16 October 2017
Thank you for playing games, especially tabletop games. I’ve been playing board games since I was a little kid, well before I realized how important they were for an introvert like me. I’m incredibly fortunate that I now get to play more games than ever and that I’m able to design, develop, and publish games as Stonemaier Games’ one full-time employee.
A few years ago I wrote an article called An Open Letter to Kickstarter Backers from a Tiny Publishing Company. Even though Stonemaier Games no longer uses Kickstarter, that letter is essentially Part 1 to today’s letter, which is about things I think gamers would benefit knowing about publishers based on comments and questions I hear every day.
This letter is predicated on the assumption that you want the gaming industry to survive and thrive. Maybe you don’t love every game, every publisher, or every designer, but in general, you have love for games and want to reap the benefits of having great games, great designers, and great publishers.
In no particular order:
- Most publishers have a replacement parts form on their website. Does your game have a broken or missing component? Sometimes packing mistakes happen, especially when a game has a lot of unique components. I see a lot of people posting on social media when they open their game to find a broken or missing piece, but instead of broadcasting an anomaly as a representative image of the company, the solution is super simple: Go to the publisher’s website and fill out their replacement parts form. The form for Stonemaier Games is here, and we’re even fine with you requesting parts that you lost, spilled wine on, or accidentally fed to your dog. (Though sometimes a touch of glue makes a part as good as new!)
- Rate games on BoardGameGeek. Game ratings are incredibly helpful for both publishers and gamers. For publishers, even if it’s not a top-notch rating, it demonstrates that people have actually played the game, and it populates the ratings with human scores, which are important for BGG’s formula. For gamers, it’s a useful tool to see what others think about a game.
- Let your comments and posts be a force for good. The next time you find yourself writing a negative comment or post, before publishing it, ask yourself, “Can I make this constructive?” Designers and publishers read your opinions all the time–not just designers and publishers of the specific game you’re talking about, but other designers and publishers too. So you have the power to make an impact on future games every time you share your thoughts instead of just spreading hate. Even if you really dislike something, there’s a difference between saying “I hate this game” and “Here’s WHY I hate this game: …”.
- If your preferred game store doesn’t have a game you want, ask them to carry it. The only way stores know if you want something is if you ask for it. That helps everyone along the supply chain: you tell the store, the store tells the distributor, and the distributor tells the publisher. And then you get the game.
- Fancy inserts, box size, and expansions. Whenever a publisher announces a new games, one of the first things people ask is, “Will the box fit all future expansions?” The truth is that we have absolutely no idea. Most publishers don’t have a 10-year roadmap for all possible expansions before the core game is even released. Instead, we base the size of the game box and the insert design on the known variables, among them (a) core game content, including size requirements for unpunched content vs punched content (b) any future content we’re absolutely sure about, (c) sleeved cards, (d) number of games per carton for freight shipping, and (e) shelf presence.
- Consider your audience when welcoming a new gamer. A friend recently told me a story about a game night she attended where most of the attendees were new gamers. The host insisted upon sharing his favorite games with this group, despite them being daunting and confusing. First impressions matter, and every time you have the chance to create new gamer, it may be your only chance. This also applies to using inclusive language when talking to new gamers–don’t use fancy terms and acronyms without explaining what you’re saying.
- Designers and publishers are publicly accessible, but tag responsibly. Are you curious about a design decision? Do you have a question about a rule or about future plans? Do you have constructive feedback? Awesome! Tag the designer and/or publisher in a public post or comment so they can respond. Do you have a house rule you haven’t tested? Do you want to declare a mechanism is overpowered after one play or that a game is overhyped? Do you have a purely negative complaint? That’s fine, but don’t tag the designer and/or publisher.
- Remember that other gamers may have different priorities than you. Have you ever told a publisher that they should have included a certain promo, component, or expansion in the base game? While it’s fine for you to feel that way, consider the impact on the cost and price. Lots of people might buy a game for $60 that has everything they need, but if you add other stuff to it that drives the price up to $80, suddenly you’re asking people to spend $20 extra on something they may not even want. Often publishers have to make decisions that include the most people while still giving niche gamers the opportunity to get what they want separately.
- Most publishers don’t sell on Amazon. I’m not disparaging Amazon, but I think it’s important for gamers to understand this, as I often get questions about when I’m going to release a certain product on Amazon, why I’m pricing something at a certain level on Amazon, or why my product on Amazon won’t ship to their area. The truth is, like most publishers, Stonemaier Games doesn’t sell anything on Amazon. Rather, we sell to distributors who sell to retailers who sometimes sell our products through Amazon.
- Don’t harass people. The gaming community can be a wonderfully welcoming place for people of all shapes, sizes, creeds, races, genders, nationalities, sexualities, and ages. The entire industry–gamers, designers, publishers, etc–benefits from this diversity and ever-expanding community. So don’t harass people who are different than you, and when you see harassment happening (in person or online), don’t turn a blind eye.
If any of these thoughts resonate with you, I’d highly recommend reading the spiritual successor to this post, An Open Letter to Kickstarter Backers from a Tiny Publishing Company.
Publishers, is there anything you’d like to add to this list? Gamers, is there any information you’d like to hear from a publisher that would be helpful for you?