((Today it’s Nicole’s turn to say farewell to the DWP. Tomorrow, Sean will wrap things up and turn out the lights–for the moment at least.))
I never imagined I’d write a blog beyond my now-defunct Livejournal – oh, those were the days. Although I’d been enjoying games for years, moving to Toronto really levelled that up. I was playing so many things, discovering new games, and wanting to enthuse about them to a larger audience, but hadn’t felt I had the articulation I needed to contribute to any kind of outlet. Eventually, I set aside my fears and took Sean’s offer to write something for DWP – my top 5 of 2014 – and just kept right on going. Although impostor syndrome haunted me over the years, I can look back on this time and my output and feel proud of what I did – so in farewell to the days of the DWP, there’s a bit of a retrospective ahead.
The bulk of what I wrote over the (approximately) 7 years was game reviews – mostly physical, but I did throw in some game app reviews here and there! I loved describing what wonder and excitement I felt for fresh new games, but there was also something satisfying about writing pieces on hidden gems or my favourite classics. Even sometimes-goofy listicles were a blast! (“Top Games I’ve Never Played” was maybe a little too much? Nahhh.). Within the 160+ pieces written, I did stretch my creative muscles a bit with some different approaches.
One that I’m proudest of but is probably fairly out of date now was a survey of board gamers (around 2300 responded!). It was so fascinating to look through the data and see what we are like. Sure, my graphic skills are probably still as sketchy, but this was a one-Nicole show. If you’re curious to see the findings, it was over 7 posts: Who Are We?, Who We Play With, Buying, Storing & Playing, Collections, Teaching & Learning, The Games We Play, Gaming Events, Cafes and BGG use, Going Digital.
I’d be so fascinated to update that survey now, especially the questions on digital gaming. Even early on in my stint with DWP, I was excited to write about this from my lonely perspective as a board gamer playing Android apps, which I think folks knew about through avenues like BGG and Suz Sheldon’s lists. But I wanted to share my thoughts and explain why folks using an Android device could enjoy mobile gaming with the rest of ‘em. Having been a member of a variety of online gaming services in those days as well, I had written up a piece on board gaming online that ended up (somewhat unfortunately) being a quick resource to send people in 2020 when we found ourselves distanced yet needing that game time.
Beyond writing about all the things I wanted people to love as well as I did, I loved being able to reach out to folks to discuss their projects and their experiences. The written medium was (and still is) a minor part of the board game media being produced, so I set out to highlight some non-DWP friends who’d been at it for a while, along with seeking out smaller and more unique creators (and makers) to highlight. It was a satisfying end product to cover the hard work of writers, video makers, audio creators and others. One of my favourite bits of coverage was the “Gamers of Toronto” piece I did, hearing from a broad range of folks who enjoy the wealth of tabletop gaming that Toronto has to offer. Between that gaming scene, and getting to know a ton of content creators, it’s safe to say I’ve made a lot of lifetime friends 💜
And speaking of friends made, it was fun collaborating with Sean, David and other DWP contributors, too – playing games for review, co-authoring articles, and especially if we got to go to cons together! Wrap-up posts about these events were fun to put together with others. Over the years I covered Origins, BGGcon, the Gathering of Friends, Fan Expo Toronto, BreakoutCon, and ProtoTO – that was a great one that let us highlight the strength of the local/Southern Ontario designer community. Being placed uniquely among all of that provides opportunities to highlight so many exceptional games and people.
It was actually at one Gathering of Friends that I went with a group of folks to visit the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY. If you know me even a little bit, it shouldn’t surprise you that a) I visited a museum about games and b) wrote about it! When most of what you’ve seen about games in museums are old bone dice, or ancient games like The Royal Game of Ur, to think about an entire collection of tabletop games was wild! As someone who didn’t grow up in North America, it was fascinating to see the games from the 80s and 90s in the collection storage area – if we’d had the Clue(do) Great Museum Caper in Australia, oh man! The group I visited the Strong with was quite interested in the archives there as well, and getting to see some of Sid Sackson’s journals as well as a collection of hand-drawn RPG maps, and old typewritten letters talking about game design (for instance, Simon). It was a truly wonderful experience and I still can’t thank the collections & archives staff enough for their generosity and time.
I eventually got around to interviews that weren’t with folks I knew, don’t worry! LOL Sometimes it’s easier to write about what and who you know. But over the years, I sought things outside my usual reviewing sphere because if it interested me, it must interest the readers – you out there! One such thing was interviewing Chris Bryan about Board With Life Season 2 – BWL was such a unique beast, and I was fascinated with how the show came about and how a second season was approached. Gosh, I miss those dorks. What a time in tabletop that was.
Another opportunity for something different came up quite randomly. I attended an event at the Art Gallery of Ontario and came upon a table that looked like they were playing Catan. I was intrigued, as it felt so different from the rest of the event – and honestly, seeing a board game in the wild at a non-gaming event was exciting. My interest was growing on the topic of Indigenous presence in tabletop games around that time, so being able to interview the creator of Unsettling the Settlers of Catan was a boon – and it led to much more critical thinking for me when it came to the settings and themes of games, and how they represented minority groups.
Given that, it might not surprise you that the final piece I wrote for DWP was a two–parter on colonialism and board games. It was deeply satisfying to bring my thoughts on that together on ‘paper’ and I believe the only piece/s I contributed to DWP that had references! Yeah, you better believe I nerded out. More and more I understand the impact of colonialism in the world, and even though it can be tough to be critical of a hobby you love – sometimes that is exactly how you can express how important it is to you. I didn’t always love playing or reviewing games, but contributing to DWP over the years certainly helped with that. In the world of video and podcast content in board games, it was tough as a written outlet to be seen – but I’m so glad so many of you out there saw us and supported us. So long, and thanks for all the meeples.