Arts and Entertainment

Kitsap board, card gamers find local havens for imaginative play

A player thinks over strategy during a game at Gryphon Gaming in Poulsbo. - Kipp Robertson/Staff photo
A player thinks over strategy during a game at Gryphon Gaming in Poulsbo.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson/Staff photo

Passing through a thicket of overgrowth with a lightsaber in hand, the young man enters an ancient pyramid. As his eyes adjust to the darkness a faint glow can be seen down a short corridor. Sidestepping a pile of bones, the man suddenly stops as a howl erupts from the darkness and a monstrous head comes into view.

A die rolls across the table and Game Master Mark Larsen describes the fate of the player to his left.

On a busy Friday night, games like the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and Magic: The Gathering are scattered throughout Discordia Games, a local haven in Bremerton for gamers to group up and immerse themselves in another reality.

“Playing these games is all about using your imagination,” said co-owner of Discordia Games David Lavender. “It’s just like reading a book, but you get to socialize while you play.”

Discordia Games is one of a handful of stores in Kitsap dedicated to role-playing games. The business, created in 1996 by three friends who met in Anchorage, Ala., is not solely focused on selling merchandise; it’s used as a hub for people to connect with other role-plaing enthusiasts.

The weather in Alaska made way for the idea of a store dedicated to selling and playing games, Lavender said. While he lived there, he was forced to stay inside more than he liked, but no businesses were open to the idea of gaming. That spurred him and his friends to start their own business.

Role-playing games such as Star Wars, which is similar to the popular Dungeons and Dragons game, are based on a variety of different rules laid out in game guides. Decisions the players make depend on their interaction with the game master and rolls of dice.

As a means to break the stigma that all gamers sit in their basement all day, Mark Boutet said places like Discordia are a great social network.

“These games can are a great outlet for people to meet new people,” Boutet said. “You can play competitively or just for fun, either way the games are there just to make you happy.”

With tattoos inspired from games such as Warhammer 40K, Boutet helps manage the store on weekends and encourages anyone interested in gaming to try it out. As a fan of video games too, he said role-playing games offer a more creative experience. Students, shipyard workers, military veterans and everyone in between can be found playing these games, he said.

Instead of sitting in front of a television or PC monitor, Larsen said the endless supply of the imagination is why he enjoys role-playing games. On Fridays, he typically stays at Discordia from 6 p.m. to midnight.

“There’s just nothing like sitting at a table with a group of friends, mocking them,” Larsen said jokingly as he glanced around the table at his fellow gamers.

Besides mocking friends, Boutet said playing table-top games is also a good way to build communication skills. Lonely player stereotypes are reinforced with video games more than table-top games, and things such as X-Box Live, which is played over the internet but is not the same as face-to-face interaction.

“The only thing you can hear from outside (Distopia) is laughter,” Boutet said. “We get people walking in all the time asking what’s going on.”

The connotation of role-playing and table-top games is difficult to break away from, however. Before the Wizards of the Coast franchise stores began closing in 2003, Boutet worked as a store clerk in the Kitsap Mall. The store suffered financially from people avoiding it because they did not understand what it was, he said.

“No honey, that’s the devil’s store,” Boutet said, remembering the words of a parent pulling her interested child away from the store. “I didn’t understand. I mean, yes, we sold games with demons, but we also sold games like Cranium.”

Despite the criticism role-playing games face, gamers from all types of backgrounds will continue to meet on the imaginary battlefield.

As the lightsaber wielding hero awaits his fate, the die rolls for a second time. With slight grimace, the game master looks up: “You live for now, I rolled a one.”

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