OZ Comic Con Sydney happened not too long ago, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend both days. For those who’ve never seen me around at cons, my usual strategy tends to involve an ATGN lanyard, a couple of cameras, a backpack of lenses, and more water than my back can carry. I love trying to capture the spirit of the event in photos. This year, I also got to speak to a few stall runners and ask them about two of my all time favourite things: boardgames and the geek community.
One such store runner was Anthony “Ranggor” Hallett. Ranggor, who has played competitive Magic the Gathering for years, now runs a relatively new store ‘The Games Den‘ in Surrey Hills in the Sydney CBD. He’s been working tirelessly to improve the tabletop gaming in Sydney, and when I spoke to him at Oz Comic Con he introduced me to two of the strategies he’s employed:
“One of the things we do is run a board game library at the store. I bought a few games to start out, and it’s a gold coin donation for each person to sit down and have a game. Every cent goes to the library and when we’ve got enough in the kitty we buy a new game to add in. It’s all about community.”
Ranggor working the booth
This idea was super intriguing to me, and to be honest, it makes a lot of sense. I’ve been to stores before who have a boardgame library, but a lot of the time it’s a few well worn boxes in the corner that have been donated to the store, and generally missing a few pieces. Of those that charged you to play, all of the money went to the store. Ranggor’s is a little different. His library is full of new games, with an aim to expand.
“I’ve still got to get a few more of the classics to pad it out, but once we’ve got a strong base, we’ll start asking players to vote on what to get next.”
This is the sort of thing I’d love to see at more stores. I don’t get to hundreds of stores or anything, so I can’t claim that it doesn’t happen, but this is definitely the kind of thing I’m going to suggest to my local stores. There’s a definite sense of community created, and players get to feel like these games are theirs:
“A lot of uni students come down to the store on lunch breaks, so it’s a great cheap way for them to get in a quick game. A few bucks and they can play a game on their lunch break, and more importantly test the game out.”
Being a Magic player himself, Ranggor is also interested in growing the game – something I can definitely sympathise with. His store ran ‘learn to play’ games over the course of the weekend, which is always great to see. Sydney didn’t seem to have the large MtG presence that it had last year (If the ‘MegaBooth’ that was run at Brisbane this year was also run at Sydney, I somehow managed to completely miss it), so it was great to see people stepping up to the plate for the game. Ranggor’s second strategy was one he devised specifically for the weekend, and I can say without any doubt that I’m a fan:
“One of the things we noticed is that players would buy an intro pack or something and then never really play the game. Or they’d just go home and play at the kitchen table, which is fine, but a lot of people lose interest because they don’t know where they can play. So what we did was for everyone who bought an intro pack or similar from our booth, we asked if they were from Sydney or local, and if they were we gave them a flier. The flier gives them free access to a beginner tournament that we’ll hold at the store. So they can all come in and play magic for free with their packs, meet new players, and we’ll have more advanced players around who can teach them the game and help with rules.”
Teaching Magic to new players
The convention itself isn’t completely focused on tabletop games; not by a long shot. But what it does very well is bring together the geek community in a very welcoming way. There were stands for cosplayers to get photos, celebrity panels and meet-ups, and I even heard raving reviews for the children’s play area which is nothing but positive. In fact, I didn’t hear very many complaints about the weekend at all, and I had a very positive experience engaging with the staff and security (Seriously, the most harrowing moment I “suffered” from was being stopped by a staff member when taking photos of a cosplayer because the celebrity panels were in the background – literally 60-70 metres away. You’re going to get some absolutely silly requests at cons like this when you have a camera around your neck, though, especially from people who don’t understand the limits of technology and are just trying to do their job – it just comes with the territory. Nothing to do but laugh it off).
My time at Oz Comic Con Sydney was really enjoyable. I’m already looking forward to next year. PAX AUS is next, though, so prepare your eyeholes for more photos – there… won’t be a small number of them.
Until next time.