That was it for the next 375 days with the world's largest fair for board games in Essen. On October 16 at 18.00 p.m. SPIEL'16 ended with the announcement of a new visitor record. Board games are more popular than ever. As in previous years, the international game days in Essen are for us under one motto. This year it became clear that games are emotionally involved - this is one of the greatest compliments you can give for a leisure fair.

Record number of visitors to SPIEL'16

The well-filled exhibition halls have already indicated that this year's International game days SPIEL'16 with COMIC ACTION would end with a record attendance. In fact, the organizing Friedhelm Merz Verlag announced 174.000 visitors at the end of the fair, which corresponds to an increase of around seven percent. This means that the number of visitors follows the trend that is evident in the parlor games sector. SPIEL'16 was by far the most successful event in its 34-year history. Over 1200 new games offered visitors from all over the world the opportunity to get emotionally involved. Long before the trade fair event, there is anticipation for one of the biggest highlights of the year. Once in Essen, moments of anger and desperation overwhelm many travelers who are waiting for the subway at completely overcrowded platforms or standing in the metal columns at the entrances to the parking lots. For Messe Essen, the test of the new automated parking system seems to have gone completely wrong, whereupon those responsible reacted on Saturday and returned to a proven method of the parking guidance system with human parking guides. The tension was written on the face of many a visitor who reached the exhibition halls and queued - until the start of the day caused a euphoric atmosphere. Despite the anger, it is hardly conceivable for many parlor gamers that a city other than Essen could become the gaming capital. Visitors who couldn't get a copy of their favorite game were also emotionally involved. The tumultuous scenes at the Schwerkraftverlag stand were an absolute novelty at SPIEL in this form. That the highlight title Terraforming Mars by Jacob Fryxelius on the online auction platform Ebay at horrendous prices caused trouble, especially among fans who missed out on SPIEL'16.

Such profiteering is just as much a part of the modern board game scene as the waiting time for the reprinted issues. Great Britain has a distinct pub culture, with which the pub quiz is also firmly connected. Pub visitors play against each other in a relaxed atmosphere and solve tricky quiz questions. And, as is usual for such round tables, the factor of dangerous half-knowledge plays a major role. The quiz game pub quiz - the original from the publisher moses. This is exactly where it starts: A team plays together against four fictional bar visitors. The aim is to answer five questions correctly within five minutes. The whole thing extends over five game rounds. Sounds easy? It is - at least except for the fact that many possible answers to particularly tricky questions can be discussed in detail. 

The International game days SPIEL'16 with COMIC ACTION lived up to their name: 1021 exhibitors from 50 nations presented their ideas to the curious public. More than every second exhibitor traveled to the gaming capital of Essen from abroad this year. In addition to the traditionally well represented countries such as the USA, France and Great Britain, game developers from Azerbaijan, Colombia and Macedonia secured many square meters of the coveted exhibition space. With this internationality, SPIEL'16 sends a clear message - playfully, socially, perhaps also politically. Linguistic barriers weren't an obstacle to hours together at the gaming tables.

A leisure fair that brings 174.000 people from all over the world together for four days is more important than ever today. “People are only completely human when they play,” said Friedrich Schiller.  

Good games arouse emotions

It must have been a wise person who said: "Games are not good because of the gameplay alone, but should arouse emotions." This was extremely successful at this year's game fair in Essen. Also because interactive games played a large part among the many trending topics. Players were particularly emotionally involved in the numerous escape games, such as Exit - Das Spiel by KOSMOS Verlag or Escape Room - Das Spiel by Noris Spiele. Escape games connect players emotionally with what is happening, make them the main actors - and thus remain in the memory. Escape games will be a part of the board game scene long after SPIEL'16. When it is then denounced in the social media that authors and publishers use a sensitive topic, as in the case of the board game Mombasa, it becomes clear that there is more to board games than just a functioning game mechanism. One can discuss the use of sensitive settings - at least as long as the introduction of good arguments outweighs the shouting of mere round table slogans. The accusation that publishers and authors use certain historical events just to enrich themselves is not enough to deal with the topic. On the contrary: the processing of sensitive topics also brings them closer to board players who would otherwise hardly deal with it in their everyday life. Every message conveyed by a game makes a title more valuable from the point of view of cultural property.

SPIEL'16 final report: Playing with emotions
SPIEL'16 final report: Playing with emotions

As every year, numerous board game classics made children's eyes light up and happy adults. Families spent time with board game pearls like Carcassonne or The crazy labyrinth, which scored highly with visitors at SPIEL'16 with an anniversary edition. Thanks to the use of luminous paint, fans can search for treasure even in complete darkness. What remains of SPIEL'16 in the end are many wonderful memories and the certainty that the next trade fair will also be a real highlight for social players. Messe Essen intends to make an additional hall available next year. The chances are good that this year's visitor record will be broken again in the coming year. 

What follows now is waiting for SPIEL'17 - full of anticipation, of course. SPIEL'17 will take place from October 26th to October 29th 2017 in Essen.