[-empyre-] Fwd: (no subject)

Derek Curry derekcurry638 at gmail.com
Wed Mar 18 23:05:02 AEDT 2020

Hello all,

These are all good points!

For me, it also raises the question of who the audience needs to be for
tabletop games.  Now that it is possible to publish games with limited runs
and to be both funded and advertised through crowdsourcing platforms before
the game is physically produced, I imagine there are possibilities to
create games for very small and specific audiences.  I’ve thought about
this before with some of the tabletop games I’ve made using GameCrafter.
Some of these games were used for psychology experiments (creating a game
to teach children delay of gratification), or to explain complex financial
instruments—both of which necessitated limited printings.  It occurred to
me that it would be possible to create one-of-a-kind tabletop games—perhaps
using images that have a personal meaning to the intended players.  This
example does not conform well to a traditional tabletop publishing model,
but could fit a fine art paradigm where galleries sell unique objects to
collectors who are willing to pay higher prices specifically *because* the
objects are unique.  Which may not be that much of a stretch—as Brent
pointed out, collecting is as much of a goal as playing games now for some
people.  Or, just as artists are often commissioned to create a portrait of
an individual or artwork for a specific context, game designers could
create tabletop games commissioned by a specific individuals or group.
Some tabletop indie games are already produced in more limited runs than
prints or photographs sold on the art market.  I am by no means suggesting
that this model should replace the current market for tabletop games, but
rather that it could exist alongside it and allow for new types of
experimentation in tabletop games.  Many of the most experimental
avant-garde artists were funded primarily by one or a few patrons, and I am
wondering if this is a possibility for tabletop game designers.

On Wed, Mar 11, 2020 at 7:14 PM Aaron Trammell <mobilestudios at gmail.com>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> 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>
> wrote:
>> ----------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
> 732.673.3879
> 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 <http://www.soundstudiesblog.com>*
> Editorial Board: *Games and Culture*
> <http://www.sagepub.com/journals/Journal201757/boards#tabview=boards>
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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