Make a difference





Main > An Interview with GameHearts

An Interview with GameHearts

People struggling with alcohol addiction have an incredible challenge to face - staying sober in social situations, when many of the common hangouts serve or encourage alcohol consumption.

With this in mind, Ron Glick formed GameHearts, a group of volunteers who give an alternative to bars and casinos - a game club, where people in need can gather, play, socialize, and stay sober.

The group hasn't been around for very long, but they recently made an agreement with their local Pizza Hut, which hosts their meetings every Friday and Saturday nights from 6-11pm.

I had an opportunity to talk with Ron and Tom from GameHearts and find out more about their work.

What inspired you to form GameHearts? 

Ron: I have always had an interest in charitable causes.  I have worked in and around community benefit nonprofit programs for the better part of my adult life, including working with victims of domestic abuse and youth programs.  Being a victim of domestic violence from an alcoholic step-father growing up, the issue of adult sobriety has always been close to my heart, and I have been a sponsor through Alcoholics Anonymous in the past.

As for how GameHearts came to be, I founded and operated a youth recreations program several years ago which ran for over seven years.  The program was similar to GameHearts in that it used tabletop games as educational activities for youth.  It shut down almost six years ago now when I had to move away and those I left to run the program were not able to maintain it.  A former contributor to that program contacted me a few months ago and offered to continue his support should I choose to re-start that program.  My interests had shifted, however, but he agreed to support my current direction toward adult reformation and advocacy.  With this incentive, I reformed the foundation that the youth program was founded upon to create an adult sobriety program, and GameHearts was born.

Tell us a little about the philosophy behind the group.

Ron: GameHearts' purpose is to address the complete absence of interactive activities in a rural community on Friday and Saturday nights.  Alcohol and drug abuse, along with addictive gambling, are large problems in our community, and individuals who wish to maintain sober lifestyles have a challenge in doing so simply because the only activities in town involve patronizing businesses that provoke their addictions.

The principle reason for GameHearts' existence is to provide an alternative for individuals who have a genuine desire to maintain a sober lifestyle by addressing the boredom that so often leads to relapses.  By providing interactive activities at no cost, the incentive to participate in a sober environment is greatly increased.  Additionally, the games which we use to promote our program encourage problem solving and goal oriented lessons that these individuals can apply in their day to day lives.

Tom: No, we are not asking for complete abstinence, just that when you are at any GameHearts event, that you be sober. We see it as a way to cut back on the main nights people go to the bars or casino's. Me, I hope that it will help keep families together, and cut back on drunken outrages at home, and also on crime.

So it sounds like GameHearts is a supplemental program for someone who is going through a sobriety program and is looking for something to help them further.  Would that be an accurate way to describe it?

Ron: No, not really.  It certainly can act as a supplement to any existing sobriety measure, such as AA or Chemical Dependency, but it is not designed to be.  It is designed to be a stand-alone program for people who share an interest in maintaining a sober lifestyle.  This would include both recovering addicts and simply people who have no interest in being around that kind of lifestyle.

One important difference between GameHearts and other programs is that we do not require or compel absolute abstinence from drinking or gambling; our program is about reducing problems during periods that are traditionally heavy abuse periods.  By helping to remove the temptation during periods of prolific activity, we hope to help individuals maintain sobriety, but it is not a pre-requisite for participation.  Ours is more a program designed to lead by example rather than to compel people to completely abstain.

How long has the group been around?

Tom: GameHearts has been around since March 2009, I believe. It's not something new to Ron, as he ran a Youth Rec Center before.

Ron:  In a sense, we are still getting our legs underneath us, soliciting support while working toward making our services available to our community.

How many volunteers do you have?

Tom: We have two full time volunteers (Ron and myself), and two others who help from time to time.

Ron: We also receive occasional assistance from other volunteers, as well, though these are usually project-by-project help.

How many people has the group helped so far, and how many are currently being helped?

Tom: At this time, we have only taught about half a dozen people, and since we have not had a full time gaming director until recently, we have been unable to schedule regular meetings.  I would say in total, we have dealt with close to two dozen people in greater or lesser degrees, though we are not yet up to full operating capacity yet.

Tom, what is your role in the group?

Tom: I am the Gaming Director. I organize events and help teach the games to those who ask and are willing to learn.

How can someone in your area become involved in the group, if they're interested?

Tom: Two different ways, and they're both easy. By either making a contribution or donation to GameHearts, or volunteering some of their time to help get things organized or up and running. They can contact us or find out more on our website:

Ron: Mostly, we encourage contact through email ( or, though we also do a great deal of personal PR, passing out business cards and posting them in public places around town, as well as posting information about the program in newsgroups online.  Since we do not have an advertising budget at this point in time, we rely heavily upon word of mouth and public messages to promote our program, make people aware of our services and how to request to participate.

You mentioned that there was a strong interest in implementing tabletop RPGs into the program. When do you think you'll begin making them a part of the program? 

Tom: We would love to implement them into the program ASAP, except at this time, we do not have enough miniatures to use to run a full game.
Ron: The interest in RPGs has been expressed by people wishing to participate in our program, but since RPGs by nature are typically costly games to be involved in (especially with rulebooks), it is difficult for GameHearts to provide these resources for players until we manage to elicit donations of these materials.  However, once we can obtain donations of these materials, we can begin promoting these kinds of games, as well.

It should be noted that GameHearts can only provide access to games that we receive donated materials from.  To date, though we have a strong interest in promoting CCGs, CMGs and RPGs, we have only received donations of CCGs, and as such are limited to promoting only these games.  We are hopeful that as the program progresses and more people become aware of our program, that these kinds of materials will be contributed more often and we can provide these games free of charge to our participants.

So I guess the short answer to your question is, as soon as we receive materials to do so.

What about the social aspects of games? How does that help?
Ron: These kinds of games are essentially educational activities, even if these benefits are masked behind the fun of the game.  These games encourage positive social interaction, problem solving and goal setting abilities, and helps people to develop positive reactions to setbacks and loss, a common factor for addicts' relapses.  Aside from this though, many people continue addictive behavior because they are always around others who practice the addictive behavior.  It is our hope that associating with others who are not actively practicing these kinds of things will encourage maintenance of sober lifestyles.

Do you know of any case studies that have been done in the area of using games to help people this way?
Ron: No, GameHearts is a completely new approach to the issue of addiction and maintenance of a sober lifestyle.  However, it does address the specific issues of addictive recidivism, which are boredom, association with user peers and lack of alternative social activity.

I also am aware from personal experience with my youth program how positive these games can be on people.  I was told by one young man who had been a member of my youth program in the past that he accredits the youth program for teaching him responsibility, how to set goals and how to deal with obstacles in his life.

These remain issues for people who have difficulty remaining sober, as well - they, for whatever reason, lack the skills to solve problems in their lives without reverting back to using as a solution simply because they know no other way. By becoming involved in these kinds of social games, they learn skills that are readily adaptable to life, even if they are not aware they are learning them:  If they encounter a problem, they are taught to seek a solution; if they encounter a challenge, they are encouraged to overcome it; and if they lose at something, they are taught not to be discouraged.  All of these are essential elements for anyone dealing with conflict in life, and sadly, many people lack these adaptive skills.

This being said though, this is not a complete focus upon people with existing problems, either.  Many times, people who either wish to maintain sobriety or to avoid the trap of dependency need alternative recreations, as well, and they can benefit just as much from this kind of program as someone with ongoing addictions.

Tom mentioned that you have done other social work in the past. Can you tell us more about that?
Ron: I have always been involved in some charity work throughout my adult life.  I started with being a sponsor through AA and working with victims of domestic violence when I was younger, and after I was disabled due to an inflammatory disease, I began turning my interests and business experiences in the collectible and gaming genre into nonprofit programs.

My first venture in this was to set up a nonprofit trading card service over the internet called Second Genesis Cards, a program that largely just provided a stock for people to trade away their excess cards for ones they needed to complete their collections.  I later turned my interest in computers to try to establish a Montana-based nonprofit internet hub and formed Prime Station, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, to accomplish this.  Though the internet hub project did not succeed, Prime Station remained to become the umbrella nonprofit over the first incarnation of my youth program, The Flipside CCG, in Polson, MT.  I later tried to divide this program between Polson and Kalispell, but after a conflict with the board of directors, ended up severing the youth program from the corporation and recreated as a solely Kalispell-based program called The Outpost CCG.  As I mentioned, the youth program promoted educational games and activities amongst youth, and it used the same materials and resources that GameHearts now does - soliciting donations of excess gaming materials in order to provide free materials for gameplay.

What advice can you give to someone who is interested in starting a program like this in their community?

Tom: Just go for it, and when it gets tough, and you feel that you're failing, don't give up. If you do, then how will you ever know if you could have made a difference in your community or not?

Ron:: First, I would recommend that if anyone is interested in starting up this kind of program in their own community to talk to us about creating a satellite of our already existing program.  After all, we can accomplish more as part of a whole than as several smaller groups.

That being said though, if someone wants to start up their own version of GameHearts, they have to make sure they cover their bases legally.  The largest obstacle to overcome is the need to have a certifiable expert in collectible genre ready and able to assess incoming donations, someone whose credentials will stand up under IRS scrutiny.  After that, the best thing to do is just be courteous and respectful to anyone you approach about your program - remember, even if someone is not interested today, it does not mean they may not be interested someday, or that person's opinion may not be important for reference another.  When creating a community benefit nonprofit group like GameHearts, the most important thing to remember is community - and it does not serve your interests to alienate anyone if you are seeking to make your community a better place.

And of course, as part of a community, I would be happy to answer any questions anyone has on this subject and to help them get started as best I can, even if they choose to act on their own.

You can find out more about GameHearts at their website -