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The Stacks: Boston Stacks Up at Jamaica Plain VA!

The Boston Stack Debuts Its Monthly Game Events at Local VAs!

Back at PAX East, Boston Stack Leads Ben Irr and Dylan Connolly learned about how a Stack out in California had been holding gaming events at their local VA for the past four months. The Stack had started out with modest, single console events that gradually grew to sizable four console tournaments; something that the local veterans had come to look forward to every month. Back in April, Connolly and Irr decided to follow their fellow Stacks’ lead with a few major improvements: use the well-founded connections with Natick’s Microsoft store to acquire four consoles for the first event, and start at the point the other stack had taken months to reach! After a few setbacks, last Friday saw the fruits of months of planning, constant communication, and an impressive amount of dedication from the Boston Stack Leads and their contacts at the Jamaica Plain VA. The result was an undeniably successful debut, and the first of many events at local Boston VAs!

Though the small room reserved for the event was (literally) tucked away by a secondary staircase, it didn’t take long for the little room to feel stuffed. About twenty people in total attended the event, including several veterans who had only set foot in a VA once or twice before. Among the attendees were two Gulf War veterans, four Post 9/11 veterans, and even a few off-shift employees of the VA!

The theme for this first event was fighting games, so attendees had the choice between four highly-rated games for the Xbox One: Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Edition, Injustice 2, UFC 3, and Dragonball FighterZ. While UFC didn’t get much love (turns out the controls aren’t as intuitive as the other three), Street Fighter and Dragonball FighterZ had lines for the next round!

Those who weren’t playing at the moment had a chance to talk to Ben, Dylan, or our Jamaica Plain VA contacts Wes and Sharalis. The Stack Leads used this event to promote Stack-Up in general, with a focus on the StOP program–Stack-Up’s suicide prevention consultation team, of which both Connolly and Irr are members.

The leads prepared a tri-fold poster board with information on the Boston Stack, including contact information, literature, and a little Stack-Up swag. One of the most common questions of the evening was “can I buy one of those shirts?” Fortunately, the leads brought extras to hand out to the attendees who signed up for the Boston Stack.

The Stack learned also managed to learn a lot about the attendees during the event. Chris, one of the Gulf War veterans, apparently grew up in the same hometown as the Boston Stack’s Media Lead Tanner Hastings–which is the same town where Stack Lead Dylan Connolly lives in now. The three reminisced about growing up in the little north shore town, comparing past and present locations like Chris’ first job at the downtown pizzeria (which is still there, twenty years later). They also talked about the town over, and its impressive annual Memorial Day parade; apparently this year’s event even included two tanks in the march!

Though perhaps the most important lesson the Stack learned from these attendees was how some of them rarely–if ever–had stepped inside a VA before this event. They acknowledged that the VA does great work with some of the veterans who seek help there, but that doesn’t erase the rumors they’ve heard about the institution; “ghost stories” keep them away from the facilities designed to help them. The fact that they attended an event held inside a VA speaks volumes for how video games can bring people together, and stands as a great opportunity to show how some of these “ghost stories” about the VA are unmerited.

By the time the Boston Stack started to pack everything up, one question had been repeated more than any other: “when are you guys doing this again?” Encouraged by the attendee’s praise and excitement to learn of more events, the Stack Leads left the Jamaica Plain VA deeply satisfied with this debut–the first event of many.

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