Dublin Gaymers: Ethan Browne
Dublin Gaymers is an LGBTQ+ gaming group which holds regular sessions in Dublin. They’ll soon host a fundraiser for AsIAm in early December. I sat down with one of its organisers, Ethan Browne, to discuss the night.
I understand Gaymers began as an LGBTQ+ friendly space. Was there an element of neurodiversity there as well?
We actually have a few neurodiverse people as part of the organising group, I’m autistic and have ADHD myself. It definitely plays a part in how we’ve managed and run Gaymers. A drive behind Gaymers, is that we wanted to provide a safe space where people could hang out and socialise. To make friends without it being alcohol centric or having to deal with the stress of clubs. I believe the quieter environment, in particular is something that appeals to a lot of neurodivergent people. Clubs can be very overstimulating and it can be pleasant (not just for neurodivergents) to have a more relaxed alternative, especially during Winter time, when people may not want to be outside as much. As well as a quieter environment being beneficial to neurodivergents, my boyfriend (who is Deaf) has found this aspect of Gaymers extremely helpful. He has said it’s great not having to shout over music or worry about understanding or being understood by others, issues I believe a lot of neurodivergent people can relate to also.
There’s definitely a lot of overlap between LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse people, especially because by virtue of being themselves they’re not always going to gel well with the rest of society and that can make it hard to find other people like you. And that’s kinda where the idea for Gaymers came from. After finishing college I was really missing that fun, community feeling you get with being part of a college society and it can be difficult for LGBTQ+ people to find that kind of community in the real world, where you get to see friends regularly and talk to people with similar interests in person, and I think that can be equally true for neurodiverse people. So if we’re able to provide that for people and play some board games doing it, we’re happy.
Why do you think board games are so popular in both communities?
I think the biggest reason both communities are so drawn to board games is because they’re a really fun way to socialise. Board games encourage people to interact with each other but they also act as a great ice breaker, you don’t have to worry as much about forcing conversation because you’ll spend a lot of time talking about the rules and the gameplay and conversation usually flows naturally from there. And then because games are usually focused on working together or battling it out to be the winner it’s very easy for people to get drawn into them and get excited about the outcome. Something I personally love about board games is when you get someone that’s never played a game before and kind of nervous at the start, and then as the game goes on you see them start to pick up the game more and more until they’re absolutely loving it and wiping the board with everyone else
Do you think RPGs have a unique benefit for autistic people?
This is actually something I became hugely interested in recently and I’ve been reading a lot about the appeal of RPGs and board games for autisic people. Something I learned during my research, is that there are a few organisations in America that actually use Dungeons and Dragons as a therapy tool to help autistic people work through different issues they might be having, in a safe and low consequence environment. And I think that seems like a really innovative approach to helping autistic people, especially in contrast to a lot approaches I’ve seen people advocating for which seem far more harmful than helpful.
Similarly to board games, RPGs encourage social engagement. You’re playing a game and a lot of it is imaginary, so it’s not as stressful. As a result it’s much easier to engage with everyone at the table. They can really help boost your confidence and communication skills too. RPGs give you a chance to try out things you might not be comfortable doing in real life. There’s also the escapist element to it where people just need a break from all the negative things going on in the world and it’s nice to just run around exploring magical worlds for a few hours. Also, if you have a DM who has a special interest in role playing, you’re more than likely in for an encyclopedia of lore and some amazing stories. Anything that encourages creative thinking like that is gonna be a great benefit to anyone really! Studies have also shown that creativity is a great mood booster and anti-depressant for many people, neurodivergent or not. Most board games, RPGs in particular, encourage creativity.
Could you give our readers an idea of what to expect?
At Dublin Gaymers we have a wide selection of games for our gamers to choose from. All our games are located near the entrance to the event and we will usually have an organiser on hand. They can give you a run-down of the different games and suggest games you might be interested in. We also encourage people to bring along their own games. We find this is a great way of getting people to interact more. It means a non-organiser is guiding people through the game. It’s also great for introducing new games to the group that we mightn’t have even heard of!
There are generally more games at our events than I could even think to name! There’s a few group favourites that you’re bound to see, however. Codenames is a big one where two teams go head to head to uncover all of their hidden spies. There’s a spy master for each team giving them clues- I usually describe it as word association Minesweeper. Funemployed is another great one, it’s like Cards Against Humanity but one person acts as the “employer” each round. Everyone else uses the cards in their hand to do a “job interview” and the funniest person wins. It sounds intimidating but it’s usually a great laugh and people are supportive if someone’s a bit nervous.
Then we have loads of fun card games, like Epic Spell Wars or Family Business. In these people use different cards to take out opponents. They’re some of our shorter games that you can play through a few games of for an hour or two. People can jump in or leave between rounds. There are longer games, like Smallworld or Betrayal at House on the Hill (one of my personal favourites.) You can get stuck into these for a few hours with the one group. If anyone needs help getting settled into a game or learning the rules, our organisers are happy to help
Dublin Gaymers event will take place on Wednesday 4th December in Street 66 on Parliament Street. There will be a buddy system in place so don’t worry about coming alone!