Nigel Scarfe

I'm a game player.

I just love games, whether that might be board games, card games or something very different. I love the challenge they present and above all I love the interaction and fun I have with my fellow players. This love started way back when I was around 12 and had recently started high school. I was a really quiet kid, extremely polite and good natured but one that really struggled. I found lessons difficult, and found concentrating a tough ask.

I wasn’t daft but didn’t find anything that captivated me and made me want to understand and learn more. It was around this time however I had a fortunate incident that had a huge effect on me. My family had been invited to an annual get together with other siblings over Christmas and New Year. These tended to be pretty boring and so because of this a cousin of mine used it as an excuse to introduce me to a game he’d recently discovered himself called 'Dungeons & Dragons'. He’d started playing it with his college mates and it suited him to talk about it whilst that adults discussed the woes of the world.

I loved it.

The idea of creating a character and taking him into a magical world, one where anything could happen was perfect for me and was exactly what I needed to give me a focus and to allow me to use my natural imagination. This game changed my life. Over the next several years I would spend a huge number of hours playing the game and in doing so I began to see how it was affecting my ability in both basic maths and English. The game gave me a desire to, not only learn more, but to see why these sort of basic skills were so important. My imagination flourished and my friendship circle grew dramatically as we introduced friends of friends to this new game phenomenon.

As I left school I didn’t get the opportunity to go to university and instead had to find work wherever I could. This meant starting at the bottom of the ladder in retail and working from there. At around 21 I was given a job in a record shop which really developed my personality, and for those that know me better my dry humour and sarcastic wit! This was a great time and although money was hard to come by I was surrounded by friends, gaming regularly at the club I’d established and having a great time at the shop. After doing this for several years it had come time to move on and so I left the store and went to manage stores at Meadowhall and for ToysR Us. Whilst doing this time became a little more precious but I never stopped gaming. Whilst working at TRU I was asked by a friend, who I’d met via the games club, to come to his family business and work for them.

Games are ideal tools for pushing both learning outcomes and creativity, for developing self-confidence and social skills.

This business worked in schools creating playground marking and activities. This was my introduction to the education sector and this started me thinking again of how games could possibly be used in a schools environment. Whilst working here I was given the opportunity to try out my idea of using traditional games in schools alongside a project we were running at the time. We put together a range of games and created a DVD of how to play them and trialled this at several schools. The reaction from pupils and staff was great and this certainly helped my confidence in knowing whether doing something like this could be a success. I was confident that there must be many other children in schools across the UK that were experiencing the same difficulties I faced when at school and needed the creative and challenging outlet.

So in 2007 I decided to take the plunge and give it a go. Imagination Gaming was born. I spent the first year contacting people and running events for little if nothing, trying to establish a name for myself and to learn what was really required and most importantly what schools were looking for. I nervously talked in front of anyone that would listen, hoping they would seethe benefits of our programmes and would buy in to what I was trying to do. Fortunately several people did. They helped me run a number of sessions in schools across the region and gave me the helping hand I needed to get established. There are lots of people I would like to thank but think there are a few too many to list here. Hopefully I’ve thanked you all in person long before now but I genuinely appreciate the help and support I’ve had from the numerous people I’ve encountered over the last several years.

Games are hugely under appreciated and under valued, give those children you work with the chance that I had that in turn changed my life.

There are some great teachers and staff out there across the schools, libraries and other organisations. Thier enthusiasm has certainly helped push me forward and keep us on our toes. My initial ideas have changed somewhat since we started ( as we continue to always learn and improve our craft), but our principals remain the same and the feedback we receive is tremendous. We are continuously inspired by everyone we meet and are always adding new games, services and activities to our range based on the real-word problems we encounter, ther demands of an ever changing curriculem, or the feedback we receive.

I’ll finally leave this with one last point. In the seven plus years I’ve been running Imagination Gaming I’ve never met a single child who didn’t really enjoy at least some of the games we’ve used. Humans are natural game players and children in particular love the challenge they bring. Games are ideal tools for pushing learning outcomes and creativity, for developing self-confidence and social skills. In a time in which schools are finding it increasingly difficult to engage children who are more and more fixated on electronic stimulus, games are more important than ever in breaking down barriers and helping us reach inside a person’s mind, unleashing their creativity, inspiring them to learn new things and to enjoy interacting with others. Games are hugely under appreciated and under valued. Give those children you work with the chance that I had that in turn changed my life.

Since starting Imagination Gaming in 2007 Nigel considers himself lucky to have been able to deliver those compelling experiences to schools, organisations and communities and continues to do whatever it takes to make a difference to those he is working with. You can contact him directly via nigel@imaginationgaming.co.uk