Coffee Break #18

Year of Our Lord 2021, the eighth day of July.

A slightly disorganised rant following a fantastic time talking about old times with friends that at one point or another shared interest in the amalgamate of wargaming with miniatures and role play. Note: We might have played GDW Imperium and FASA Battletech universe a lot, but our love for RPG and miniatures was always king.

The redemption road to make up with the hiatus has been an interesting one. First of all I must make peace with the fact that things have changed a lot. From the availability of local venues to the interest shown by the persons involved with us because of the hobby.

Add to the mentioned above the financial aspect of balancing a few different hobbies and where to focus effort and something has to give in and I must accept that many persons that shared the table in the gone years are no longer interested in pursuing leisure time sitting around a table with miniatures, pushing pieces in a map and even just collaborating in a grand adventure universe.

What is more important to note, and after a good beer and talking about the subject, is that a friend mostly pointed out the smashing deluge of the market online while at the same time the investment in local store clubs dwindles due to the financial circumstances of all involved, from the store club owner to the patron customer.

( note: hiatus means negligible time invested in the various aspects of the role play wargaming hobby, not a complete funeral )

The patron customer was a good point and we all agreed that, and looking back to our “golden years” of having at least two nights per week of gaming – once at the store club and another at the house of one of the fellows – the substance of what drove us through was exactly that we all had the instant availability of a place of gathering, the first ( store club ) at all times and well into the night hours and the second with a very fixed schedule lasting the best part of a Sunday.

For our “home” club everyone chipped in with work. We made a nice 8×4 DIY three parts folding table and chipped in with leftover stuff for terrain and some shelves to keep the stuff nice and tidy. After all it was his place but we treated it like our own.

On the store club side the important aspect, as i see it is that the patron customer money was spent at the store. More happy patrons meant more patrons next year and the business thrived.

But what really made the business, from my customer point of view was two fold synergy. The owners involvement and always coming up with games to keep everyone coming back – campaigns, tournaments, special days,etc – and the facilities. The space dedicated to the hobby, with painting tables and gaming tables, with the store being less that a fifth of the real estate – and honestly it was enough. It had all the ranges and systems. It fed our wants and needs. But above all we all had a space where all that mattered is the hobby. The gaming hall had some good six 6×4 tables if i remember right. It might look short for some of the examples i’ve seen from the US or the UK but for a tiny country that barely has any hobby presence that was massive.

Times changed and facilities moved to a smaller space with more than half being dedicated to store. Sadly after a few years and much much less conviviality time spent there it shut down. And i’m sure many of the patrons like ourselves didn’t feel comfortable in the new space. This coincided roughly with the start of my hiatus. There’s no correlation nor causes directly linked to it, is just a curious fact.

In a niche hobby this is golden and when it goes away, due to the most important reasons, is very hard to replace and get back. There’s no price that pays all those memories, that we still share even if we don’t play together anymore, of great battles and epic duels.

Life took me to other places and people, as it often does. But nothing related to role play wargaming and with the coming back some years now I reflect on the natural progression of things.

Making way through the redemption road is being interesting. If on the aspect of a regular place and group to play with has gone I won the interest of the new generation through family youngster and their friends. At the same time taking advantage of all the wonders of the digital world and jumping into games through tabletop simulator and discord.

What is important for anyone with similar experience is that the nostalgia of the “old days” is just smoke. Even if I would “buy that game” it can never bring those times back and the grandeur I remember feeling is part of memory and cannot be reproduced no matter how many new shiny things I buy. This is nostalgia for me. Not some game in a box that i played long ago that someone is asking a ludicrous price for.

I am not fair most of the time against hyper consumerism and am often too fast throwing judgement around but, having seen it at least twice before, the business and consequentially what the hive people insist in calling ‘the community’ is mythical and will implode in a spectacular way. Too much production for little investment and a ton of pats in the back of all those fools that just consume everything they are fed because it is cool and that’s what “the community” is doing.

Companies that create rooted communities and support the stores will remain and rebuild again what was destroyed.

Patrons are the lifeblood of stores and clubs.

No kickstarter or crowdfunding can replace that niche. And yet they suffocate what is the muscle and sinew of what makes people join together, once a week – a common place that has the space and the products they use and where they can play together. Those stores cannot compete and we as buyers cannot promise anything.

As I said the old ways were awesome and are gone. The new gaming group is composed of a new generation but that doesn’t mean all they need to play has to be the shining new. The redemption road is a balancing act. Mix older titles with new. Blend them seamlessly as needed while having a long term campaign. Expose them to the easy and to the involved. Have them participate in the construction of the scenarios taking from the aspects they had to deal with in the story telling sessions.

One day in the future after they come back from their own hiatus they will remember the stories, the characters, the epic engagements against he arch rivals. They will remember which rules they played and they will also move forward and create things of their own instead of just consuming everything that shines to “be part of ‘the community” without understanding what they buying because they don’t play it.

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