Grande Prairie’s tabletop gaming community is refusing to let the COVID-19 pandemic lower their spirits. Specifically, enthusiasts of the miniature war game, Warhammer 40,000 say the hobby often provides a way for them to leave the real world behind, reduce their stress, and be a part of something positive.
Adam Trembley, who has played for roughly 14 years, says for him, the positive nature of the hobby stems from actively putting time and effort into what he’s creating.
“A lot of entertainment is very passive, you just kind of sit there and consume it. Doing something creative, whether that is painting or welding or any sort of activity where you’re proactively creating something, has a positive effect on your mental health.”
“Especially during these times when we feel like we can’t do anything, and we’re really tired after work, it’s important to push yourself just that little bit extra,” he says.
The game itself takes place in the 41st millennium, in a galaxy filled with war. On the table, this setting is represented and played out with plastic miniatures and by rolling lots of six-sided dice. The miniatures are purchased unassembled and unpainted, thus requiring time and care to bring to life and make one’s own.
For Troy Glowasky, the community, culture, and people are the lifeblood of the game. He says it’s something that is continually growing and changing, which for him, keeps him coming back to the table.
“Ultimately we’re building and painting models, and then we are getting together around a table with other people and building community through a shared activity. That hasn’t changed in 40 years, it’s just how or why you roll dice that’s changed.”
“I can go to a conference anywhere in the world and I can feel immediately welcomed and comfortable and at peace because I know that I have commonality with people in that room, no matter where I am, even if I don’t speak the language,” he says.
Tremblay adds since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lack of ability to meet in person, the practice of sharing one’s painted miniatures online has become an ever more popular platform which fellow hobbyists use to support each other.
William Bilodeau, who refers to himself as extremely extroverted, explains painting his miniatures has provided an opportunity for him to relax and not stress over not seeing other people.
“I go really stir crazy when I don’t have very many people to talk to. When I’m painting models, I kind of lose track of the world and just focus on what I’m doing.”
“One of the models I painted recently… I spent at least two days working on [it] and I didn’t even notice that I hadn’t talked to anybody until after I was done the model,” he says.
Glowasky adds painting is something synonymous with a favourite chair— something that is more comfortable than anything or anywhere else.
“When people spend time in these hobbies… they are developing this area in their minds that is safe and good and enjoyable.”
Grande Prairie’s wargaming community currently consists of roughly 600 people. Vincent Joyall, Owner of Wonderland, says he believes this community and the positivity it’s capable of can conquer any challenge that’s thrown at it, together.
“The number one thing you can do to give yourself the resilience to battle any adversity is community,” he says. “We’ve come out of this stronger, healthier, and our minds are sharper. We’re a stronger community today than we were before the pandemic.”
Glowasky encourages anyone who’s on the fence about picking up a hobby of any sort to at least give it a try before deciding whether or not it’s really for them.