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Playing games at Pitman
game club pic2
Pitman High School Freshman Oliver Snell makes a move during a chess game. Snell is a member of the Pitman Game Club, one of the most popular extra-curricular activities on campus - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Who knew playing games such as Warhammer 40,000 or Yu-Gi-Oh could increase adolescent problem solving capabilities, analytical skills and even social skills?

But those are some of the very skills that Pitman High School Game Club students are learning on a nearly daily basis. The club, started when Pitman opened in 2001 by senior faculty advisor Marcus Hatchell, has grown from a handful of students to one of the largest student clubs on campus with more than 50 game enthusiasts.

Students in the club play classic board games, video games, fantasy card-games and table-top strategy games such as Warhammer 40,000.

WarHammer 40,000 for those who don’t know, is a dye-based table- top game in which space marines (futuristic space-suited marines) battle against Orks (basically ugly humanoid creatures) following specific rules and strategies. There are also many other characters in the game.

“The point of Warhammer is to capture an objective from the enemy or to wipe out the enemy entirely,” explained history teacher and faculty advisor Stephen Montgomery. “When playing the game the students learn about planning, analyzing, strategy, tactics, problem solving and math skills.”

But perhaps one of the most important aspects of the game club for students is the social interaction with peers with like-interests.

“A lot of these kids don’t connect with the larger group of students as a whole very well. Kids can come to this school as freshman with no friends and then they come in here and they make life-long connections. I have kids that have graduated a long time ago and they still talk to friends they met here,” said Hatchell, who is also an English teacher.

The club meets every day in either Hatchell or Montgomery’s classrooms during lunch and every Wednesday after school.

“We come here for friends and it’s a good way to let off steam in the middle of the day,” said Chris Bell, club co-president.

Bell is a loyal Yu-Gi-Oh! player and he said the game improved his math skills. Yu-Gi-Oh! Is a fantasy card game in which characters duel in mock battles.

Over the years Hatchell and Montgomery have encouraged club members to divide gaming experiences between traditional board or card games and video games.

“We’ve really been pushing the table-top games like Warhammer because there is a lot more interaction between the kids. The video games are great, but it’s a lot of the kid playing and starting at the screen,” said Montgomery.

Video games and board game parts, such as space marines, are either paid for by Hatchell and Montgomery or students raise the funds. Students also hand-paint figures and other game objects. Students in the club raised funds to purchase an Xbox 360, a Nintendo Game Cube and a Wii, along with several games for each system. Earlier this school year the Game Club held a Halo-ween Tournament and later this year the club plans to hold a massive Warhammer battle.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.