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Published on April 4th, 2014 | by Colin


Why I won’t be gaming on TableTop Day



This year, the 5th of April is International TableTop Day, an annual event where board gamers come together and play loads of great games! So why don’t I like it?

TableTop is a webshow hosted by Wil Wheaton, in which Wil and his celebrity friends play various board, card and party games. The show was hugely successful and on 27th February 2013, International TableTop Day was announced as a day for people across the world to attend, or create events and play a whole load of games. As with the show, the day was very popular and is returning this year, so it’s all good, right? People get to play games, flood the games shops with cash and new players are brought into the hobby – it’s a no-brainer!

I’m not convinced. Any excuse to play games, bring in new people and support games shops is a good one, it’s the branding I object to. The devil is, as ever, in the detail; as an example, World Book Day is about promoting general reading, books, authors and literacy, whereas TableTop Day encourages people to think about gaming in relation to the TableTop show and its parent commercial channel Geek & Sundry. For all their talk of ‘community’ there’s a reason it’s not called ‘International Board Games Day’, or even ‘International Table-top Gaming Day’ and I do not like having the brand stamped on our shared pass-time. See, board gaming doesn’t need a celebrity endorsement, a figurehead, or a ‘messiah’ to decree When Games Shalt Be Played. My local games shop has been running a busy, annual games weekend for 25 years without so much as Bob Carolgees to promote it, let alone an ‘Alpha Geek’, while the UK Games Expo is entirely staffed by volunteers – hell, I even run two small events without the involvement of my own colossal fame!

“Bah! Humbug! Don’t like it? Don’t take part! At least it’s good for independent retailers.” Is it? Yes, local games shops may potentially reap the financial rewards of running an event, but they’re over a barrel to do so. Due to its current pop-geek status and visibility, if you don’t engage with TableTop Day, you may as well wrap bricks with a maps showing rival retailers and throw them at prospective customers’ heads. The pressure is on small businesses to invest time for organising and money for the promotional kit (containing the sort of stuff they’d usually get for free) in order to be seen to be Doing Things Properly, while adding yet another event to an already busy year of conventions, games days and trade shows. It’s also worth noting that while TableTop and Geek & Sundry talk up involvement with your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store), they actively promote Amazon as the place to buy games, so they’re hardly best buddies with your local independent.

I feel that I need to reiterate at this point that the general effects of TableTop Day are not bad – More new gamers, more games played and potentially more people in games shops. I also freely admit that I am a fan of neither TableTop, nor Wil Wheaton’s online persona (again, his persona, not necessarily the man himself) which I find to be patronising, smarmy and self important in the way that only someone who takes possibly the most basic rule of social interaction “don’t be a dick” and allows it to be considered ‘Wheaton’s Law’ can be. I want to make clear that if you run, or participate in a TableTop Day event, then I hope you have loads of fun, maybe spend a bit of cash at your FLGS (or maybe small, online retailer) and play a bunch of great new games and expand your horizons, because table-top gaming is something that everyone can share.

Modern table-top gaming is a hobby that has existed for far longer than TableTop, Wil Wheaton and me. Other big names have existed for longer  on YouTube covering gaming from within the hobby without the need to try to appropriate it through name-branding. I have no doubt that Wil and his friends do love gaming and want to share it (which indeed they are) but  TableTop Day is less play and more business than it appears to be and I for one am sitting it out.

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