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Author Topic: What would make a non-roleplayer buy your game?  (Read 13283 times)
quozl
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« on: November 15, 2002, 02:33:55 PM »

Here's the idea, a little exercise if you will:

A non-roleplayer walks into a game store and next to the 37 versions of Monopoly sees a box with the title "My Game".  The non-roleplayer picks it up and turns the box over to see what it's about.

What would you put on the back of the box to get that non-roleplayer to buy "My Game"?
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--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters
quozl
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« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2002, 02:36:06 PM »

Addendum:  

Assume the non-roleplayer falls into this group: "people who don't role-play, but who would like it greatly if the content were more mainstream".
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--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2002, 02:42:22 PM »

Hey Jon,

You know I've been thinking about this one:

Villainy and Self-Loathing

The life of a minion is a hard one. The horrific things you do make it difficult to feel good about yourself. If only someone loved you...

My Life with Master
a roleplaying game


Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2002, 02:42:58 PM »

Brett Favre.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2002, 02:55:53 PM »

Hi there,

I don't think anything on this earth will do it, at this point in history, without the presence and actions of a friend, or partner, or acquaintance, who has introduced this person to the concept of role-playing already. By "introduced," I include anything as mild as simply behaving with pride and dignity regarding the hobby, to anything as major as having this person watch a game, or anything in between.

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2002, 03:01:25 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I don't think anything on this earth will do it, at this point in history, without the presence and actions of a friend, or partner, or acquaintance, who has introduced this person to the concept of role-playing already. By "introduced," I include anything as mild as simply behaving with pride and dignity regarding the hobby, to anything as major as having this person watch a game, or anything in between.

I must politely disagree.  I, myself, am self-taught and know of at least three others similarly so.  (It comes from growing up in the sticks.)  What 'did it' for me was the Games 100 review of the last 'preadvanced' Dungeons & Dragons boxed edition in Games Magazine.  I was so taken with the ideas presented in the review, I spent an entire summer trying to invent role-playing games.  When the opportunity came, I jumped upon it.

I respect your attitudes on this matter Ron, but I stand out as an example that it can, and does, happen.

Fang Langford
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quozl
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« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2002, 03:03:00 PM »

Ron, I know you feel that way and I disagree but if it makes the exercise more palatable to you, assume the non-roleplayer has been "introduced" to but never played an rpg.
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--- Jonathan N.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2002, 03:11:16 PM »

Here's a blurb I wrote in my pre-Forge, deconstructionist days as a game designer, from the prototype of what would become Storypunk:

What if there was a game that everyone could play?

What if everyone knew the rules, because there were no rules?

What if the game was as natural as breathing, but many people had forgotten how to do it?

What if the game was so universal, that people played it all the time, without even realizing it?

What if the game was infinite in scope and possibilities, and yet simple enough to be enjoyed by children everywhere?

What if I had reason to hope that this was such a game?


Later.
Jonathan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2002, 03:23:06 PM »

Hi there,

Fang, I'm working with generalizations. You are, I say without heat or judgment, an atypical individual in a variety of ways, especially in terms of socializing and entertainment media. Your experience doesn't represent any sort of consumer trend that I'd bank on, and this thread and topic rely heavily on identifying generalized trends rather than the rare individuals who happen not to conform to them.

My data on this point are grossly unscientific, but I have been looking into this issue as a businessman for a while now, and I think that the process of creating role-playing customers most consistently begins with other role-players.

Jon, quick point, "feelings" aren't relevant to my posts, as a general rule.

But OK, this person we're talking about already does have positive input that's impressed him or her regarding role-playing? That changes everything. That means he or she is already some percent of the way toward buying the thing, if it can catch his or her interest in terms of topic.

First, whether it calls itself "role-playing" or not seems less relevant to me. In fact, I'd suggest that admitting its own nature up-front would be more favorable than otherwise, considering that the friend probably used that term, and so we have agreement between social-impression and store-thing.

Second, it's now a matter of plain old Exploration - what does the package offer to be imagined? This is the foundation, after all. Since, I think, Character is the most easily-understood of the five elements of Exploration, for a newcomer, that's what should be offered.

Look at the cover of Unknown Armies, first edition - the Explorative response is, what the fuck is happening? Whereas, look at the cover of the UA supplement, Postmodern Magick - and the Explorative response is, cooool, I wanna be her.

Best,
Ron
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quozl
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« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2002, 04:39:15 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Whereas, look at the cover of the UA supplement, Postmodern Magick - and the Explorative response is, cooool, I wanna be her.

Best,
Ron


Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the cool picture just get you to pick up the game and the actual text on the back persuade you to buy it?  I'm already assuming the non-roleplayer has picked up the game.  Now what's it going to say on the back that would persuade a non-roleplayer to actually buy the game?

For example:  "36 races, 114 classes and 2346 spells are in this box!" or something else, like the few snippets posted above?
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--- Jonathan N.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2002, 04:56:52 PM »

Hey guys,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Fang, I'm working with generalizations. You are, I say without heat or judgment, an atypical individual in a variety of ways, especially in terms of socializing and entertainment media. Your experience doesn't represent any sort of consumer trend that I'd bank on, and this thread and topic rely heavily on identifying generalized trends rather than the rare individuals who happen not to conform to them.

My data on this point are grossly unscientific, but I have been looking into this issue as a businessman for a while now, and I think that the process of creating role-playing customers most consistently begins with other role-players.

First of all, I think we'll probably get a little farther down the 'productive discussion' thread if we leave out absolutes like "anything on this earth."

Second, "atypical?"  Why that's the nicest way anyone has ever put it; I believe I'm blushing.

Third, "grossly unscientific," "generalized trends?"  How about this bit of rationcination?  Two extremes of presentation, 'Teacher Aid' (for those 'introducers' to use) versus 'Dummies Guide' (for us ultra-rare, self-starters), which would be 'closer' to what is suggested in this thread?

I suggest taking the approach that making a game design dependant upon 'introducers' turns it into a 'Teacher Aid.'  Surely facilitating what already 'has to happen' suggests this kind of design.  But your arguments against making a 'gamemaster only' book hold here too; more than an 'introducer' will be a desired customer, right?

On the other extreme, a 'Dummies Guide' would be designed to be more readily 'absorbed' (whatever that means) with less mentoring (at the extreme, none at all).  Wouldn't that make 'introducing' new people to gaming easier?

I recognize and accept that most people are 'introduced' by others, but clearly designing a game specifically for that would be less than desirable (at least at the extreme).  So I hold that the question starting this thread clearly holds.  "What would make a 'person who doesn't role-play, but would like it greatly if the content were more mainstream' buy your game?"

I hate to say it...again (because it always goes over like a lead balloon), but connect it to something they're already interested in, I dunno, like 'mainstream stuff.'  Used properly, that'd almost have to include a certain amount of lisenced property, here or there.  Likewise, these games would need to get in front of 'more eyes' getting them out of the 'standard gaming store' and into 'mainstream places,' like I dunno, comic shops and stuff.  (But I've said this before...)

Fang Langford
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2002, 05:08:54 PM »

Speaking of Dummies Guides...

Anyone know what kind of hoops you have to jump through to publish under that banner?  A "Dummies' Guide to Roleplaying" would be a blast to write...

Later.
Jonathan
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MK Snyder
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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2002, 10:10:24 PM »

"Dummies Guides": ever write a book before? That's hoop #1.
Was it nonfiction? Hoop #2

OK, selling RPG's outside of the comics/sci fi store: look at what game publishers want. The Big Thing after Trivial Pursuit has been social games for adults with huge margin.

So, an RPG that is a social game for adults, that is not ghettoed in a specific genre. If it has some kind of play based on a.trivia, b.word knowledge, or c.heterosexual relationships and communication--so much the better.

"Branding" is the current marketing passion, so if this game can be linked to a huge commercial enterprise and cross licensed, so much the better: say, "Starbucks: The Game" or "Nike: Superstar" or "Disney, You Are a Star" or "Who Wants to be a Millionaire Survivor Terrorist?"
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talysman
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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2002, 11:26:42 PM »

Quote from: MK Snyder

"Branding" is the current marketing passion, so if this game can be linked to a huge commercial enterprise and cross licensed, so much the better: say, "Starbucks: The Game" or "Nike: Superstar" or "Disney, You Are a Star" or "Who Wants to be a Millionaire Survivor Terrorist?"


you may have hit on something in your humor, there.

"reality RPGs".

not literally, maybe, but something that a non-rpger might enjoy would be a game with good replay value, standalone 2-3 hour sessions, and some kind of simple situational theme. thing is, it's a roleplaying game, but it can be understood without resorting to rpg jargon.

to keep it recognizable, the game would also need to be referee-less (or with shared referee duties) with either a simple game board/pawn setup or a cardgame setup. but there would be an element of conversation and description of imaginary actions; you would be role-playing, but only role-players would recognize this immediately.

so you could make a game called "Desert Island", for example, which would be some kind of resource/teamwork game: you imagine yourself stranded on a desert island, move around the board collecting resources, decide whether to team up or oppose any other player you happen to encounter. there would be a definite win situation (get off the island) and the possibility of multiple winners, but not everyone necessarily wins; you have to make decisions about who to team with.

there's several similar ideas that immediately suggest themselves. catastrophy/rescue games. movie genre games (branded or brandless.) the jerry springer game. games where you pretend to be a former celebrity, struggling to reclaim your career, or minor rock musicians trying to find the perfect band lineup to make it to the big-time.

the genius of this idea, aside from the fact that it deals with more mainstream concepts and is easy to grasp, is that it's not as limited as an actual "reality tv" show. for example, the "Desert Island" idea is obviously inspired by "Survivor", but in "Desert Island", you could have an actual "shipwreck" phase, where the ship is sinking but you try to get a handful of useful supplies that will help you in the "island" part of the game.

plus, any of these game concepts could have a slight fantastic, surreal, or SF spin to it. the catastrophe game could be an asteroid strike game, for example.
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John Laviolette
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2002, 08:50:05 AM »

Hi there,

Fang, you're right, my rhetoric is definitely too extreme. I'll try to cut out the never ever not in my universe side of it ...

This thread is bouncin' around a little bit, and I think one trend has already shown up that I have observed over and over. Thought A: let's get more mainstream-style content into RPGs. Thought B: yes! and the first thing we'll do, we'll license Property X; everyone loves it, so they'll buy the RPG, and then we're golden.

As a serious advocate of Thought A, I have to turn into a horrible mutated version of myself and seize the proponents of Thought B, and kill them. Licensing, as best as I can tell, does not work for this purpose. I'm doin' the blue-in-the-face thing, I think, and running into a lot of people who are saying, "Um, yeah, Ron, sure, but if we get a really good Star Trek game into the market, it'll rock!"

And I say, "No, it won't." Licensing brings money from the RPG publisher to the license owner. That's what it does, and that's why they do it. I see no evidence, whatsoever, that the existence of an RPG license-based on a popular show or property has any such effect as expressed by the hopes in this thread.

The X-Files didn't do it. How can we reasonably expect the next thing to do so? Definition of insanity: repeating the same behavior over and over, expecting different results.

But game store owners and gamers refuse to see this. They see eighty kids show up in the stores to buy Sailor Moon RPG the month it's released, and they get all starry-eyed again: "Role-playing's going mainstream! Yaaay! No one will pick on me any more (sniff)! The store will become a three-story neon-lit paradise, with waitresses at the 24-hour role-playing tables!" In-sanity.

So it's not the Friends or the Seinfeld or the WWF role-playing game I'm talking about. It's not the licensed property - it's the validity and actual fun of the activity, and a solid commitment to mainstream content (like Friends, like Seinfeld, like Buffy, or like the WWF) that will do the job. Bearing in mind, because it's easy for us hobbyists to forget it, that by "mainstream," I mean horror, fantasy, surrealism, historical, sex, biography, and humor. Not D&D fantasy, not superheroes, and not any particular kid fad.

Best,
Ron
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