Sep 12, 2023 - Things to Do

Gaming is on the rise in Boston's nightlife scene

Illustration of a disco ball shaped like a 20-sided die.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

🎙️ This story is part of Axios' collaboration with GBH News about Boston's nightlife.

The Boston area has seen a rise in nightlife options for gamers and other hobbyists in the last decade.

  • But members of the community say there's an even greater need for things to do in the city at night beyond bars and clubs.

Why it matters: An inclusive nightlife industry also speaks to locals who are into gaming, escape rooms, live action role playing, reading and other hobbies.

Catch up fast: At least two gaming cafes have opened over the past decade: Knight Moves, a cafe in Brookline, and Tavern of Tales: Cafe & Bar in Mission Hill.

  • Swedish reality gaming company Boda Borg opened its first North American location in Malden in 2015, while others have launched arcade bars and escape rooms in recent years.

What's happening: Pandemonium Books & Games in Cambridge hosts some of the longest-running nighttime gaming events in the area, featuring Dungeons & Dragons, Magic The Gathering, Blades in the Dark and other role-playing games, says Tristan Patino, the store's events manager.

  • Over the past two decades the events have been very popular, and interest remains high, he says.
  • "People are always asking about events and when they can come in to play games...They're enthusiastic to get involved with game nights."

Plus: Boston Gaymers, a social group for LGBTQIA+ gamers, launched six years ago and hosts events at Knight Moves, The Alley and Club Café for video games and board games.

  • The group's online membership has grown to more than 3,000, board member Andi Morton tells Axios. Its in-person events usually draw several dozen people.

What they're saying: When it comes to in-person board and card games, Morton says, "the demand was much more intense than we anticipated. We had to move to a larger space within Club Café, and the attendance has never dwindled at either event."

  • "People in the queer community really wanted a safe space," she says.

Between the lines: Despite consistently high turnout, Morton acknowledged challenges remain in drawing some to in-person events, thanks to the MBTA ending service shortly after midnight, some gamers' concerns about anti-LGBTQ+ harassment and COVID-19.

What we're watching: Patino of Pandemonium says he would like to see more existing bars and restaurants offer late-night board game options and quieter environments to broaden their appeal — particularly since many nighttime businesses have gotten louder in recent years.

  • That would also make the spaces more welcoming to people who get overstimulated by loud noises and others who simply want to hang out with friends without loud music, Patino adds.

The bottom line: "I think having social things for people who want to be social, but just in a different way than clubbing, is valuable," Patino says.


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