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Subject: My problem with "Gateway" games - as gateway games. rss

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Chris Puram
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I think the whole idea of seeking out so called gateway games to try to bring in new gamers is completely wrong in many cases. I know that if my first exposure to "modern" board games was ticket to ride & king of tokyo I'd probably have never even gotten into the hobby.

I happened to play Civilization and Trajan first and it was those games that got me hooked. It was the depth of choices and complexity that was so satisfying and eye opening to me and which got me hooked right away.

To me, a new gamer is probably already a gamer, they just don't know it yet. So hit them with the good stuff right away and blow their mind. I've tried several times to start out with the easy games and I've seen people leave the table kind of bored and unimpressed. My original thoughts were, well... I guess they just aren't the gamer type. But the more I think about it, I'm kind of bored playing most of those gateway games too, and I was from the beginning, so why would I expect differently from others?
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laura b
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
you have to know the person's taste and the majority of people accessed boardgames through gateway games, I did, my husband did heck most of the people at the public gaming night we go to did.

If you know the person you are introducing to games wont like those kind of games then you suggest what you do think they will like.

Its all about taste...

the idea of gateway games is to introduce someone who may have been intimidated by the more complex games as an introduction.

I do think they are a benefit as if someone dsnt like them and you Gage why then you can just then show them a more complex game thats their kind of thing

Its why most gaming nights have a mix of both complex and gateway games ensuring access for everyone

There are people at the gaming night we go to who wouldnt have got into games and would have shy'd away had a more complex game been introduced to them first they have that kind of personality. They now however play anything put infront of them as they gradually gained confidence.

So I would have to disagree


also I think its wrong to say gateway games arent the good stuff some of them are on peoples top ten lists years into their gaming experience...
just because its a gateway game dsnt mean its not a great game

I for one love king of tokyo its a favorite at the gaming night as well always has people playing it
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Michael Carter
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
It depends on the person you are introducing the games to. It isn't much more complicated than that.
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Chad Steward
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
Laura I think hit the nail on the head. Its all about know what the person likes and finding ways to introduce them into the hobby. If I know someone whose favorite game is Apples to Apples, starting them off with Agricola is a terrible idea. I would start with Dixit which teaches them about Euro type scoring systems, but has an apples to apples flare. Then I might try carcasscone to teach them about worker placement. Both are still great games that teach mechanics for more complex ones.

Dominion is another gateway example that teaches deck building, which is a mind blowing concept to most people. Dropping someone into Mage Knight would be very confusing as they are grasping many concepts like deck building that are foreign to them. Just because someone might be able to use Civilization as their gateway game, doesn't meant everyone else can.
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Matt Brown
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
Gateways are the most likely to work with non-gamers. It is merely a general rule. My "gateway" was Starcraft.
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Erik R.
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
There are going to be gamers who don't care about Civilization or Trajan, and there will be gamers who think Ticket to Ride is an excellent game. I think you're lumping too many types of people into being either 'us or them'
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Chris Puram
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
mlcarter815 wrote:
It depends on the person you are introducing the games to. It isn't much more complicated than that.


Except that it is. If I already knew what the gaming likes and tastes of the person, I wouldn't really even be talking about introducing them to games. We'd just start playing...or not.

Chad makes some good points, and if I DID already have some sort of gaming background info to go on, then yes, I could use that to determine what sort of game to break out as an introduction to "hobby" games.
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
goldengamer wrote:

I happened to play Civilization and Trajan first and it was those games that got me hooked. It was the depth of choices and complexity that was so satisfying and eye opening to me and which got me hooked right away.


Civ was my go-to gateway game, back when I actively recruited gamers.
Simple mechanisms which even most RPGers could enjoy. But, that was
in a day when folk weren't quite so rushed in terms of being actually
willing to take time to enjoy their time.
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Michael Carter
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
goldengamer wrote:
mlcarter815 wrote:
It depends on the person you are introducing the games to. It isn't much more complicated than that.


Except that it is. If I already knew what the gaming likes and tastes of the person, I wouldn't really even be talking about introducing them to games. We'd just start playing...or not.

Chad makes some good points, and if I DID already have some sort of gaming background info to go on, then yes, I could use that to determine what sort of game to break out as an introduction to "hobby" games.


If my friend loves fantasy video games or is an RPG gamer, then I'd introduce him/her to gaming through an Ameritrash game. If the person is a history buff I'd introduce a wargame. If the person isn't a video gamer and tends to like traditional card games or classic games like Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly, I'd start with a light Euro-style game. Unless the person is a geek, I'd start with a game that I can teach in a few minutes.

It's not a difficult problem.
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Chris Puram
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
I didn't mean to imply that "ticket to ride" and "king of tokyo" are not good games. But I was writing from my perspective, so my reference to the "good stuff" was purely subjective based on my own preferences.

I also should point out that my main interest (selfish as it is) in introducing people to the hobby is because I'm hoping they will like the kinds of games I like, and we'll end up playing together. So if that is my goal, I think it would be better to introduce them to the types of games I like first to see if there is a "match" instead of teaching them some game I don't really like and then trying to eventually lead them down a path to the games I tend to like. Now, if my main goal was just really to introduce them to "the hobby" with no goal beyond that then yes, maybe I would have better odds starting with a game that is generally broader in appeal to the general population.
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Chris Puram
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
mlcarter815 wrote:
goldengamer wrote:
mlcarter815 wrote:
It depends on the person you are introducing the games to. It isn't much more complicated than that.


Except that it is. If I already knew what the gaming likes and tastes of the person, I wouldn't really even be talking about introducing them to games. We'd just start playing...or not.

Chad makes some good points, and if I DID already have some sort of gaming background info to go on, then yes, I could use that to determine what sort of game to break out as an introduction to "hobby" games.


If my friend loves fantasy video games or is an RPG gamer, then I'd introduce him/her to gaming through an Ameritrash game. If the person is a history buff I'd introduce a wargame. If the person isn't a video gamer and tends to like traditional card games or classic games like Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly, I'd start with a light Euro-style game. Unless the person is a geek, I'd start with a game that I can teach in a few minutes.

It's not a difficult problem.


I agree in the situation you describe, there is some decent info to judge by. But it's not always so obvious. I for example hate trivial pursuit and hadn't played boardgames since I was a kid. I did play my fair share of video games, however my taste in boardgames lean very "euro".
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
goldengamer wrote:


I also should point out that my main interest (selfish as it is) in introducing people to the hobby is because I'm hoping they will like the kinds of games I like, and we'll end up playing together. So if that is my goal, I think it would be better to introduce them to the types of games I like first to see if there is a "match" instead of teaching them some game I don't really like and then trying to eventually lead them down a path to the games I tend to like.


The problem comes if they are not yet ready to dive in full force
into what you most like to play. If they need to experience similar
but simpler/shorter games to whet their appetite. Hitting someone with
something that they don't 'get' can turn them off the idea, when maybe
a slower progression could eventually reach more complex tastes.
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Michael Carter
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
goldengamer wrote:
mlcarter815 wrote:
goldengamer wrote:
mlcarter815 wrote:
It depends on the person you are introducing the games to. It isn't much more complicated than that.


Except that it is. If I already knew what the gaming likes and tastes of the person, I wouldn't really even be talking about introducing them to games. We'd just start playing...or not.

Chad makes some good points, and if I DID already have some sort of gaming background info to go on, then yes, I could use that to determine what sort of game to break out as an introduction to "hobby" games.


If my friend loves fantasy video games or is an RPG gamer, then I'd introduce him/her to gaming through an Ameritrash game. If the person is a history buff I'd introduce a wargame. If the person isn't a video gamer and tends to like traditional card games or classic games like Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly, I'd start with a light Euro-style game. Unless the person is a geek, I'd start with a game that I can teach in a few minutes.

It's not a difficult problem.


I agree in the situation you describe, there is some decent info to judge by. But it's not always so obvious. I for example hate trivial pursuit and hadn't played boardgames since I was a kid. I did play my fair share of video games, however my taste in boardgames lean very "euro".


If you actually know the person you are introducing the game to, it isn't hard to come up with a good test game. I already know the interests and hobbies that my friends have and what their personality types are.
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Aaron Edwards
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
As a self-professed fish who got hooked by gateway games, I can say confidently that if my buddy who introduced me to games had started with Agricola or Trajan, he probably wouldn't have heard back from me. I was under the assumption that board games were all like Monopoly. What got me interested was not the revelation that board games can have much more complex mechanics than Monopoly, but that board games could actually be fun and don't have to soulless exercises that you do to spend time with relatives.
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Michael Carter
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
calandale wrote:
goldengamer wrote:


I also should point out that my main interest (selfish as it is) in introducing people to the hobby is because I'm hoping they will like the kinds of games I like, and we'll end up playing together. So if that is my goal, I think it would be better to introduce them to the types of games I like first to see if there is a "match" instead of teaching them some game I don't really like and then trying to eventually lead them down a path to the games I tend to like.


The problem comes if they are not yet ready to dive in full force
into what you most like to play. If they need to experience similar
but simpler/shorter games to whet their appetite. Hitting someone with
something that they don't 'get' can turn them off the idea, when maybe
a slower progression could eventually reach more complex tastes.


Right. My girl friend plays games now that she wouldn't have played back when I first started teaching her games. Today she is more confident in her ability to learn a new game and she has built a background of game mechanics knowledge that reduces the learning curve for new games.

Knowing the other person's personality type helps to determine how well they will be able to learn a completely foreign type of game.
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
goldengamer wrote:


I also should point out that my main interest (selfish as it is) in introducing people to the hobby is because I'm hoping they will like the kinds of games I like, and we'll end up playing together. So if that is my goal, I think it would be better to introduce them to the types of games I like first to see if there is a "match" instead of teaching them some game I don't really like and then trying to eventually lead them down a path to the games I tend to like. Now, if my main goal was just really to introduce them to "the hobby" with no goal beyond that then yes, maybe I would have better odds starting with a game that is generally broader in appeal to the general population.


My friend got me into games based on his own personal collection and tastes (and with so-called "gateway games"). After a while, I branched off and got my own things, which I then introduce to him. I think our tastes tend to overlap quite a bit, but I also really enjoy that we can diverge and challenge each other's comfort zones.

So let people have their own personalities!
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
The best gateway games are made by Iconians.
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
goldengamer wrote:
I didn't mean to imply that "ticket to ride" and "king of tokyo" are not good games. But I was writing from my perspective, so my reference to the "good stuff" was purely subjective based on my own preferences.

I also should point out that my main interest (selfish as it is) in introducing people to the hobby is because I'm hoping they will like the kinds of games I like, and we'll end up playing together. So if that is my goal, I think it would be better to introduce them to the types of games I like first to see if there is a "match" instead of teaching them some game I don't really like and then trying to eventually lead them down a path to the games I tend to like. Now, if my main goal was just really to introduce them to "the hobby" with no goal beyond that then yes, maybe I would have better odds starting with a game that is generally broader in appeal to the general population.


All I can suggest is "go for it". Find the game you really want to play and teach it at your next opportunity.

From there, I would only suggest to have your teaching plan down cold. Know what game you're going to push and how to effectively and efficiently teach it to someone with no gaming experience whatsoever. If there's any one lesson to learn from my mistakes (other then use "Gateways" first ) is to really know your material inside and out. Nothing is going to lose your audience faster then you having to fumble around and figure out what you're doing.
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A lot of people I have gotten into gaming thought Ticket to Ride was "too complicated" when I first introduced them to it. Now they like games like Trajan, but had I started with that they'd have glazed over and went back to watching tv. Like people have already said, it depends the person.
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
My suggestion is to bring a range of stuff and give people a quick overview of the games, then let them pick for themselves what sounds most fun. Don't go into lots of detail about them but let them know the theme, the basic mechanics, and how complicated/time intensive the game is.

If they say they want to do something 'quick and easy' do quick and easy. If they want a puzzle to figure out go more complicated. If they just really love the theme of a particular game try that regardless of anything else.
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
I'm going to a game night next week of 20+ people, and the list of games they're expecting to play are things like Balderdash, Taboo, Pictionary, Yahtzee, and maybe a side order of Scrabble. Do you really think I'll have any success pulling out Trajan with these people?

I want to try to introduce them to some of the designer games if I can, but if I'm the only gamer in the bunch I recognize I might be outvoted. But short, easy-to-explain gateway type games are definitely the way to go, here. Stuff with some strategy for sure, but only one or two mechanics to learn.
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Chris Puram
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
I appreciate all of the responses... thanks!

I will just say that it sounds like some of you think you're arguing my point when you're really just making it for me. My original post simply argued that seeking out gateway games with the intention of bringing new gamers to the fold was wrong in "many" cases. Not in all cases, and not even most cases. So pointing out that "it depends on the person" is exactly my point. You SHOULD be open to possibly skipping the gateway games if your goal is to bring in someone to your game group and your group plays mainly heavier games.

I also didn't say it was wrong to seek out gateway games for entertaining large groups of people whom you are simply attempting to entertain on a specific game night or event, and who you may or may not be seriously interested in having join you regularly at game nights.

So again, to sum up my main point. Don't exclude meatier games when considering introductions to the hobby. Yes, some people will be intimidated by the more complex games but to many people like myself, this is the draw; Serving up only lighter fare may chase people away who don't find it particularly challenging or substantially different then the games they've seen before.

And finally, if this just seems obvious to you, that's great. However, I was inspired to write this only because I've been following the recommendations forums closely and I see ONLY gateway games mentioned every time the topic of introducing new players to the hobby comes up in conversation.

--- edited for typos.
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
Gateway games are just games that have proven, on average, to be popular with new gamers.
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Derry Salewski
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
(FYI. Gateway is a PC term for 'get your moms and gfs to play.)

(They aren't talking about you and your buddies. But it sounds like you're too busy playing complicated games to have picked up on that.)

(Good job. Keep it up!)
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Re: The trouble with "Gateway" games
One of the first games I got introduced to was Dungeon Lords. I loved the difficult choices, the tension of the worker placement mechanic, and the feeling of never being able to do everything I needed to do! I loved building something and then seeing if it could stand up to invaders. It was a rush, and I never looked back!

However, Bohnanza, a light filler game, was sheer torture (boring) and couldn't end soon enough.

So I agree with you completely, especially for your goal of wanting to find players who like the same kind of games you do. Hit them with the good stuff!

I organize the local board game meetup group. We frequently have new people join who ask us "to go easy" on them the first time, or who make comments that make it clear that they are uncertain and a bit nervous. We welcome them, reassure them, and include them in whatever we happen to be playing. At the end of their first gameday, they generally have played at least one heavy game, if not more, and liked it!

However, my advice for success in this is to be VERY patient and supportive with new gamers when you introduce them to the heavy games. Be sure that you can teach the game clearly and well, but don't just teach them the rules, teach them how to play! For example, when they are learning, if they are about to make a huge mistake, use the situation to help continue to teach the game. Calmly point out the consequences of their action, and ask them if they want to try a different move. Make sure they have a chance to enjoy their first few heavy games in a very non-intimidating atmosphere, and they'll come back for more.

I only wrote the above, because we had one member in the past who would teach only the bare rules and then crush new players who didn't understand how the mechanics all worked together or the consequences of their moves. The new players who played with him didn't usually come back, because they had a miserable time. We started steering the new players to another table, or if that failed, sitting in and offering support. That player moved away a couple of years ago, and we haven't had any issues since then with players being turned off by heavy games.

Your obvious enthusiasm for the heavy games is going to rub off on those you teach. Enjoyment is contagious!
Good luck!
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