Play in Public Campaign


It started as a simple blog post intended to challenge the existing board gaming community to spread awareness ourselves and stop relying solely on industry marketing to expand our community.  Within weeks of kicking the campaign off at the end of July 2010, it took on a life of its own and small game publishers were offering to sponsor giveaway contests.  It has continued to grow and evolve from there as the grass roots community has taken ownership of this idea.

Since this is an ever evolving community driven campaign, the best way to learn about current activity is through the Facebook or Twitter mediums.  For posterity sake, the original blog post that started it all is posted below.

Take Action



Blog post from July 27, 2010… originally authored by Kevin E. Schlabach and posted at

Why we need the campaign

When you want to watch your favorite sport, or go out to a bar/restaurant, do you have trouble finding friends that want to go with you?  Probably not.  So why is it so hard to find people to play our favorite board games with us?  Wouldn’t it be better if we could find someone to game with whenever we wanted instead of having to game on the limited schedule of our game group or local board game store?  What is keeping us from pursuing our hobby as frequently as most other hobbies are pursued?  Where are all the other gamers?

I’m going to put a stake in the ground and declare that the biggest problem facing the adult gaming community is awareness.  Not game pricing, packaging, quality, distribution, sales channels, components, artwork, mechanics, fresh ideas, themes, or anything else… it’s simply awareness.  Until we hit 15-18% full market penetration (see this TED video at 11 min. in), people simply won’t be aware enough of the board game community to consider participating in it with us.

In Australia, 1 in 7 people played a board game in the past week and in Germany it is higher.  In China, board game cafes are exploding.  What is happening in our own country that is keeping us from breaking open this community?  Maybe we’ve become anti-social, lazy, or simply too addicted to our television.  Whatever the reason, this is our problem.

We could blame ToysRUs for only stocking games for children.  Or we could blame the game companies for not spending more on advertising.  But honestly, the expansion of board gaming seems to be at an all-time high as the ripples continue to spread outwards from the introduction of Settlers of Catan years ago.  The question I ponder is whether Catan will simply be another Trivial Pursuit.  Trivial Pursuit was a game that triggered a wave of great party games and then the market plateaued.  Will it all just be another fad of pop culture?  Or can adult gaming finally resonate with the common public and stick around long term?

When gamers like me admit that our major hobby is playing board games, we get a response of raised eyebrows.  The listener typically has one of two images in their head… cranky sugar-hyped children cheating at monopoly, or a misguided stereotype of costumed role-players still living in the basement of their parent’s house fighting pretend dragons to save a voluptuous princess (I’ll leave that latter issue to the RPG community to overcome).  I’ve found that if people instead see the games in person, their perceptions suddenly change.  Typically, after a couple plays with the right guidance, they want to buy a game, take it home, and play it with friends and family.

So, how do we spark this viral sharing of adult board gaming?  Let’s just expose people to what is out there!  We have the power to do something about this ourselves…  that is the essence of the campaign.  Let’s have the courage to play in an environment where people can see a game, safely ask questions, and go on their way.  Let’s slowly raise the curiosity of the non-gaming community.  At first it is about breaking down the stereotype of gaming, but eventually it will raise people’s desire to try it themselves.  If enough people participate in this campaign, we can successfully expose a large portion of the general public to games they previously didn’t know existed.

In summary, the PiP Campaign is about raising the awareness of games to the point where customers ask their local toy and book stores why they don’t stock games for adults.  It’s about bridging the gap between good local adult game stores and their community.  It’s about expanding everyone’s inner geek to include gaming at a time when being a geek is a popular.  It’s about pulling families away from the TV and back into interacting with each other.  It’s about connecting friends together and enabling them to have more fun at home around the dinner table than in an expensive bar scene where only superficial relationships can form.

Just to provide some proof that this will work, I’ll share a true personal story with you.  I went to a comic convention and hosted an open gaming area.  When I asked if anyone was interested in gaming, or played games, the response was always a smile or smirk.  But when I laid a copy of Tobago out on the table (set at a mid-point in the game), people kept coming over and asking what it was.  Within 15 seconds, I typically got the response of “I didn’t know games like this existed!”  Many of those people would ask questions about where they could find these games.  Some of them sat down and tried Carcassonne or Dominion.  A few of those folks bought a copy and sincerely thanked me for having fun.  Quite a few parents walked away knowing they could play games with their children and have fun while doing it (as opposed to mindless roll and move games).  It all started with a copy of Tobago exposed in all its glory on the table.

We can all do this.  We can hit that elusive 18%.  We (the players) have more power to make games go mainstream than anyone else.  Will you join in?

The guidelines of the PiP Campaign

This is a campaign whose sole purpose is to expose the public to the variety of games available beyond childhood.  The guidelines of participation are simple: 

Play a game in public and share the experience.

  • Game:any non-mainstream game that isn’t a stereotypical children’s game
    • it is most likely listed on boardgamegeek
    • is is most likely not sold in ToysRUs
    • it should require some level of strategy and not be mostly determined by luck
    • remember: the goal is to increase awareness of the various types of games available beyond childhood, not reinforce the stereotype people have of board games
  • Public: any environment that a game is not typically played in, any location where someone will see you playing a board game who wasn’t expecting to play or learn about board games in that environment
  • Share:Declare your participation and support
    • take a picture or write up a description
    • post it somewhere (blog, website, facebook)
    • post it on the Facebook Fan Page or tweet about it with the #PiPCampaign hashtag
    • link to this website so people can learn about the campaign

Some helpful hints:

  • Encourage observers to ask questions… explain the game at a high level (theme, goal), encourage them to try it out (even let them take your spot for a few turns)
  • Talk about adult board games and the wide variety that exist… explain that some are more social and others are more competitive/intellectual  (“the full range between chess and cranium”, these boundaries resonate with most people)
  • In your write-up, brag about your attempt… how many people stopped, watched, and were curious… how many asked questions… how many people played that weren’t part of your initial group?

Take Action



Written by pipleader

January 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

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