Brendan Halpin Makes Tabletop RPGs Accessible to Boston Teens

By combining his gaming skills with his teaching ones, JP-based writer and teacher Brendan Halpin has discovered the many benefits that tabletop role-playing games can bring to teenagers. Now, he’s on a mission to get his nonprofit, Everybody’s Gaming Guild, off the ground.

“A lot of people are interested but they don’t know how to start,” Halpin said of breaking into the world of tabletop gaming. “It’s a lot to process and helpful to have someone who knows the game to help you into it.”

And that’s why he started Everybody’s Gaming Guild—so teens can help each other learn toproblem solve and work together. Halpin said he used to play these games himself as a kid, especially Dungeons and Dragons, one of many role-playing games where players create a character  and collaboratively navigate a world created by the “Dungeon Master.”

As an adult, Halpin has volunteered at places like the East Boston branch of the Boston Public Library to play these games with teenagers. “I started really getting a sense of the benefits these games have,” he said, adding that it helps kids become less impulsive and helps them think about different ways to approach problems.

“The action is imaginary, but the sense of accomplishment was real,” he said of the gameplay. “It hits the same buttons as other extracurriculars and it’s really important for teenagers.”

Halpin decided that rather than continuing to volunteer, he’d like to create a larger program in Boston that could reach a larger number of kids. The other reason he’d like to do it in the city is because “the hobby in general has a sort of suburban history; it’s played in a lot of suburban basements,” he said, and  “It’s a pretty white, middle class type of hobby.”  He added, “If you don’t have the money for books” or other materials for the game, it can leave less well-off kids out of the activity.

“I’m trying to provide those factors for kids in the city,” he said. ”This would create a place for that and hopefully help diversify the hobby a little bit. Everybody benefits when there’s a more diverse community.” While Everybody’s Gaming Guild is still in its fundraising phase and has no permanent location yet, Halpin plans on having a pilot program after school two days a week this fall at the Dewitt Center in Roxbury. He hopes to situate the permanent location in Egleston Square, but is also considering Dudley Square. “I feel like there’s a need for it” [in neighborhoods like these], he said.  “Once you start doing the thing, it becomes easier to raise the money,” Halpin said.

Halpin said he’s about $2000 short of his goal for his crowdfunding campaign, and once more money is raised, he will be able to secure a location and really get the program off the ground. Right now, he’s still meeting with people and trying to make contacts in the gaming and philanthropic communities. He also hopes to hold a game day sometime this fall as a fundraiser to get people to come out and play and learn about the organization.

Aside from money, Halpin is looking for people to eventually run the games. “When we expand enough, I’m gong to need someone besides me to help run games,” he said. “The more people that know, the closer we are to getting this to happen.”

He will also need furniture once he has a permanent location, and volunteer labor to possibly help renovate the space, and will be reaching out to role-playing game company Wizards of the Coast for giveaways and promotional materials. 

He’s also accepting donations for any types of materials for the games, which can be anything from Dungeons and Dragons materials to materials for other role-playing games. He said he will be starting out mainly with Dungeons and Dragons, but hopes to have “tons of role-playing games in just about any setting—science fiction, spies, Star Wars, any kind of story that you want to get immersed in,” he said. Eventually, he’d also like to have a large library of sourcebooks so that people can run whatever game they’d like.

However, all games must be collaborative, not competitive, he said. “That’s what I like about this kind of game; nobody goes home sad because they lost.” Everybody’s Gaming Guild truly is for everybody—there is no experience necessary to join, but skilled players are welcome too., he said.

While the teen program would be free for teenagers, Halpin said he’d also like to use the permanent space after dinner for a paid membership adult program. This will “help to monetize the space a little bit and have a center for this community,” as well as “help build a diverse gaming community,” he said. Additionally, teens who graduate from the teen program would get a free membership to the adult program, he said.

“Eventually I’d like to be a big and stable corporation,” Halpin said. But for right now, he is just hoping to spread the word, get the organization running, and “maybe inspire people in other places to do the same kind of thing.”

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