High School Games Club, 2018: A Banner Year
This was year 16 for the Games Club I run at my high school. It reflected the trend in the larger gaming community: numbers were up overall, girls attended almost as much as boys, and the preferred type of game shifted decidedly from cardboard, dice, and counter to games focussed on more social interaction.
I started keeping close track of attendance during the second semester of this past school year, from February through June. I don’t have data for September through January but experience tells me that we averaged around 10 to 12 kids a session in the first semester. As usual, the colder months of winter and early spring saw the biggest turn out but even after kids were able to get outside, numbers stayed strong across the twice-a-week club meetings.
There was the core cluster of boys who showed up every day to play Axis and Allies, the WWII grand strategy game. I was impressed by their dedication. After all, it takes a lot of lunch hours to get through a full game of A&A. The boys played through three complete games this year which is a record. It was great to hear them best each other with facts they had researched at home about how individual battles played out historically.
The addition of the large chess board and chess timers – purchased for the club by parent council several years ago – continue to be a draw for some kids. I still have aspirations of putting together a tournament chess team but other clubs like Reach for the Top and social justice initiatives are more appealing, and that’s fine with me. The purpose and role for lunchtime clubs within a high school is to provide a safe and positive place for kids to socialize and pursue their interests. For many, these are a safe haven out of the hallways and corners where they didn’t have to pass lunch hours staring at their phone screens.
The most significant and encouraging change this year was that overall attendance was up because girls starting attending almost as much as boys. Girls tended toward mixed groups and games that had a high degree of social interaction. The game that really highlighted this was the social deduction game Werewolf that a student brought and ran for large groups of kids just about every lunch hour through May and June. While competitive, these types of games derive their appeal from the joking and banter that accompanies the game play.
To keep up with and encourage this trend I’ll purchase a couple of additional social interaction games for the club – Spyfall and Avalon spring immediately to mind. The trend toward social games and increased attendance for girls did no end of good for the club! Both by the numbers and as an experience this year was the best one yet. The kids keep teaching this old dog new tricks.
In previous posts on starting a high school Games Club we looked at the foundational elements necessary to get a Game Club up, running, and thriving. These foundations are worth a quick review as the success of this past year was due to earlier work on:
- Getting a few Chess Boards. The old classic was the standby game when a couple of kids (usually boys but not always) showed up and just wanted to beat their buddy. I’ve got a lot of good two player games (Abalone, Lost Cities, Galaxy Trucker etc.) but, yet again, chess was one of the most played games.
- Stable Youth Attendance. 15 previous years of Games Club now does its own recruiting. Gamers have seen or heard about their older siblings playing. Every year I get a fresh group of grade 9s show up on day one and stay through their grade 12 year.
- A Set Time and Place. Although my timetable changes every year the administration has now bought into leaving my lunch hours free on Wednesdays and Fridays so I can run Games Club. Having my own classroom helps as well.
- The Right Furniture. The round conference tables that seat up to 6 comfortably continue to prove their worth. They are constantly in use.
Other posts in the High School Games Club series can be found here: