In a wide-open room, showing signs of years of abuse, six young men stand off, flourishing foam weapons. One lets out a battle cry, and the six charge into a skirmish, where bright greens, oranges and blues mix into a blur of motion.
Glenville State College’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild meets once a week to practice freestyle fencing and boffering, a sport in which opponents attack one another with weapons made of PVC pipe, foam and duct tape.
The Guild is made up of a group of students, who have come together to form a social group whose interests range from tabletop gaming like “Dungeons & Dragons,” to video games and anime (Japanese-style cartoons), to fencing and boffering. Though the club has developed around what members and outsiders consider fringe interests, its numbers continue to grow.
“The guild was restarted in 2008 and we now have over 40 members. That’s three times more than we’ve ever had before,” said Devon Maher, President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild.
The club hosts and participates in various events around campus including fencing, table top role playing games, haunted house and Jugger, game similar to Rugby but with foam weapons.
In role-playing games, like “Dungeons & Dragons,” players create characters and use their imaginations to go on adventures and act out what their character may be doing in the world that the Game Master creates.
Once a game begins, many players totally immerse themselves in the experience. They get into character by pantomiming their weapons and actions, or speaking in different voices. If a player’s character is hurt in the game, he might feign the injuries that his character received.
Players may speak to one another outside of the game, but it is necessary to use a hand gesture while speaking to denote that it’s “out of character.”
With such a range of activities like Dungeons & Dragons, many of the Guild members have joined for different reasons. The Guild allows members to do more complex and otherwise expensive activities. At the beginning of each semester, Guild members pay dues, roughly $10, and the money is used in conjunction with fundraisers to purchase Guild t-shirts and to host video game tournaments and movie nights.
“The largest project we usually take on is the Halloween Dance, which we as an organization are usually the main driving force of,” said Sherman.
But other than their actual interests, the members consider the guild to be a safe place to express themselves.
“In a lot of ways, it’s a sort of discrimination-free zone. We’re not exactly going to ostracize you because you’re into something like “anime.” That’s pretty much par for the course,” Sherman said.
According to Maher, the group is extremely diverse and gives people who aren’t quite social, a reason to come out and meet others like themselves.
“The funny thing about a group for Science Fiction Fantasy Guild people is that we tend to be fairly introverted already, we’re not necessarily going to leave our rooms for anything. We have a lot of trouble getting people away from [video games like] ‘World of Warcraft.’ ‘God of War III’ has been a problem for some members, here recently,” Sherman said.
According to Sherman, students join the guild as much for the social community as the gaming pursuits.
“When I first came here, I wasn’t really backward. I met a lot of friends fast. It’s just that I never really had a chance to hang out with them, and now with these Guild meetings, since all my friends are in there, I have a chance to hang out with everyone,” said Matt Williams.
Overall, the Guild’s reception on campus seems to be warm, according to campus officials and locals around town.
But, not everyone understands what the Guild does, and on occasion the members have to deal with heckling. Sometimes they respond defensively, but Sherman says they should try to engage others instead of push them away.
“The idea is not for us to further ostracize ourselves from other people, this is an extremely fun thing to do.” Sherman said.
Next year, the Guild expects to bolster its ranks with new recruits as new students enroll and current students discover the variety of interests that the Guild offers.
“In Glenville there is not a lot to do, so the Guild actually gave me something to do. I’ve met a lot of friends, I’ve become a lot closer with people,” Maher said. “You can’t really do that in other activities, it gave me something to keep my mind off just studying.”
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild meets every Tuesday around 12:30 pm. For more information check out the Guild’s facebook page by searching “Glenville State College Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild.”
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