Gaming is a diverse hobby. It extends beyond the Scrabble and Monopoly of family gatherings, or the video games many associate with teenage boys.

These days, gamers come in all stripes and have access to a vast and ever-expanding world of imaginative, skill-building, and creative games and platforms.

Once considered a niche hobby, gaming is now increasingly mainstream, and is a core component of Whitehorse’s upcoming popculture fest, YukomiCon

In anticipation of the weekendlong event, I interviewed two local long-time gamers for a brief inside look into the hobby: Lianne Maitland, a twenty-something arts curator who says gaming often forms the “core of [her] social bonds,” and Shawn Underhill, owner and proprietor of Whitehorse’s gaming hub, Titan Gaming & Collectibles.

Many people don’t realize the incredible social value of gaming. Part of the problem is a misperception of gamers. As Underhill puts it, there is a stigma that, “gamers are all stinky single guys who live in their parents’ basement.”

On the contrary, he says, today’s gamers cross the spectrum of age, gender, income level, and personality type. “In one game I can be playing with a friend who’s new to the workforce working in an entrylevel job, and another friend who’s a lawyer.”

Underhill emphasized that playing games can be a fantastic way to connect with a spouse, or children. It can lead you to meet new people, and can often form the foundation of long-lasting friendships. “I’m still close friends with buddies I played games with back in the day,” he says. “We still get together for a weekly game night.”

Another social aspect of games is the way they teach and reward social intelligence.

Maitland admits to a sizeable competitive streak, but says that in many of the games she enjoys — particularly role-playing games (i.e. RPGs) such as Dungeons & Dragons — “direct competition isn’t beneficial, or might even be downright detrimental.”

Instead, these games encourage players to find ways to work together to reach common goals, often by employing creative strategies that utilize the unique strengths of each player.

Beyond the above, the skillsbased aspect of gaming is a core part of the appeal. According to Underhill, gaming the right way develops a plethora of valuable skills, including how to be a good loser (and, more importantly, a good winner), fair play and honesty, problem-solving and planning skills.

RPGs, again, are high on Maitland’s list, not only for their function as an outlet for creativity but also “because they can be intensely intellectual,” requiring players to “explore complex issues such as politics, religion, ethics, economics… the list is endless.”

This August 21-23, new and veteran gamers from around the territory and beyond will gather at the High Country Inn and the Yukon Convention Centre to compete in tournaments at the second annual YukomiCon.

They’ll take part in drop-in sessions, or learn to play games ranging from board and card games and pencil-and-paper RPGs to popular PC franchise games.

As Underhill says, “Games are continually changing, evolving.” If you’ve never played before, or haven’t in awhile, take a trip to the heart of Yukon’s gaming community and you might just find something for you.

You can learn more about YukomiCon 2015 at http://www. yukomicon.com/.