Nearby Gamers is a website designed to help tabletop gamers find each other. It’s a fine purpose, one which many other website owners have given themselves to since this internet fad caught on. For a hobby like tabletop games, which relies so heavily on in-person interaction, it can be amazingly difficult to find fellow enthusiasts in real life.
Given there are so many different sites intended to bring gamers together, what makes Nearby Gamers stand out? Two things in particular; the first of which simplicity. Rather than lots of check boxes and categories of interest for a user to fill out, Nearby Gamers uses a wiki-like system of tagging. A new user inputs their name, geographical location and list of games they like to play. This list can be as straightforward as “AD&D, Cosmic Encounter, Rifts, WitchCraft.” All tags are editable, so they can be given explanatory text and outbound links, as well as redirected to other tags, which is the really awesome part. That user who put “AD&D” on their profile can, through the magic of tag redirection, be included in the larger “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” tag without any work on their part, thus improving their odds of finding a fellow user who also enjoys that game, leading us to the second stand-out element of Nearby Gamers.
Where other tabletop networking sites use a series of nested geographical category containers — nation, state or province, etc — Nearby Gamers takes advantage of Google Maps to display graphically users by their location. This way, a user can tell by glancing at a map who’s physically nearby, which I find much more helpful than staring at a list of entries sorted by user name that reel off information like city and state without putting it in relation to my own location. Nearby Gamers can also pull together a list of users within a certain distance of your account’s given location, made helpful as it’s sorted by distance, rather than user name or some other less relevant criteria.
One of Nearby Gamers’ strengths is also its greatest drawback. The tag cloud is enormous and unwieldy. Anything typed into the preferences field becomes a tag, typos and bad copy-paste jobs alike. I’ve spent a fair bit of time myself helping redirect bad tags to their correct counterparts, but there are always more mistaken duplicates and nonsense tags to clean up. It’s a Sisyphean task, but that’s the nature of wiki-based tagging. It’s indefinitely expandable, but it’s also especially susceptible to “Garbage in, garbage out.”
The lesson here is: when you make an account, make sure you’re putting in good tags other people use. After that, Nearby Gamers is a great resource that presents a very straightforward way to find other gamers.