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From Werewolves to Esports fanatics: all are welcome at Het Duivelsei association

The members of the Duivelsei student association are games mad, be it computer or board games. Game of the Goose and Ludo have fallen out of favour. The students prefer more-challenging board games or online gaming instead. ‘You can be yourself here.’

LSSV Het Duivelsei doesn’t have year groups or an introductory period. It’s too small for that. But otherwise it’s has the same structure as all other student associations: a board – at special occasions dressed in a unisex grey suit with red tie – and committees, including the werewolf one. Yes, that’s right, but this doesn’t mean roaming the night streets on the hunt for werewolves. It’s a card game Weerwolven van Wakkerdam (or Werewolves of Millers Hollow as the English version is known) that you can play in a big group and is led by a moderator. In the game a werewolf kills a villager every night, so the aim of the game is to eliminate the werewolves, who aren’t recognisable as such in the daytime. ‘You can also play it round a campfire,’ says board member Joris Vugs, who is doing an MA in Book and Digital Media studies. ‘That really sets the mood.’ During lockdown the werewolf committee moved the game online, so the members could play from home. 

Members play Super Smash Bros during the EL CID introduction week

Relaxed, laid-back even

The association has grown steadily from 300 members in 2015 to the current 450. It’s diminutive size makes it friendly. ‘You can come and join in, and a game immediately gives you something to talk about,’ says Joris. There’s a relatively high proportion of techies, maths and computer science students for instance, but it doesn’t feel ‘nerdy’. And there’s a strong humanities contingent too. Joris: ‘You could say that a certain level of nerdiness has become mainstream. That’s definitely true for gaming.’ He describes the mood at Duivelsei as really relaxed, laid-back even, and very friendly. ‘You can be yourself here. We’re inclusive. Which is really great. We hold the odd party at the COC.’ [COC is an LGBTI+ association.]

What does duivelsei mean?
Duivelsei is a medieval name for dice. Gambling was held to be ‘devilish’, hence a die also being known as a duivelsei (devil’s egg). The Duivelsei logo isn’t a die but a little devil instead.

Club premises in Pelikaan Complex

Duivelsei has its own club room by the Pelibar in the Pelikaanstraat student complex. They used the lockdown to repaint and redecorate it. ‘We’ve created a great games corner,’ says Joris. And the 500 board games are for now at least neatly lined up in the cupboards. Thursday night is club night, as are alternating Tuesday and Wednesdays. These are now held online. Around 40 members usually come to club night in the autumn, but as summer approaches and theses and other papers have to be written or exams taken, it dwindles to around 20. The association doesn’t have its own bar but uses the Pelibar instead. Unsurprising because when asked if alcohol is bad for the concentration, Joris says: ‘Our members don’t really drink.’

The most popular games
The Duivelsei member like games that aren’t too difficult but have a social element to them. But they also like a challenge with games that require strategy. The most popular games played online at Duivelsei are (for now) Weerwolven van Wakkerdam, a French game and Among Us. Joris: ‘Among Us is such an easy and sociable game that you can play it with lots of people.’ Pokémon also has its fans. Of the board games Twilight Imperium is popular in normal times. ‘It’s a strategic game that’s set in space with factions fighting each other,’ says Joris. ‘It’s a long session, about eight hours.’ And the offline version of Weerwolven van Wakkerdam is often produced from the games cupboard.

Other activities, also outdoors

Alongside the club evenings are many other activities – fewer at the moment – such as days at the beach. They sometimes play tag too, with humans and zombies chasing each other. That carries on 24/7, for two weeks. Joris: ‘You end up really paranoid.’ 

Every now and then a game publisher will ask the association to serve as a test panel for new games that are being developed. It’s a lively market and the Netherlands is among the top in the world in games development. And then there’s the odd request for help from the university, from students, for instance, who want to develop a game for their studies. 

Esports coming up

From the start the association has been open to lovers of both board and computer games; Sony’s roaring success, PlayStation 1, which had sales of a hundred million, was released in the year of Duivelsei’s inception: 27 years ago, in 1994. Joris joined the club as a gamer. ‘But you see that the transition is soon made: gamers also join in board games and vice versa.’

There will soon be a new kid on the block, Esports, which may also be a source of new members. ‘The Netherlands is somewhat behind,’ says Joris. Although this is about virtual sports competitions – with ‘real’ sports ranging from football to strategy games in teams – the association is now in contact with the Sports Centre. 

Homo ludens never tires of play.

Text: Corine Hendriks
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