passing the torch at the Mount Royal Game Society
~ written 10 August 2015 ~
so, it's been just over five years since a chance-meeting on twitter brought together a couple of like-minded folks. Montréal had long ago declared itself an internationally-renowned game development hub – but on the ground, a lot of us still felt it was lacking the sort of cultural ecosystem of creation, social outreach, and general awareness (especially in the hobbyist/independent sphere) that had been so effective elsewhere.
not long thereafter, i was a co-founder of the Mount Royal Game Society.
for my own part, it was a way to call my own bluff and finally make games, after years of wanting and not doing, of drifting through jobs at mcgill, the canadian space agency, a church, the royal victoria hospital, and elsewhere – and not one professional game company. maybe i'd be lucky and meet other people who made games in their spare time, i thought.
five years later, give or take, and MRGS is pushing two thousand or so facebook members and – if you'll forgive the vanity – is recognised internationally for the vibrant, welcoming space it's become, and the wonderful community it represents.
on the occasion of our very first meetup – june 2nd, 2010 – thirty people came around to have a pint and play a handful of games. since then, participation has grown steadily, and the intervening five years have seen the recurring Prince of Arcade festival and the more recent Princess of Arcade; multiple appearances and collaborations with Puces POP, Parcade, ComicCon, CTRL-ALT-THÉ, Montréal joue, Arcade-11, Mixcade, Nuit blanche, Montreal Museums Day, & GameLoop MTL; along with lectures at various colleges and universities in town, a few dozen game jams, the construction of the Arcade Royale (two versions), an evening of microtalks (we may yet get those videos online), and of course, our socials – now running twice a month.
the latter events have been the driving force of MRGS, and as the organisation's expanded, we've made a number of stops along the way: starting at l'Amère à boire, we've grown continuously, migrating through venues like Foonzo, Ye Olde Orchard, The Royal Phoenix (RIP), Bar de Courcelle, Café l'Artère, and CODE most recently.
it's kept us busy, of course, and part of our decision to register as a non-profit was to encourage a structure to our operations, to invite more people to get involved as organisers and volunteers. if MRGS was able to establish itself and take part in so many disparate events, it's absolutely been through the hard work and freely-given labour of all its members over the years. there's a lot of energy in this city, and i've been privileged to take part in that, in my own small way.
but to speak candidly: i am very, very tired. you wouldn't think it could take so much out of you to create one monthly facebook event, but after five years of repeating myself every four weeks, i'm feeling a little bit stagnant. the organisation itself has to grow and adapt to the new landscape here in Montréal, re-evaluate the role it plays, and change how and to whom it reaches out.
(on a related note: go support The Pixelles immediately – they are the most important new force in the local games ecosystem, and the organisers are wonderful human-folk.)
on the one hand, i feel like i'd genuinely enjoy the challenge of grassroots organisation at this scale & in this new landscape.
on the other hand, i am very, very tired.
not only that, but there are a number of very good reasons for organisers to change over every few years. i've stayed on well past my due. if MRGS has built a reputation as a positive voice in the community, it's been thanks to the knowledge & wisdom & effort of so many volunteers and friends in creating an environment that explicitly fosters and encourages diversity, as expressed in our Safer Spaces Policy. i've learnt so much from these people – i still have a lot to learn – and where my energy is flagging, theirs only seems to be growing.
with all that in mind, i decided in december 2014 that it was time to resign from the board of MRGS, and its operations.
there are others – more energetic, better-equipped – who will help the organisation and community do wonderful things. i'll be around to offer whatever small bits of advice i can… but for now i desperately need a month or two with no demands but my own.
we didn't expect it five years ago – it's not something you plan for – but MRGS has become an important, sought-after voice for the culture of games and game-makers in town.
so many others have been vital to that effort, and they have all of my faith, and admiration, and best wishes for the future of MRGS.
five years is a long time!
thanks all. see you tantôt.