By John Bronn 
BELLEVILLE – Despite the huge popularity of video games, Belleville has a steadily growing community of people who prefer tabletop gaming – playing board games such as Dungeons and Dragons.
The city is home to many gaming shops, some of which have been around for over 30 years, and they all host games nights.
The tabletop community has changed a lot over the years, says Richard Belanger, owner of Scallywags Toys  on Front Street downtown. He opened his doors over three decades ago.
Mind Games  in the Quinte Mall is much newer. It opened a year and a half ago and has already gained a large and dedicated following, said Tiffany Young, the store’s manager.
Dungeons and Dragons is huge, and they need to have several groups playing at once to accommodate the large group of people that show up to play, said Young. The average Dungeons and Dragons game takes around 10 hours of preparation for one session that generally lasts around three hours. That is a lot of effort compared to a video game, which takes mere minutes to set up.
“I grew up in an era where we transformed from always playing outside to gaming,” said Young. “I think a lot of parents see too many kids on their devices, like tablets and and phones. And having game nights like these helps to take the kids away from the technology and brings them back to increasing their strategy skills, their social awareness skills. I think it has really taken hold for that reason.”
Lately gaming shops have seen a rise in younger people coming out to join the community.
“Pokemon is huge,” Young said. “We have anywhere from 12 to 20 kids any given Tuesday,” which is Pokemon night at Mind Games.
Tabletop gaming promotes social interaction, said Belanger.
Young agreed, saying: “Gaming in our store, or a store like ours, with the younger generation, it’s a way of learning acceptable loss and how to deal with that. It teaches them social skills and how to interact with other people … Unfortunately a lot of people lose their identity in these (video) gaming worlds, and it’s made us lazy and it’s made social skills lacking.
“It helps these kids when they are sitting at a table with a person, versus going online and choosing whoever you want to be – where you can hide behind a computer screen. It’s too easy to become someone else online.”