Carpe DM: Seize The Game
The magic behind the booming interest
of fantasy role-playing games in Brantford
Maichina Veri, December 26, 2021 // Brantford, OntarioCard collecting at Back In Time Comics & Collectibles. Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
The immersive and magical worlds of fantasy-tabletop role-playing games (RPGs), wargaming and trading card games (TCGs) are rising in popularity and providing positive escapism. Communities are growing and thriving despite an ongoing pandemic. This is in part due to the time lockdowns have allowed people to either explore or reconnect with gaming, and also in part due to new innovations for playing. BTOWN got nerdy with local business owners Brandon Morrison and Alexander Kirley, as well as hobbyist Mark Ganassin, to engage in the rich and enthusiastic realms of fantasy gaming.
Brandon, of Back in Time Comics and Collectibles, is a TCG expert. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering (MTG) since he was about six years old with his father, and Pokémon TCG competitively for almost a decade. At his shop, located at 15-111 Sherwood Dr., Brandon has helped foster an inclusive, fun and welcoming community of TCG players. “If I can create space for Magic and Pokémon – for all people alike – to come in and enjoy that one thing that they all love – that is what makes me smile. Not the cards themselves, it’s the community that builds it. Everybody in the community is fantastic and like-minded and they all talk about the same things. That’s a big part of why I love Magic and Pokémon.”
Brandon Morrison, owner of Back In Time Comics & Collectibles. Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
The biggest delight of fantasy gaming lies in the community and those you play with. “It’s a form of creative expression,” says Mark, “but the magic is that it’s collaborative with the players.” Though Mark “loves” tabletop wargaming, he speaks mostly to Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). He has been playing since the late ‘80s when he was introduced to the first edition of D&D’s The Monster Manual by an aunt’s boyfriend. An avid reader of fantasy novels as a youth, the book contained all of the creatures from Mark’s stories. “Needless to say, I was pretty intrigued.”
Although fantasy games are rising in popularity, they had a rocky start. In Mark’s experience, D&D was not something cool kids did and any enthusiasm about it in the schoolyard was “definitely a social faux pas.”
"Communities are growing and thriving despite an ongoing pandemic. This is in part due to the time lockdowns have allowed people to either explore or reconnect with gaming, and also in part due to new innovations for playing."
“There was still a lot of lingering mystery and pop-culture fallout from the satanic panic, which was a period where some less tolerant folks in the media thought D&D was a form of devil worship,” Mark recalls. “My friend’s super-religious mom definitely thought it was, and burned his books and banned him from hanging out with us.” They were able to work around that though.
Alexander, who can be found at The Devil’s Bench at 436 Colborne St E., says the popularity of these types of games has always been there among those who play, but the games have become more accessible due to mainstream attention. “Which is a great thing,” he says, “The last thing a hobby should do is gatekeep.”
As the popularity, or accessibility, of fantasy-tabletop gaming increases, so does the value of the escapism these games provide.
"As the popularity, or accessibility, of fantasy-tabletop gaming increases, so does the value of the escapism these games provide."
“At their core, escape is the main appeal of these rulesets and systems,” emphasizes Alexander. “Having, at the very least, the option to switch off for a couple of hours a week and get hyper-focused on what is essentially an ever-evolving set of problem-solving scenarios with dice and cards thrown into the mix sounds not only healthy, but an important part of being human.”
Brandon agrees stating, “Being able to escape from the world we live in today is definitely good. It gets you away from real life and for some people that have hard times in real life this helps them and I think it’s fantastic. To be able to give people a space to be able to come and hang out and really do what they love to do without being judged is massive. And being able to escape that reality in a proper way I think is really good.”
Card games are gaining in popularity over the years. Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
Whether it’s the lore, gameplay, art, escapism or community, fantasy-tabletop gaming has a lot to offer. “They dial in extremely well on different niches to scratch a very specific itch that all us nerds have,” explains Alexander. “Be it competition, world building or creative builds – in the big, wide nerd-o-sphere there is a place for everyone.”
If you’ve never played fantasy-tabletop RPGs, wargames or TCGs and are looking to start, just ask. “If you don’t know anything, just come in and ask. That’s what we do. That’s why we’re here,” Brandon says. “It can be intimidating at times to try to muscle your way into a tight-knit social circle,” states Alexander, “but I can tell you from lots of experience that you will be welcomed with open arms.” Mark’s advice is encouraging as well: you can do it! “Grab some books and dice and friends and have fun!”
To continue on your journey, please check out these resources...
BACK IN TIME COMICS & COLLECTIBLES
15-111 Sherwood Dr., Brantford / www.backintimecc.ca / @backintimecomics
THE DEVILS BENCH
426 Colborne St. E., Brantford / www.thedevilsbench.com / @devilsbench
XTRA LIFE GAMING
37 Robinson St., Simcoe / www.patreon.com/xtralifetg / @xtralifetg
HEADS OR TAILS GAMING
131 Erie Ave., Brantford / https://heads-or-tails-gaming.business.site
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maichina Veri is a writer based in Brantford, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University and has a background in Journalism – Print from Niagara College.