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Alliance Open House 2017 - The Beginning of the Blog

It's the 11th of September, a date I normally reserve for reflection on the bravery of the men and women who have given the last full measure of devotion to this country since the time that those towers fell on this date in 2001. I've written about it in the past in other places, and this blog is about the gaming industry, so that's all we're going to do.

These last 96 hours were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, visiting one of my distributors for their annual Open House. In a normal year I attend something between two and four of these shows, although that number appears to be on an upward trajectory for the value they add to my business. This year I started with GAMA Trade Show, and made it to ACD GamesDay, Origins Game Fair, and now this final trade show of my year. I'm happy to talk to you about the long-term benefits of going to a lot of trade shows, but today I want to talk specifically about this one. Products I'm Excited About I saw some things at Alliance that have me excited. Two of them were premiered at GenCon by our partners* at Iello; Bunny Kingdom and Mountains of Madness. Bunny Kingdom was a smash hit that I sold out of before I put it on the shelf, as I was unloading the boxes people were buying Bunny Kingdom. It is now temporarily out of stock, but get your backorder in so Iello knows how many we need.

On the other hand, Mountains of Madness had moved only one copy for me before I left for Alliance. Something cool happened at Alliance though, a fantastically talented sales manager for Iello taught me how to play Mountains, and now I know I will sell the heck out of it. Learning to play these games from people who already know how (rather than trying to teach myself from a rule book) is a fantastic experience at each of these shows.

From Atlas Games we got a chance to see Cursed Court, a beautiful game that is easy to pick up, but provides deep strategic thinking as we bet our way through three years of court intrigue.

It took me less than ten minutes to learn the game by playing the first year. This will look gorgeous on my demo tables, and be an easy holiday sale at $50 for a game that supports six players.

Finally, the last important thing I saw at this show was Modern Art. I'd played it earlier this year, I think at GAMA Trade Show, but we got to play it over the weekend and every person left with a free copy of the game. It's an attractive game that will take up space on one of my demo tables for at least a little while. This new edition of the game should be a good seller with its attractive artwork and quick play style.

Why Do We Speak To One Another Like This?

There's something else I've wanted to talk about since Sunday, but Sunday was simply the culmination of a continuing problem wherein many of my colleagues have made me feel bad. This begins with a story, a story that begins on Friday. On Friday I arrived in Fort Wayne, where a dear friend of mine owns a shop, a beautiful shop that is clean and well organized. We were talking, and then debating, about whether or not the industry has begun to get over its sexist past. I really believed we were doing things better, and my friend believes I was more crazy than usual. So what happened during the Alliance Open House? My friend was proved correct again and again... We are failing in this industry at treating everyone as equals. Some of our publishing partners are headed by brilliant women, visionaries, who are every bit as qualified and intelligent as the men in this industry. Yet, I lost count of the number of times friends of mine were called derogatory pejoratives like "sweetness" or "honey" during the weekend. These women are our colleagues and friends, and too often I heard the distinct tones of condescension and man-splaining. Too often I saw fellow retailers discount the work of hard-working women and go looking for the "guy who she works for" because she couldn't possibly be able to help him.

It's despicable. Every single time you treat one of our colleagues like this, you are despicable. You are no better than the bully that made fun of our hobby in high school. You are no better than the internet troll talking about how much something sucks. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, and the way we treat the women who love our industry, and devote their lives to our industry, is a problem.

Finally, we need to talk about professionalism. We've already been talking about professionalism, because the way in which we talk to some of our colleagues is the height of unprofessional, and we need to work on that. How do we become more professional? Here's a list of things you should try to avoid doing, just a few suggestions. 1.) Don't make jokes about sexual assault while teaching a seminar. 2.) Don't make jokes about hurricanes while they are destroying the lives and livelihoods of our colleagues, our friends, and our countrymen...while teaching a seminar. 3.) Don't make jokes that encourage piracy when we, as an industry, are seeing a glut of counterfeit materials in the market...while teaching a seminar...

I enjoyed this show immensely. I believe that Emily does a fantastic job of putting on a great show and then has to deal with the stupid shit that retailers do. It's a convention center, the food is designed to be inoffensive and bland. We know that. You know that. Stop complaining about it. Our partners in publishing show up to these events to share their time and expertise with us. They spend time teaching us how to sell their games, at a profit even if we're not too busy devaluing things online, show them the respect of attending their seminars and asking good questions, rather than attacking them because you disagree.

We can do better. We can be better. We can remember that publishing and retail need one another to succeed and survive. We can remember that we like women, and it's cool that they enjoy our hobby with us, and we can treat them as people without pejorative descriptors or a feeling of chromosomal superiority. We must escape an "us versus them" mentality, both in "men versus women" and "retail versus publishing". There is plenty of space for all of us, and this is a lot more fun with all of us.

(*I'm going to use that word a lot, publishers are my partners, I need them to succeed if I'm going to succeed. I don't have competition, I have colleagues. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I want a lot of great game stores doing great things)

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