I’m writing this after just attending GameStorm, a small regional game convention held in Portland, Oregon. Although a long-time and passionate player of nearly every kind of game – computer, boardgames, RPGs, dicey-things, cards, etc. – this was my first game convention since childhood. [OK, in a work capacity I’ve attended electronic game conventions (GDC, E3, FGS), but this was my first analog gaming convention since the 90’s.]
Officially, the goal for going to GameStorm was to gather more player feedback on Masterwork (my first game release), but unofficially, the objective was to learn first hand how the boardgame industry works, to meet interesting people, and to play great games. Or to play interesting games and meet great people. Either one would do.
Official goal: failed. Unofficial goal: Epic WIN.
Almost to the one, I found the people of the boardgame community to be friendly, positive, generous, and supportive. Most smelled OK and were reasonably articulate. Especially the designers, with whom I spent the majority of my time, and who generally smelled quite nice and were very well-spoken. The con was a great experience, so much so that I felt the necessity share it here.
The following scenario repeated over the weekend: Spying a boardgame that I didn’t recognize, I’d walk up to a table, and with a smile and a nod, quietly watch to get a sense of what the game was about. [Nothing is more attractive to me than: 1) Beautiful/unique/unfamiliar games, and 2) A group of people looking like they’re having fun.] Time after time, the players not only tolerated my spectating but unprompted, would stop their play and offer a quick rundown of what the game was about, tell me what they loved about it, and would encourage me to join them. Their only motivation was to share the great play experience they were having. [I discovered so many games that now I must own!]
So, gamer to gamer, I encourage you to seek out other players in your area.
The game designers I met were, if anything, even more generous. I spent most of the con in panels where veteran designers donated their time with the explicit goal of growing the industry and helping others avoid the mistakes they made. I learned about concerns of design, practical information about bringing a game to market, how to improve your chances of a successful Kickstarter, strategies to encourage player creativity, the value of learning the hard maths to make sure your game is balanced, and much more. All this information was free to anyone with an attendee badge.
My takeaway from the weekend is an even greater enthusiasm for making games and being part of this community. And like the other designers I met, I’ve made it my goal to grow and strengthen the community.
So, gamer to gamer, I encourage you to seek out other players in your area. Visit your local game store on a game night, attend a convention, join a gaming Meetup group (or start one)… get out there in the real world and play. Put down your phone, turn off Hearthstone, don’t Netflix and chill… instead, go find a place to sit down and roll some dice with like-minded individuals.
Even better, invite some non-gamers over and introduce them to Catan or Codenames or any other gateway games you still love to play (my personal favorite for this job is Splendor). Share your passion, be generous, create great experiences, and help build a stronger game community.