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Subject: The Changing Perception of Board Gam(ing) rss

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Mark Tavenner
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I have read a number of complaints about how public perception of board gaming is, well... not the best. Although to me it seems that the public perception will change for the better, as it has already begun to do (albeit slowly thus far).

For my part I really don't care for Catan or most of the gateway games - but compared to Monopoly or Life they are great games. In fact I'd still think they were great games if I hadn't moved on to Power Grid, Race for the Galaxy, and others. - - - But everyone must keep in mind that Settlers (and to a lesser extent other popular gateways) are still in the early stages of the product life cycle here in the US, with still increasing sales for the few breakout games. As these games gain greater circulation more people will explore for other games and find what we already know is waiting for them. I personally give high marks to the thoughtfulness of any retailer that will stock Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride that doesn't already stock RPG and CCG games (not to dis RPG/CCG games but they are unlikely to ever be mainstream outside of high school). As sales of the few breakout games increase then forward looking retailers will get more aggressive and start stocking Agricola and Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and whatever else is hot among this new type of board game. Pretty much everybody here knows what has the potential to be mainstream and what never will, and it is these games that once they get into your local non-gamer stores, will accelerate the change in the public's perception of what a board game is.

Furthermore one must consider the changing times and how board games have the real potential to fill the public's need to be entertained. Consider how many forms of entertainment took off during the depression years of the 30's (movies and monopoly immediately come to mind). As the world around us changes it creates opportunities for things to change at a more rapid rate. Besides getting these games into stores a second force to change public opinion is increasing attendance to game groups. In my personal experience it only takes one attendance at a game group for a person's perception of what board games are to change dramatically. It is true not everyone will like it, but everyone leaves knowing these arn't your childhood games. Personal invitations and word of mouth are what makes groups grow, and as such a "sales pitch" becomes important. As gaming goes more mainstream there is a further need to move groups out of homes and into facilities that people who you know less will would be less intimidated by going to. Consider the potential to gain free or inexpensive space at a church that you are a member of, or a school that you are associated with in some way. Games stores are good also, although the tendency of them to focus on CCG/RPG games may be a turn-off for the public at large.

We must look forward into the future and not back at the past - - - or in other words we are the early adopters, we are at the forefront of a social change. Enjoying time with friends and family by playing great board games should not be something we talk down or hide, because it is only a matter of time until the public at large sees it quite differently.


PS: this subject was inspired by: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/3394275
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Edwin Priest
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Although I laud your optimism, I am not sure I share the belief that we are on the threshold of a new revolution here.

My perception after almost three years in this hobby is that there is small core of us who are driving this resurgence, if you want to call it that. The majority of people either remain disinterested or only profess interest. With the vast array of entertainment choices out there now, when faced with a choice, most people will choose to watch TV, play a video game, or do something else entirely.

Our gaming group is through meetup. The core is slowly growing, but mostly by capturing other like-minded gamers who have been playing for a while. The vast majority of people will come, visit once or twice, then move on to something else. Occasionally though, we do convert.

Having said all this, there is room for hope. I would like to think that these non-coverts now understand and appreciate our hobby a little better, and that modern board-gaming is indeed slowing coming into the public light. We should all continue to be ambassadors for this great hobby: play with your family, recruit your friends, share your joy. (Did I really just write all that crap???).
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Ray
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Well said Ed. To paint with broader strokes, the key concept is one of fandom. There are certain individuals or personalities that will discover an interest and live their lives around it. (It may be boardgames. I may be Music, DVDs, Comic Books, Computer games, or many other interests that have a community of fans talking about it daily. These communities have existed for awhile and will continue to exist. IMHO that is what is going on here...) Conversly there will always be large majority of the population that will not find this type of dedication to boardgames or any fandom pursuit -- and hobby boardgaming being a good fandom pursuit will not change this
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
Enjoying time with friends and family by playing great board games should not be something we talk down or hide, because it is only a matter of time until the public at large sees it quite differently.


I guess I just don't share this view of the "downtrodden gamer” that has to hide how he spends his free time.

To me, boardgames are simply another hobby...a way to pass time between obligations in an enjoyable way. This whole "crusade" concept has me quite bewildered. The notion that people will keep exlporing doesn't seem a given to me. They find a game they like and it passes the time, so they keep playing that game.. More serious players will go on, but for anyone with the Internet, boardgaming is a five-second search away, so I don't think it is the "perfect game" that is keeping them from the hobby.

I said in another post that I don't think the non-gaming public really cares enough about one hobby to heap derision on it. They simply choose to spend their leisure time pursuing other things.

I think also that the vast majority of families are gaming; they just aren't playing the types of games hobbyists like us play and that is the way it should be. Some people simply garden, some keep bonsai. This isn't a statement on the "perception" of gardening; rather, it is simply subjective taste at work. People will use their down time how they see fit to balance their lives.

I recently found out through idle conversation that a co-worker of mine is a member of an adult marching band. He does this on his off-time for enjoyment. I couldn't imagine he was concerned about the public perception of marching bands, because there really isn't any to speak of. It is simply a hobby that a relatively small amount of adults participate in.

I see boardgames the same way. The non-gamers out there don’t think one whit about boardgames because they are into their own hobbies and obligations. The reaction to someone saying, “I play boardgames,” I would think has much more to do with the person making the statement than the hobby itself.

I’m not sure the hobby has an image problem beyond that which obsessive gamers have justifiably given it. It is simply a hobby that not everyone will gravitate to for valid reasons. It is the way things should be when dealing with the frivolous expense of time.

Kevin





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wayne r
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I think the perception is slowly changing. I read an article a while back on how Settlers of Catan has penetrated the US market and how it is poised to go mainstream due to its ever increasing sell reports. It has turned the heads of some big retail companies, enough so that they are taking a chance on stocking it those stores.

Not to mention Eurogames are even penetrating the videogame market as can be seen on XBox.

It reminds me of the perception people held of videogames not so far back when the market was dominated by Nintendo. With the advent of the Playstation, people like me started to see games for the more mature minded. Now, I believe the population of videogame players have shifted more towards the 20-30something crowd where before, the majority was 18 and under crowd.
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Eric Jome
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Oni no board wrote:
I think the perception is slowly changing.


Quite.

The real motivating force here is the rise of video games. As video games go from novelty to geekdom to commonplace, they carry the entire concept of recreational game playing into the mainstream.

Remember, that parlor games have always been very acceptable. No one questions you if you say you like to play Chess, Bridge, Backgammon, Cribbage, or Poker. These older established games have name recognition. What we see for a more general gaming hobby is trying to transcend from specific games or games in a specific mode to a more general gaming acceptance. That takes a larger public experience with playing games... which presently comes from video games.
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Eric Jome
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Just as an aside, I'll mention this. When asked what my hobby is, I say "I like to play games." Usually, this is a satisfactory answer that seems to produce no reaction in the questioner, positive or negative. If they are friendly, they may further inquire "Oh? What type of games?" to which I respond "All sorts of games. Computer games, board games, card games, you name it..." Which also doesn't seem to produce any reaction other than friendly curiousity in the questioner.

There was a time when this sort of exchange produced more of "oh... so you're a geek" reaction among people asking, but that seems largely gone now.

I'd say, at least in my experience, we are already living in a post-prejudice world with regards to playing games. The only thing left to do now is help strangers get to know our culture so that they can feel comfortable with it when they run across it.
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
What we see for a more general gaming hobby is trying to transcend from specific games or games in a specific mode to a more general gaming acceptance. That takes a larger public experience with playing games... which presently comes from video games.


According to sales figures over the last decade or so, boardgame sales are booming. 2008 figures have boardgames sales up 8% while toys in general were down. (About 800 million in revenue.) I'm not sure how much more accepted boardgames could be as viable entertainment.

Ironicaly, it is the rise of video games in the 1990's that is credited with bashing the market. The 1980's were great, with games like Trivial Pursuit earning tons of sales. Video games wrecked the ride."Cocooning," or people staying in more at the turn of the century is credited with reviving the market...if anything, video games still are the bane of the boardgame industry.

It seems what is advocated here is quite specialized game playing rather than "general" boardgames...the essence of a "hobby", really. More people than ever are playing Monopoloy, but that tends to send most here into fits of consternation rather than joy. We tend to want to see hobbyists rather than simple game players, and I don't think this will happen simply because of the vagaries of taste and leisure.

The public is enjoying is largest experience in history with boardgames. The issue on BGG isn't the numbers, but the types of games being played. That is a totally different (nonsensical, to my mind) issue than "perception of boardgames." The perception couldn't be more positive at the moment.

Quote:
Remember, that parlor games have always been very acceptable.


Every game on BGG would be "acceptable"...they simply aren't to the taste of the majority of the publc, as is true of quilting, or supper clubs, or golf, or any other lesiure time activity. Scrabble, Payday, Masterpiece....thousands of games are played (and have been played) by millions of people everyday that aren't simply "parlor" games...they are legitimate boardgames.

So, it isn't some issue of acceptability of the hobby as much as it is simply taste and how people choose to spend their free time.

I guess I just haven't experienced any questioning beyond what one would expect with a specialized hobby. This I would assume is the same one gets when they respond, "I cook as a hobby," and is met with, "You mean like hamburgers and stuff?" I don't think this is a matter of perception so much as dealing with a specialized pursuit. Most of the serious games played on this site will always be that, I think.

Kevin
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Bill Eldard
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I agree with Edwin, Ray, and Kevin. Past forecasts of dramatic growth in the hobby have all been little more than wishful thinking.

The popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, Trivial Pursuit, and Magic: The Gathering were 'expected' by some to draw enthusiasts into the broader gaming hobby, but while some folks did go deeper into the hobby, most did not.

Could it happen? Perhaps. Are the prospects good? Nah.

 
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Eric Jome
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natsean wrote:
According to sales figures...


Sales is a very bad way of gauging the public perception of a hobby. If I said my hobby was smoking marijuana, would the sales of upwards of $15 billion last year make it more acceptable? Probably not.

I stand by my statement that the main driving force in getting the public at large to consider playing games as a healthy, normal, every day hobby (not just playing games in your free time) has been video games.

Quote:
I'm not sure how much more accepted boardgames could be as viable entertainment.


I eat lunch in a public cafeteria almost every day. I frequently see a table of ladies playing Sequence and another playing Schafkopf. When I see at least one table playing Race For the Galaxy, I'll consider board games very well accepted... not including my table last week Thursday.
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Eric Jome
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Eldard wrote:
The popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, Trivial Pursuit, and Magic: The Gathering were 'expected' by some to draw enthusiasts into the broader gaming hobby, but while some folks did go deeper into the hobby, most did not.


Egads! You haven't been around a long time, have you?

Friend, I can remember a time when D&D was the weird new game. I can tell you that back then, to find 2 people who had even heard of it was rare. Today, I can show you room after room of people who play.

All the games you mentioned worked miracles for adding people to the hobby. Tens of thousands of new players joined as a result of these things. Perhaps millions.

This hobby didn't statistically existing in 1975. 30 years later, millions of people worldwide are involved. Can you really say there has been no growth and that nothing has lured more people to play?
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Kevin C.
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If I said my hobby was smoking marijuana, would the sales of upwards of $15 billion last year make it more acceptable? Probably not.


A illegal activity is hardly a valid comparison. Smoking pot isn't acceptable as a hobby because, as I say, it is illegal and harmful. Boardagmes are neither illegal nor harmful and generated almost a billion in sales last year. What are people doing with all their games if not playing them?

Sales are the best way to gage the popularity of a (lawful) commercial undertaking, usually. How would you find out, for example, if beer was a popular beverage? You would look at sales figures, no?

Quote:
When I see at least one table playing Race For the Galaxy, I'll consider board games very well accepted... not including my table last week Thursday.


Why? Because it fits your definition of a boardgame? RFTG is a very specific type of game that will probably never be universally popular due to it's ontological nature. I could give away copies for free on the subway and most would wind up in the bin because people simply didn't like the game. (I'm not a big fan myself.)

You see people playing boardgames everyday in a public space..just not your subjective idea of boardgames. It's like saying chicken isn't popular because not everyone is eating KFC. I'm not sure I get your point if random people are playing games in front of you everyday. They may not play the games you feel are worthy, but again, this is quite a different point to make.

You have quite a bit of evidence in front of you that boardgames are quite well accepted.

Kevin
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Georg von Lemberg
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WHen i first bought Settlers and Carcassone, they were not available in mainstream stores. Now they are. I've seen Ticket to Ride in stores that have no other games other than this one. When I bought the old zeno?? games version of axis and allies (world at war, europe at war) the AH/MB versions were not available in regular stores, Now they are. I think that there are more games (Bohnanza, Killer Rabits, Pandemic) that could make it to the main stream. I think the OP is on to something. I am addicted to games and own some 200 (not all listed on bgg yet), but don't consider myself a "Board Game Geek". Just a regular guy who has a fixation on bits and pieces. Most of my friends have never heard of the games I have, but they are pretty keen on playing games like Axis & Allies, Attack, Risk, Bohnanza, Settlers, Carcassone and a few others. Play with your friends. SHow them how much fun this actually is and you'll see the demand for games go up.
ciao, gvonl
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Georg von Lemberg
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RFTG is a very specific type of game that will probably never be universally popular due to it's ontological nature. I could give away copies for free on the subway and most would wind up in the bin because people simply didn't like the game. (I'm not a big fan myself.)

You see people playing boardgames everyday in a public space..just not your subjective idea of boardgames. It's like saying chicken isn't popular because not everyone is eating KFC. I'm not sure I get your point if random people are playing games in front of you everyday. They may not play the games you feel are worthy, but again, this is quite a different point to make.



Here, here, hate RFTG myself. Never have played it actually, opened the box and tossed it into my cupboard. Don't think it will ever come out of there either. Only other game of the 200 or so I own that I can even come close to saying the same of is Zombiegeddon, and even that one I am willing try out a couple of times if I can find someone else who wants to. And I own clunkers like Caylus that are so far off the mainstream that I can't even convince most of my avid gamer friends to try out!
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Eric Jome
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natsean wrote:
How would you find out, for example, if beer was a popular beverage? You would look at sales figures, no?


No I would do a statistically and scientifically meaningful poll.

Quote:
Why? Because [Race For The Galaxy] fits your definition of a boardgame?


No, all the games I mentioned are board games. RFTG is a niche game. Sequence and Sheepshead are not in comparison... and they are way more niche than Poker. Which is itself a niche compared to other popular hobbies like golf or gardening.

I make a distinction of scale. When the scale of RFTG playing rises to the point that I find people playing it at random in a public cafeteria, then I can feel safe in assuming it is considerably less niche and perhaps, by extension, board games in general are.

Nothing to do with my opinion of what games are what. You could replace RFTG with any gamer's game - Paths of Glory, Agricola, Settlers of Catan, Ogre, Awful Green Things From Outer Space... you name it.
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David Onstott
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I would just like to point out that board games boomed in the 30s because they were cheap and offered people an opportunity to escape the poverty of their lives and be successful, even for a short time at, most notably for example, real estate tycooning (Monopoly). Nowadays people have video games and RPGs which are cheap and can make you any sort of awesome thing, whereas board games (love them though I do), often make you poor (Agricola) or morally dubious (Peurto Rico).
In any case, this would be a time where video game crowds may move towards board gaming because of the more social nature, when they can't afford XBL anymore or need a little more playability out of their 60 bucks. In that case Ameritrash will see a boom whereas Eurogames will experience the same slow and steady growth it always has. I am not discounting the possibility that Ameritrash may become a gateway to Eurogames, but then you just have a large group that plays Am-trash and a subset that plays Euro as well.

On a personal side note, Settlers was definitely my gateway game, though I hated Carcassone, what really pushed me over was Serenissima. Now I love Civ games (Civ the PC game actually brought me back to board gaming after not playing for a while) as well as the few Euros I have played. I wouldn't be surprised if that story is similar to many nowadays. In addition the fact that really good games are being made on popular licenses (Battlestar and Starcraft to name a couple), will help in bringing a wider audience in a similar fashion.

So, long story short, do I think that board games are heading towards a new golden age? no. Do I think that things are looking very good for the industry as a whole in terms of growth and hooking new generations? yes, a million times, yes.

cosine wrote:
natsean wrote:
How would you find out, for example, if beer was a popular beverage? You would look at sales figures, no?


No I would do a statistically and scientifically meaningful poll.


I have an answer to that, but I have to sober up first...
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Well, it might not be the reason, or even a significant part of the reason behind what we are witnessing on the boardgames scene, but I'll contribute this:

Probably the main reason why I have invested so much in board games in the last 6-7 years is that it's become near impossible to get people together for a regular table top RPG game anymore.


With the passing years, people get ever more demanding jobs, get in relationships, have kids, etc. Systematically booking even a single night once every other week has become somewhat of a wishful project. Basically the D&D (or V:TM / Shadowrun / whatever) generation has grown pass the blissful age where any type of continued, coordinated and time consuming activity was even remotely possible. Add to this things like World of Warcraft, which often hits a similar audience with a modular, stay-at-home-convenient, hit-kinda-the-same-spot entertainment, and that simply makes getting people together a harder endeavor.

Incidentally, boardgames often appeal the table top RPG people, are easy to setup, don't require fix attendance, allow for short length sessions and don't need to be prepared or planed for.

For me, this is what happened. All my table top RPG games died, to be replaced with, although disparate and heratic, fairly regular board game nights where people can bring friends, skip nights, bring new games, cancel and improvise without anyone's enjoyment being diminished.

I might be overplaying this, but the old tabletop RPG crowd is a considerable demographic. Add to this the democratization of formerly geek-only entertainment (eg World of Warcraft with its 13'000'000 suscribers), the formation of communities around the hobby (eg this very website) and the large expansion of the offer (eg 10x more board games comming out in 2009 than in 1999), and I think you can reasonably see how this can be.

I'm not sure this means that the hobby will become mainstream, expand or recess, but it's hard to deny that it's more common that it was 10 years ago... And obviously, the more widespread somethings become, the more chances it has of a) rising opposition, and b) gaining acceptance. Board games being an old and somewhat benign medium, I think it's fair to imagine it'll become somewhat less marginal... whatever that might mean or do for us =)
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
I make a distinction of scale. When the scale of RFTG playing rises to the point that I find people playing it at random in a public cafeteria, then I can feel safe in assuming it is considerably less niche and perhaps, by extension, board games in general are.


I guess this is the rub: boardgames in general aren't niche...specialized "gamer" games are.

You find random people playing boardgames in a cafeteria on a regular basis. I recently went on a week cruise and I saw countless instances of game playing on the ship. My son and I were playing Saga, but lots of other people were playing Scrabble, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and various other games at various times throughout the week. I teach Spanish in a high school and games like Pictionary, Clue (in Spanish), & Scrabble are used on a regular basis in my class. Other games are used in other classes on a pretty regular basis as well.

Boardgaming has seen some lean days, no doubt, but it is a well-established and viable leisure activity that is well-accepted.

The more specialized titles aren't because..well, they are specialized. I doubt Caylus will ever be as popular as Monopoly and I don't think it has anything to do with attitudes or perceptions of the hobby. It is the nature of the activty and what such an experience requires and conveys.

Quote:
No I would do a statistically and scientifically meaningful poll.


Fair enough...that would certainly be a cogent way to gather the information. Sales figures will, however, give you some idea of what trends a particular enterprise is experiencing and a general feeling of popularity. Boardgaming isn't a $100 million dollar gig, but more like $800 million. Certainly nothing like the $18 billion of DVD sales, but that is still a decent amount of money to be spent on a "niche" activity.

Kevin


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David Onstott
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Rakeman wrote:
natsean wrote:
To me, boardgames are simply another hobby...a way to pass time between obligations in an enjoyable way. This whole "crusade" concept has me quite bewildered. The notion that people will keep exlporing doesn't seem a given to me. They find a game they like and it passes the time, so they keep playing that game.. More serious players will go on, but for anyone with the Internet, boardgaming is a five-second search away, so I don't think it is the "perfect game" that is keeping them from the hobby.


Good post! Personally, I don't see this as a thing about "Gamers" and "non-Gamers"... most everybody plays some sort of boardgame. Even if just "Apples to Apples" or "Monopoly."

You don't need to be a "movie buff" to own some DVDs, for example, although I imagine "movie buffs" would own more DVDs and more obscure ones.


Yeah, I agree with this, my post from before was referring to people becoming BBG's, not simply board games in general. If you take 800 million a year board games make and subtract Monopoly, Scrabble and Apples to Apples/Trivial Pursuit/Cranium/etc., that is the size market I was referring to.
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