridge, it’s like chess combined with Risk, but to the “umpteenth degree.”


While battle-gaming is not as popular on the North Shore as it is in the United Kingdom, Attridge said BOM’s attendance has increased to about ten members a week due to word-of-mouth and the website he started several years ago. The club has an open door policy for anyone who is friendly and looking to have a fun time with the game, said Attridge.

Brian Palazzolo, 15, of Stoneham, found out about BOM online and decided to check it out one Saturday. “I came here and got to know everybody and it just because a fun thing to do every week,” he said.

Aside from the actual game, there’s artistry to the hobby as well. Each player’s pieces come in kits the teens order online, unassembled and unpainted. It’s up to the player to craft the pieces together and paint them. Most models sit only a little higher than an inch and have incredibly detailed suits of armor and weaponry. Crafting these soldiers, vehicles, and terrain is as much a part of battle gaming to Attridge as playing with friends.

“The other aspect to the game that I love as well is the whole artistic medium. You have to build and paint these models, which I really enjoy,” said Attridge. “It’s so much fun to put the sets together and come out with a finished product.”

Like Claire and Palazzolo, Attridge also said it’s the community aspect of battle-gaming that he finds so rewarding. It’s a hobby where the players get to physically “hang out” together as opposed to screen and audio based connection over the Internet with with games like Xbox LIVE. Attridge says BOM instead provides a place for teens to engage on a social level that he sees is steadily declining.

“Something that’s sad about modern entertainment is that you can’t see who you you’re playing with or communicate beyond keystrokes,” said Attridge.

Two of the most popular types of games, Attridge said, are
Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy, each of which has expansive subcultures. Games Workshop, the UK manufacturer of these games, has created what it calls the Black Library, a collection of novels written about the armies and characters of these fantasy worlds. There are also numerous user manuals, strategy guides, and fan websites, which are the most appealing feature of the games to teens like BOM member, Ryan Buchanan, who says he enjoys the unending, epic narrative that he gets to be a part of.

“I like the strategy of the game,” said Buchanan, 15, of Hamilton. “I’m very into the story lines and imagining them in my head.” Buchanan has read several of the books from the Black Library, which the Hamilton Wenham library has on stock.

Attridge has even begun assembling and painting models on commission. He works out of a studio space above his parent’s garage. The most common army set to buy for Warhammer 40K, consisting of 10 models, can take up to two weeks to finish crafting. And it can also be expensive. This same set of 10 models costs $40 on average and a single model of a tank or other vehicle can cost up to $50.

“Warhammer has a much more social aspect than you would get with playing a video game,” said Attridge. “Instead of looking at a screen you’re looking across the table at another person. It’s about community instead of just the game.”
 
For more information on BOM at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library email Trevor Attridge at Trevy@verizon.net or Kim Claire at kclaire@mvlc.org.  

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