There’s a warming sense of inclusion when you walk through the imposing front door of Teviot House. This weekend, the stately corridors forgo student life for the reverberation of d20 scattered on oaken tables. Hundreds of like-minded folk have come together in the pursuit of a common goal: the rampant acquisition not only of joy, but of experiences shared.
To many outside the hobby, it is perhaps too easy to categorise those gathered here as nerds, geeks, dweebs. People who spend their hours living lives of fictional characters in imaginary lands, who see the procuring of experience points more important than the digits of a bank account balance. You could categorise us like that. I’m sure many will. But to do so is to brush off and make trivial the shared passion of those attending. It is a rare thing to find a commonality among such a disparate group, but it’s even rarer to find the gathering so accepting.
It’s a feeling made evident in the community spirit shown throughout the event. Squirreled away in repurposed meeting rooms, old hands lead new roleplayers through their first tentative steps into the gaming world. Stalls reminiscent of a village fayre consume a hall, handmade crafts nestled beside the glossy hardback tomes that make up the day-to-day fare of a tabletop gamer. Speaking to any of the entrepreneurs running the stalls was to find a group of people who were aware that money was involved in the transactions, but didn’t care. The passion wasn’t for profit, but for the joy of creation and sharing those creations with the community.
Wandering the labyrinthine halls of the building, there’s a guarantee that you can saunter into any room and find a micronation of gamers. Turning left, you’ll find the intricately constructed cathedrals and battle-pocked streets of the war-gaming community’s models. Turning right, a modern-day symposium; figures from gaming’s history and future gathering together to debate the issues of relevance and digital media and the many-faceted branches of tabletop gaming. I lost count of how many times a talk was interrupted by a raucous eruption of laughter emanating from the room next door, where the roleplaying games were running.
I’m primarily a videogamer and I’ve found myself entering traditional gaming stores from time to time and more often than not, it’s been intimidating and unwelcoming. Wandering into a shop where your lack of knowledge singles you out as an outsider is an unpleasant experience for anyone, but especially for those new to the hobby. This particular hobby finds it hard to escape the stereotype of pages of statistics and arcane rules and supplements augmenting those rules. Endless errata and decisions to be made, lore beyond comprehension and continents of vast unknowable details.
While the reality is that those will come naturally when you play the game, it’s almost impossible to take that first step without a helping hand from someone knowledgeable. Conpulsion appeared to be populated almost entirely with those sorts of enthusiastic guides. Even attendees who weren’t official volunteers could be found beckoning others in, to share their expertise and love of the hobby.
Conpulsion was the antithesis of those off-putting experiences. It was uniformly positive and welcoming and if you’ve ever wanted to dive deeply into the pools of roleplaying and board-gaming, Conpulsion should be your springboard. It takes what is often seen as a niche pursuit and moves it to the forefront, the centre of attention, and the hobby benefits immeasurably from this focus.
And you know what? I’ll see you there next year.