Back in 2006, Malaysia’s first games convention was held, moulded after the world-famous Essen Spiel global gaming event in Germany. Since then, however, there has not been any significant events organised in that scale. However, 2011 might be the year that things turn around again, if some local boardgame enthusiasts have their way.
CK Au first started playing Euro-style boardgames in 2005.
“I tried out Puerto Rico and Settlers Of Catan, and started hosting my own group on Meetup.com,” said Au, 44.
Then, Au and his friends would meet and play boardgames in Damansara Jaya, Selangor.
“The majority of gamers then centred around the Damansara area. It was only after 2006 or 2007 that we organised sessions outside of that area,” said Au, adding that he started organising competitions after that.
“Catan was the one game that we organised competitions for and had serious sessions on, as it was the most widely-available and popular boardgames around,” he added.
There was a series of Catan competitions back then, and the winner of one of the first national-level competitions actually participated in the worldwide finals in Essen Spiel several years back.
It was also shortly after Au’s gaming group expanded that he also started to import boardgames. This was to fulfill the local market’s growing demand for Euro-style boardgames.
But his primary interest remains in growing the local community, more than anything else.
If it’s one thing that’s noticeable about Au, it’s his earnest passion to get more people to be interested in boardgames.
Together with his friends, he started organising boardgame “retreats” – and like the name suggests, these are pretty much two-to-three-night events devoted to marathon sessions of boardgames held at a local holiday destination.
Based on his years of being a part of a group of devoted gamers, Au says there are a couple of major obstacles to the growth of gaming in Malaysia.
“With games costing around RM100 or more to own, we find that people prefer to try the games out a few times first, either by playing them at cafes that rent them out, or getting their friends to share and then co-own the game together,” said Au.
“But the bigger reason why not many Malaysians would take up games is simply due to the fragmented nature of the gamer communities here. Unlike in many countries where public transport and well-planned suburbs mean that travel time is short, Malaysians, especially in the Klang Valley, tend to only play in areas where they have friends of similar interests.”
Au feels that the learning curve for such games are not that high, but surprisingly, there seems to be more of a language barrier in some places. In a few boardgames cafes in the Klang Valley for instance, the owners there have full translations for the rules of the popular boardgames in a couple of local languages, so that the people can play in a language that they’re more comfortable in.
Even in this area, Au has contributed to the local scene. He helped Sabah-based boardgames café, CarcaSean Café, produce a localised copy of classic Eurogame, Citadels. The Bahasa Malaysia and English language versions are actually printed by China and Taiwan-based Swan, which already republishes a number of Euro-style boardgames in Chinese.
Coming up this year
With his band of boardgames enthusiasts, Au plans to propagate and grow the boardgaming community, via special events.
“While Malaysians are generally more casual and do enjoy playing with their friends and relatives, I hope that more organised events will bring greater awareness to boardgames in general,” he revealed.
Au has already started a Facebook group (www.facebook.com/boardgamecafe.net), from which the regular community updates are posted.
He also feels that this year is set to be filled with new and exciting games. Living card games (LCGs), is one niche that he feels will do well along the year’s more hyped-up releases.
He is looking to further extend the availability of the games, to include bookshops and more cafes.
The annual boardgames retreat will continue, while Au will relook into organising more game sessions to cover more areas.
Well, looks like he’ll be out to make 2011 a memorable one for the local gaming scene. Stay tuned to this space!
q Chee Yih Yang is starting to plan his Chinese New Year gaming sessions. E-mail the esoteric gaming nut firstname.lastname@example.org if you have comments, questions, hot gaming news and tips, and trading lists and deck ideas, for both Magic and World of Warcraft.
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