Apparently, One Direction Top Trumps is one of the best games on the market today. It’s up there with Doctor Who Risk, personalised Monopoly and some version of Cluedo that involves flipping things. I can’t wait to chuck my copy of Agricola in the bin and play them instead!
Let me tell you a story. This afternoon I got an email from Karl over at the Royal Society of Gamers. A researcher from the BBC Radio 2 show (presented by Simon Mayo) had got in touch with him, looking for someone who could talk about the world of boardgames. Oddly, even though Karl is brilliant at talking about games he redirected the researcher (Suzie) to me – apparently I’m quite decent at covering the subject – and a call was organised for me to appear on the show at 5.20pm. Could I put together a brief precis on what’s happening in gaming at the moment, I was asked? Maybe recommend a few titles for people who are interested to get their teeth into?
Sure I could! I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to talk about the games I love to a potential audience of millions. I’m passionate about this hobby. I bloody love it – as you can hopefully tell from the podcast I produce, the reviews I write… and the chance to get more people into something more than Monopoly and Cluedo is something to be seized. I took down a few notes on the things I thought would be good to cover – the rise in popularity of gaming in general, iOS versions, gateway games like Catan and Carcassonne. I made sure my phone was charged, and sat in my office waiting for the call while listening to the show.
Of course, if you were listening (and a lot were, this show has an audience in the millions) I wasn’t on. My phone didn’t ring. Instead, a representative from the British wing of American company Winning Moves was talking about… well, talking about all of the wonderful games that they produce, really.
Now, I don’t want to come across as bitter, but man… this guy was intent on selling their stuff. According to him, there has been no innovation in the world of boardgames for the last twenty years. There was no mention of the kind of games that we play. To him, the height of progress, the best way to keep gaming ‘fresh’, was to rebrand old titles – One Direction Top Trumps and Doctor Who Risk got a massive plug. Nothing was mentioned about successes like Ticket to Ride – a game that has, since its release back in 2004, has sold over a million copies. Sure, in comparison to Monopoly its sales figures are a drop in the bucket, but it could’ve been such a great opportunity to mention something else apart from the Same Old Stuff.
I must say that I’m not surprised that the Winning Moves guy would take the chance to plug the hell out of everything his company makes to such a huge audience – after all, that Doctor Who licence won’t have come cheap, and they need to recoup their money in any way that they can – but to blatantly come out and say that the world of gaming has nothing better than Monopoly, Cluedo and Top Trumps is just plain ridiculous. To state, on national radio, that the industry he is a part of has essentially been stagnant for decades is a damn shame. As he was talking, I felt my stomach drop. I wanted to fight our corner, to shout that there is SO MUCH MORE OUT THERE, to stop him from just being plain wrong.
But I didn’t get the chance. My phone didn’t ring. The show’s running order moved on to talking about Dragon’s Den, and the last thing people heard was a businessman – not a gamer – plugging his company. No talk of the joy that games provide. No mention of the hundreds, the THOUSANDS of new titles that are released every year. The opportunity to put our little industry at the forefront of millions of people’s minds for a few scant minutes was chucked away in favour of an infomercial.
Jesus, the guy even started blathering on about Angry Birds when he was asked about iOS gaming. What the hell does that have to do with tabletop games?
So, yeah. Disappointing. I’m a bit let down that my time was wasted, but that’s fine. I’m just editing the new episode and a bit of time away from the bay is good – it would’ve been nice to get an email before saying that I wouldn’t actually be needed. I’m also a bit let down that the production team on the Simon Mayo show decided to go with someone more intent on plugging their products than someone who actually knows a bit about gaming. Most of all though? I’m massively let down at someone with such a narrow, closed-minded and just plain WRONG attitude to games was put forward as a so-called expert in our field, spouted a load of utter nonsense and portrayed himself as knowledgeable.
I’m trying to work out why I was bumped in favour of Winning Moves Guy. Is it because they were worried that the piece would come across as too nerdy if I was talking away? I honestly don’t think so – I reckon it was more because going down the Monopoly route is just easy. It’s accessible, everyone knows it, so why waste five minutes of prime drivetime coverage on things outside of the bubble? Mainstream media won’t promote the kind of games we play because the audience is too small, but the audience won’t grow without promotion… it’s a vicious circle. It’s people like him who keep the best elements of our hobby out of the public eye, and the only way we can promote the best of it is to keep playing, talking, writing and designing Amazing Stuff.
Eventually, someone, somewhere will listen to what we’ve got to say. It’s just disappointing that it couldn’t have started today.