The International Match Days in Essen stand for fun, joy and nice people - but there are also downsides. Criminals are obviously up to mischief there, by no means every visitor takes it so seriously when it comes to being nice and there are people who don't wear masks anyway. The games fair in Essen is one thing above all: a reflection of society. An opinion.

Peace, joy, pancakes - that's how people like to imagine the world's largest trade fair for parlor games. Sometimes, however, the visit is more like a kind of egg dance: there are visitors who simply dodge the socially recognized basic rules. This is particularly annoying for those who do it on purpose.

The Wild West begins in Essen 

With all good thoughts, one thing is clear: when thousands of people flock to a major event spread over five days, there are a few among them who are not quite so particular about charity and respect.

Crowds and debris in the aisles of the exhibition halls cannot be avoided, it is part of a visit like the overpriced parking ticket. Anyone who has ever been to the Essen Games Fair knows what they are getting into. The hustle and bustle in the sometimes narrow corridors demands courage from many a new visitor: overtaking in the curves, wheeled suitcases on the heels, pointed corners of the game boxes in the back - in parts the tour through the halls becomes an adventure that causes physical pain. You apologize – that's internationally recognized. Board gamers are nice people. At least mostly.

Some not only push and push, but push and shove. Everything and everyone. Young, old, especially little ones. The time at the fair is limited, but that's not a reason for excessive hectic. So much calm, not to touch others in their closest protective sphere, must be. Security forces should at least randomly monitor this, as well as compliance with the mask requirement. This also works at the entrance: despite the crowds, things are orderly and controlled, the masks are tight on mouths and noses. Then the doors open. Then suddenly it's like the Wild West. 

Board gamers have a hard time with rules

There are no official statistics, but there were a striking number of people who hated masks. Exceptions are those who quickly shove a biscuit behind their rag or bite into a roll with the mask under their chin - this must be allowed even in Corona times. At the tables, in the aisles, even in the toilets you can see men, women and young people without mouth and nose protection. Just follow a simple rule? In the fight against a pandemic, this obviously doesn't work as well as in a board game. 

Significant checks were not noticed. Some of the publishers' explanation bears jumped into the breach, pointed out the obligation to wear masks, even energetically. So where there is shadow, there is also light: in the case of SPIEL in Essen, one could even say: Quite a bit of light this year!

Because: The majority of visitors adhered to the mask requirement, for their own protection and that of others. This is an act of effort for hours. However, surgical or FFP2 masks could not spoil the good mood of the fans. Nice to see. If only it were like that everywhere. The games fair is a reflection of society – many societies even.

Criminals hide in the darkest shadow of the fair. At Irongames, daily earnings of 4.000 euros were lost due to a theft. For others, the damage was not so great: Board games that had been bought disappeared, a purse here and there, sometimes a jacket or bag. Thieves are obviously not deterred by the increased entry fee for the games fair.

The criminals also know one thing above all: where board games are sold and bought in bulk, there is a lot of money to be made. In the interests of publishers, too, digital payment methods should become more widespread. Yes, it involves effort and sometimes costs, but it makes life more difficult for thieves. There are visitors who do without cash when visiting the trade fair, paying by credit card or PayPal. Unfortunately, not every stand operator offers alternatives. 

Here, too, patrolling security forces could at least provide a drop in the bucket, but they are hardly present in the halls - or so well camouflaged that one does not notice them. Guess what's more likely... yeah, you know. There is room for improvement, that's the case every year. And that's a good thing.

The fact that the organizers learn from mistakes can also be seen every new year. Wider aisles, faster admission, e-tickets, an app, more program, more variety. The International Match Days in Essen have been developing for almost 40 years. With all the flaws that can be found, the SPIEL in Essen is a huge colorful playground where you can have fun. The semi-comeback in 2022 was successful, the International Match Days were the hoped-for "normal" event. Incidentally, this is also thanks to people. They are mirror images. 

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