Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne discusses GAMA, the Game Manufacturers Association, and the reasons for its big growth last year.

If you are a regular reader of ICV2, you have likely noticed the ads that have appeared over the past months for GAMA and the GAMA Trade Show, which has moved to the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada this year and takes place the week of March 12.

GAMA, the Game Manufacturer’s Association, showed pretty strong membership growth last year. GAMA started 2017 with overall membership totaling 843.  Membership increased over the year to 1262 by the end of November 2017.  As you can see from the totals below, both the largest overall percentage growth and the largest growth in absolute numbers took place in the manufacturing division.

Publishing Manufacturing Members - 233
New PMM - 91
Retailers - 718
Intro Retailer - 73
Distributors - 36
Communicating - 111

Despite the fact that the organization is the Game Manufacturer’s Association, you will notice that the largest number of members comes from the retail level of the channel.  This is due to the aforementioned GAMA Trade show and the lesser attended but still valuable Origins Trade Day later in the year in Columbus, Ohio.

I used to think that the GAMA Trade Show should move around to various cities as it did in past years but have come to see the value of having both shows hosted in different parts of the country, making it easier for retailers located in both halves of the country to attend at least one of them.  Both are very valuable shows for retailers and manufacturers to attend with over 180 hours of programming produced primarily by the GAMA Retailer Division for both.

In addition, GAMA publishing and manufacturing members provide materials for an incentive package to retailers attending either or both shows with a MSRP of generally between $1000 and $2000 to help defray the cost of attending the shows.  While attending both the GAMA Trade Show and Origins’ Trade Day are free, retail attendees must be members of the GAMA Retail Division, hence the huge imbalance in retailer membership versus publishing and manufacturing and distributor members, though there is a manufacturers’ track of programming that runs on Tuesday and Wednesday this year at the GAMA Trade show.

I have heard dozens of store owners saying the best thing they did for their store was to attend a GAMA Trade Show.

Although the GAMA Trade Show and Origins’ Trade Day are the best known activities in which GAMA engages, the organization does perform other services. Probably the most protracted is its Industry Watch committee, active since the late 198os and headed by author Michael Stackpole.  The Industry Watch committee regularly scans for and responds to negative writings and columns about games and the industry in the mass media.  Though it still exists, the committee was most active during the 1980s, responding to attacks on Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs by groups such as BADD (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons) which were most active from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.

Other activities that GAMA has engaged in were making certain that members were aware of regulations regarding the use of lead in items used by children, leading to the shift away from the use of lead in figures towards less dangerous pewter and plastic; and making certain the Consumer Product Safety Commission understood the effect of its regulations on industry products while communicating information on compliance to its members.  Just last year, GAMA joined with other organizations to lobby against the proposed "border adjustment tax" which could have seriously damaged the industry.  It took quite a bit of work but the tax was taken off the table.

if you are an industry member, you should join GAMA, not just for the trade shows but so it can continue working to make the industry better.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of