71159_310887550627_2987049_nBy Paco Garcia Jaen

Four days is a long time.

Of course, someone could come now quoting Einstein saying that time is a relative thing and that, for example when you’re having time, time flies and when you’re not having a good time, time goes by very slowly.

Well, I would take anyone saying that, including Einstein, to Spiel. Four days have been a very long time, and it’s been an incredibly fun time too.

Spiel has been going on since the early 1980’s and every year has been attracting more and more games companies looking to showcase and sell their games. It is currently the biggest games trade show in the world and it attracts over 150.000 people over 4 days. No mean feat at all!

For starters is in Germany and my friends, that is a lovely country full of lovely people who know their games. If you had seen the way they get into the exhibition ground, running, elbows, determined, you’d know they are well into games and it is fantastic to watch. Even better to be a part of it.

The place is huge. No, even bigger than that. When the place is empty, it will take you about half hour to walk the perimeter of all the halls. When is crowded, and believe me it does get crowded, it can take well over an hour.

The amount of booths with publishers, designers and retailers is absolutely fantastic. There are literally, many hundreds, from the biggest companies, to the smallest designers and newest publishers trying to make a start. And they all rub shoulders and play in the same place.

There have been many, many highs in this Spiel for me, my first one.

Before going into particulars, the thing that has inspired and amazed me the most has been how incredible some of the ideas coming out of people’s heads are. The passion and the drive of some of the small independent publishers I have spoken to has been truly inspiring. I know it  sounds cheesy, and I will make no apologies for that because I mean it and I would challenge anyone to visit that place and disagree with me.

In fact I challenge anyone to get to that place and not feel elated by the sheer amount of talent and inspiration in that place.

Also how approachable everyone is. If you have a game you’re very fond of, it’s very probably that the designer will be there and that you’ll be able to talk to him. Or her.

As Susan “Quirkle” McKinley Ross very wisely pointed out to me, there are a huge number of women designers, publishers, artists, etc. who make an incredible contribution to the gaming industry. The winner of the Spiel des Jhares 2011 was mingling with everyone, playing games with the public in a big but simple booth that was heaving with people pretty much constantly.

And women there were a lot of them! Coming from the RPG world, I am used to seeing an overwhelming majority of men at conventions and gaming groups. At Spiel, although the majority of attendants and exhibitors were male, the percentage of women was a lot higher than I was expecting and I was very happy about that. From small companies like Ghenos Games, medium sized and better known company like Ludonaute, to giants like Lego, women had a much greater say and interaction with the public than I was expecting. And it is a very welcome and refreshing thing to see.

Then there is the chance to see companies you normally wouldn’t be able to see or even know about. Companies from China, Japan, Corea, Russia, Czech Republic and other countries. The lovely thing about that is that you also get to see games that will blow you away. You will see a few of those games in the unboxing videos that we’ll be publishing very soon. Disappointingly enough, I didn’t see any company with games from India. Hopefully next year.

So what are the things that impressed me the most?

The first thing that left me breathless was Therion 011. To see a novel that has been influenced by the music of a Swedish band (and it is a great band. If you don’t know it, you won’t regret giving them at try. Symphonic Metal at its best) and that has inspired a gorgeous looking board game, a short movie and a feature film is terrific. To shake hands with a talent like Paolo Vallerga, the author of the movie and the steampunk artwork for the game, was a true privilege.

Iron Sky was another project that I was well impressed by. Another feature film, this one with Nazis on the moon, and boardgame coming out in April next year. To think that the fans have raised over one million euros in donations is stunning. The artwork, the CGI and the game look absolutely tremendous and the drive and passion of the guys we spoke with was just a joy to behold. You will be able to listen to their interviews in the podcasts that will be coming soon.

However the highest high for me has to be the amount of games sold. Panic Station sold out pretty much on the first day and by Saturday there were lots and lots of companies that were running out of supplies. Pretty much everyone of the people who visited the grounds was carrying a bag with at least one game.

If that is not a sign that the games industry is healthy and the appetite is there, at least in Germany, then nothing is.

But what is a true sign that the industry is growing is the number of titles present at the show. The fact that the small people are there, getting their games to the public and being successful proves beyond questioning that games are more accessible, more affordable to buy and to produce and more fun than ever before.

That, my friends, makes me feel very high.

I will also have to say, though, that a MASSIVE high has been spending time with Michael Fox, from the Little Metal Dog Show, and getting to know Richard Bliss, aka The Game Whisperer, and Laurence O’Brian. Our lunches and conversations have been terrific and I consider myself very proud to call them friends.