For more than a decade, hundreds of WPI’s game enthusiasts have anticipated the twice-yearly gaming weekends on campus, where they can spend hours at one game station or a few minutes at many. “We bring out our entire game collection,” says SFS vice president Francesco Bivona. Video games, he says, are more of the “GDC turf,” so the weekend offers lots of board games, role playing, and tabletop games.
“It is open the solid 48 hours,” says Bivona, “so you can usually find something appealing.” If you want to sit back and observe, that is fine, too. “You don’t have to play constantly, you can sit and talk to people,” he says.
Groups can reserve rooms for holding games and anyone can come in with a favorite game to play in areas in the Odeum. A favorite alumni-run game is the “Care Bears Call of the Cthulhu,” where players enjoy debating the spelling of the game as much as they enjoy playing it. Students can hang out and socialize in the Campus Center’s common area and plenty of food keeps the energy high.
Gaming novices are welcome and, says Bivona, they will find people who can show them the ropes; there is no strict etiquette. “Some people in the reserved rooms might want experienced players, but some welcome new,” he says. And even in the Odeum where tables are set up, newbies can just take a seat and watch. Most likely, other players will explain the game or bring out the instruction manual.
Bivona first found the Science Fiction Society through its popular weekly Friday Night Gaming. “It was held in the Wedge then—just outside my dorm—so I just started to get to know people and started hanging out with them,” he says. “It is a great welcoming community.”
John Brewer ’03 says the camaraderie fosters a tight-knit group that even long-graduated alumni anticipate. “Gaming weekend ends up being something of a reunion,” he says. “For most of the alumni, we come back and catch up and see each other.” And the chance to play can’t be passed up. “Most of us are at a time when we have jobs and responsibilities. If we can put together a time to spend 6 hours at a go playing a game … it has a vacation-like quality.”
Founded in 1974, the nearly 100 SFS members have some sort of event running virtually every night of the week. Smaller groups interested in anime or in Yu-Gi-Oh often hold events or just standard meetings for anyone interested to gather. The society’s regular weekly meetings are held on Wednesdays at 7:12 pm sharp. In a nod to a past president who was routinely late to meetings when he came from another commitment, the 7:12 time was started in fun but has become standard over the years.
The group’s legendary science fiction library (books and comics) and game collection is open to members, but Bivona says anyone interested in seeing it can contact the group. They have games decidedly not science fiction–related, like Monopoly or Risk or chess, says Bivona, but there are games for the serious player as well. Complex and complicated games like Twilight Emporium, Eclipse, and Scotland Yard appeal to those looking for a real game challenge.
The gaming weekend, in particular, is a favorite because of its convention-like quality, says Brewer. “For me,” says Bivona, “[gaming] is great entertainment, and I like a bit of the competitive element. You get to know people because it brings out their personalities.”
Despite the marathon length, no one is encouraged to stay for the whole time. “We tell people when they are going in that they need to make time to sleep and for a certain amount of showers and meals,” says Bivona, laughing. If they notice someone about to fall asleep, they gently suggest that person get some rest and then return later ready for more.