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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Saturday, November 12, 2005


“What have you done to help grow the hobby? Will you be doing anything to promote National Games Week?” You’ve read our team’s thoughts on many sides of the issue. I do want to grow the hobby, in a couple of ways. First, I want my friends to get involved if it suits them – not “the masses” – just people I would enjoy gaming with. Second, as a new designer, I want people I’ve never met who might enjoy one or more games from Sunriver to give them a try. I don’t need a million people to buy a Sunriver game; just a few thousand who will actually play it (and buy everything else we ever publish sight unseen!) =)

Growing the hobby is about infection. I love the hobby. If I’m doing it right, my enjoyment may impact someone else who otherwise might not have gotten into this pastime. I would like to have people recognize they’ve gotten “the bug” for gaming. Knowing from where doesn’t matter to me, unless that person actually needs to get more infection to reach critical mass, and he or she doesn’t know where we infected people hang out. Gaming is not widely visible.

Using infection as term is not in any way meant to be funny or negative. It’s just the right term to describe the process of building in others an environment where a critical mass of interest in gaming might grow. So here are seven practical ways I can infect people:

1. Invite people to attend game groups I play with. I remember exactly who invited me to each group I’ve played with in the Portland Area. Just their first names for now, but a true THANKS to these friends who welcomed me:
Lorna . . . . . Jay . . . . . Jay . . . . . Chris . . . . .
Dave . . . . . Doug . . . . . Doug . . . . . Nate . . . . .
Mike . . . . . Benjamin . . . . . Amy . . . . . Patrick

To some of these gatherings, we took our kids. Some of these folks became family friends. Some we vacation with. Even the ones I don’t game with all that often left me with a good impression of gaming.

2. Support my local stores. It’s a long way over to Rainy Day Games but they’re a great store dedicated to gaming. Years ago I took the original Carabande there on a Friday night as a demo. Steve Ellis, the owner, told me later he took a bunch of pre-orders for the game that night, and at the time he didn’t even carry it! Sometimes a game store has the spark that catches a Pokemon player and gets them to see that there are more games in the world that they could love.

3. Run games at my local conventions, like Gamestorm and Dragonflight. In 2005 I ran about 12 two-hour sessions at each con. I’m not suggesting that for anyone but designers desperate to have their prototypes played, but it can be done! But if you run even one session, you’ll be “giving back” to the community and possibly infecting someone new.

A few years ago Jay Schindler and I ran a Sunday morning Family Boardgames program. It was none other than Chris and Julie Brooks who showed up with their sons, we all had a great time, and today the Brooks family is half of Sunriver Games. Can’t think of a better example.

4. Go to the big events – like Essen and BGG.con this year. Here’s a chance for me to get re-charged and make great new friends. Not only do I have a chance to introduce games I like to other people, but I get to learn new games that might be “just right” to introduce to a family or work buddy back home. Big cons have a ton of choices, and peers and mentors abound.

5. Infect my own family – any gathering is fair game. But I do have to learn that some people just want to chat and eat and maybe watch sports or movies. Oh well! People in my family always notice that I carry a tub into every house we visit, always filled with games. Even if most of them get no play, they know the tub will be coming next time too.

6. Game at open locations. Recently I had a great game group at Powell’s Books in downtown Portland. Bystanders will ask questions, watch what you’re doing, maybe get interested. Our family has also gamed on floors in airports, waiting for a delayed flight. Easy card games attract other people’s kids, and their parents ask about the games.

7. Support my friends’ efforts – like Mike Dean’s Library gigs, Chris Brooks’ Simply Fun events, my wife Rita’s games event at work. I can offer to help, just show up and be supportive, make a new friend or two, whatever. It’s the standing beside my friends that increases the energy.

So, seven ways to spread games. And how will I promote National Games Week?

We are hoping to have the Oregonian picture article about Havoc come out sometime that week, if we’re lucky. We’ll be supporting Mike’s library gig if he does one, and attending Havoc launch party on November 20 (3-5 pm), the first of that week.

We’re also planning to go to Ashland that week for the Funagain Havoc Party (Saturday November 27. 1-4 pm), where we’ll finally deliver the rest of Funagain’s bundle of games and pick up the games I sent home from Essen. That date isn’t firm yet, but if it works it would make a nice finish for the National week.


  • At 6:15 PM, Blogger Mike said…

    The library have indicated that they don't have the time to organize anything for NGW, even though it doesn't take any organizing. (Their words, not mine!?!) Whatever.

  • At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Rita H said…

    BGG.con was my first official Con and it was enlightening. I found several couples and one family searching for games they enjoyed playing together. Usually the gamer was the husband trying to infect his spouse or family. The ratio of men to women at the Con is significant so I encourage you men to continue to infect spouses and children. I enjoy being a part of RipCity and appreciate the welcome I receive from all of you when I make it to a game nite.


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