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Subject: The State of the Hobby rss

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Patrick Kelly
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I speak about it briefly in this week's episode. While my response was admittedly partially formed and fully reactionary I do want to think through where our hobby may be going, both good and bad. I am especially interested in hearing the PegHead's thoughts. So sound off below. Are things changing? What are the perils of those changes? What are there opportunities?

I want to note however, this Guild has consistently proven itself a safe space for people to voice their views and opinions. We are a community of support. That doesn't mean we can't disagree, but I anticipate that any discussion will be considerate and respectful.
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John Kanost
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I have not had the opportunity to listen to the new episode yet, but I'll chime in.

Are things changing?

Always. Change just is, no matter where you look in life, including this hobby. I've seen a lot of positive change just in my local sphere. More opportunities, more inclusiveness, growth. The sheer amount of new being dumped into the pool year after year means it's far easier for newcomers to a) find something they can enjoy and b) find other people to enjoy it with.

Perils?

Well, some folks don't like change and some of those folks can become grumpy about it. I've encountered a few curmudgeons in my gaming circles and had to remind them that this hobby isn't just here to please them. I've had my own curmudgeonly moments and had to be reminded of the same. I've yet to encounter any violence or harassment around the game table, but I'm aware that it exists and I try to foster an environment that makes it clear those behaviors are not welcome.

There are also the Perils To My Pocketbook. I'm doing my best to say "no", and to be reasonable and responsible with my acquisitions, but it's a hard line to hold to when there's just a constant array of the new and shiny being presented to us and hyped.

Opportunities

Meet new people. Find something in common with them. Enjoy an experience with them, and they become new acquaintance, perhaps even friends. That's what Board Gamin' can Do For You!
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Tyson Mertlich
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Patrick,

As I listened to some of your thoughts on the podcast I thought you were right in some ways and Robb and Christina were also right. There are things to be concerned about as well as things to be excited about.

I personally have been noticing a lot of change in the industry, particularly in the ways new and upcoming people are wanting to get into the industry. I know you focused on content creators because of larger companies getting into the media space of boardgames and that perhaps their content isn't as nuanced and thoughtful as those passionate about the industry, but I think this goes for the industry as a whole.

I am an aspiring designer/developer/publisher and have been watching Kickstarter changes for the last several years, and it is becoming more and more apparent to me that things in that arena are shifting away from funding dreams to funding products. I know it's been talked about on the podcast a lot so I won't go into this too far, but essentially for me it comes down to knowing your audience. Kickstarter is a place for certain types of games to be created in now and unfortunately even really good games may not make it there because they may not be the right fit for the platform. Just like when going the traditional route of publishing a game through an established publisher that doesn't use kickstarter, you have to know which publisher's audience will fit your game(s) best.

I think this change is overall a good thing, it means that gamers will get better games, it can be sad for the creators who want to do things out of passion because they may not be as successful in certain arenas as others, and I think this goes the same with content creators. Unfortunately, the creators with the wow factor (proper tools such as marketing skills/art/production skills/networking etc.) and visual appeal stand out quicker than somebody who is starting a podcast/youtube/blog from their basement or garage with a friend or two. That doesn't mean that everybody can't be successful, they just have to adapt to their new environment.

I often think of typewriter companies when I think of change because when the advent of the computer came about a lot of typewriter companies went out of business (same can be said of railroad companies with the automobile). I don't think this was due to the typewriter being a bad product, but rather because the typewriter companies that maintained their status quo and believed the computer to be a fad were not willing to adapt to their new environment. The typewriters companies that saw that the typewriter could be more than a word processor where able to succeed. I think the same can be said in any industry, if you can see your company/product/content in the big picture and adapt to the changes things will improve.

Some companies I think that are aware of this and making those games are:



And basically everything with Asmodee. The list can go one, but I think adapting and making strategic alliances is good for the industry. Also, I think that when big companies get involved good things can happen too. I just played Mechs vs. Minions this weekend for the first time and the production quality on that game is amazing soley because it came from a company that could afford to pull out all of the stops.

With all of this said, I do worry about the state of the hobby and what is to come, but I think that change is inevitable and we can only go with the change or be left behind. I hope that all of the great content creators/publishers/designers/industry folk that we have now can always be a part of the industry because that is why this industry is so great!
 
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Jamie Maltman
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I don't think this particular line of change will have a deep impact on the hobbyists and hobbyist focused media.

It could have a significant impact on the more accessible areas of hobby games, like SdJ/family games, social deduction games, hobby party games, better examples of IP based games, as well as the award winners, because these new more mainstream media outlets will cover the winners in those spaces.

And that's a good thing for driving more sales to the hobby game companies, which will let them take more chances with their other offerings in less accessible product lines.

On top of that, there will be new hobby gamers that enter through these channels, then quickly find more via youtube/BGG/conventions, etc.

But someone trying to break into BG media and focus on some of those more accessible areas above may find it harder to get traction and review copies, that's for sure.
 
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I felt your reaction (Patrick) to new content creators smacked of gatekeeping with a side of elitism. It’s human nature to not want things to change, but change is inevitable.

Reaching a new gaming audience is always a good thing, so I welcome gaming articles popping up in new places. It stimulates growth of the hobby and brings in new gamers. Some of them may never move beyond games you can buy at Target, others may deep dive whole hog into the hobby. Exposure is a positive!

Are things changing? Of course! Will all the changes be universally positive? Probably not, but only time will tell.

Are there perils? Not really. Kickstarter continues to be a major influence, but hasn’t killed gaming as many people suggested in the early days. Mergers and acquisitions will continue to happen, for good or for bad. So far Asmodee buying up every company on the planet hasn’t killed gaming either, as many doomsday gaming prophets also predicted.It may be harder for smaller publishers to get their games noticed, but that’s been an issue I’ve heard about since discovering this weird and wonderful hobby 6 years ago.

There is a ton of opportunity, which I’m sure will come with some downsides, but I see a general positive trend continue to happen. New gamers leads to new game designers which leads to new games and (hopefully) more unique gaming experiences.

Change is scary, but it doesn’t take away from your own personal enjoyment of the hobby.
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Patrick Kelly
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Dogtorted wrote:
I felt your reaction (Patrick) to new content creators smacked of gatekeeping with a side of elitism. It’s human nature to not want things to change, but change is inevitable.

I completely acknowledge, you may be correct. I don't want to be an elitist, but that doesn't mean I am not plagued with implicit biases that I should examine and perhaps overcome. As I said, I was just articulating a niggling feeling. Being upfront with an emotional response that may be wrong headed.
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Robb Rouse

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Dogtorted wrote:
I felt your reaction (Patrick) to new content creators smacked of gatekeeping with a side of elitism.

I feel it should be noted here, that we are VERY open to new content creators. We are always giving shout outs to new creators through twitter and in the show. Heck Patrick on the show asked new content creators to reach out and we would try to send love their way.

I think it was the TYPE of new content creators that he was reacting to.
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Scott Sexton
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I've not managed to listen to this week's episode yet, but I firmly believe that the state of the hobby has never been stronger. We are smack dab in the midst of a golden age and are enjoying an embarrassment of riches. There have never before in human history been as many game designers as there are today and while not every game is an instant classic, the odds dictate that more and better games are an inevitability. Better yet, the hobby is pretty much collapse proof and it would take something like the apocalypse to wipe it out (of course with the ongoing deterioration of the environment this is seeming like something more and more plausible).

Cataclysms aside, my real fear is that I only have 6 more years before my kids leave for college, and then I'll have lost my captive game group. soblue

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Robb Rouse

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scottatlaw wrote:
my real fear is that I only have 6 more years before my kids leave for college, and then I'll have lost my captive game group. soblue


this bums me out.
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Ted Morris
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Quote:
I think it was the TYPE of new content creators that he was reacting to.

That’s the part that felt elitist to me. New content creators, but the “wrong” kind. That was my impression at least. The intent may have been different, or perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but it really felt like a “get off my lawn!” moment.
 
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Meghan Naxer
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What a great and important discussion topic! I definitely agree with a lot that has already been said, so here's my 2 cents:

As far as content creation goes, I am really excited when I see board game content on blogs and sites I usually follow for video games (I regularly read sites like Kotaku and Polygon, as I am also quite interested in and research video games). I suspect that many of the readers of sites like this are not regulars here at BGG and wouldn't be reading Kotaku for board gaming news instead of listening to a podcast, reading a board-gaming specific blog, etc. As far as the quality of things like top 5/10/50/etc. lists, these are subjective lists and I think we (as a community) shouldn't be too quick to assume nefarious intentions of these sites and column writers. Sure, they might be throwing together a bunch of random games into a "Best Games of 2018" list, but maybe those games are the writer's favorites. Who are we to say?

Listening to the discussion unfold on the podcast made me reflect on trends in a lot of "fandoms" recently, especially among fans of things like Star Wars in the aftermath of Last Jedi, for example. As a board gaming community, I think we all need to take a deep breath and think about what it means to be a gamer and part of "the/a" gaming community. Sure, maybe someone buys all their games at Target and enjoys Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Machi Koro and regularly plays the games on their shelves with their family and friends. Does that make them less of a gamer than someone who regularly attends Gen Con and backs 10+ games a year on Kickstarter? Or someone who only follows the SdJ and prioritizes those games to play with their families? Who are "we" to define what being a gamer means?

Side story: Yes, I consider myself a gamer and enjoy the board gaming hobby. After Paul and I moved to Ohio, we attended a large local meetup for the first time. The first person we met started a conversation and this person pretty much ignored me and only talked to Paul. Finally, he looked over at me and my non-gaming bag with Millennium Blades in it and assumed I wasn't "a gamer (TM)" and decided to tell me about how his wife enjoys shopping for new bags he can use gaming and maybe I'd enjoy that too. When I offered to teach MB, he declined and walked away. That's certainly a VERY tame encounter compared to what others have experienced, but at the time and in reflection, it still made me really angry that someone had just assumed I wasn't much of a gamer, for whatever reason, and completely dismissed me. It made me feel small and less of a gamer—someone this group didn't want to have around.

I am always very cautious when I hear complaints like "that's not a REAL board gamer" or "that column obviously wasn't written by someone in the hobby." Everyone's experience and background are valid and as more and more people begin experiencing "mainstream" board gaming through these other sites, Target and Walmart, etc., I hope they are welcomed with patience and excitement instead of someone's arbitrary definition of what it means to be a "gamer."
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Patrick Kelly
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Dogtorted wrote:
That’s the part that felt elitist to me. New content creators, but the “wrong” kind. That was my impression at least. The intent may have been different, or perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but it really felt like a “get off my lawn!” moment.

Very fair. I admit, it is a weird reaction for me. Perhaps it was about my perception of certain creator's motives, i.e. large media outlets. That may say more about me than it does about them.

Edit: I want to add, I (and dare I say we) make no distinction try not to make any distinction between "gamers" of any type or interest. If you like to sit down and spend time with those you like or love playing a game (any game) then you an I have something in common. I say, have your joy and my warmest thoughts and respect.

PS: Also, it bears repeating; I love you people.
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Robb Rouse

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Dogtorted wrote:
Quote:
I think it was the TYPE of new content creators that he was reacting to.

That’s the part that felt elitist to me. New content creators, but the “wrong” kind. That was my impression at least. The intent may have been different, or perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but it really felt like a “get off my lawn!” moment.

It could have been. Emotions and fears are what they are. If we are anything we are honest and forthcoming. I hope that Christina and I balanced out the conversation....but we might have just made it worse.
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Robb Rouse

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pablopk wrote:


Perhaps it was about my perception of certain creator's motives, i.e. large media outlets. That may say more about me than it does about them.


when you first said "I want to talk about X" before the recording, this was the feeling I got. I didnt want to go any further because I wanted to "save it for the podcast".
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Brandon Kempf
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pablopk wrote:
Dogtorted wrote:
That’s the part that felt elitist to me. New content creators, but the “wrong” kind. That was my impression at least. The intent may have been different, or perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but it really felt like a “get off my lawn!” moment.

Very fair. I admit, it is a weird reaction for me. Perhaps it was about my perception of certain creator's motives, i.e. large media outlets. That may say more about me than it does about them.

Edit: I want to add, I (and dare I say we) make no distinction try not to make any distinction between "gamers" of any type or interest. If you like to sit down and spend time with those you like or love playing a game (any game) then you an I have something in common. I say, have your joy and my warmest thoughts and respect.

PS: Also, it bears repeating; I love you people.

I do think there is some validity in your statement though. IGN had folks at Gen Con as well this year and even hosted a couple panels. The bigger names are coming but they are mostly all from different backgrounds, right?

My hope is that as the network news or other places start covering tabletop more is that they find the voices that have been in the hobby and bring them into their fold to give a more nuanced view to the new people that they are reaching. Not just find an intern who has nothing better to do to cover it.

But of note, Kotaku has been covering tabletop off and on for awhile now and Popular Mechanics has done the Top 50 list a few times now. Also, hasn't Andrew Bucholz or Keith Law done reviews for them and Ars Technica among others?
 
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Jamie Maltman
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Keith Law, yes.
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Brandon Kempf
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MaltmanJ wrote:
Keith Law, yes.

Wasn't sure if Andrew had or not, I'm just projecting my wishes I suppose.

Point is, this is what I would like to see happen, bring in writers who know board games to cover these things, rather than just make someone cover it who has little knowledge outside of their own experiences with board gaming (which in some, is very little).
 
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Chad Jacobson

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I really wouldn’t worry to much about the way things were said. I honestly heard Patrick saying he was unsure he wanted some outlets with deeper pockets and range that care less about the hobby taking up bandwidth with hastily provided, ill researched coverage. I can understand that.

But I think Christina and Robb did a good job countering this because saying the gamers who have been in the hobby for any length of time will be able to discern pretenders. And if it gets more people started in the hobby...

I’m glad you guys talked about this because look at the discussion it’s generated. In the community you helped create.
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Derek Kuper
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Some thoughts on "The Big Guys" taking over - I doubt there is some conspiracy theory for larger companies muscling in to our hobby. I do think they are starting to take notice.

I find it far more likely that:
1) The company sends an intern to do a piece on games. The company and/or the intern knows little or nothing about games, so their top XX games of 'convention Y' are simply what caught their eye or they had time to investigate. Newcomers to our hobby are frequently overwhelmed by the sheer volume and variety of offerings
2) The intern is at least a bit into the hobby, they sell their idea for an article to their boss. Supervisors edit the content down to what they understand or think will market well in their publication.

As an extra thought; with no larger than most game companies tend to be, and with as many companies as there are I find it improbable that even a handful of larger companies could dominate our hobby space. Public opinion is huge for us gamers and our opinions make or break a game/company. I would reference good cases such as Dark Moon/My Little Scythe/Caverna Forgotten People where the parent company credited the players instead of stealing ideas. Also the negative where things were of questionable origin (a.k.a. plagiarism) and the community lash-back was so dramatic the offending company virtually disappears overnight. See Nostromo from Wonderdice, Overturn (cancelled/suspended KickStarter), and Legends of the Three Kingdoms (BANG! knock off).
 
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Jeremy Holmes
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Just listened to Patrick's thoughts. I thought the discussion was great, and I certainly don't think there was any elitism involved. But I did have a slightly different take on the comments that I wanted to bring up.

Patrick's perspective was as a content creator and a member of a community. At the same time, the board game industry is just that - an industry, a commercial enterprise. There are a lot of designers, artists, writers, and publishers that are trying (and in many cases, barely succeeding) to make a living at something they love.

Big content creators with big money also potentially mean big exposure to big audiences to these folks who are often struggling. Success for these folks - even via games that we might not think are of great quality - means more opportunity for more designing, more creativity, and more non-Ramen based meals.

For example: Patrick referenced the Target exclusives (a little bit of a tangent here, but bear with me). I was not a fan of the "Adult" Codenames Target exclusive - as a game, I don't think it really added anything necessary to the experience. BUT - hooray for the designers and the publishers for landing that deal, and hopefully the cash infusion means they have the resources to maybe experiment with some things.

So, if a crappy Top 10 feature in IGN or Popular Mechanics or whatnot sells a bunch of a mediocre game, but the designer or the publisher gets a sudden cash infusion from the demand - great! New people get into the hobby, someone can make more games, and if the new folks get serious about the hobby they'll find a welcoming community to learn more about the variety of excellent stuff out there.

That said - I suppose I could see a situation where big media content creators subtly deform market demand by highlighting certain kinds or styles or qualities of games - but it seems to me that just means the induced market demand may trend that way, while the current market base is going to behave just like it has been. In other words, it's unlikely loyal fans fans of any existing board game media are going to be swayed by a crappy top 10 list, so it's not like those content creators or the publishers/designers they tend to support are going to lose anything, but it's possible they might not get a proportionate share of the new market - at least not initially.

Anyways, there my Board Gaming Economic Theory as Considered by an English Major for you.
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Jeremy Robinson
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I think increasing the size of the industry, the number of type of gamers, and the number and type of content creators is an unequivocal good. Period. Full stop.

Yes, we are beginning to see "bandwagon" articles by people who have only just noticed there's a world beyond mass market games, but that's also not a bad thing. We've already started seeing the reference point for non-gamers start to shift from "You mean like Monopoly?" to "You mean like Catan" and anything that accelerates that process is good. And if that's going to take a hundred more articles recommending Carcassone to someone who wouldn't have heard of it otherwise, that's just what it takes.

The same thing happened in the video game industry (and film, and publishing, etc. before it). As the market expands you get more people who are just in it to make a buck, but the expanded market also creates the space for more experimentation, more innovation, and more projects which will only appeal to a niche audience. We could never have seen indie games like Braid or Firewatch without having a massive industry that could risk supporting projects that might have limited appeal. In the end, Sturgeon's law will apply: "90% of everything is crud." But heads-up content creators will be more vital than ever to highlight the 10% that isn't... as well as the 1% that's just awesome and couldn't have existed otherwise.
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Scott Sexton
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Vacabck wrote:
pablopk wrote:
Dogtorted wrote:
That’s the part that felt elitist to me. New content creators, but the “wrong” kind. That was my impression at least. The intent may have been different, or perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but it really felt like a “get off my lawn!” moment.

Very fair. I admit, it is a weird reaction for me. Perhaps it was about my perception of certain creator's motives, i.e. large media outlets. That may say more about me than it does about them.

Edit: I want to add, I (and dare I say we) make no distinction try not to make any distinction between "gamers" of any type or interest. If you like to sit down and spend time with those you like or love playing a game (any game) then you an I have something in common. I say, have your joy and my warmest thoughts and respect.

PS: Also, it bears repeating; I love you people.

I do think there is some validity in your statement though. IGN had folks at Gen Con as well this year and even hosted a couple panels. The bigger names are coming but they are mostly all from different backgrounds, right?

My hope is that as the network news or other places start covering tabletop more is that they find the voices that have been in the hobby and bring them into their fold to give a more nuanced view to the new people that they are reaching. Not just find an intern who has nothing better to do to cover it.

But of note, Kotaku has been covering tabletop off and on for awhile now and Popular Mechanics has done the Top 50 list a few times now. Also, hasn't Andrew Bucholz or Keith Law done reviews for them and Ars Technica among others?

Something to consider, most of these more mainstream content providers do have actual gamers generating the board game reviews. One of Kotaku's editors is an avid board gamer and his reviews are what drive the board gaming content. Charlie Theel's articles (who is perhaps one of the most enjoyable board game writer out there) are circulated by almost a dozen major websites.
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Brendan Riley
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Great conversation all around. I'll add the thought I have whenever I see a new place talking about board games -- Great, more people to get hooked and start buying games. As one of the many independent (we call ourselves "boutique") publishers working to carve out a little niche, I want more and more people to come into the hobby because that's the only way the audience keeps up with the ponzi scheme-level expansion we're seeing on the design/publishing end of things.

 
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Isaac Freeebairn

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Pretty sure this is the first time I've posted on a guild, so I applaud you Patrick for getting me out of my car (where I always listen to you guys)and into my office before work so I could give you my thoughts.

As you described your concern about the "Wired Magazines of the world" having interns write hastily assembled buzz piece articles about the hobby, and assembling ill considered top ten lists for the ignorant, newbie masses... this thought occurred to me.

Why don't you do it?

As established content creators, with your fingers on the pulse of this growing industry, why not reach out to some of these mass media content creators and offer to do an op-ed piece. You have a massive amount of content already created, and a loyal mass of listeners which speaks to your ability to contribute to their "toe-dipping" into this hobby. You have a resume in other words.

I'll use "Wired" as an example since it's the one magazine I feel compelled to pick up whenever I'm at the airport. Imagine a top ten list created by you appearing there, and at the bottom it says "Patrick is a host of the Bi-weekly podcast "Blue Peg Pink Peg"...blah blah blah".

Not only are the eyes of the reader opened to whole new world of hobby gaming, but you've also saved him from the list that he would have read, if you had not intervened. You've also advertised your podcast to millions of readers.

Rather than being afraid of the mass media "reaching millions" with one article, why not be the one writing the article???

I realize that speaking is different than writing, but your rules breakdowns are excellent. I think it's in your wheelhouse...why not try reaching out to some of these media producers where you have begun to see this happening, and get in on the ground floor, Produce excellent content for them, the readers who will be drawn to some excellent board games, and expand your Peg-head following at the same time?

Love you guys!

Isaac
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Patrick Kelly
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Ifreebairn wrote:
I think it's in your wheelhouse...why not try reaching out to some of these media producers where you have begun to see this happening, and get in on the ground floor, Produce excellent content for them, the readers who will be drawn to some excellent board games, and expand your Peg-head following at the same time?

Very kind of you to say. Thanks for joining us. Don't be a stranger. Not a bad idea.

I have written for some other online and print outlets in the past, and we toyed with written content on the site, a few years back. We may return to it.

I think your point is very well taken, don't just bitch about it, do something. I will disclose, I have written a great deal of content over the years. Most of it has yet to see the light of day. I have been working on a larger project that I hope to make major strides toward completing before the end of this year.

I also want to concede that there are some very good writers contributing to some of these outlets. However, I know that on-line outlets are notorious for paying young writers a pittance (or nothing, in some cases) and may have made some assumptions based upon that general knowledge and my observations about some articles that I read in the space of two weeks.

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