Not breaking your back

If you go to conventions and trade fairs often enough, you’ll see them. Huddled in corners or sandwiched between people who actually know what they’re doing, the strange individuals with their ill-conceived roll-and-move games are facing painful reality before your very eyes.

Even if you don’t go to conventions, you’ve still probably encountered the people who enter the board game market as if time-travelling straight from their childhoods, filled with the fascinations and frustrations of playing Uno, Monopoly and The Game of Life. Some of them come with ideas, others with manufactured product “bound to change the face of board games forever”.

I’ve encountered mine both in real life, and online. Last time during UK Games Expo, where I bumped into a visibly hopeless person who had just realized how big a mistake they had made by putting some hard-earned (or perhaps borrowed) cash towards entering a market they had not bothered to research properly. Seeing them surrounded by a fort of produced game boxes was kind of heart-wrenching.

On the other hand, encountering those same people online can often be grimly entertaining, especially if they wander into hobby forums or sites like BoardGameGeek, and start off by “looking for advice” (which you should read as: “looking for acknowledgement, approval or straight up amazement”), and end up accusing all critics of their work of truly outlandish things (including but not limited to being, each and every one of them, gatekeepers working for some all-powerful corporation dominating the lucrative board gaming market). It’s a cruel kind of entertainment, but sometimes even the best of us simply can’t resist a chuckle at someone else’s expense. Especially, if the person in question seems to be spiralling down into tin foil hat territory.

The ugly truth is that it’s much easier to laugh when you start as somebody trying to prevent another individual from making a terrible mistake (and I do assume that the prevention is done politely and constructively), but end up labelled a hater. This often happens when the misguided newcomers start by asking for advice online. And yes, when you’re called a jerk multiple times, you often stop caring about the person calling you names.

Well, the truth is that I still kind of care. I’ve met my fair share of misguided individuals who were ready to risk their livelihood, and invest in something they believed in way too much. I’ve also seen a few lives crash and burn because of taking some wrong turns, and let me tell you this: even if it’s more than well deserved, it’s not quite as entertaining when it’s somebody you know.

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I’ve also spent some time talking about the magic of Kickstarter. I said on multiple occasions that it’s a wonderful tool to connect creators with their fan base, and that many great things (including both board and video games) would simply not exist without the unique channels created by Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general. Sure, you need to put in a lot of blood and sweat, but you end up with something amazing. Unless, that is, you don’t, because you’ve made some awful errors somewhere on the way, or because, by nobody’s fault but your own, you’ve made a misguided attempt at creating the next hot thing that turned out to be a dud.

People who interact with Kickstarter often kick around project horror stories. Misguided attempts that to crowdfunding are what Plan 9 from Outer Space is to cinema in general live long after their termination in the collective memory of those looking for a quick laugh. That is beacuse they are so bad that – just like the aforementioned movie – they’re incredibly good. Yet, as much as they may seem amusing in their own tragic way, they also show us another great value of Kickstarter: it allows everyone to make a mistake that might be as painful as breaking your leg, but ultimately not as tragic as breaking your back.

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