Get. Involved!!!

February 28, 2011


Get Involved!

Right. So, in my years of  gaming one of the things I’ve noticed is a contradictory trend among gamers. Everybody wants a gaming group. Everybody wants support for their favorite game. Everybody wants somewhere to go and spend an evening playing their game of choice with a bunch of like minded people. And nobody wants to shift themselves to step up and make it happen!

 Seriously people, WTH? I spent ten years as an MIB for Steve Jackson Games. I had so many people showing up I was turning them away. And yet I was literally the only person in the entire state of Minnesota stepping up and running games for that company!

And it wasn’t just the Munchkin crowd doing it either. Everywhere you look it seems like unless it’s Magic The Gathering people can’t be bothered to get organized. You say you like Fluxx but don’t have anyone to play with? Get off your butt, talk to your FLGS and ask them if you can put up a flier! Then put the word out on the websites and show up. It’s not hard.

You say your local convention doesn’t have a decent gaming track and you think that sucks? Show me the gun to your head stopping you from changing that. Remember; the gaming industry is a business. The point of any business is to make money and a key component in making money is marketing. If you go to the company and say “Hi there! I’d like to use my own time to promote your product at my local cons and/or FLGS.” odds are someone there is going to be willing to help you out.

Granted, it might be to a lesser degree than you like. Companies are run by people and people vary widely in terms of smarts and willingness to get off their butts and act in their own best interests. Atlas Games produces an amazing line of games. I own most of them and like them a lot. But their support for their volunteer staff is almost nonexistent.

Steve Jackson on the other hand makes a great product and mostly supports their volunteer staff to the hilt. I say mostly because the reason I no longer volunteer for them is due to a personal dispute over the handling of a disagreement between myself and another person in the program. I won’t run their games any more at events as a result. But I still maintain that, in terms of convention support they are the gold standard. If you can get into the program I recommend it.

In between these two extremes are a wide number of very good game companies with varying degrees of support for their products. Fantasy Flight and SlugFest are usually pretty good about backing their people up. SlugFest takes a bit longer to respond but when they come through it’s the jackpot.

Thing is, the only way to know what you’ll get in terms of help is to get off your butt and ask them. Worst case scenario you get told “Sorry, we don’t do convention or demo event prize support but hey, thanks for being such a loyal fan.”. If you’re smart, you go out anyway, do the events without the support and still have a good time while building a rep among your local community as someone who always brings the fun.

They key thing here is to remember that nothing happens unless we make it happen. Sure, it takes time and energy and effort. So. What? You spend a few hours planning some stuff out, you shoot off a few emails and you get your butt to the store. People show up or their don’t. Either way you’ve spent time focusing on a hobby you enjoy and less time hitting yourself in the head with the +9 Hammer Of Stupid Making that is most of the drek on TV these days. And if you’re lucky you make some cool industry contacts and score some wicked free swag out of the deal.

Plus you never know who you’re gonna make friends with. My family connection to John Kovalic? Met him through the SJG volunteer program. Now one of my wives does his web support and it’s been a springboard to a lucrative enough career for her that I can get away with being choosy about what jobs I take during the current economic dump-fest.  But it doesn’t happen if you don’t motivate yourself.

And the onus is not just on the fans either. Industry pros,  pay attention. In case you haven’t noticed it, the economy currently resembles the inside of a completely un-maintained porta-john at the end of a weeklong biker rally. Money’s tight. Every penny, every sale counts. And you’ve got people willing to take time out of their lives to promote your products for little to no pay. Certainly a damned sight less than you’re probably paying most of your in-house staff.

And let’s face it guys, we all know the margin on these products. I won’t divulge any numbers here but we know that the money you might spend on sending, say, six copies of a game that retails for $19.95 so that some nerd in Idaho can give out five copies to players at a local convention and keep one for himself is going to pay off huge in the long run.

 The nerd is gonna run the game. Other nerds are going to play the game. Only one nerd in each group of nerds is going to win a copy of the game. The other nerds are going to decide that they need a copy of the game, run to the nearest place they can buy it and get all their nerd friends hooked on the game if it’s any kind of good at all.

 Even the people who don’t play the game are going to have increased awareness of its existence due to the fact that there will likely be flyers screaming “Hey! We’re running a game at the con! And it’s really cool!” hanging up around the event site. Congratulations, you’ve just spent [redacted by author] dollars in product support to make anywhere from one to twenty sales and gain a boatload of free advertising. How is that a net loss?

But in the end it comes down to us, the fans. This is a sedentary hobby, no question about that. But it is only sedentary in the sense of it taking place in chairs and around tables, generally well supplied with the kind of pseudo-foods that make cardiologists and dentists wealthy. A game might be the coolest game in the world. It might be fun, engrossing and more addictive than Ben & Jerry’s Heroin Chunks ice cream. Heck, it might even be more addictive than Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. But if no one knows about it or knows that there are people out there playing it that won’t matter.

And if a game is good enough to merit you laying down your hard earned and getting snitty about not having anyone to play it with it’s good enough to deserve you making a few phone calls, doing some copy and paste action with available images off the net to make a flyer and dragging yourself down to the venue of choice and making the fun happen.

So please, if you like a game but don’t have anyone to play with don’t whine or fuss. Get organized. Get involved and make something happen. And, as always, keep it fun.

Mech out.


One Response to “Get. Involved!!!”

  1. Elsheyin Says:

    MTG just has a ton of players and decent prize support…and a huge frustration factor. That’s IT. Example: J and I went to a sealed-deck MTG event this weekend. $20 entry for six boosters to build a deck and play — $20 is affordable for most of us nerdy types, and the guy running the event knows that if you can get nerds in the store, money WILL be spent, which lets the store do more / better events, etc. Same principle applies for other games: Get nerds to the store, money will be spent.

    As a D&D / MTG / Pathfinder / MMORPG geek who ALSO works in Gaming at one of our local conventions, I want folks to have fun at the con. This is very difficult if NOBODY RUNS GAMES, so please, heed our friend Mr. Mech and step up. Do the prep work – develop a plot (or run a module), know the basics of the ruleset, be able to explain them, generate your characters, playtest, refine, playtest, etc. before the con. Please note: for DMs, practice really does make, if not perfect, at least much-improved! 😉

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