Something I’ve always wondered is where do geeks go to meet other geeks?
Sports fans have sports bars, fitness junkies have marathons and lovers of music have clubs but what about those that prefer to spend the day playing Dungeons & Dragons?
Nestled in the leafy suburb of Malanshof, just outside Randburg is the DeeTwenty Geeking Venue and to describe it plainly, it’s a home for geeks and all the things we love.
“Is this it?” I worryingly ask the person I’ve roped in to coming with me to the venue on a rainy Saturday morning. My question is not without merit because from the outside you wouldn’t know that within an inconspicuous house is a plethora of all things geek.
As we enter the venue my eyes catch a glimpse of Mario and a wall that – after closer inspection – is festooned with cards from Magic: The Gathering.
Within moments we were gawking at the posters and memorabilia that is littered around the venue.
“Are you guys here to play D&D,” a patron asks us tearing our attention away from the hyperactive kitten running around the venue.
My cohort responds that she’d never played but was keen to try before being whisked away to a room and being given a crash course in the role playing game.
This is my Eldorado.
Where everybody knows your name
DeeTwenty is owned and run by Owen Swart, who tells us the idea to create a safe space for geeks was inspired by the 90’s sitcom, Friends.
“I grew up in the ’90’s watching Friends and I always loved that they had this spot to go to and it was a place where there was always their friends there, always people they knew. I always felt like I need a space like that,” Swart tells us over a cup of piping hot coffee.
DeeTwenty was born three years ago when Swart and his partner found themselves on a property that was far to big for two people and after being reminded of the space he dreamed of years before that, DeeTwenty was born.
The name of the venue is derived from a twenty-sided die like the type used in many role playing and card games. The logo is a mish-mash of fonts taken from various geeky franchises Swart tells us.
“We wanted something that would be a recognisable geeky object, a 20-sided die, a D-20, was the concept. We couldn’t take D20 because that was already taken so we decided to spell it out,” explains Swart.
My concentration is broken by the sound of cheers coming from the room down the hall where the Dungeons and Dragons folks are presumably starting a quest.
Do you want to play a game?
The venue is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with each day being dedicated to a specific game, though Swart tells us that sometimes there are different games happening on the same day.
“We focus mainly on the tabletop stuff,” Swart tells me when I ask what sort of games folks play at DeeTwenty. “Magic (the gathering) is our bread and butter, we dabble in some board games, card games like Card Fight Vanguard, Star Trek TCG. We have Star Trek role playing, we also do video games,” explains Swart.
The owner tells us that role playing is gaining traction among patrons. Where there was once one solitary group of D&D players, there are now seven meeting on different days of the week. The venue also plays host to World of Warcraft players every Wednesday where they can embark on dungeon raids.
Today the venue is hosting a Hearthstone tournament and the night before as many as 30 people were battling it out in Magic.
In case you haven’t guessed it, Magic is big business for DeeTwenty. “We have a partnership with Sad Robot, an online Magic retailer they use a room in the building and we ship their cards from here,” explains Swart.
Noobs, all of you
My questions turn to how welcoming DeeTwenty is of newbies, I off-handedly mention that I played Magic (casually) in high school and I’d like to be start up again. One visitor quickly interjects and asks whether I still have my cards. I tell him I don’t and he mutters “damn” under his breath before turning his eyes back on to the Hearthstone stream.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is being very newbie friendly. Our Friday Night Magic for instance, even though we get huge events sometimes we craft the vibe very carefully to make sure that new players are just as comfortable as somebody who has been playing for many years,” explains Swart. The best place to find out what will be happening at DeeTwenty on any given day is to visit the venue’s official Facebook page where all news and upcoming events are posted.
“In our last Magic tournament we had two people who had never played in a Magic tournament before as well as guys who won at the national level,” says the owner. “Everybody was playing in the same tournament, having a good time and while the newbies don’t do as well we structured our prize supports in such a way that even the newbies get something out of it.”
The patrons are incredibly friendly as are the staff who are constantly floating around asking if they can get you some more coffee or – should need it – a glass of health or mana potion.
There is a small cover charge to use the facility which amounts to R55. This fee includes all the coffee, tea and hot chocolate you can drink and the venue does sell food should get peckish while on your conquests.
The rain has subsided and it’s time to leave but I have a smile on face as the Dungeons & Dragons clan tells us to come back next week so they can teach me how to play the game. So now I have some homework and the address of one of the coolest little geek venues in Johannesburg. Goodbye every Saturday for the rest of 2017, you won’t be missed.