It’s not all fun and games. It’s about building a community. At least that’s what Glens Falls residents Tori Trombley and Aaron Cordiale are hoping to do through Joined by Gaming.
The couple, who got engaged not too long ago, started the group in 2017 as a way to dispel some of the stereotypes surrounding gamers and to raise money for the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Med. Earlier this year, they started hosting regular tabletop board game and video game events along with fundraisers around the Capital Region.
They’ve both been gamers for years, playing video games, role-playing games and tabletop games regularly. But Trombley hasn’t always felt welcome in the gaming community.
“I always liked to play, but there was still a sort of stigma against women being fake nerds,” Trombley said.
A few years ago, a sales associate at a game story essentially told her to “stay in her lane” when she tried to order the video game Skyrim. The associate said, “Are you sure Cake Mania isn’t more your speed?” (Cake Mania is a game focused on cooking and time management). Another time, when she was shopping with Cordiale, the sales associate refused to acknowledge her and only spoke with Cordiale, even though she was the one trying to buy a game. Other instances have been less obvious, where others in the gaming community have found insidious ways to push her out.
Her experiences aren’t entirely rare. Over the last few years, there’s been a push to get more women involved in the gaming industry, both working in the industry and as players. 41 percent of video gamers in the United States are women, according to the Entertainment Software Association’s 2017 study. Yet, many women say they’ve been harassed, ridiculed or pushed out of the community.
“Communities are getting better but there are some where it’s definitely more of a boys club,” Trombley said.
She’s also felt unwelcome at various gaming events, especially during game conventions. It was actually at PAX East, an annual game convention
“I felt that there needed to be a place that was more inclusive, where anyone could go in and feel like they belonged there, especially because of my history with not always being taken seriously as a gamer,” Trombley said, “We decided to create that space ourselves.”
In 2017, they started by raising money for the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital through Extra Life. It’s essentially a gaming marathon where friends and family can sponsor gamers to raise money for children’s hospitals.
“In the past three years, Extra Life has raised more than $122,000 for our children’s hospital,” said Barbara Ostrov, M.D., director of the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Med. “Our team of medical specialists depends on the generosity of our community partners to continue delivering the highest quality care in the region. We thank Extra Life for its dedicated support to our patients and their families.”
Cordiale and Trombley raised several hundred dollars the first year they participated in an Extra Life marathon and over a thousand the second. It was challenging at first to get their message out about how games can have a positive impact on people. But they’ve ramped up one community-focused programs, hosting three or four events each week around the Capital Region.
Every other Thursday evening, they pack up their game library and head to Saratoga Coffee Traders, where they invite people to play. Whether it’s playing party games like Apples to Apples, classic games like Scrabble or the incredibly popular Ticket to Ride or Love Letter, they’re open to playing them all.
“If you go into a gaming space, a lot of times you have to have the newest most ridiculous game to be taken seriously, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with playing, say, ‘Clue’,” Trombley said.
They can also teach people who want to get into board games how to play. With some rule books spanning several pages, it can be intimidating and time consuming for beginners to learn complex games on their own. Thus, having people like Trombley there to answer questions can help people focus on enjoying new games.
“We’ve also been working with [the World Awareness Children’s Museum] to teach learning through games about other cultures and we’ve been working with breweries to have board game and brews. People are starting to see how it can build a community,” Trombley said.
On Sunday, they’re hosting a fundraiser and gaming event at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs.
“This is the first fundraising event we’ve done since the Extra Life marathon last year. I’m very excited for it. We seem to have a lot of good response online to it so I hope we’re busy,” Trombley said.
Starting at 3 p.m. on Sunday, they’ll bring out all their family-friendly games and invite people to play and to donate and win game prizes. The money raised will go towards the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital. The event will wrap up around 6 p.m. To register visit joinedbygaming.com.