Unity Games, the Organization

Unity Games is many things:

  1. An organization of and for players of designer games in Eastern Massachusetts and beyond.
  2. A collection of gaming groups in that area. For example, I used to host gaming at my apartment in Boston’s South End every Wednesday evening.
  3. An series of open (i.e. no invitation required) gaming events.
  4. A discussion forum, implemented as a Yahoo Group.
  5. Another website, unitygames.org.

I think that most UGers would agree with each entry on the above list, although some might add other items, and many would change the order. The first list entry is a rather general definition, and includes a couple of terms that could themselves use clarification. Let’s start with the designer games that UGers play.

[A] broad class of games that generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, high levels of player interaction, and attractive physical components.[1] The games emphasise strategy, downplay luck and conflict, lean towards economic rather than military themes, and usually keep all the players in the game until it ends.

That definition is from the the Wikipedia article on German-style games The article itself explains the German connection, and presents several alternative terms for the genre. The term designer games is appropriate because the game boxes usually feature the names of the designers.

The other term that might raise questions is organization, which might seem rather heavyweight to describe a collection of people who play games. But, as of today, the Yahoo group has 799 members, and yesterday saw more than 300 people at the 15th open event: that requires organization.

UG, like any organization, has both formal and informal aspects. The formal aspects are things like schedules and policies. For example, Unity Games XV… [was] held Saturday February 7, 2009… at the Woburn Hilton and had a pageful of policies.

Informal, or cultural, aspects of UG include an emphasis on teaching games to others. When I first went to meetings of a UG group (even before UG as such existed) I was impressed by how willing the members were to teach games, and how good their explanations were.

UG has grown considerably since its founding in 2000. Compare UG XV’s attendance of over 300 with UG I’s attendance of under 50 (which was a little higher than expected).

Organizations are subject to growing pains. Good cultural stuff in particularly likely to suffer, for a couple of reasons. First, there are simply more people, and new people. Second, growth often brings the need (real or perceived) to introduce more formal stuff.

UG has done a remarkably good job of hanging on to its culture. For example, teaching games remains important. This may be partly because it is a particularly viral virtue. If someone teaches you a game, does so well, and appears to enjoy doing so, you may be encouraged to teach others. It’s also because this informal aspect now has a formal counterpart, in the form of a teaching area at UG events. Volunteers sign up to teach particular games at particular times.

Another way in which UG is able to grow is that the gaming groups are autonomous. Anyone can start a group, and announce sessions on the UG Yahoo group. Of course, they don’t have to, and some groups are invite-only.

As UG approaches its 10th anniversary next year, it continues to grown without losing its strengths. Since that seems like a good topic sentence for a closing paragraph, I won’t tack on more paragraphs in further support.

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