Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Endless Snow Day

Ray Huling | 21 Apr 2009 13:17
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The credit freeze is burying us in.

Think of the recession as a long winter storm. If we're going to outlast this period of circumscribed finances, we'll have to entertain ourselves. Forget dinners, movies, vacations in warmer climates. It's time to rely on the fun we stashed away in the closet for emergencies.

At the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, R.I., in February, several hundred players of dozens of varieties of games huddled together against the New England cold. In the Garden Room, a chandeliered ballroom replete with candelabras, thick rugs and a velvet-curtained stage, a belly dancer wove her way between long tables laden with miniature figurines for Warmachine, a popular tabletop wargame. For a few minutes, the 50 or so players looked up from the white metal armies they'd arranged on foam and plastic landscapes to watch her gyrations, but they soon bent their heads to the business of rolling dice, determining positions with retractable tape measures and crushing each other's tiny forces.

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This is TempleCon, an annual gaming convention held in Providence. Unlike most such conventions, TempleCon is ecumenical. It brings together players of miniature wargames, collectible card games, roleplaying games, videogames and board games. TempleCon's gaming line-up constitutes a healthy assortment of products expected to fare well through the recession.

Financial analysts argue that games will weather the economic downturn better than other entertainment media. Though games tend to have a high buy-in price, they offer good value for the money, often providing hundreds of hours of diversion rather than occupying a mere evening. The Economist says so, as does Forbes. Naturally, game companies themselves are quick to echo the sentiment.

The first booms in games - both the pen-and-paper and electronic varieties - occurred during the recessions of the mid-'70s and early '80s. A number of investment analysts advise betting on the game industry now. Yet we've recently seen huge losses, cutbacks and even bankruptcies affect several of gaming's biggest companies. The business model for profiting from games has changed considerably over the past 30 years. It's unclear whether the industry really knows what it's doing today, even without the uncertainty of a global economic collapse.

But crisis breeds opportunity, and TempleCon isn't wasting theirs. The convention provides an example of a gaming community benefiting economically and culturally from broadening its audience. How does the videogame community compare in its handling of the crisis?

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