That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
Every year I get excited about Essen, even though I'm not able to attend. For the past several years, I've used the podcast to share that excitement, and even try to analyze it a bit. Why do I think I'll like some games more than others? Looking back, how often am I right about that? It's a hobby within a hobby.
To my surprise & delight, some of my listeners really like listening to these shows, and even ask for them. Really? My own personal wishlist for Essen is something you find interesting? Well, I guess I understand that, as the explosion of personal Geeklists used for shopping at Essen (real or vicariously) is something I like to look over, too. In fact, the tremendous volume of information we now get prior to each Essen Spiel increases the value in looking over someone else's pared-down list. Otherwise, it's too much.
That's what I certainly discovered this year. In 2011 I think I was on the verge of being overwhelmed by the volume of new titles and all of the pre-event info (previews, photos, rules, impressions, etc.) we have about them. This year, I finally admitted to myself that I could no longer keep up. That's why this year's episode isn't really my entire list of games that catch my eye. I wasn't able to even make that list this year, because I couldn't keep up with everything. For me, this represents a sea change in my experience with Essen.
However, all is not lost. Far from it, in fact. When I think back on it, I realize that I've had a few different "sea changes" with Essen already. Back in the 1990s I got my info from Mike Siggins, Ken Tidwell, Alan Moon, and the like. That would come in the form of a text report shared via email or the web, filled with well-written firsthand accounts of games previewed, purchased, and only rarely played to completion more than once. Often they were getting by on incomplete rules translations or memories of how the demo worked.
And I loved it! It was fascinating to read those accounts, imagine what Essen might be like, and wonder if/when I would get a chance to see or play some of those games.
By the early 2000s we now had larger numbers of English-speakers going to Essen, and more reports coming back. Digital cameras were becoming common, and we had some photos sometimes, too. I even managed to attend for one day in 2003, while on an anniversary vacation with my wife in Germany. Between these accounts and Rio Grande/Mayfair, we now got some pretty complete accounts of the games being published there, and had pretty good opportunities to acquire them ourselves, sometimes before Christmas.
Now we have realtime video of the games being demonstrated! We have a multitude of reports about the games acquired, played, and played several more times. Though there will always be some small card games and niche publishers who have limited or no availability in the US, those are the exception. I know some American gamers have great heartburn over the months it can take for a surprise hit like Eclipse or Agricola to become widely available back at home, but you know I'm not one of those. I'm drowning in new titles at Games Days and the like even while I'm still looking for my first play of some titles from 2011 (Trajan? Ora et Labora?).
It's with these thoughts in mind that I considered the discussion between Doug Garrett and Tom Vasel about the importance of covering Essen (or Gencon) on boardgame podcasts. My conclusion was that Essen is still a big deal to me, but it doesn't really matter if I "cover" it or not. I'm not a news source (clearly!). I don't try to monetize my podcast, and I'm under no obligation to discuss anything in particular. My podcast is more like a personal blog, just in audio format, and I'm just tickled that anyone finds it worthwhile to listen to. I think this is how most hobby podcasts should be, too. Yeah, there are some more expenses with a podcast than there are with a blog (nearly free), but it isn't so much, really. This is a labor of love, and a chance to write & record some opinions to engage in discussion with like-minded friends.
Anyway, even though I can't keep up with Essen this year, I'll still enjoy hearing all about it, and looking back at what its hits were once we know for sure. Like in 2014.
P.S. I forgot my normal microphone, but was out of time to record this show. So I just used the built-in mic on my laptop, and it shows in the sound quality. Hopefully it's still worth listening to.
__________________________________________________________________________________________Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames