Gateway to Evangelise

by jack208
A good gaming fren of mine, Hiew recently wrote an entry in his blog about “Gateway Games” and how it can be misconstrued as condescending to others. Given that I organize lots of boardgame meetups. I get to mix with all types of gamers, from the newbies wanting to find out what’s all this rage about, to those already fascinated by this hobby and wanting to learn more about it’s diversity, and to the hardcore types who can sit around a table and game for more than half a day non-stop.
Is “Ticket to Ride” considered a gateway game to me? Yes.
Do I think that’s condescending? No. Simply becoz I did not attach the notion of “condescend” to the game. J
BGC Meetup - Antiquity
Antiquity – a game that mirrors life in pollution, famine and death

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
– Confucius
Evangelising boardgame is not an easy task, this much I agree with Hiew. Part of the difficulty may come from something deep inside us that wants others to “accept and like” this passion of ours. Kinda like if they think boardgames is not fun and reject them, we feel the rejection at a personal level.
We shouldn’t. As all good salesman will tell you. J
The work of evangelising comes easier when we understood it’s far easier for us to “sell” to someone who’s already predisposed to “buy” versus trying to change the mind of someone who’s not “ready”.
When you’ve someone sitting in front of you, predisposed to buy-in to this new thing you are going to show him, I would say “condescending” is not likely to be the first thing on his mind coz he’s just all excited to hear about what you’ve to offer!
BGC Meetup - Caylus Premium Edition
How would a newbie who in all likelihood won’t be able to understand the difference, whether in gameplay or in complexity, between Ticket to Ride and say Railroad Tycoon, be able to form the viewpoint we are condescending to them?
Therefore the notion of condescending has to be sown from our very own mind. 😛
What’s of more importance is to seek to understand his motivations behind wanting to play boardgames, and to find suitable games that tap into those motivations. Do this well and you have a new boardgamer convert.
BGC Meetup - Turn the Tide
But if we just push our “favorite” games onto him – I love 18xx and I think it’s the best game in the world but I bet if I do 18xx to a group of newbies, I may have just done the unthinkable of etching into their memory the horrible and totally un-fun nature of boardgaming! And everytime someone mentions the word “boardgame” to them, memories best-forgotten are brought back…. aaargh!
BGC Meetup - 1830
And then we wonder why people don’t like boardgames… haha
As such, “gateway games” are what I would call “first time” games that have higher chances of us scoring a home-run with these crowd. Giving them an oomph from playing their first Euro boardgame, enticing them to come back for more.
BGC Retreat - In the Year of the Dragon
You know you are doing alrite if you see happy faces in a game as depressing as In the Year of the Dragon

In this respect, I’ve to say “Settlers of Catan” – for all its faults – has been the perfect Gateway Game! Everytime I bring it to the table with a group of newbies, it never fails to bring a sparkle to their eyes… the AHA moment of discovering that “hey, this boring sit-at-table boardgaming is not so boring after all”
Sadly.. It’s us the so-called veteran gamers who actually look at Settlers of Catan and associate “condescending” to it. “Urrgh, dun make me play that again please.  It got dice lar!”
BGC Meetup - Pony Express
Does that mean Puerto Rico is not a gateway game?
I’ve used Puerto Rico as a “first game” for some newbies before and it worked marvellously but it falls back to the “motivation” issue again. If you have a group of people who are competitive, and who are not fazed by complex rules or game mechanics, then PR is good gateway game to bring out.
BGC Meetup - Le Havre
The other aspect of evangelising is about giving them an experience to remember, and not helping us to an ego boost by thrashing them at their first game. Hence at OTK – and at every meetups we do – we’ve a simple rule “First Games Don’t Count”.
It simply means when you are playing your first session of a game, we do not care who wins or lose. We simply want you to relax, take time to learn the ropes of the game, and then decide for yourself if you think you like the experience and would like to come back for more. We hope you do.
BGC Retreat 2010
I do know of others who actually set up a “deep pool” for these newbies to get into, enjoy screwing and thrashing them around and generally get a good ego boost – while those newbies get a terrible experience and may not want to come back for more “torture”. Who can blame them. 😛
This does not mean we do not play a mean and cutthroat game.. We do. But that’s only when we know we’ve a group of veterans who can take care of themselves. Then it’s no-holds barred. J
BGC Meetup - Le Havre
Very serious players in action… dun play play with them oh, they bite, very painful also… hehe

IMHO I think Hiew is doing a smashing job in spreading the joy of boardgaming to a wider audience, and keep doing that, mate. There’s certainly nothing condescending in what you are doing.
As long as we remember our mission is to sell an “enjoyable experience” to others via boardgames, let us not worry too much whether our choice of introductory boardgames is condescending or otherwise.
BGC Meetup - Automobile
To all those who have been evangelising boardgaming in your corner of the world, I salute you! LET US ALL KEEP SPREADING THE JOY OF BOARDGAMING!!

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6 replies »

  1. I’ve gotten comments from someone that they won’t play boardgames because they don’t like to think outside of work. For these people I’ve learned to bring out the more so-called ‘social’ sort of games, where winning is not by optimising, but rather by convincing, i.e. Bang!, werewolf.

    But for the rest, a simple ‘gateway’ optimising game with few obvious choices always piques their interest and they do feel a sense of accomplishment from their choices!


  2. When gaming with a non-gamer, it helps to know what the newbie likes. Getting Settlers of catan on the table when the non-gamer likes confrontational Risk-like games is a recipe for disaster. Likewise, breaking out Small World to a Cranium party crowd is just asking for it.


  3. In this sense, I think Jun Yet should have the title of being a “BGC Evangelist” =P. He has managed to introduce us to Citadels in University during breaks and then got us to play Puerto Rico and even Chaos in the Old World and Battlestar Galactica.

    I must say that the first time I heard the rules for BSG, I had a huge headache but after that, I persisted and it became easier to understand games when we have an open mind =)!

    We then went to the BG Retreat which was awesome cuz I didn’t get any headaches at all even though we played so many new games. Sometimes we get up to 10 or more ppl when we play boardgames and we even needed to open new tables =D! It was Jun Yet’s initiative to introduce new ppl to board games and the newbies themselves are hooked too!


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