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  • Ross Connell

5 ways streaming board games can change our community for the better

The current COVID-19 crisis has dramatically changed the landscape for how we access and play our board games. As a publisher Alley Cat Games has been thinking a lot about how we can adapt to the current challenges but also what lessons we can take from this moving forward.


We've created remote play resources and shared our games on digital platforms like Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator. We wanted to go beyond that and began live plays of our current and upcoming games. By streaming our board games live each Thursday (2 pm UK time) on Facebook Live and Twitch we are exploring new ways to connect with the community and believe the benefits go beyond the present situation.


With that in mind, here are 5 ways streaming board games can change our community for the better, plus some advice on how you can get involved too.



Accessibility


Due to the current COVID-19 crisis many conventions are now heading online, with Gen Con, Origins, UKGE, Essen and more looking to represent themselves in some way on streaming platforms. Conventions have historically been a big way for Publishers to showcase their latest titles and a popular way for players to experience games before owning them. Showing your board games in person isn’t without its restrictions though, even ignoring the current situation at hand.


A large part of the community don’t or perhaps can’t attend these events for a variety of reasons, be those personal, financial, health-based, or the event taking place in a location too far away. It should be stressed that accessibility issues have always existed, and impact any location, be that a game cafe, store, or even houses of other players that you might want to visit, but are unable to.


Even assuming you can get wherever you need to, having the players required to play the game you are interested in isn’t as straightforward as it sounds either. Free online streaming services, such as Twitch, Youtube Live, and Facebook Live, remove many of these barriers, giving the opportunity for more people to be able to watch and gain a better understanding of the experience of these games, in real-time, than ever before.


Interactivity


Rulebooks and pre-recorded videos are without a doubt a fantastic resource for learning board games, and reviews can give us better insight into which games we may want to buy. Watching games streamed live gives viewers the ability to not only watch someone play but also to learn about their strategies and tactics in real-time. Live plays give the community the opportunity to ask questions, in the moment, in a way that is hard to replicate in other formats.


Additionally certain games, through remote play resources, or changes to the ruleset, have the scope to be played with the viewers themselves. In the example of our roll and write game Welcome to Dino World, this can be as simple as sharing the dice rolled, and the objective cards onscreen. All of a sudden the solo game you are playing can become a 5/10/100 player game with relative ease. We’ve been enjoying seeing how other streamers have been approaching this and look forward to trying this out more ourselves.


Showcasing and playtesting new games


There are always going to be new and exciting games on the horizon, but often the public knows very little about these games before they appear in retail or on Kickstarter. Conventions are a big part of how publishers show the public their upcoming titles but as previously mentioned this is only accessible to a small percentage of people.


By streaming live plays of upcoming titles or those in active development Publishers can give the viewer a closer look into these games to see if they think they will in fact be a good fit for them. Fear of missing out (aka FOMO) and the anticipation for new releases isn’t going anywhere but by streaming new games, viewers have the opportunity to learn more about these titles before the game hits their shopping basket.


Live Q&A with the creators


I’ve previously mentioned how interactivity allows the viewer to question players' strategy or tactics, but it also brings the ability to ask deeper questions into why a game has been created in a particular way. Where did these development and design ideas come from and what was the thinking behind this?


Being able to discuss a game's development, with the people who make them, gives us the opportunity to gain a level of insight into the industry that has rarely been seen before. The scope for streaming channels to draw back the curtain, and share this journey with the community is an exciting one and something we have been looking to do ourselves during our streams.


Bringing the community together


Social media and online forums have made us more connected than ever, but these are generally limited windows into how someone thinks or feels about the games they make or play. What I’ve experienced, in the last few months on streaming services like Twitch, Youtube Live, and Facebook Live, are vibrant communities growing around different channels that get to share an experience together. For me, board games have largely been about connecting with others and this hobby has allowed me to meet and interact with people in a way that I might have totally missed if I hadn’t started playing tabletop games.


Streaming services allow you to enjoy the game being played but also discuss what is happening with the players and connected chat at the same time. This interactivity between viewers and streamers can create some really memorable moments and bring people together from all over the world.


How can you get involved?


As a viewer - Consider looking into streaming services on sites such as:

  • Twitch

  • Facebook

  • Youtube

These are all free platforms that allow you to access thousands of hours of live streams every week, plus watch back on any content you might have missed. There is already a vibrant community online, with more people joining every day. Below is a schedule of what we have streamed recently and what is upcoming from Alley Cat Games on Facebook and Twitch.


As a streamer - Consider software like the following programs:

  • Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)

  • Streamlabs OBS

  • XSplit

There are a variety of programs you can download for free that will allow you to start streaming yourself. Additionally, you will most likely need:

  • A computer

  • A microphone

  • A webcam (if playing physical versions of games)

  • Programs such as Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia or more

  • A reliable internet connection

There are countless tutorials online, but feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments section below.


This is only a quick article into why I think board games have an exciting future streamed live online, but I hope it gives you a greater understanding of not just how this can improve the tabletop community but also the opportunities to connect us all more than ever before.


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