October 12th, 2012
By CHEE YIH YANG
ONE of the questions that my group of boardgamer friends grapple with constantly is, “Where shall we play?”
We’ve got a very accommodative venue at a local kopitiam in a neighbourhood mall, but after nearly a year playing and eating there, the items on the menu are getting a tad boring for some of us.
That said, a “substitute venue” was found and the place we hang out at now has nice long tables that can be easily extended and power sockets to charge our laptops (essential when running Blood Bowl: Team Manager Card Game league sessions).
Unfortunately, good and accessible gaming spots are hard to find nowadays. Mage Cafe, a long-time stalwart in Damansara Jaya (near where the majority of my boardgame group members play and live) recently ended its business.
Granted, there are plenty of similar game cafes in the Klang Valley, but my group members don’t fancy driving to “faraway” areas such as Subang Jaya, where traffic is pretty nasty even on weekends.
This actually got me thinking; where do people usually play? Where are the other casual boardgamers and card gamers, since we only seem to meet the “hardcore” gamers participating in gaming events? Surely not everyone is playing at home, right?
CK Au, co-owner of Cheras’ Boardgamecafe.net thinks that hanging out in “non-gaming places” is very common nowadays.
“Since 2007 till only recently, Boardgamecafe.net used to hold meet-ups every Friday night at a kopitiam in Cheras and we’d play till the wee hours of Saturday morning. I know of groups that play at other kopitiam and food and beverage outlets,” he said.
Au believes that the biggest benefit in playing at such F&B outlets is the essentially “free” gaming sessions as there are no hourly charges on players. As a matter of courtesy, his gaming friends order food and drink at the outlets, often throughout the night.
Another boardgame enthusiast Engku Nasrun also prefers to play at regular F&B outlets as food and drinks are available at all times.
“I prefer to game in public and (have actually) made many friends this way. Most of them were curious to find out what we were doing and they actually struck up conversations with us, tried the game and eventually became friends,” he said.
John Choong simply thinks that cafes and kopitiams always end up being more economical, especially for gamers who spend a lot of time playing and don’t want to worry about hourly charges.
Choong prefers to choose cleaner environments though, as he doesn’t like the smell of fast food joints, “As you will end up smelling like fast food eventually.”
“I used to hang out at Mage Cafe for the food and furthermore players do not need to pay to play if they bring their own games – as long as they ordered something to eat or drink,” explained Choong.
Playing in friends’ homes may be challenging too, due to timing and convenience (to other occupants of the homes).
Meanwhile, Janvier Soldat thinks that as long as the place is accommodating, he’ll be there gaming.
“The location should be convenient, and near to our homes. There should also be the option to have meals there, and of course, very comfortable seating,” he said. Cleanliness and hygiene are also big priorities for Janvier and his friends.
Another common reason for people playing in the likes of kopitiams and cafes would be because of the odd playing hours they might require, and the convenience.
The gameshop gamers
There are plenty of loyal players who return to gaming shops though. Kai De is one gamer who said that he won’t choose kopitiams as gaming venues.
“If we choose to game there, it might disturb others, since we always take a longer time finish up games,” he explained.
Another gamer who sticks to gaming shops is Laurence Wong, “I travel all the way through the Friday evening traffic from Damansara to Cheras for my fix of boardgames, so convenience isn’t so much an issue as it is something I do once a week only. (I’m not into playing at) F&B outlets as boardgaming really isn’t something you do while munching or slurping something,” he said.
Eric Tee, who runs Classroom Café, a boardgames and World of Warcraft Trading Card Game cafe in Subang Jaya would pick parking availability, opening hours and lastly F&B in the order of importance for choosing a gaming spot.
“I do think that it is indeed a good gesture to support the store you get your gaming materials from. More support means better service, more tournaments and (hopefully) better products in future,” he said.
“Secondly, I really dislike the stares non-gamers give when you are playing games in public. Lastly, I would feel shy and embarrassed to take up several tables of a coffee shop just for my gaming which will probably require three to four hours when the very same tables can very well be used to serve more customers,” said Tee.
While it does look like that card game shops will always have their special events such as pre-release and release parties, and tournaments, to ensure that card gamers always return, it does seem that boardgame cafes in general do need some new tricks up their sleeves to attract players.