Cafe Game Exchange

Here's a little idea for directed promotion, so I'm not sure which category it belongs in.

I'm looking for a show of hands of who might be interested in participating in a little marketing experiment. Following the examples of the painters, ceramicists, weavers, and sensitive dudes with lush, long hair and acoustic guitars before us, I'd like to explore the potential of coffee shops and cafes as venues for reaching new audiences. Here is my plan.

If I can find enough game designers willing to part with one to six copies of their games, I will distribute these games to participating coffee shops and other public reading places throughout New York City. The games will each have a sticker on them indicating: this game is part of the Cafe Game Exchange program; it is to be read and enjoyed, but left at its current location; and if you wish to own your very own copy of this game, please visit www.something-like-cafegameexchange-or-perhaps-cafegamexchange.com for details on how to purchase the game. The games will also be accompanied by little mini-flyers with much the same information on it, that the customer may take home with them.

In return, the website will show visitors where to purchase any participating game (no orders will be taken at the website); what other games are available through the program; and where they may find a coffee shop with a copy of whichever other games they wish to peruse. Plus a few other bells and whistles, I suspect.

And, to the best of its ability, the website will provide all the statistics it can to the general public, so that others interested in contributing games can see as clearly as possible what they are getting into.

If it all works out, and we see some effect, I'll endeavor to rotate the games between the shops on a bimonthly basis, updating their locations on the website as I go. If the shops are amicable, perhaps I'll even scheduling some short demos and such. And of course, keep an eye on the games to make sure they are still out there.

So, would you be willing to gamble 1d6 copies of your game on this experiment? Would you be willing to participate in some other way, such as designing the stickers, flyers, website, whatnot? Anyone else in the New York area interested in handling some of the legwork?
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Comments

  • I'm in.

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • How soon do you think you can start this? Is there other support you need?

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • This is a great idea.
  • Posted By: Ben LehmanHow soon do you think you can start this? Is there other support you need?
    I can get them to the shops as soon as I can figure out the website side of things, which, as it turns out, is where I'll need the most help. I'm not sure how all the tracking will work. Plus, I really want to emphasize the part of the site that points gamers to the cafes (to make this a two-way street), which I think will require some Google map work. Could be as easy as links and stuff, but I'm out of my element there.

    The idea is still a little fresh (born out of conversation I had in a coffee shop with Rob Bohl yesterday), so I haven't had time to tap all my local resources yet. Once I do that, I'll have a better idea about what I need. At the moment, I'm just getting a feel for how many games I'll have to divvy up.
  • I'm in. And willing to volunteer labor when I'm in the city.

    I'd also be happy to kick in funds for web hosting, sticker creation et al.
  • Well, I'm in for as many copies as you need.
  • Posted By: Ben LehmanWell, I'm in for as many copies as you need.
    I'm thinking about finding about six coffee shops to start with, perhaps more if the response is overwhelming. And about four or five different games for each coffee shop. I don't think we'll need more than one copy of any single game for any single coffee shop. So six games maximum at this point, but folks can contribute as few as one, and as I mentioned, I'll try to keep them rotating around the shops.
  • I'm strongly tempted to put one of my PDF games into print just to take part in this.

    This? This is a really fantastic idea from my viewpoint.
  • Here's another idea: Why don't we provide appropriate dice or cards (preferably giant, colorful, hard to nick dice.) This, for the most part, would be limited to d6- and card based games.

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • I'm going to try to target places that already have board and card games laying around, so that might take care of some of the need. But I don't know how successful that will be. So if we can get some peripheral materials together, I'll be happy to deliver them.

    That said, I just want to point out that we don't have to focus on pick-up games. There will be plenty of folks there just to enjoy a cup of coffee and some of the free reading material by themselves. We can capture their imagination, too. So please don't think this isn't for you if your game can't be played on the fly or requires something wacky like Jenga.
  • I'm in for this.

    James
  • Posted By: Levi KornelsenI'm strongly tempted to put one of my PDF games into print just to take part in this.
    I think places like Kinko's lets you print to any location in the U.S., including right here in Brooklyn. So if you or any other PDF publisher want to go that route, we can arrange something.
  • Wow, I love this idea.

    Of course, I have neither a game (In print or otherwise.) nor am I anywhere near New York (Not even the right continent.), but damn I like this, especially because I've been thinking about something similar here in Vienna. (What with our old coffee culture and and Indie games being pretty unknown here.)

    Still, luck and vibes to this project. I'll keep an eye or three on this one.
  • Hey Aaron: I'm willing to kick in at least two copies to anyone who wants to arrange this anywhere in the world. Just, you know, to get you started.

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • Vienna coffee shops. yes!

    New York is a great place for a pilot of this project. You know what they say. If you can make it there...
  • I'm in NYC, and I'd be happy to be involved.

    I can even provide a game, although it'd be an unpublished one--I would have to figure out some way to print it, unless someone is willing to help me out.

    Paul
  • edited January 2008
    An important note - somebody picking up a game, reading through it, and having their interest piqued is a huge win. It's far more likely than people actually playing right there and then.

    I wonder if the guy who leafs through Polaris and then buys a copy will associate play with the cafe, and return there to set it up.
  • Posted By: Ben LehmanHey Aaron: I'm willing to kick in at least two copies to anyone who wants to arrange this anywhere in the world. Just, you know, to get you started.

    yrs--
    --Ben
    image

    Ehm, gah, suddenly this jumped from "Thing it's save to muse about because I couldn't do it anyway." to "Well, it could be done, so maybe you should REALLY think about it".

    Scary.

    But yeah, this might be a good reason to talk with a couple of other people about this idea. Maybe check out a couple of locations. Yay, another reason to visit Kaffeehäuser! ^_^
  • I'd be happy to ferry books to Eppy from folks at Dreamation.
  • Hi Epidiah,
    This is just a shout from the rafters: "yay!"

    This is just a whine from the sewers: "wah! nothing to contribute." Yet. Not yet. All in good time.

  • Eppy, on the web design front, if no one is able to offer direct assistance you might want to consider Google's webpage-maker-dingus. I think it's got templates that make making and hosting a site with a non-Google URL relatively easy.
  • I'm entirely in.

    Great idea, Eppy.
  • Very cool Eppy!

    I have no games but I will give you $100 to make this happen.

    This may also work at local comic book shops with a sticker clearly indicating "read me now" to contrast the "this isn't a library" attitude towards the comic books themselves. It could help them stand out.
  • Eppy, I can offer books (after my next print run — almost out), web space, and blog architecture in the form of WordPress. This is a very curious idea.

  • I can't currently send any books, as I have nothing in print... but I'd love to support financially. I play games in coffeeshops in Vancouver (Shock: as been played in chain coffeeshops, independant coffeeshops, and a run down Denny's, for example) and love te experience of using a creative public space to game in. I'm totally down for supporting this pilot.

    Whisper me and I'll paypal some funds to help with publicity,web hosting costs, sticker costs, etc. I'd also be willing to contribute an honorarium to anyone who writes up a final/progress report for the project, which explained what worked and what could be improved, and how to (step by step) do this in another community.
  • Awesome. Thank you all for you enthusiasm. It looks like we definitely have enough people interested to make this work, at least as a trial run.

    Next Step: Let's collect the games. If you are contributing games, and you are attending Dreamation, it will probably be easiest to drop your games off with Emily Care Boss. She can get them to me immediately following the convention. If you won't be attending or won't have the games at that time, I'll have an address you can ship them to in a few days. Once I do, I'll make an announcement here and you can whisper me for the address.

    Near Future: I want to take most of February getting the website, stickers, and flyers set up. That way we can get some input on all this to make sure we are putting a best step forward when we do. At the moment, I'm thinking late February will see the games in the cafes.

    For Now: I'll keep updating this thread as progress is made. If you have any ideas, questions or comments, please continue to make them here.
  • Posted By: jenskotI have no games but I will give you $100 to make this happen.
    Oh, I intend to use you for something much more valuable than your Benjamin.

    I appreciate the offers for money, but if it is all right with Jenskot, Joepub and the rest of you considering making this sort of generous offer, I'd like to figure out ways in which you can pay for some materials directly. Just to make this comfortable for all those involved.
  • Well, I think Squirrel Attack! would fit such an effort nicely. I don;t think I would have much spare time for distributing but we will see. I am still finding local coffee shops.

    I will keep an eye on this thread for more info.

    Thanks for the effort!

    Bill
  • This is pretty much the exact kind of play Sweet Agatha is made for. Once it's printed, i'll give you as many copies as you need (i'll set them up so they re-play better).

    If you want any graphic design help, i'll offer up my services to you, i'm looking for a new project.
  • Posted By: Lord MinxI like this, especially because I've been thinking about something similar here in Vienna.
    Oh, man, indie games at Sacher Café... It would be just too good.
  • Posted By: NovembrePosted By: Lord MinxI like this, especially because I've been thinking about something similar here in Vienna.
    Oh, man, indie games at Sacher Café... It would be just too good.Heh, well, that probably won't happen. But maybe at the Einstein? Or the Merkur...

    Well, one can dream anyway... -_-;;

    M
  • edited January 2008
    Posted By: Epidiah RavacholPosted By: jenskotI have no games but I will give you $100 to make this happen.
    Oh, I intend to use you for something much more valuable than your Benjamin.
    image image
  • Okay, Eppy, I've told IPR to give you (or Emily) up to six copies of each of my games for this project.

    Let me know if you want anything else.

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • how could you judge success?
  • I've got a friend owns a coffee spot in Los Angeles, with lots of free reading material around and consigned art on the walls. Games are limited to a chess board at the moment, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind me dropping a few RPGs into the mix.
  • edited January 2008
    Ha! I just came back from a friend's coffee shop. A mocha latte accompanied by some indie game reading sounds very nice.

    Great idea!
    Posted By: Natehow could you judge success?
    If it gets stolen? ;) Maybe a "If you like this book, you can buy it..." message sticker on the cover or front page along with an online store discount code. You might get a measure that way.

    Even further, if the author gets enough sales that way, that can be used to convince the coffee shop owner to stock a few and sell them himself.
  • Update: I've got a handsome load of books here from Dreamation and several locations scouted out. Website work will begin this weekend, I believe. And I'll have some sticker and flyer text up here in the next week.

    Also, I have an address for those of you looking to ship some books to the cause. Whisper me and I shall respond with the information you need.
    Posted By: Natehow could you judge success?
    Right, that's an excellent question.

    As noted, we do plan to put stickers on the games which should drive web traffic to the Cafe Game Exchange website, which will in turn direct people to where they can purchase the games online. We will do what we can to measure that traffic and make that information publicly available.

    Plus, we are hoping to direct traffic the other way too. New York gamers (or folks in other cities if people are interested in doing this in other cities) will be able to use the website to see what games are available for their perusal and where--in the hopes that they bring a little traffic to the coffee shops and are seen reading the games there. Perhaps even playing them. Since I'll be checking on games ever so often, to rotate the stock, I can also talk to folks at the coffee shop and see if they've noticed any interest.

    I'd also like the website to be fairly dynamic, so we can get testimonials and pictures of people reading or otherwise engaging in the games at the cafes. This, of course, is not evidence of success, but it should be fun.

    I think personally my goal is to put these games in the public eye, in an unexpected place, to be discovered by those who never thought they'd be curious. Anything to make these games seem less like a bizarre hobby and more like an acceptable, engaging social activity; and the more the public sees them, the more acceptable they become. Admittedly, it's going to be very difficult to measure success on that account, but we will know when the revolution comes.
  • Another Quick Update: We now have enough games to start the experiment. If I've already told you where to send your games, then I'm counting your games among the games we already have. If you were thinking of send some, but haven't received an address yet, hold off for a bit. I want to get what we have up and running and find nice, cozy, aromatic homes for these games before we go any further.
  • I like this, especially because I've been thinking about something similar here in Vienna.

    Vienna, Austria? Cuz I've got another good contact for you, if you're interested in making this happen there. His name is Harald Schindler and is very interested in inducing some indie game goodness in the community there.

  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanI like this, especially because I've been thinking about something similar here in Vienna.

    Vienna, Austria? Cuz I've got another good contact for you, if you're interested in making this happen there. His name is Harald Schindler and is very interested in inducing some indie game goodness in the community there.

    Oooooh, interesting. I can't say if I get around to actually do the cafe exchange thing (in the near future), but I plan to buy a couple of demo-friendly Indie games and get my ass to the local convention.

    That said, I'm always looking to meet other Indie-interested people in Austria, so I'd be very interested.
  • Sweet.

    I'll introduce you guys. Email me (joshua at glyphpress) and I'll point you to each other!

  • Mail sent. :)
  • Mail sent! I sent you some extra books. If you can use them then great. Feel free to hand them out to folks who would interested or drop them off with your fav local store.

    Thanks for organizing this!

    Bill
  • Wow -

    very cool idea - I wish I had something to contribute - but alas poor and not a good writer....

    G
  • Update With a Design Challenge: Currently I have books, I have a domain name, I have some coffee shops in the queue . . .

    So now I need sticker designs, and because I've got no graphic design chops, I'm turning to you fine folks.

    This is the text I'd like to see on the sticker:

    Read Me & Leave Me
    Find out how to own a copy of this game and more at www.cafegamexchange.com.


    We have two domain names, www.cafegameexchange.com and www.cafegamexchange.com, just in case one looks better than the other.
  • Eppy, what about the thing we talked about where you have some code that identifies which copy they're looking at?
  • Eppy, I'm all over that sticker. Let's talk about it face to face!

  • Posted By: Robert BohlEppy, what about the thing we talked about where you have some code that identifies which copy they're looking at?
    I don't think that's been mention in this thread yet, so for the edification of our viewers: I first discussed this idea over a cup of coffee with Rob. At the time we were brainstorming some ideas for tracking the responses. One of the ideas was to put codes on the books that people can enter into the website so that we know which games were being perused and where.

    So here are my current thoughts on it, Rob. The games themselves will occasionally be migrating between cafes, and I think that the more useful data will be on which cafes have people looking at the games. The goal is to also provide the coffee shops with flyers.* Those can be coded. It'll also be easy for folks to remember the code, because they will be able to take the flyer home. We might be able to offer some incentive to use the code, and we can better control that incentive through expiration dates and replacing old flyers.

    Or we could give each cafe its own spot on the website (www.cafegamexchange.com/RobsTeaShop/), but that address on the flyers for that shop, and just track things that way. But the stickers should be fairly generic, because the books should move around a bit.



    * Which will be the next design challenge.
  • That's a cool idea. What about the idea of people who go to the site being entered to win a book or two? That would probably raise the logistical complexity by several orders of magnitude.
  • edited February 2008
    Posted By: Epidiah RavacholThe goal is to also provide the coffee shops with flyers.* Those can be coded. It'll also be easy for folks to remember the code, because they will be able to take the flyer home. We might be able to offer some incentive to use the code, and we can better control that incentive through expiration dates and replacing old flyers.
    I'm not sure if this adds to much complexity, but as an alternative (or in addition to) to flyers you could create bookmarks with the same information. These could be available at the counter and / or inside the books and say something like "Take Me". The fact that it is immediately connected to the books might be a selling point. They might be marginally more difficult to manufacture, but I would find them more compelling than a simple piece of paper.

    Good luck with the project in whatever form. I'm following your efforts with interest.
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