Inside the schools: Skyline Game Club ‘seems like a sure thing’

When it comes to teenagers and gaming, thoughts of remote controls, joysticks and high-definition screens come to mind. But that’s not the focus of a group of gamers that meets every Monday at Skyline High School.

Board games, card games, dice games. Kids actually talking to each other instead of staring at a screen and working on a premature case of carpal-tunnel syndrome.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“It used to be more a video-game club when I was a sophomore,” said senior Dashiell Wieford, 17, who is the president of the Skyline Game Club. “But now the focus has shifted. Sure, we’ll have a couple of kids playing on the Wii, but we’ll also have 8 or 10 who are playing board games. That’s more of what we’re about now.”

Skyline Game Club members acknowledge that many kids their age prefer the high-tech stuff, but they’re not alone when it comes to going the old-school route when it comes to gaming.

Blake Ammerlaan, a 17-year-old senior who is vice-president of the club, takes his passion for board games a step further by attending GenCon, an annual board-game convention in Indianapolis. The difference between GenCon and the Skyline Game Club, however, is the age group.

“Everybody at GenCon is about 40,”Ammerlaan said. “It’s a lot of fun, but that’s what makes the Skyline Club so much fun. It’s kids my age interested in the same thing I’m interested in.

“I can only convince my dad to play a board game with me so many times.”

The Skyline Game Club was founded by Social Studies teacher Chris Naar three years ago, and is overseen today by Counselor Dennis Brunzell and Shelby Eaton, who teaches English As A Second Language. The creation of the club actually started about the time global play of board games began to trend upward.

In 2013, global sales of games and puzzles stood at $9.3 billion. It grew to $9.6 billion last year, according Eurmonitor International. It is expected to grow by another 1 percent this year.

Board games’ popularity is on the rise worldwide, and they certainly are popular among the club at Skyline.

“It’s really self-serving for me, I have to admit,” said Brunzell, 41. “I love playing the games. I got my butt kicked last Monday, but it still was a lot of fun.”

These are not old-school board games. We’re not talking Monopoly or Sorry, and that may be what attracts the young players at Skyline, according to Brunzell.

Some of the games the Skyline Game Club plays are: “Ticket to Ride,” an award-winning game that requires players to connect routes from city to city, stake territory and cut other players’ routes off at the same time; “Epic Wars of the Battle Wizards,” which includes the “casting of spells”; “King of Tokyo,” a dice-game monster battle; and “Magic: The Gathering.”

“These games are not just rolling dice and going haplessly around a board in a circle,” Brunzell said. “There’s all kinds of strategy, a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of time for talk and relationship-building at the same time.”

Among those who came to play on the most recent Monday meeting were Eaton, Patrick Harlow, Elizabeth Earl and Aidan VanLoo (all pictured playing the card game, “Epic Spell Wars Battle of Wizards”). Those pictured playing the board game, “Ticket to Ride,” are Brunzell, Mathias McIntyre, Wieford, Ammerlaan and Jaylen Clayton.

Besides the Game Club, Ammerlaan is in the Anime Club and the Robotics Club. Wieford also takes part in the Anime Club. All, including the Game Club, provide the extra-curricular fellowship they seek.

“There’s a lot more opportunity to meet people, to get to know them when you’re playing a board game than a video game,” said Wieford. “Video games are reflex-based and get crazy competitive. If I lose in a board game, it’s still a lot of fun. It’s more casual, light-hearted.”

There is a solid mix of seniors, juniors, sophomores and the occasional freshman who come to play from 2:45-3:45 p.m. every Monday. This points to the continuing popularity of the club, according to Wieford.

“I think there’s a bright future for the club,” he said. “It’s an heirloom-type thing that looks like it will go on for quite some time.

“It seems like a sure thing.”

In other words, no roll of the dice.

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