The important thing here between us creative media muffins and board game publishers is the symbiotic nature of the relationship, the back and forth, the two way street. If you are thinking we are only here for the free stuff then you’re sadly mistaken. We got over that little gem years ago. Like the gladiators, we came here for the sword and battle but we stay for the lasting applause. Because after all of this time, we do have an audience, regardless if it is ten or ten thousand strong. We are parasites, who build our house on the art and creation and toil of others, but as time goes on and we don’t fade away into the meeple<insert name> graveyard, we too by very definition create a catalogue of content. A body of works that often demands thought, skill and in many ways development. We elicit emotional responses and conversation and even regret, as long as we are granted the dog treat of interaction then we are happy. We understand that you owe us nothing. We are polite beggars with creative fingers, toiling over an introduction to a critique for hours before deleting the entire thing and self doubting ourselves to the point of sadness.
We are a rule fractured bunch and there are no rules of engagement so you end up in this tricky situation where no one knows what is acceptable in the asking. What would be considered a favour and what would be stretching things a bit too far. Or to be blunt, having a loan of someone.
I get it. The platform this particular piece of writing appears on is completely free. I don’t even need to spring for a domain name. The design is a simple template that comes with the builder. However in conjunction with the various words and nonsense that this blog contains, it’s not unusual for this tiny little corner of the internet to get around 3000 visits to the site per month and that’s not including search results. Some of my reviews are lucky to hit hundreds in terms of views. Others seem to be the evergreen article that continues to gather reads every single month without fail.
For some of you that would be considered chicken feed, a small drop in ocean when compared to what other sites garner. However, I would argue that every single visit is someone who wants to find out more about a game. Someone who wants to find out more on whether a game will fit their tastes. Someone who has pulled the trigger on a purchase and just wants someone else to confirm that yes, you made the right decision and this is going to be fun.
It takes time to be this entertaining and witty. It also takes time to not only play a game but to sit there and crystallise how something made me feel. Did it bring me joy? Did it frustrate? Did I play it enough, with the right number of people and right kind of people? What you don’t see is the timetable, the organisation, the planning to get something on the table. To get it learned and read. To remember to take photographs of the game. You won’t believe the number of times I’ve sat and played through something several times only to have to set it up again because muppet boy forgot to take some pictures to add to the review. Sometimes it feels like work. Often you have to treat it in the same way, with deadlines and mustered up motivation. Not everything is fun. Woe is me. Give that boy a handkerchief to dry his self induced tears.
I should be quiet. There’s not a month that doesn’t go by without some kind of parcel turning up at the door. A box of unpaid fun. I mean that in terms that I neither paid for it, nor will be paid for covering it. You can argue that you should be. But that’s what my job is for. I don’t even sell review copies I’ve finished with, I give them away to other people. A purity test to show how honest I am as someone with an opinion that no one asked for. This is a hobby. A self inflicted time eater. A decision I made myself. I wasn’t coerced. I’m a show off, a glorious attention seeker and this one way to get a pat on the back. Look at all those people who think my opinion is important. In the grand scheme of things I’m writing about items that many would consider a luxury or indulgence. I’m under no illusion that I’m special or an influencer. I’m here for the kicks and giggles folks. You should be too. It’s bleak out there.
Time will pass and there will be publishers you work with again and again. There will be the new emails from new people that have new games that are new and they want your opinion, all because they obviously have taste and class. You’ll end up on lists. You’ll have ‘working relationships’ and the brown boxes will arrive from couriers. Partners’ eyes will roll in their heads as you run excitedly to the front door every time the bell sounds and they wonder what on earth you’ve been sent now, and where on earth is that going to live? I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I growl at people that ring the doorbell and don’t give me cardboard.
Sometimes, you have to say that this particular box of fun didn’t hit the spot. That you struggled, that you tried but it just didn’t work out. It’s fine. It happens and both of you nod and accept that it’s one of these things, and then they ask if you want to look at something else instead. They maybe appreciate that you said it, and even though your opinion is now out there in the open, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. It’s merely an opinion and it exists, helping the game appear out there in front of old new eyes. Turns out people like a bit of criticism now and again. They call it an ‘honest review’ for some reason which I kind of don’t get it. For ‘as honest as the day is long’ suggests that it’s blowing a razor blade hurricane.
I built this with my own two hands, with time and thoughts and labour. I know I joke about how wonderful and relevant I am (while secretly hoping you find me either one or the other, or both). I would like to consider myself like the little bird that cleans the crocodiles’ teeth. There’s thousands of little birds to chose from but if you give us enough time, we get to learn about your gums, we know where annoying scraps get caught, we literally keep your public smile shining while chirping. We also tell you when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, when you maybe ate the wrong thing. Even when a change in diet is in order. There’s a lot to brag about when you spend time with an apex predator, especially if they notice you.
Ah, the gentle hurtful communications. When you are good enough to be a valued member of the media circus. Part of the BCC crew. Special enough to be asked to market but not magical enough to be taken to town. We shout back that we should meet somewhere in the middle to see about strengthening our ties. We are met with silence. We’re aware it’s a mailer, but we’re hoping its more. We’re not always wanting to pick you clean you know. Sometimes a crocodile smile will do. Sometimes a hello, or just the acknowledgement that you know that we exist. Sometimes we want to be flattered but we also want to feel that all of this time, this effort has turned someone’s head. Most of the time we’re not wanting cardboard, we’re just as happy getting shiny new people in our collection to offset our self of shame. It’s easy to forget board games are best with other people. Sometimes, these people are new..
This is an opinion piece designed to promote discussion around a particular topic and is not intended to highlight the practices of any particular company or individual. Enjoy, get angry or think about it. Entirely up to you.
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