Game conventions, time and again … and it’s still fun
First of all, I’d like to briefly introduce myself. I work for the publisher KOSMOS Verlag, where I’m responsible for the entire marketing of family games and games for adults. My activities are focused on the areas “KOSMOS game instructors” and “The Settlers of Catan.” Being the product manager, my husband Sebastian Rapp helps me regarding the latter. Well, let this be enough for the moment… time to get to the topic I had in mind for this occasion!
You all have probably experienced it at some point: the year has days where you know in advance that they will be good.
This year, October 22 is such a day for me – the day the SPIEL 09 [International Game Convention in Essen, Germany] will open its gates. It’s always impressive to see the great number of people gathering in front of the entrance as early as nine in the morning. Sometimes it is so packed that we as exhibitors have a hard time working our way through the crowd. And then, at 10 a.m. sharp, the doors open and people start running as if the first one to arrive at the venue were awarded a prize.
Shortly after, the next performance test is due: will the rules explanations and the games meet the players’ expectations? That’s where my dilemma begins…because I’m the one who has to give it some thought beforehand.
For me, all this already starts in spring, when I ask the game instructors of the previous year if they have time and would like to instruct games for us again. Explaining the games well is very important to us, and the people we ask have really convinced us the year before. At this point, kudos to last year’s team of game instructors! You all were so good that you’re recruited again this year.
Once I get the feedback from the core team, I seek out other game instructors to fill the vacant positions. Sometime at the end of June / beginning of July, our team for the next SPIEL is complete.
At this stage, my female colleague at the game convention planning department and I are already thinking about how we will design the booth. What are the highlights of this year’s SPIEL? Do we have to remodel the booth? Do we need special decoration? Do we make changes to the procedure? Which games will be lent out in limited numbers, which in large numbers? Do we have to subdivide the games into different categories? Easy, difficult, taking a short time, taking a long time… Will there be a reception for the game instructors again? Will there be giveaways? What will the Catan shop carry? … And there are many, many other things we discuss during this time. As you can see, life before the game convention is full of question marks.
But all these issues are gradually resolved, and we still find new question marks, which we convert, each time faster, into exclamation points. Don’t worry: up to now, we’ve always made it, and if we didn’t make it a hundred percent – the conventiongoer wouldn’t be able to tell…
The KOSMOS games portfolio is so big that we can’t lend out all games we have. That’s why we are limiting ourselves to new releases in 2009 (spring and fall) and a few classics this year. We even had to select among the spring releases, because they were still too numerous. I think, however, that our selection came out pretty good. When we determine which games to include, we also consider the visitor profile. The visitor profile in Essen is different from the visitor profile at the game convention in Stuttgart 3 weeks later, so our focus will be different there.
Then the game instructors receive the first package with the games available at that moment. Unfortunately, these are not yet the novelties for Essen – after all, they will not be available until the SPIEL 09 in Essen.
So they get the spring releases and the classics, because maybe one of the game instructors doesn’t know them… but that’s relatively improbable, because our instructors love games!
Meanwhile, game convention planning continues. What would look particularly good at the booth? Yes, exactly – an author or graphic artist who signs his games. So I contact the authors and some graphic artists of our games and ask them whether they would be available for game signing. Happily, they’re all very nice people who look forward to give autographs at our booth. This year we will be able to welcome Klaus Teuber, Stefan Stadler & Michael Rieneck, Wolfgang Kramer, and Michael Menzel.
Apart from the planning of a big anniversary for next year, the game convention is the main focus of my work at the moment. The order of the day for Arnd Fischer (who trains the game instructors) and me during the next weeks: playing games and trying to structure them in a meaningful way, so we can explain them to our team of game instructors on the Sunday prior to the SPIEL 09. Yep, in Essen we’ll lock ourselves up in a youth center for a whole day and study the games … well, no, it actually won’t be that bad. We’re all having fun, and this year, the game instructors can read through the rules and ask questions much earlier than usual. They’re making ample use of this opportunity, and a very animated communication is taking place on the forum for game instructors, which is where we (Sebastian Rapp and I) answer all questions regarding organization and game rules.
And then … it’s Wednesday evening, and Sebastian and I will meet with friends from Canada for a Mongolian barbecue and “German bowling.” That’s something I look forward to during the entire year – we made this appointment already last year in Essen.
And then … the moment has come: one of the most beautiful days of the work year begins, and as always, I’m very excited. And that doesn’t change when the familiar convention routine kicks in – attending one appointment after another, looking at other booths, answering questions, and managing our booth. After four days, it’s all over – the SPIEL has finished, I’m sitting on the train home, and I think to myself, like I do every year, “That was a nice time again, and a good game convention.”
I’m looking forward to see you all in Essen!