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Who needs game fairs?

Coming back from Essen and on the occasion of Lucca Comics & Games, I would like to dedicate another post to the game events world, with a couple of observations, starting from what I consider the main question: “who needs game fairs? Expert players? Casual players? Or rather publishers?”

Well, my answer is “all of the above”. I can hear you muttering that I’m just trying to keep everybody happy, but I actually believe that the best way is finding the most constructive balance. Expert gamers are an important part of the sector: they are demanding in terms of mechanics, graphics and production, they are often harsh at judging, but they are as often enthusiastic and can’t wait to spread the word about games that they consider the worthiest. For a certain type of products (in my case I obviously think about Placentia Games) they are fundamental! The role of ambassadors that they play is crucial, and often decisive for the future of a game, and sometimes of the entire publisher. Not to mention the fact that they are the only people who would read a blog like this 😀

However, we cannot think only about gamers. For example, after all the exhibitions people generally complain that we should have let people try the games just for a couple of rounds, so that they could change different tables, and let more people play. These gamers want to try as many new games as possible, to evaluate which of them have a real substance, and if they meet the hype that had been built around them during their promotion. Considering that generally we talk about expert gamers, they believe that a brief trial of a game is enough to evaluate if the game is suitable for them or not.
This is a legitimate request, and, admittedly, during fairs we have often hosted demos with a limited amount of time or a limited amount of rounds.

the time limit has never been less than one hour, it was generally two hours, including the explanation, because we believe that games such as Wendake, and especially Kepler-3042 cannot be appreciated in half an hour, because it is impossible to understand the complexity of the strategic development in half an hour. END OF DIGRESSION

The fact is that a game event cannot be designed exclusively around super-experts: in Italy and around the world there are a lot more casual players and families, they are a huge number of people who might be interested in our hobby. I see it happening weekly in our gaming club, where new people keep coming in, and more than 50% of them become regulars, but the first time that they come in they don’t know anything about what we do. So, we can say that the work of the ambassadors is fundamental, but it is equally important having someone to direct the work to. These “victims” must be found and pampered during the events, which are attended also by families and casual players! These people must receive the right attention to react positively, to understand how good and interesting our world is.

For example, I think about our game Radetzky-Milano 1848 which is a cooperative game, really suitable for families and great for introducing them to our world, and every time I took it to an event I felt the enthusiasm of the battle and the satisfaction of completing it. For these types of people the demo with a limited time, especially if the limit is half-an-hour, would be useless or even harmful, because typically, they need the first few rounds to understand how the game works, face the first few challenges and understand how to solve them. For them all the fun and satisfaction come at the end (even when they lose, because usually the differential is very small).

Finally, of course, exhibitions must be for the publishers, because even though some people don’t like them, they criticise them or they consider them greedy, in practice, without publishers there wouldn’t be any games, and without games… well I don’t need to finish the sentence, do I?
This is the reason why I don’t see eye to eye with people who demand (I’m not talking about kind requests but actual demands!) huge discounts at the fairs: if a publisher decides against them, there must be a reason, which could be a non-competition commitment with the shops, who are their clients, or simply it could mean that the costs of the exhibitions are too high and they cannot afford asking for less.

I am aware that some of you might not be completely happy with this post, and as I stated above, I understand. I know that you are players who already go to clubs and shops that are up-to-date with everything, and I understand that for you an exhibition is mainly an occasion for you to buy (sell or exchange) games, and mostly where you can try new releases, but I think that living it only this way is a pity. A game event is much more: it gives you the opportunity to play live with people with whom you spent hours writing online, conferences to attend, meeting authors and artists, or even just watching another group playing, to start looking at materials, or learning rules, for when you will finally get the chance to touch it with your own hands.
Most of all, game events give you the chance to get together and socialise: even teaching a game to someone who doesn’t know is extremely rewarding, and most of all is important and makes it possible for us to make our hobby grow. I’ve seen it in person at game nights, and I think it is always worth it.
Long live the gaming sector and my favourite part of it: long live the game fairs! 

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