This is long but will hopefully explain what's going on with NerdNYC.
I love NerdNYC.
I met the love of my life because of NerdNYC. I've made countless friends. I've had experiences I will cherish forever.
It's because of love we keep NerdNYC alive.
When the original NerdNYC organizers left, instead of letting the community fade away, we came together to reinvigorate and grow NerdNYC.
Before we were ever involved the original website was formed as phase one of a business plan to start a for-profit Nerd Bar. But this was about community for us, not profit, so when we took over we made NerdNYC an official nonprofit organization whose mission is simply to help people make friends and play games.
We've been a huge success.
We've run 25+ Recess events, 14 Gotham Gaming Guilds, and 40+ Boardgame Nights.
Over 50+ gaming groups met each other and became friends because of NerdNYC. We reach 1,000+ people in NYC. It's been incredible.
None of us receive compensation or any benefits.
We don't do this for money or personal gain. We work incredibly hard, do months of work, effectively working part time jobs for free to make NerdNYC possible. Myself alone, I easily do $20,000+ worth of non-deductible charity work for NerdNYC a year (this isn't a write-off). And that doesn't even begin to count the tireless efforts of wonderful people like Pillar, Keren, Evilyn, Jim, Tim, Tekatana, Eppy and many others.
In the 9 years we prospered, others tried recreating the magic we have here: NerdLondon, NerdNJ, NerdSoCal, NerdNC, NerdSF, and more.
None of these exist today.
There is a reason there isn't another organization like NerdNYC in Manhattan, especially not a non-profit one. NerdNYC literally thrives on sweat and pure willpower.
NerdNYC is about community. But events like Recess aren't organized by the community. The community is an incredible help, and without community there is no NerdNYC, but Recess is specifically organized by NerdNYC the non-profit. A legal official organization that operates within the confines of NY State and NY City law.
Recently we've had to make incredibly difficult decisions that personally hurt us.
We consider many of the people who attend Recess family. We love it when people bring their children and play games together. Running family events isn't the core of our nonprofit's mission but it's a pleasant benefit we've provided and greatly enjoyed.
But as we grow in size, as places we rent close down, it's always a struggle to find new locations to run events. Many wonderful people have made recommendations and helped us find new spaces. But more and more of these spaces offer inefficient insurance and don't provide many of the features that would allow for a safe all ages space.
So we have to rely less and less on the spaces we rent and become more self-reliant. We're getting our own event liability insurance and have reached out to several insurance providers and legal experts to ask how to improve our events.
This isn't just about protecting against lawsuits and covering NerdNYC's liability. Depending on the space we are in, if we are going to run a safe event for non-adults then there are things we would like that many spaces don't provide.
We would like a space to have window guards, child-proof tables & chairs, electrical outlet covers, radiator/heater covers, to be free of lead paint, and to have a layout with entrances and exits that allow us to control who comes in and out of our events, and much more.
In addition to allow for a safer all ages space various landlords and insurance providers have recommended we run background checks on all GMs, event organizers, and volunteers. That we have staff trained in first aid and CPR. Have even more security and staff safeguarding the event. Separate games with mature content away from games that are all ages. And collect more personal information for every attendee who comes to Recess.
The details depend on the space, the event, and the insurance.
And ultimately even though NerdNYC is a community, even though the legal organization running Recess is a non-profit, even though our non-profit is small we potentially have liability and risk similar to organizations 100-1,000 times larger than us. We have the potential liability of an event the size of Gen Con with 30,000 people but we're doing this for free and don't have the capital at present to fight against civil lawsuits.
NerdNYC runs on a barebones budget.
Our primary source of funds is one and two day membership fees to attend Recess. The money we collect from Recess pays for everything else.
The funds collected at Recess pays for space rentals, community parties, accounting, supplies, software, website hosting fees, domain names, design services, programming services, advertisements, and more. To keep the cost of the Gotham Gaming Guild low, we often subsidize the event using funds collected from Recess. If an event has low attendance or rental fees suddenly rise, fund from Recess partially pays for the difference. And to start Recess the original organizers used their own money to get things started. No one gets paid. And without Recess, there is no officially organized NerdNYC.
If NerdNYC was ever involved in a civil lawsuit, it would possibly mean the end of NerdNYC. Legal consultation fees can easily range from $200-400+ an hour. Retaining legal services can cost $5,000-$10,000+. Miscellaneous fees can climb to thousands. And in civil lawsuits, you often don't have the right to an attorney. Lawsuits can take months or years to resolve. Months and years of stress, anguish, and work. There are several organizations that provide cheap legal services for non-profits but in some cases we're too small to qualify, there are still fees involved, and the waiting time can take months.
But that's if you are lucky!
We've known people who run organizations that help people only to be sued and had the limited protection that a corporation provides fail and they've lost their homes and in some cases their life savings.
The likelihood of this happening is far greater than many people realize.
"Why doesn't NerdNYC simply require waivers?"
We may require people sign waivers agreeing not to sue NerdNYC but waivers offer little legal protection. Some of the people that we know who have been sued were sued by people who signed such waivers.
"But I would never sue NerdNYC."
Several people have expressed this and we appreciate it and believe them. Many of these are people we invite into our personal homes. Clearly we trust them. But this isn't about them. Recess is an event open to the public. We know many of you personally but we don't know everyone who comes to Recess. But even if liability is lessened, we still want to provide a safe environment for those involved.
So where does that leave NerdNYC?
Without Recess, there is likely formally no NerdNYC. If we run an all ages Recess, we want to help keep non-adult attendees safe. Running a safe all ages Recess could mean doubling or tripling the cost of Recess (or higher). And it means a lot more work, time, stress, and risk. While Recess from an attendees' standpoint is 10 hours of fun 2-3 times a year, it usually means 2 months of unpaid work by at least 6 people to make each Recess happen. Which all assumes we find a space that accommodate Recess' needs and that the Recess staff has the time to do all this work. And we still carry the potential risk of a devastating lawsuit.
We cancelled last Recess partially because it wasn't clear what the best way to proceed given Recess' needs as it grows, we didn't have the time to put the necessary changes in place, and we didn't have the time to find the right insurance.
So what do we do?
We've decided to move forward with Recess as an 18+ event. It was that or cancel next Recess.
Which is disappointing and frustrating.
Many people who bring their families to Recess are a cherished part of our community. Many of these people make the work involved in running Recess worth doing. But this isn't about our personal feelings.
We don't expect anyone to be happy with this change.
It may not be permanent. But we can't make promises. It's very likely that next January's Recess will also be 18+. Our goal is to keep Recess going and we would rather compromise than have it all go away. Hopefully at some point we can make Recess 13+. And maybe one day we can make Recess all ages again. It should also be made clear that this doesn't mean all NerdNYC events will be 18+. Some may be, some may not. We're only talking about Recess right now.
We know this is disappointing. We're also disappointed.
"But why are we only hearing about this now? I want transparency."
To be 100% honest, transparency isn't something we can always offer.
More often than not it’s for legal reasons. When we sign a rental agreement, often it has a non-disclosure agreement attached that states we can't disclose the details of that agreement. There are also issues of opening ourselves up to allegation of defamation. If we explain in detail what's bad about every space we look at in public, that can get NerdNYC into trouble and cause organizations to stop renting to us. We also do our very best to respect the privacy of our members. And in some cases, when we are dealing with concerns like the above, it can cause problems talking about these issues publicly. And sometimes there are things we simply can't talk about. Most of you know us personally and we've proven ourselves professionally over 9 years to be worthy of your trust. If we can't talk about something, it's probably for an incredibly good reason.
And ultimately the people who do the work (spending countless hours working for free), the people who are financing an event, the people who are putting themselves at risk, and the people who are experts in certain areas are the people who decide how an event is run. In general we would like things to be as open as possible. This isn't something we are required to do. It's something we want to do when possible. We can't promise complete transparency but we will work to be more open. But if you think we have a valid reason to be silent about certain topics, please don't ask us to disclose more than we reasonably can.
"Why was the original 18+ announcement written the way it was?"
For legal reasons. It's not something we wanted to do; we apologize for the tone of the announcement. We understand why some people are upset. Hopefully this message is enough to help everyone understand where we are coming from. In addition, in the future we will make it clearer when we are speaking on behalf of the NerdNYC board and officers, and when we are speaking as individuals, so as to separate what we need to say as an organization from our usual, day-to-day interactions with our friends in NerdNYC.
"But I want to do something about this!"
If you want to organize your own all ages gaming event, please do so. We'll help.
True Nerd Trivia is run by members of the NerdNYC community but isn't run by NerdNYC (the non-profit). That said, we do our best to support each other. Just like True Nerd Trivia, if you put together your own event we will help promote it and even introduce you to gaming stores that may want to help sponsor you.
If you feel passionate about this, we encourage you to take that passion and make a difference.
This is what we did. This is what we've always done.
When NerdNYC was at risk of going away, we stepped up and made it what we wanted it to be. When people wanted something different than NerdNYC offered, they stepped up and made something new and we helped them.
Not everyone is in the position to be the change they want. Some people don't have the time. We understand. We hope that as NerdNYC evolves we can be as accommodating as possible. But for NerdNYC to evolve it first needs to survive. And we're making the changes to keep it going so it has a chance to evolve.
And it will!