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Published on June 23rd, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich

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BoardGameHour: Thoughts on Growing Our Hobby

Last Monday during the weekly #boardgamehour, around 60 Tweeters discussed growing our gaming hobby as well as the upsides and downsides of having a larger appeal. This article is a mashup of tweets during the chat paired with my thoughts on where I see the hobby going.

I don’t want to focus too much on the concerns or the negatives of growing the hobby but instead would like to 1) call attention to how it’s growing and who are some of the big players making this happen 2) what are some concerns or issues that have come up with introducing new gamers and 3) how you as a gamer can grow the hobby and squash those negative issues by being an inclusive, friendly person.

If you want a full replay of this topic or any of the other past discussion on #boardgamehour, visit their Nurph playback past chats page. These chats feature a new topic every Monday for one hour beginning at 11am PST.

How and Who is Growing Tabletop Gaming:

Most people are in agreement that growing the hobby is something everyone should strive for. Introducing more players to gaming means there are more people to play with, games stores will be full and be well supported and the negative stigma surrounding gaming as a hobby for only social outcasts will evaporate. The change has already begun through the efforts of gamers like yourself introducing friends and family to gaming on a local scale. In Seattle, Across The Board Games attends open gaming nights, tournaments and support events with prizes all to welcome gamers and designers to the community. We also continue to write articles and suggest games that are great for beginners.

On a much larger scale, there are the celebrity-centric efforts of Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day and the crew at TableTop and Geek and Sundry to create awareness and a positive gaming culture through multimedia and social media. You are likely familiar with TableTop, their how-to-play tabletop games videos on YouTube featuring a celebrity cast. They also regularly host live chats through G+ and are very active with fans.  Tabletop’s community building and endorsement of games that are higher quality than Monopoly has helped bring those better games to major retailers like Target and Barnes and Noble.

Growing the player community will also create a more diverse market for games. Yes, there will probably still be zombie and Cthulhu games but there will also be many more diverse games that will feature themes and gameplay beyond the current selection. The growing success of Cards Against Humanity has opened the flood gates to copycat card games and is responsible for getting a lot more people to consider playing games that otherwise wouldn’t have. Even if you don’t like CAH or its crude humor, it helped show designers that there is a demand for creating games that are attractive to casual players.

Casual games are usually classified as short, 30 minutes or less games that can fit a large group of people and feature a theme that is accessible or light-hearted to all players. CAH has done more than just inspire a larger market- they offer a similar opportunity to new designers in the form of TableTop Deathmatch where completely new designers who have never been published get a chance to pitch their game to CAH and the winner will get their game printed and released at their own booth at GenCon 2014.

Issues with an Expanding Community:

 

 

 

There is an underlying concern that as the hobby grows, the quality of games could decline. Honestly there will always be people and companies looking to make copycat games or re-themed cash grab games- but ultimately the success of those games will depend on whether gamers like and play them. Even though there are plenty of games about generic fantasy, trains and zombies, I wouldn’t want to restrict people from making or playing games they like. Even if I don’t like those themes,  games like that are for someone else and I don’t feel I should deny anyone access to games even if I feel it may be an over-used theme or un-interesting game.

There is also a fear that the casual market and player will somehow overrun the community and the market will be watered down with simplistic, poor quality games.  People are also afraid that popular licenses or party games that have a built-in fan base who may not be gamers will dilute the community. These gamers fear that more complex games will decline as casual games get more popular. I don’t feel this is the case. Markets like this are not zero-sum, increasing one type of game doesn’t necessarily decrease another. More people playing means more money to be spent, and unless hardcore war gamers ditch their genre for casual games, war games won’t go away.

We all had to start from more simplistic games like Sorry! and many people moved past those games to find ones more specific to their needs. There could be tons of future hardcore gamers out there who just need a push into games. I’m still considered a new gamer compared to my friends who started playing Ameritrash games in the late 80s, but I feel that my inexperience is neither a barrier nor a mark of shame. From what we’ve seen with the rise of Kickstarter and crowd source funding is that there is a market for casual AND more intense games and that trend will only continue to grow.

In addition to casual players, expanding the hobby means more diverse people from different backgrounds. We should all strive to make the gaming community a safe place for everyone who is a nerd and loves games. Gamers can vary in age, gender, sexual orientation, background and identity and keep in mind that we ALL share a common love of games. Luke wrote a more in-depth article related to this topic called The Gentrification of Game Stores.

What Can You Do to Help:

“Don’t Be A Jerk!” is the obvious answer most gamers agree with. But what does that really mean? Those involved with #boardgamehour said it best! Here are some amazing tweets from the community to help encourage a positive and welcoming community as it grows:

 

Board games are perfect media to bring together people around the world. @InnRoads says it best:

There are WAY too many awesome quotes worth mentioning. I highly recommend attending a chat yourself or watching the replay. The inclusion of more people to our hobby can only bring more passion and excitement for games just as we see on Twitter every week during #boardgamehour. The key word is OUR community. This community will continue to change for the better with everyone’s efforts and everyone (players, designers, reviews, families and the world) will enjoy the benefits of a supportive and awesome gaming community.

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About the Author

Nicole Jekich

came from humble beginnings as a Boise suburbanite with a love of Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. She attended an open board game day three years ago and is now an avid gamer and fantasy artist. Her interests are primarily in Dungeons & Dragons, dice placement and Roman-themed tabletop games. Nicole is also a fan of playing games that let her release her inner barbarian. Her favorite game currently is Far Space Foundry.



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