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How to Scam Games Part II

by Steve Johnson of Hex Entertainment, Inc.

March 24, 1998


A few months ago there was an article on RPGnet called "How to Scam Games for Free"  by Sandy Antunes. In it, Sandy gave several methods for doing just that. This was truly a godsend for Mr. Average Joe Gamer, who needs all the help he can get if he wants all the new games AND  the glamorous, jet-setting lifestyle he's accustomed to.

However, many of these methods required far too much preparation and travel for most gamers. Going to conventions, setting up "front" organizations, and convincing folks that you are a game industry professional takes lots of time. The Average Gamer already has to balance a full time job with gaming, weekend trips to Monte Carlo, and dinner parties with the governor. Not to mention "quality time" with his model or actress girlfriend of the week.

What Joe the Gamer needs is a way he can combine two or more of these activities. However, since there is very little gaming in Monte Carlo (at least of the role-playing type) and politicians and young starlets are usually less than enthusiastic about the idea of pretending to slay dragons, only work is left. If only there was a way to make a living AND scam games....

Holy Cow! I've got it! (Okay, it's not really that much of a revelation. I knew about it when I started writing. Suspend your friggin disbelief and work with me here.) GET A JOB IN THE GAMING INDUSTRY! You get paid AND get a chance to scam games! "But that means I'd have to move to Washington or Texas or somewhere, requiring that I spend more money on airfare to Monte Carlo!" says Joe Gamer. He's right, assuming that you want to work for a manufacturer, but you don't want to do that. You'd only be able to scam one company's products that way. Lucky for you there are multiple levels in this industry (at least for the time being), so you can work locally AND scam a variety of games. All you have to do is get a job working for either a distributor or a retailer. I know that this will require you to quit your high-profile job at Doodleburger but trust me--it's worth it.

There are somewhere around 60 game distributors around the country. For those of you who don't know, distributors distribute games. (That was the educational portion of my article.) In addition to standard game distributors such as the Armory, Chessex, Wargames West, and Greenfield Hobby Distributors (my employer), there are warehouses for chain bookstores, such as Daltons & Waldenbooks. All you have to do is locate one within driving distance and get a job there. It doesn't even have to be an important job. You can be the janitor and still scam games if you know what you're doing. (Special Note: Scamming is easiest when you are the only gamer working for the distributor. I'm not saying that you should do anything to "take out" other fellow gamers who are co-workers. I'm just saying that it's not unknown for someone to go to Monte Carlo and never return.)

Okay, now for the specifics. There are several ways to scam games at the distributor. The first is the free stuff that the manufacturers send out. As soon as these come in, start reading them whenever you have a chance (preferably when you're caught up on your work). Make sure your boss sees you. Mention to him how interesting the game seems, and how you'd like to play it once it comes out. Continue this procedure for as long as necessary. Eventually he'll decide to let you have the game.

Another method is to scam damaged and discontinued product. Sure it's a little dinged up and/or old, but you want to read it, not fall in love with it (besides, young models are often jealous of pretty RPG manuals). There are two main types of damaged product: those that will be destroyed and those that will be sold. In the first case, the company has usually reimbursed the distributor for the product and tells him to destroy the item. This is where you step in. Simply point out that anyone could dig the games out of the dumpster and use them for free, taking sales from deserving retailers. Offer to prevent this by taking the games over to your pastor, Reverend Billy Jim Joe Bob, who loves a good book burnin'. Of course, if you don't see the good reverend for a while, you're pretty much stuck with the games. Then there's stuff that gets messed up in the warehouse, is discontinued, or whatever. Generally, the distributor attempts to sell this to a customer at a low price. Sometimes they'll buy it. Other times (especially when it's buried deep in a box of damaged goods) it just sits there for a long time. Eventually, your boss will get tired of seeing it and give it to a deserving employee (or you, if there are no deserving employees).

If there's not a distributor nearby, the above method won't work very well. Luckily, there's still hope. Any town with a gaming community likely has at least one store that sells games. All you have to do is get a job there. You don't even have to apply. Just stand around until the owner thinks you work there. Then start filling out time cards. If he asks, tell him he hired you last Christmas. (Retailers rarely remember the specifics of the the Christmas season.) Retail game stores offer the same demo and damage opportunities as distributors, only on a smaller scale. There is another advantage, however. Most game stores allow after hours gaming, assuming that there is an employee willing to keep an eye on things. This is your cue. Move your game sessions to the store. Now you effectively have every game book the store carries. Sure, they're not really "yours" per se, but you can use them as if they were. Just make sure that you don't damage them and you put them back on the shelves after the game.

On the off chance that there's no distributors OR stores in your town, there's one last scamming method that still allows you to live a normal life: Contests. There are always contests that allow you to win nifty games. Hell, InQuest alone offers over 4 million contests per issue! All you have to do is correctly answer all the questions (which often require carnal knowledge of Gary Gygax, or something equally embarrassing) and send in the entry form. If your answers are correct and your name is drawn, you win something. Just to get you started on this method, I'll give you a link to a place where you can win a free new game with almost no work. Just check out The Hex Entertainment Page to find out how to win a free copy of their game QAGS, which I hear is very good.  

Good Luck. See you at the casino.

Steve Johnson is the creator of QAGS and the President of Hex Entertainment, Inc. He also works for Greenfield Hobby Distributors as well as Red Rock Collectables. Eventually, he plans to be employed by every company in the gaming industry. He is very good at poker.

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All Industry Insights

  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews China Mieville, April 24, 2002
  • lizard's Condensation of All Game Fiction, April 18, 2002
  • Sandy's "God or Whore?" GTS'02, March 26, 2002
  • Allan Sugarbaker with GAMA Trade Show '02: An Inside Report, March 22, 2002
  • Aldo of Impressions on the GamePlay CD, January 3, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Ken Hite, February 8, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Tim Powers, January 18, 2002
  • Aldo Ghoizzi on Inside the Making of GamePlay, January 3, 2002
  • The RPGnet Awards Cabal presents the RPGnet 2001 Awards Results!, December 5, 2001
  • Ken Whitman teaches us with A Note About Creating a Good Promotional Campaign, October 12, 2001
  • Sean Jaffe on The Fallout, September 27, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • Sean Jaffe on Interesting Times, September 21, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • GodLike: Dennis Detwiler and Greg Stolze, September 14, 2001
  • Jared Nielsen on Tribe Gamer, August 31, 2001
  • Mark Bruno teaches about Copy Editing, August 16, 2001
  • Ratings not just kid's stuff for RPG industry, reported by Matt Snyder, August 9, 2001
  • GenCon '01 News, reported by Matt Snyder, August 3, 2001
  • Origins Report: Would you send your mother to buy from them?, part 4 of 4
  • Origins Report: Booth Babes, part 3 of 4
  • Origins Report: Overview, part 2 of 4
  • The Origins Awards, part 1 of 4, reported by Jason Paul McCartan
  • Gary Gygax Interview, part 1 of 3, by Scott Lynch
  • Why I Write Gaming Materials by Greg Stolze, November 16, 1999
  • Blowing out the Nostalgia Candle by John Wick, October 19, 1999
  • Interview with Sean Pat Fannon, Shards October 5, 1999
  • Portuguese is not Spanish! by Thad Blanchette, September 14, 1999
  • Intuition and Surprise by M. J. Young, July 27, 1999
  • Fear and Loathing in the Wizards of the Coast Game Center by John Tynes, January 26, 1999
  • Breaking In,, on how to break into writing for RPGs, by Steve Kenson, December 22, 1998
  • ALT.RPG, first of a series looking deeply at what gaming is all about, by Matt Miller, September 1, 1998
  • The Night They Tore Old Mecca Down, GenCon report by Randy Porter, August 20, 1998
  • GenCon Fun: con, city, and even housing tips from Randy Porter, June 30, 1998
  • GenCon Lore Vol 3: Program Books, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 23, 1998
  • The Missing and the Dead, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 2, 1998
  • The Definitive Count on who is and isn't attending GenCon 98, by Randy Porter, April 28, 1998
  • How to Scam Games Part II by Steve Johnson, March 24, 1998
  • The Perils of Penniless Publishing by Aaron Rosenberg, February 3, 1998
  • Polyhedral Dice & Mirror Shades, by Greg Costikyan (or, the death of paper).
  • Ken Whitman: A Love Hate Relationship by (of course) Ken Whitman
  • Interview with Sean Punch, GURPS line editor, by Bob Portnell, October 1997
  • YOU DID WHAT? Perspectives On Becoming A Full-Time Writer In The RPG Industry, by Steven Long, September 1997
  • A Resurgence of Role Playing, by Gary Gygax, August 1997

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