Saturday, August 11, 2012

Board Games from an expert point of view

Today I have the honor to introduce our first guest blogger, Mark from Grim Tree Games. He reviewed Warriors & Traders a while ago, doing a great job and he has been kind enough to share his opinion about the board games world with us. Without further introduction...

OK, this article may be a bit self indulgent, but bear with me. All being well at the end of it there will be a point, or at the very least an apology if I ramble myself into a corner.

I wasn't sure where to start with this. At first my message was pretty simple, but as I started to think about it more, the more elaborate and in depth I wanted to write. That's because its a big subject, but here it is in a nutshell. People like to play games, its a in-built drive that most of us have in one form or another. Culture no longer promotes table top gaming as we know it. Less people are playing games because of this, even though most people would enjoy the experience.

So, first point, people like to game. I have always thought this. Sit someone down and play a table top game with them, most of the time they will like it and would play more. As a race we have been playing games for thousands of years, there is a reason for that. Its in our nature to challenge each other, and games allow us to do this in a social manner.

Next point, our culture no longer promotes table top gaming. This the case in the larger parts of Europe and the US, however I know some countries such as Germany enjoy a very healthy gaming market. Everywhere else, this lack of promotion is mainly because it is more profitable to promote hobbies that give you instant gratification, as they sell better. Buy a Xbox game and you are playing in minutes, an in game tutorial is stepping you through how to play it, and you don't need anyone else to play the game. These are all roadblocks to tabletop gaming, you need to read and understand rules, and you need to gather a group of people to play, then, you need to explain the rules to them. Yes, it takes longer and there is more effort involved, but the rewards are massive. I would take a table top gaming session over playing a computer game any time. Sitting cross from your friends (soon to be mortal enemies) and being part of a game, being social, is definitely more satisfying than playing with the same people via a computer game. I know, I play online with the same people I play table top games with, and we would sooner table top than play on the computer.

So, that actual problem, how introduce more people to a hobby that most people would enjoy if given the chance. There is scale to the problem. On a larger scale it would be good if more could be done to promote the hobby, but TV adverts and huge marketing pushes cost a lot of money. Without the money generated from huge sales no-one wants to take that gamble it would appear. Until someone does take that first daring step into mainstream advertising we will be in a chicken and egg scenario. On a smaller scale we can each do our bit to introduce new players to the hobby and get our friends and family playing games, and hopefully they will do the same and spread the word at a grass roots level.

And this gets us to the self indulgent bit. One of the reasons I started Grim Tree Games and all the bits that go with it was to try and do my part to grow the hobby. Before Grim Tree I would pull anyone I could into a game. I would ramble onto people how awesome table top gaming was until they eventfully gave and in played, and as predicted,, they liked it. Its a pretty good thing to see, the 'click' behind their eyes as rules make sense, strategies form, and they get really involved. As I said before, there may be the odd person who it really doesn't appeal to, but most of the time I managed to convert them into born again gamers.

After years of this I wanted to get more involved. With a background in web design and IT I decided to start a web store, and a blog and YouTube channel to promote the games further. I go to clubs as much as possible to bring new games to the table. We use the blog to talk all things games, and we have a YouTube channel where we unbox and explain games. We do the usual unboxing videos of games, but we then we do a video showing you how to play the game. We have had lots of comments from people who were new to gaming who said that the video helped in learning the game, removing one of the roadblocks and helping people who want to get into gaming. And that's what I want Grim Tree Games to be about, removing road blocks by getting people together, explaining the games, and introducing people into the hobby.

So here we are, I think I have arrived at a point. Table top gaming in all of its forms is great, but its not an amazingly accessible hobby. Until its a big money business with massive marketing campaigns, its up to people like us to get out there and tell people how good it is, to keep our hobby alive and strong. We try and do our bit, and we love every minute of it.

Grim Tree Games

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  1. Great post. I totally agree with you. We are in the same situation here: IT background + board games enthusiasts = online store. We are also trying to spread the word by organizing board games nights, game presentations, blog presentations, etc. But we are only at the beginning (3 months old) and still have a long way to go...

    But maybe board games need to evolve a little so that the ipod generation gets hooked. I'm thinking of a mix of old and new. Something like the Microsoft surface Catan:

    I'm sure that if this would be affordable, even just for board games pubs, it would drive the industry quite a few steps forward. I know that there is much more involved in doing something like this than meets the eye, but would be a great idea in my opinion. Maybe we can test it at Essen this year :)

    1. A: That Catan demo is a amazing, and B: that is an awesome idea.

      The only issue being at the time those surface tables were about £10,000, if the tech comes down it would be perfect for mainstream pubs and bars. It seems the things we all need to crack the problem is the money to get these ideas out there :( We need one of the big hitters to take a chance and push mainsteam, but that is a risk that may not pay off for them.

    2. Maybe somebody can design a tablet with a very thin frame (maybe it already exists). So, we could just do a puzzle of tablets and create our own surface. Using direct wifi/bluetooth/etc. we can connect them all and, with an intelligent piece of software, we could do something nice :). The costs would be split between the players and the portability would be great.

      Should I go ahead and kickstart the project? :))