[-empyre-] (no subject)

Aaron Trammell mobilestudios at gmail.com
Wed Mar 11 07:28:39 AEDT 2020

Yes to this!

I want to link your points here on sustainability to the conversations on
the list last week. You're right! Modern board games are only being built
for a crowdfunded splash and 1-2 actual plays at the moment. But the
marketing is driven by a consumer lust for virtual or potential plays. What
this means, though is more plastics, more trash, and more waste.

The crowdfunding revolution is big news, but it's full of upsides and
downsides. I do think that the present moment of modern board games is
perhaps more exciting for collectors than it is for players. But at the
same time, space is being made for new and (sometimes) diverse voices in
the space of design. I dunno. Should we be concerned about the waste modern
board games are producing now while the industry is still relatively small?

On Tue, Mar 10, 2020 at 1:15 PM Brent Povis <twolanternsgames at gmail.com>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thanks Alenda and fine folks of Empyre! It was fun following last week’s
> lines, which ran somewhat adjacent but were certainly relevant to board
> gaming as well. As a tabletop designer/publisher, hopefully I can dip into
> some industry perspective for this week’s Entmoot.
> The first title from our publishing house, a tactical 2-player game called
> Morels <https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/122298/morels> (2012), hit
> kitchen tables 17 years after Settlers of Catan
> <https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/13/catan> (1995) made the leap from
> Germany to revolutionize American board gaming. We entered the market when
> the creeping exponential upsweep of game releases over time
> <https://dvatvani.github.io/BGG-Analysis-Part-1.html> was just beginning
> to reach skyward. That acceleration has continued in earnest, such that
> more tabletop games have been released in the 21st century than in all of
> preceding human history.
> Reasons for this are many and varied, from a crowdfunding-enabled
> publishing coup and corresponding entry of new and dedicated talent to the
> designer pool on the production side, to a growing interest in augmenting
> face-to-face time among family and friends on the consumer side. An
> additional catalyst, born at the intersection of these factors and the one
> I’d like to examine in this post in hopes of making the analog jump on the
> “Green Gaming” discussions of last week, is the “cult of the new” that has
> increasingly defined the board game hobby over the last 5-10 years.
> When I was a child in the mid 80’s, the shelves in a sunlit corner of my
> bedroom glittered with about 60 board games, a trove that bred awe among
> schoolmates and that ever-elusive “quality time” for our family, which I’m
> thankful to say happened on a near-nightly basis. I’d say 40 of those
> titles were seldom played, primarily due to a lack of substance, while the
> other 20 saw action ad infinitum. Perhaps this is why, when designing, the
> guiding principle at the core of my efforts is to build a system that will
> be as good (or better) on the 50th play as it was on the 5th. It’s a
> difficult bar to clear, but a useful metric that helps to create and
> identify tabletop games with staying power.
> Last year, I was discussing this approach with a friend and board game
> shop owner. He expressed some surprise and basically asked why, when most
> board games were now only being played 2-5 times before they were relegated
> in the face of new acquisitions. This struck me. It’s not to say that
> games aren’t being produced with replayability in mind, it’s more the
> notion that for a successful publishing house in today’s climate, they
> don’t need to be. For the consumer, the goal for many has shifted to
> collecting as much as to playing, with plays per title decreasing while
> rate of acquisition reshapes home libraries to Alexandrian proportions that
> make my childhood collection of 60 look pedestrian.
> What to make of this shift as seen through the environmental lens? Many
> business models now have publishers selling 50-75% of a new release’s first
> printing, often the only printing, on the initial crowdfunded splash. The
> goal, then, is a 6- or 7-figure Kickstarter campaign rather than sustained
> retail sales. Design, art, development, manufacturing, marketing, and
> shipping are compactly wrapped in a cycle that is bending towards fewer and
> fewer months, with profitability optimized by number of new releases (this
> approach does not necessarily preclude quality, and many games from even
> the most prolific houses are excellent, but they are the subject of furious
> tides). On one hand, there is efficiency gained with direct
> publisher-customer shipping and manufacturing targeting total sales in one
> assertive swoop. On the other, the overwhelming volume of releases results
> in 25%-50% of copies for games that fail to gain traction beyond the
> initial splash stockpiling in warehouses (or basements) with darker fates
> awaiting, while those that do find a home stockpile in players’/collectors’
> living rooms (or basements). I wonder, then, how footprints compare from
> the kitchen to the den, gears of labor and industry whirring at full tilt
> on material production and distribution of tabletop games while digital
> products streamline access to electronic platforms but with the support of
> Forster’s “Machine” in the background?
> Derek, love the game concept, and Aaron, digging the analog phylogeny.
> Poke received, thoughts on that will serve as intro to my next post.
> --
> *Brent Povis*
> Game Designer
> Two Lanterns Games
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Aaron Trammell
Assistant Professor
Department of Informatics
UC Irvine
trammell at uci.edu

My online resume/CV: aarontrammell.com <http://www.aarontrammell.com>

Editor-in-Chief of *Analog Game Studies <http://analoggamestudies.org/>*
Co-Founder and Multimedia Editor of *Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog
Editorial Board: *Games and Culture*
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