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Home is Where the Board Games Are
I feel that the board game hobby is great and that our community is wonderful. Board games bring like-minded people together. I know, nothing is ever perfect and we can't ignore the bad actors, but on the whole, board game people, if I may address you all this way, are great folk. Playing board games is my happy place and I feel very much at home whenever I see board games.
It reminds me of Magic: The Gathering. Magic is as huge as it's ever been, but you have very prominent Youtubers who exist to extol the virtue of "the gathering" portion of Magic: The Gathering. But then there are collectors who barely play at all, investors who exist to wheel & deal on eBay, digital players who may never buy physical cards, much less sit across a table from someone else. Or kitchen-table Magic players who have never visited a Friday Night Magic event & only get a game in with family every so often, and don't actively seek out the social aspects of gaming. Their home is at home, and no energy is gained from the external community aspects.
Different strokes for different folks.
the_jake_1973 wrote: My wife and I have just moved to a 55+ community despite neither of us meeting the age requirement. I am looking forward to being this vanguard of 'new gaming' down here. Having so many potential players is a relatively small area who are also willing to be social may be a boon. There are also some closeted grognards in the area who were AH devotees in the past and hadn't found many players in a heavily golf-centric community. It will be good to engage with them as well. Exciting times!
You may have trouble getting them to modernize from Tactics II to . . . Panzer Blitz. But stay with it!
In the late '70s/early '80s, any board game that wasn't a mainstream family board game like Monopoly or Clue felt like this special secret that my friends and a few other people knew about. There were two local gaming shops, but there were never in-store events back then, and usually few customers at any given moment. The only sense of a larger gaming community came from reading magazines like Dragon and The Space Gamer.
I went to my first GenCon in 1982, and that was an amazing experience. I think there might have been 2,000 people there, but it still felt like a relatively small and special thing. I got an autograph from Gary Gygax. I played in a Gamma World tournament run by Jim Ward. I played a game with Steve Perrin. I shook hands with Steve Jackson and showed him a prototype game that I was working on. I got autographs from Jack Herman and Jeff Dee. I played in an rpg session run by Bill Willingham. I felt like I was part of a community.
I went to my next GenCon in 1993, and that was a different experience. Much larger attendance, with masses of people constantly circulating about the convention grounds. This was the first time that I noticed a hygiene problem with gamers, and that the bathrooms got more disgusting as the four-day convention continued. Still had a great time playing in various events. Noticed a colorful little Magic card game that a lot of people were playing.
After 1993, local gaming shops embraced Magic and encouraged in-store play. The stores were often busy and sometimes even crowded. I went to GenCon several more times in the '90s, and it was getting bigger and busier each year. It became difficult to just buy generic tickets and show up at events in hopes of getting a seat, and it also became more difficult to find an open table to play your own games. The hobby started feeling less like a community and more like a mainstream form of entertainment. However, it was encouraging to see growing numbers of women and minorities at both GenCon and the gaming stores.
My last GenCon was 2003, the first one in Indianapolis, where I grew up. Despite my familiarity, the vast convention site seemed bland and corporate, and the attendance seemed to hit a new high now that GenCon was in a more central location. There was a vast open gaming area where I spent much of the convention, but I ended up spending half my time at a friend's house about 2 miles from the convention center. He got a keg just before GenCon and hosted a four-day house party for all his gaming friends.
Since then, I have done a fair amount of in-store gaming with friends and acquaintances, especially at the large, clean, nice Fantasy Flight Event Center (now known as GameZenter or something like that). I am aware that there are also several local coffee shops that offer a large selection of board games for their patrons to play, and one of those even has a (non-gaming) speakeasy-style bar in the basement.
The pandemic has left me mostly playing solitaire games, with some occasional 2-player gaming with close friends who are vaccinated. My girlfriend left me a year ago, so I have been doing the online dating thing for nearly a year now, and have gone on a dozen dates. It has been a pleasant surprise to see that some women list boardgaming under their interests on their dating profiles, but I have yet to actually connect with any of them. Two of them were really attractive. One looked like a blonde Minka Kelly and the other looked like a black Natalie Wood.
So I see good and bad aspects to the growing popularity of board games. On the balance, it is probably better now because it's easier to find players. But I do miss that feeling of belonging that I felt at GenCon '82.