DECATUR — Cerro Gordo resident Matt Williams has always loved roleplaying and board games, and it was a desire to find new people to play these games with that led him to found the organization Decatur Gamers along with a few likeminded friends in 2009.
As the gaming meet-up group rapidly expanded in size, however, Williams and his co-founders began to wonder at what the wider community service applications of their organization could be. After much discussion, they decided to reach out to the country’s men in uniform with the creation of non-profit organization Games for Troops.
“I really don’t have any direct connections to the military, nor was I ever able to serve,” said Williams, who will host Games for Troops’ first-ever fundraising event on Saturday, a sold-out Trivia Night for Troops at Doherty’s Pub and Pins. “I just think about them often. Each time we complain here about this heat wave and I realize that there are solders walking around in Afghanistan in full uniform and with 50 pounds of gear on them, I’m thankful that they’re out there, doing the job they’re doing.”
The trivia night event will collect funds to purchase the sort of games that the members of Decatur Gamers play during their weekly “open gaming” sessions, the dates of which can be found on the organization’s website, www.decaturgamers.com. This will be the first major event since the organization incorporated in April, and they’re hoping to start out on the right foot.
“We have some contacts with major game manufacturers, and we hope to work with them and use these funds to get some discounted or package deals on games,” Williams said. “Then we’ll work with another care package group to simplify the process of sending the games to the troops.”
Games that will be sent will vary through all genres, from card games “as simple as Uno” to increasingly popular “Euro games” that include boxes like “Settlers of Catan” or “Ticket to Ride.” There is currently no exact way for the organization to assure that the games they send end up in the hands of soldiers who would already consider themselves “gamers,” but Williams and co. simply hope to offer a distraction to bored servicemen to use during their downtime, possibly winning some new game fans in the process.
“If you’re stationed in Afghanistan, you don’t have access to all of the conveniences we have here,” he said. “They spend a lot of time in readiness, waiting for something to happen, and often they don’t have much to occupy them in that time. We just want to give them a little taste of home.”
The organization also intends to begin compiling a list of specific soldiers who are seeking different styles of games over-seas, beginning with the friends and family members of those in the area. Eventually the list will include names of overseas military gamers with no link to Decatur.
“Everyone knows someone who’s in the service, and most everyone can agree that it’s important to take care of our troops,” Williams said. “A lot of the time, the kinds of care packages they receive are things like food, candy and books. Those are good, but if I was over there I would want some games to keep me busy. That’s why we decided to do this.”
Response for the event has been so strong that all of the tables in Doherty’s Pub and Pins sold out in advance. Prizes will be $120 for first place, $100 for second and $80 for third. Raffles will also be held, with prizes ranging from pearl earrings to a Kindle Fire. Up-to-date information can be found on the organization’s web site.
“There is an old combat adage that states, ‘War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror,’ ” Williams said. “We think that maybe we can help improve those ‘long periods of boredom’ if we can get board and card games into the hands of the men and women of the armed services. We’d like to help those people out.”