How today’s modern glut of games is like the future of manufacturing everything at home, via 3D Printing & Etc.
By the Ogre of the Ozarks, Christopher N. Carroll
Welcome to the second part of my Op-Ed piece, in which I try to figure out what is going on in the world of board games! In part one, I started to look at just a few of the types of customers that can also be buyers of tabletop games, addressing Average Mass-Market Consumers and Electronic Game Buyers. I’ll finish by bringing up one more important one, and then finally try to make my point.
Vintage Board Game Collectors
There are also those people who collect older tabletop games, and they are both more like and quite unlike most of the people who collect more modern games. They are more alike in that Vintage Collectors also avidly collect far more games than they play or can ever hope to display; they collect games just to collect them (not as an investment); and they may specialize in certain themes (Monopoly clones; licensed games, wargames; etc.) They show off their collections; they swap, sell, and trade games; and they frequent online websites where they chat with and share pictures with others like themselves.
But there seems to be a distinct difference between these collectors of old, obscure, favorite and collectible games and those who collect what are beginning to be referred to as Designer Board Games. That is, games that are made in very limited quantities, primarily not for mass-market consumer retailers, and are often these days financed through crowdfunding, such as with Kickstarter campaigns.
The collectors of vintage games are more like collectors of vintage toys, or of Depression Glass, or of Hollywood movie paraphenalia. There are specialized value guides and collectibles groups just for these people. Such things don’t quite exist yet for the collectors of Designer Games, although I have no doubt that there one day will be.
The question that comes to my mind is this: What is the difference between the Collectors of Vintage Games and the Collectors of Designer Games? While some people are, of course, in both camps, for some reason there are a lot of people who collect and play modern games that don’t collect vintage games. Why is that?
Can’t we all just get along?
Are the people who like, buy, and collect tabletop games getting divided into groups perhaps too much? Are these groups losing contact with each other? Should they, or should there be more effort made to bring them together? Aren’t we all just lovers of games in general? Isn’t that what inspires us to seek out each others’ company in friendship – and with non-electronic tabletop games, in person too?
In today’s world, we are buried in games. In one local flea market alone, I saw at least two dozen games I could have purchased. Down the same street was another flea market with a room full of games for sale, and more stacked all around the shop in every possible nook and cranny! I could even buy a recent copy of a collector’s guide to vintage board games there, if I liked.
We can hit up Amazon or Barnes & Noble for the latest marked down sales, and pick up a new Designer game for easily 50-75% off MSRP.
Why are we buried in board games? I think it is because in a free society, one where commerce and trade is not only promoted but practically defines the way of life, choice is both our bounty and our curse. The day is coming soon when 3D printers, cutters, and lathe machines will sit in a corner of the front room feeding stuff into mold-making and injection-molding machines, just like the microwave sits in the corner of the kitchen, and we will be able to have darned near anything we want whenever we want it, and in practically every way that we can imagine (and probably a few that we cannot!)
In fact, IMHO, the future that will come when that day arrives has a perfect example today, and that is the world of tabletop board games! In the 1990s and early 2000’s, people warned that toys of all sorts, including games, were going away and never coming back, because they were being replaced by handheld portable game devices, game consoles, The Internet, and smartphones. Of course, that didn’t happen!
Instead, we got what we have today: A new golden age of Designer Games of all sorts, an open-source and sharing-economy based marketplace, and more options that anyone could have possibly imagined twenty years ago. Our options didn’t decline; they exploded!
The example set by the tabletop game industry is what I think the future of commerce and trade around the world will look like. More opportunities, more choice, lower barriers to entry, more sharing and more friendship!
Back to the Marketing and Promotions Stuff
What will happen is that as the markets for making things and providing the services to make things get more and more accessible to people around the world, the only real barriers will be our own limitations in terms of the languages we speak, the economic systems we have to negotiate to make, share and deliver things, and how willing we are to just reach out, talk to each other, and provide each other with goods and services that we all need.
Those of you who have been working in the tabletop games biz should be very proud of yourselves for riding on the cutting edge of what the future for the entire human race could be, if we can all work together for good. Those of us, like myself, who want to join you should realize that there are possibilities that go beyond just making and selling games here, but that here is a very good place to start!
I’m excited by the possibilities. You should be, too! So let’s all come together, as lovers of games and of making and sharing games. Break down the walls that divide us into categories, and do not participate in silly, petty name-calling that divide us as collectors or business owners.
In any case, that’s my Op-Ed opinion, where the subject of Who Buys and Who Sells Games is concerned. What is yours?