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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pimping games

I recently signed up as a SimplyFun consultant. For those of you who don't know, this is the party plan game company, and for those of you not familiar with party plan, it's pretty simple. The host runs a party at their home and invites a bunch of people, friends, neighbors, whatever. A representative from the company comes along and demonstrates that company's products (whatever they be) and the people have the opportunity to buy those products. For SimplyFun, this means that you teach all the people at the party to play the games, and, hopefully, they enjoy them so much they buy them to play at home.

A few of my gaming buddies may be surprised that I got involved with this, but there are several reasons.

First is that I've been looking for some time for some way to get involved with some sort of business that leverages my interest in games. My first idea was to have a cart at the local mall to sell some of the favorite 'gateway' games, e.g. Carcassonne, Settlers, Ticket to Ride. With over a million shoppers passing through the mall over the holiday period (according to the mall web site) that's a lot of people looking for something different for giving as gifts. A few tables with demo copies of the games and it could sell a lot of games. However, the mall want $20,000 (yes, that's 20 big ones) to rent a cart for the 3 months over the holiday period. Wow! That kinda killed that idea.

From early in the year I've been mulling some sort of party plan approach to games. I go along to someone's house, demo a few of the same gateway games, and take orders. Using Boards & Bits to order the games (they discount about 30%, and ship quickly and cheaply to the PDX area) I think there's a penny to be made, even allowing for some sort of discount or reward for whoever hosted the party. And with the variety of games available there's plenty opportunity to visit the same host with a different bunch of games. I'd spoken to a few people and had encouraging feedback, although I'd never fully sat down and put together the fine details.

Then, in July/August, Chris posted the SimplyFun information to our game group, and floated the possibility of interest in either becoming a consultant or hosting a party. I went through pretty much every page in the web site and was very interested. The compensation plan was familiar to anyone who has been involved in that sort of business before (I had, back in Scotland). The games seemed a bit light, but there were a couple of games that I recognized as being decent (Oh Pharaoh and Drive) and one that is on my list of favorite games (Zing!, aka Die Sieben Siegel). Overall, it was very similar to my own party plan gaming type idea, but with the backing of a company.

Chris hosted his party and I went along. My initial impression of the games was confirmed, light and very (ugh!) party. Not good. However, I slept on it. So to speak, I decided to wait until after I got back from Essen before making any sort of decision.

During this time I read a lot of comments from other people about games and what constitutes a good game. I was especially affected by one comment (Doug's?) that pointed out that games are a conduit to having fun. This all forced me to re-evaluate my attitude to these games, as, despite my initial attitude to the SimplyFun games we played at Chris' party, I can't deny that I had a great time. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I think I've had (or gone through) a paradigm shift, and I recognize that these sorts of games aren't there to be used/played in the same way as you'd play, say, Age of Steam. They're just there as an adjuct to the social interaction, not the focus of the social interaction. A bit of a revelation for me, as I'd always tried to compare them directly, which left me with an uncomfortable position that I'd had fun playing but was rating the games poorly. (This also touches on a previous group discussion about Cave Troll, a discussion I now more fully comprehend.)

One of the tenets (at least to me) of direct marketing (i.e. party plan or any sort of Network/Multi Level Marketing) is that you have to believe in the product. So, after all this shifting had taken place I felt in a position where I could, hand on heart, present the SimplyFun games from the position that I felt it was a good game. Of course the cynical would say that the desire to get involved with SimplyFun was a factor in the shift, and that can't be denied as a possibility.

This also fits into my other gaming ventures. (For lack of a better word.) I'm spending a fair amount of my time with the library gaming, or at Nike, or promoting National Games Week, teaching and bringing games to the great unwashed masses.

Another factor in my decision to get involved was the people in charge. This is another adventure from Jeremy Young, the guy who brought you Uberplay and Inspiration Games - serious games companies. SimplyFun have already produced Zing!, and I hope they'll keep going in the 'serious' games line. And if I can influence that decision at all.....

Finally, if you're going to get involved in any party plan/MLM business you have to be totally comfortable with your upline. I was very impressed with the consultant who came along to Chris' party and her background in games - she is co-owner of the local games store. Prior to signing up I had lunch with her, more to make sure that I was comfortable dealing with her than having her answer any questions. By halfway through the lunch I was sold and sined on the dotted line.

And so, here I am, Mike Deans, SimplyFun consultant. And don't worry, you local guys, I'm not going to be pushing this in the group. (I've already come in for some gentle ribbing about it at the recent games evening at my place.) I don't expect you to buy anything and I won't be pushing you to play the games. (I'd rather play the more serious games with the group, anyway.)

Hmmm, a fairly touchy, feely post this week. Thanks for reading this far.

3 Comments:

  • At 2:53 PM, Blogger dave said…

    "the mall want [...] $20,000 to rent a cart for the 3 months over the holiday period"

    Last year we went to a local Holiday Bazaar and saw consultants for similar companies with booths. You might look into that, especially now that you have the SimplyFun logo behind you.

    "I recognize that these sorts of games aren't there to be used/played in the same way as you'd play, say, Age of Steam."

    Does this mean that you'll play Nur Peanuts again? ;-> The best example of this is Chuck laughing up a storm during The Big Idea, then giving it a "WNP" rating afterwards. WNP?! WTF!?

    "bringing games to the great unwashed masses"

    I thought that gamers *were* the unwashed masses?

    - d

     
  • At 4:02 PM, Blogger Chris Brooks said…

    Mike, I think it is great that you are doing this. The last thing I need is an extracurricular activity, but if I had the time I'd do it myself. I'll keep on the lookout for referrals for you.

     
  • At 5:23 PM, Blogger Mike said…

    Chris - whilst I don't want to push it to the group, I would be more than happy to get any help!

    Dave - '...local Holiday Bazaar...' - good idea, I'll have to keep that in mind. Nur Peanuts, probably not. I do have some limits.... :)

     

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