In which our intrepid hero acknowledges something often forgotten in gaming circles.

When gamers get together to discuss game companies, they talk about all sorts of things.

They might praise an especially fluid, transparent and enjoyable game system, or tear a bad one to shreds. They might critique a particular setting. They might reminisce about a particular edition of a game. They might search for common themes in the works of a particular writer or artist, or even examine such minutiae of production as fonts and white space. They might (and often do) complain about price and shipping and distribution.

But one thing you don’t often come across in these discussions is recognition of good customer service. I honestly don’t know why. It might not have as immediate an impact as a product’s retail price, but that’s no reason why it should be overlooked.

Very few non-roleplayers are involved in this industry, mostly, I imagine, in the upper echelons of the bigger companies, or down in the warehouse, moving product. It’s not like, say, mainstream publishing, where an editor might not be a rabid fan of the genre he works on, or whitegoods, where (chances are) the guy who sells you a microwave oven doesn’t have a degree in electrical engineering.

Despite this—and this is one reason for the high turnover of gaming companies—the people who run game companies should be businessmen (or women) first, and gamers second, or else they probably won’t be around for long. Successful business relies on maintaining professionalism, and good customer service is part of that.

I’d like to take a moment out, then, to thank the following people and companies for the service that they’ve given me. I’m proud to recommend them to any gamers out there.

In no particular order:

  • Wolfgang Baur of Kobold Quarterly.

    Not only is KQ an excellent read and pretty good value for money, but the guy who runs it is pretty nice, too. When the email notifying me of a particular issue went missing in my inbox, and the link to download that issue expired (by several months), I sent Mr Baur a message to request a new one.

    Although he would’ve been well within his rights to tell me to stick my head in a pig, Mr Baur instead got back to me with a fresh download link in under two hours.

  • Thunderbolt Mountain.

    Back in the day, Ral Partha was the name in gaming-related miniatures, its reputation built on the talents of a sculptor named Tom Meier.

    Mr Meier eventually founded his own company, Thunderbolt Mountain, and whilst Thunderbolt’s range tends to cater more to a market niche—his more mainstream creations are available through Ironwind Metals—the quality is still what you’d expect from a master of the trade.

    Early last year, personal and business issues left Thunderbolt’s website un-updated and only semi-functional for a couple of months. With a bit of IT subterfuge, however, I managed to order a couple of miniatures that technically weren’t available on the website any more.

    Without further ado, the miniatures I ordered made their way across the Pacific—with a freebie miniature thrown in.

  • Chaosium.

    Chaosium is one of the oldest companies in the industry, the evil geniuses behind my favourite roleplaying game of all time, Call of Cthulhu. Unlike the two companies I mentioned above, I’d like to highlight not just a one-off gesture, but one of their regular policies.

    Chaosium offers free shipping for non-US orders of $USD125 or more. Given the cost of shipping these days—it averages roughly 16% of cover price—this is an enormous boon to an Antipodean gamer. And despite their jokes about products being “sent out by space-bound byakhee,” their shipping is fast, far quicker than many other US-based companies.

Although a nod from some random guy on the periphery of the blogosphere mightn’t mean as much as, say, an ENnie or a Callie, if any of the above are reading, I’d like to thank you. I’ll be back at your doorsteps, cash in hand, as soon as I can, and I’d like to bring as many friends with me as I can muster.

Have a gold star. You earned it.