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Author Topic: Popular and damaging  (Read 27525 times)
RaconteurX
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Posts: 262


« Reply #60 on: October 28, 2003, 11:25:01 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
If you're going to retreat into the tired old "the more popular it is, the more it must suck" defense* as indicated by your "lowest common denominator" quip, then there really isn't anything more I can say to you on the issue.


You certainly assume a lot about other people, Ralph. Too bad. In my experience, you're usually dead wrong.

I don't think the hobby should cater to the lowest common denominator, not because I feel superior or that other people may not appreciate it. My reason is that too many products (not just games) take the approach that they must "dumb down" the material in order to make it palatable to a wider audience when all they really need to do is change focus to more mainstream topics.

I'll go so far as to play Devil's advocate here. Why is it that Advanced Squad Leader has less of a following than a fantasy football league? Rules complexity is a small part of the issue but, let's face it, sports seem far more interesting to mainstream members of society than World War 2. Yet we don't see any sports roleplaying games. Why is that, Ralph? I'd love to know.

Actually, I have an answer. It's because gamers don't want to play games about those things, and they're the ones who write the games. Face it, the hobby won't become mainstream until its subject matter does or people decide to explore beyond their video- and computer games, DVDs, etc. A fortunate thing that so many former RPG designers are out making computer games with which to convert the masses.

(King of Dragon Pass certainly did a lot to increase HeroQuest's profile...)
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Ian Charvill
Member

Posts: 377


« Reply #61 on: October 29, 2003, 04:40:14 AM »

Quote from: RaconteurX
I'll go so far as to play Devil's advocate here. Why is it that Advanced Squad Leader has less of a following than a fantasy football league? Rules complexity is a small part of the issue but, let's face it, sports seem far more interesting to mainstream members of society than World War 2. Yet we don't see any sports roleplaying games.


While I think your point about more mainstream game subjects is absolutely valid but this point is out.  Consider which is likely to gross more at the box office: WW II movie or sports movie?  But at the same time which will attract participants more reliably - WW II re-enactment at the local park or football at the park.  I don't think the subject is the most important factor, necessarily.
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Ian Charvill
Jack Aidley
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« Reply #62 on: October 29, 2003, 05:16:05 AM »

The most popular films of this year will be, almost certainly, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Terminator 3 and the two Matrix re-whatever films. Lord of the Rings tops the list of best books in the BBC's The Big Read, with Harry Potter and His Dark Materials up there in the top ten.

Who says Science Fiction and Fantasy don't have market appeal?
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- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter
Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #63 on: October 29, 2003, 07:51:40 AM »

Quote from: RaconteurX
Yet we don't see any sports roleplaying games. Why is that, Ralph? I'd love to know. ...Actually, I have an answer. It's because gamers don't want to play games about those things, and they're the ones who write the games.


I think you're totally off on this point.  Roleplaying games are 30 years old.  JUST 30 YEARS!  The styles of play and subject matter available has consistantly expanded over that time period.  No sports RPGs?  Give me a year or two.  I can only handle one project at a time.  That's one of the projects on my backburner, and has been for a while.  You know what?  There's no sports cartoons either (unless you count the anime series "Slam Dunk" which was INSANELY popular among high school students when I was in China 2 years ago).  Like cartoons and comics, roleplaying is a young medium that hasn't yet expanded to cover the range of literature or film.  So what?  That doesn't mean that this won't happen eventually or that there's something about roleplaying games that mean sports RPGs or romance RPGs or science RPGs won't ever happen.

Your point is only true if roleplaying continues to be incestuous and game designers continue to only come from people who like traditional styles of gaming.  I would think, hanging out at the Forge, it would be clear that this isn't always going to be the case.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #64 on: October 29, 2003, 07:55:19 AM »

Quote from: Mr Jack
Who says Science Fiction and Fantasy don't have market appeal?

I don't think it's a matter of sci-fi and fantasy having mass market appeal so much as we already have fantasy and sci-fi games, but not many games in other genres.
Quote from: Ian Charvill
Consider which is likely to gross more at the box office: WW II movie or sports movie? But at the same time which will attract participants more reliably - WW II re-enactment at the local park or football at the park. I don't think the subject is the most important factor, necessarily.

Perhaps not. I remember a few years ago someone posted an idea for a sports hero gamin in the indy design forum. I was mostly disappointed to find that by "sports hero" they meant sports-themed super heroes, like Casey Jones from the Ninja Turtles or the member of the Bionic Six who wore a batting helmet or Sporty Spice or the Marvel Comic Kickers Inc. It thought it was going to be the Babe Ruth RPG.

But let's consider for a moment, how many people in the mainstream would want to pretend to be a sports celebrity? They may wish to actually be one or imagine it inside their own head, but would they do so with a group?

If we want to find mass market appeal, we need to find what the mainstream audience wants to be, or more accurately, pretend to be.
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Andrew Norris
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Posts: 253


« Reply #65 on: October 29, 2003, 08:09:36 AM »

Interestingly enough, there is going to be a collectable miniatures baseball game soon, by the company that does HeroClix. (For those who aren't familiar, the basic game design uses minis with a 'click' wheel at the bottom that gives statistics and abilities modified by damage taken.)

They've definately thought of a way to get mass market appeal, I think, given that sports collectors may very well buy these whether or not they play the game. (I remember hearing the Star Wars CCGs owed a lot of their success to the fact that many people bought them solely to collect; that may apply here.) In any case, it'll be interesting to see how their attempt to bridge the gap between sports fans who play things like fantasy baseball and tactical miniature wargamers.

I personally see a connection with the new Marvel RPG here -- it's a brightly colored book with lots of illustrations, sold in places like comics stores and Wal-Mart, and is intended to reach people who aren't traditially RPG players.
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Marco
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« Reply #66 on: October 29, 2003, 08:45:39 AM »

I find myself agreeing with Jack Spencer--while I'm no poster-guy for a sports-game, I know some *serious* sports fans who also game (won a giant TV off Fantasy football--and it it wasn't "just luck"). While I can't speak for the guy, I imagine that a sports RPG wouldn't especially interest him (his appreciation of the games is not personal to the star players--although he does appreciate them--I don't think he fantasizes about *being* them to any degree that a traditional RPG would imply).

Now *some* sports (wrestling, mixed martial arts) are interesting from an RPG perspective (over-the-top characters ... and those already kinda *are* stereotypical RPG characters) and the XXX movie featured an X-Tream sports champion--and that'd be a good character to play in, you know, GURPS or whatever--but I think playing a basketball star, leading the basketball life would be an odd mix of a gamist/sim sports engine and then some real-life stuff I've got a hard time picturing (Scenario 3: vist the sweat shop where they make your clothing line. Scenario 15: your mistress is gonna go public ...)

So yeah, a good fantasy ("mmm...rich sports hero") doesn't necessiarily make for a good troop-style game.

On the other hand, the "what is an RPG?" question comes into focus here. John Kim has convinced me that there are some things in that category (at least judging by the words Roleplaying and Game) and I would not associate with gaming as I do it.

Things outside that zone--the zone wherein all traditional and even most radical designs exist might be the mass-market sweet spot.

Of course that'd be a hobby that would be so substantially different from the one I'm in that it might as well be CCG's at that point.

-Marco
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greyorm
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« Reply #67 on: October 29, 2003, 12:51:27 PM »

Walt is convinced AD&D was a mass market accessible RPG and thus close to a mainstream game...to that I say: hell, no! It isn't. It might have certain design aspects which make it more worthy of investment by a consumer (the limited number of books necessary to have a coherent vision of the whole) -- but this is only a selling point if the consumer ahs already been introduced to the product and understands what that even means. As far as being an item that will draw non-gamers into the fold, it can't do it. Why?

Same problem with all weighty tomes -- back in the day, my 1E AD&D books recieved the exact same reaction other game tomes recieved: "Too many pages." and "I have to read all that for a game?!"

Thus, as standard, there is no mass market appeal in the game's physical presentation, and the only introduction to AD&D which works consistently is the standard oral, by-play introduction. But the books themselves are not the hook, which remains, as it almost always has, friends playing rather than the product itself.

The perfect introduction to gaming for non-gamers is actually the old D&D Basic set -- the "Red Box." Why??

1) Packaging. It LOOKS like a board/party game, though it isn't.
2) Presentation. You start playing the minute you pick the book up (via the introductory solo adventure).
3) Placement. When it first came out, you could find it everywhere: bookstores, toy stores, game stores & department stores. It had widespread, repeat advertising in non-industry comics and magazines.
4) Marketing. It wasn't pitched as an RPG (because "An RPG? What's that?" or these days "An RPG? Like those stupid video games?"), but an "adventure game."

Simply, the point Walt is missing in his analysis is where the introduction itself comes from. In order to move people to a product, you have to be able to get the product to sell itself to them. AD&D won't do that, other gamers will -- and that's the problem we've always had.

Too many rules, or rather, too much reading = fewer sales. Period. No way around it. This is why the oral, by-play introduction works orders of magnitude better at bringing new people into role-playing and the products themselves don't, and this is the problem.

(With the other problem being the marketing of the product itself, of course, because you can fix all the above, fail to fix the marketing approach utilized and thus not sell.)
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
greyorm
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« Reply #68 on: October 29, 2003, 12:53:10 PM »

Quote from: Marco
In the post-app game we're playtesting a new--but avid and quick-study gamer brought his girlfriend. She was newly arrived from Latin America--with no idea of even what D&D was.

The characters were shopping and I gave her the "giant book of weapons" (over 100, 50pgs with rules and armor listings). She was told she could choose from like 5 of them to start with (first page of handguns and rifles).

She examined the book and begin reading it. "How do I get the rest of these weapons?"


Here's my question: would she have ever, ever picked the book up off the shelf and decided to pay for it and bring it home? This was my point earlier, but first, a question:

I'm betting on a couple things here in your answer, but I want to hear more about this tag-along girlfriend. How did she end up at the game and how did she end up actually playing? What were the social dynamics involved in introducing her to and instructing her in play? Why did she start playing?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Marco
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« Reply #69 on: October 29, 2003, 12:59:51 PM »

Quote from: greyorm
Quote from: Marco
In the post-app game we're playtesting a new--but avid and quick-study gamer brought his girlfriend. She was newly arrived from Latin America--with no idea of even what D&D was.

The characters were shopping and I gave her the "giant book of weapons" (over 100, 50pgs with rules and armor listings). She was told she could choose from like 5 of them to start with (first page of handguns and rifles).

She examined the book and begin reading it. "How do I get the rest of these weapons?"


Here's my question: would she have ever, ever picked the book up off the shelf and decided to pay for it and bring it home? This was my point earlier, but first, a question:

I'm betting on a couple things here in your answer, but I want to hear more about this tag-along girlfriend. How did she end up at the game and how did she end up actually playing? What were the social dynamics involved in introducing her to and instructing her in play? Why did she start playing?


The book in question was a print from a PDF--so it is unlikely that she would have found such for sale in a store (the question is unanswerable--the document was not designed to be sold in a store).

I will be happy to answer your questions--but before I do so, I'd like to know what your assumptions are.

-Marco
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #70 on: October 29, 2003, 03:47:56 PM »

Quote from: Andrew Norris
Interestingly enough, there is going to be a collectable miniatures baseball game soon, by the company that does HeroClix.
It may be successful, but I've heard some scuttlebut in the fan base that it a bit negative. The reason it's being done is that Topps bought WhizKids so they could combine their expertise in baseball trading cards with WhizKids' abilities in miniatures games. There's a lot of respect for the guys at WhizKids, but whether they can pull this one off is in doubt.

It's not as if the guys making miniatures games decided that a baseball game would be a good idea. It was that the guys making trading cards thought they could make more money if they sold miniatures, and that a game was kind of necessary to market the miniatures, so they bought someone who could do that for them.

It remains to be seen.
Quote from: Reverend Daegmorgan
Walt is convinced AD&D was a mass market accessible RPG and thus close to a mainstream game...to that I say: hell, no! It isn't.
Im not so sure.

I had a guy join my OAD&D game in about 82 or 83. He was a disk jockey with whom I worked, and he'd expressed a casual interst in finding out what it was about--but the kicker that started him did not come from me. Someone else he knew told him about this fascinating book she had found. She had been in a bookstore and seen this thing on the shelf, wondered what it was, and started reading it--and half an hour later found she was still standing there engrossed in this fascinating volume, wanting to read more.

The book was the OAD&D Players Handbook.

The person was his forty-something Jewish mother.

Now, certainly there are people put off by reading. I've played a lot of board and trivia games with people who want you to read the rules and tell them how to play, because it's too much work to read the inside of the box lid. There are also people who are put off by lots of pieces (what are all those things?) or unusual randomizers (cards? where are the dice?) or indeed by anything that is different from what they know (a new game? can't we just play Clue again? I like Clue.). But if the housewife of a doctor picked up the book in a bookstore and found it interesting, I'd say it had appeal beyond the geek subculture.

And for what it's worth, once again I'll state for the record that I am that guy who never knew a soul who played role playing games, heard about D&D from a completely non-gaming source (a Psychology Today article on teenager group therapy), and then went out and bought it, read it, and started playing it.

I will agree that the basic version (although in my case it was the old blue box set) was a good starting point. I understand that 3E has a starter set; I really wish I could think of how to make one for Multiverser.

--M. J. Young
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greyorm
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« Reply #71 on: October 29, 2003, 09:07:15 PM »

MJ,

While I appreciate the anecdote, and realize my own are the same, from what I've read and seen and heard from others, your story is atypical of the norm -- as is your experience with the hobby.

Of course there will always be individuals who break with the standard, but we're talking about the standard here, not the deviation -- we're also not dismissing the latter, but it simply isn't relevant to the answer for obvious reasons.

I really wish we had harder numbers on this, but the general consensus in all the forums I have been on where this subject has come up is that gamers are introduced to the hobby via their friends in tandem with actual play, and that non-gamers do not "understand" the large size of gaming books and are in fact scared off by such.

Anyone want to run a study?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
greyorm
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« Reply #72 on: October 29, 2003, 09:26:38 PM »

Marco,

I'm sorry, but no, I won't go into what I'm thinking occurred. Such would only be assumptions about variables, which would do nothing but distract from the actual discussion.

Basically, I would like untainted data from you; telling you what I think happened would make your answer all about exposing, reversing, or supporting those assumptions, which would dilute the usefulness of your answer as data points.

As well, telling you what I think happened would introduce irrelevant discussion to the question of how her playing actually came about. Simply put, it would be pointless and ultimately unproductive.

If you want, I'll tell you afterwards and we can discuss my assumptions in comparison to the actual occurence then and discuss. Facts are what I'm interested in, not the discussion of intuitions or foundless belief. That would be far more productive.

Quote from: Marco
The book in question was a print from a PDF--so it is unlikely that she would have found such for sale in a store (the question is unanswerable--the document was not designed to be sold in a store).

The question was very simple and is very answerable: if she somehow saw this material somewhere, would she have been interested enough in it of her own accord enough to pick it up and even pay money for it?

IF it were for sale as a book on a shelf, would she have... IF. That is in no way unanswerable. The question stands regardless of whether or not it is currently for sale, currently a PDF, currently on Mars, currently not published, etc, because it should be fairly obvious what I'm getting at in the asking of it. In fact, change it a little, do YOU think she would have if it were?

So think it over. However, I'm really more interested in the questions above about how she entered into the game itself. I'd really like to hear about that and discuss it.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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John Kim
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« Reply #73 on: October 29, 2003, 10:17:57 PM »

Quote from: greyorm
Too many rules, or rather, too much reading = fewer sales. Period. No way around it. This is why the oral, by-play introduction works orders of magnitude better at bringing new people into role-playing and the products themselves don't, and this is the problem.

Empirically, I have a hard time believing this.  The two games which have had the largest are AD&D and Vampire: The Masquerade -- both of which I believe you categorized as being solidly in the category of too many rules.  Outside of Basic D&D (which still lagged behind AD&D), virtually all of the top-selling RPGs have been at least this rules-heavy.  

Now, mind you, I'm not saying that someone can't come up with a revolutionary new rules-light RPG which becomes the next big thing and dwarfs D&D in sales.  However, I think it is wrong to generalize that thick rulebooks = fewer sales, because historically the thin rulebooks have sold if anything worse than the thick ones.  

Quote from: greyorm
I really wish we had harder numbers on this, but the general consensus in all the forums I have been on where this subject has come up is that gamers are introduced to the hobby via their friends in tandem with actual play, and that non-gamers do not "understand" the large size of gaming books and are in fact scared off by such.

I already covered book size above.  

Re: Introduction to the hobby.  I don't think anyone disputes that historically, most gamers have been introduced to the hobby by their friends.  However, I would say that out-of-the-box playability is still vital.  Unless someone can pick up the game and play it with their friends, the chain of friends-playing-with-friends never gets started outside of the designer's home town.  You're left with the network effect and incidentally Ryan Dancy's argument that D&D/D20 is the best way to introduce new gamers.
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Marco
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« Reply #74 on: October 30, 2003, 05:02:49 AM »

Quote from: greyorm
Marco,

I'm sorry, but no, I won't go into what I'm thinking occurred. Such would only be assumptions about variables, which would do nothing but distract from the actual discussion.

Basically, I would like untainted data from you; telling you what I think happened would make your answer all about exposing, reversing, or supporting those assumptions, which would dilute the usefulness of your answer as data points.

As well, telling you what I think happened would introduce irrelevant discussion to the question of how her playing actually came about. Simply put, it would be pointless and ultimately unproductive.

If you want, I'll tell you afterwards and we can discuss my assumptions in comparison to the actual occurence then and discuss. Facts are what I'm interested in, not the discussion of intuitions or foundless belief. That would be far more productive.

Quote from: Marco
The book in question was a print from a PDF--so it is unlikely that she would have found such for sale in a store (the question is unanswerable--the document was not designed to be sold in a store).

The question was very simple and is very answerable: if she somehow saw this material somewhere, would she have been interested enough in it of her own accord enough to pick it up and even pay money for it?

IF it were for sale as a book on a shelf, would she have... IF. That is in no way unanswerable. The question stands regardless of whether or not it is currently for sale, currently a PDF, currently on Mars, currently not published, etc, because it should be fairly obvious what I'm getting at in the asking of it. In fact, change it a little, do YOU think she would have if it were?

So think it over. However, I'm really more interested in the questions above about how she entered into the game itself. I'd really like to hear about that and discuss it.


Here's my take on this:

1. The weapons book is stand alone (50-pg separate pdf) with no painted color cover art (the only of 5 books without it). I don't think she'd have bought it as it stands.

But the game would, ideally, be released as either two or three slick hardcovers or a boxed set. Painted color covers, lots of fiction--few rules (on a page-by-page basis, if you discount gear-lists where the gear is without specific rules nd the vehicle rules which would be separate, I think it's under 20%). Color interior art? I think there's a chance of a sale on the basis of the art alone if she paged through it.

I'll have to ask her.

I think what sells a game in a major bookstore is the cover, the text on the back (which would, IMO, probably differ by target audience) and layout inside. Chances are, if she opened the book she'd find fiction and art--pretty eye-catching art, IMO, and I suspect this would have as good a chance of selling her as anything. She's said she likes the fiction. She's said she really likes my writing.

This formula is what sold me Warhammer 40K. I had very little idea what the game was (I only vaguely understood minatures gaming when I bought it--I looked at it and went 'I don't know if I'll ever figure out how to play this')--but one look at that original hardcover and I *had* to have it. Even though I had a sneaking suspicion I'd never play it--and it was worth it--the read along--even skipping over the rules. And it was expensive. And I know my experience is not unique.

Artwork Does Matter.
Fiction Does Matter.

Want to know more about the tag-along? Firstly, I'm glad she doesn't read these boards. My words were "avid" and "quick study"--that you translate that to "tag-along" is, in my part of the world not flattering (over here that means someone who sort of wandered in after, in this case, her man, for the purpose of following *him* rather than coming for the main event).

This is one reason I'm unhappy with a stated, but not explained preconception about what you think happened.

From what I know (I'll ask them next week when we reconvine after a halloween hiatus) C. (her boyfriend) had, on the phone (when she was in Latin America), told her about this amazing new hobby thing he was finally getting into (he had played 1-session D&D a few times in college and had never gotten past "you all meet in a bar." (my paraphrase, he said he'd looked at the books and sat down to play but never played).

So he told her about it enthauistically.

She was intrigued. When she showed up we walked her through char-gen and she ... started role-playing. When her harassment-level enemy showed up in town, she laid low. When haughty NPC's annoyed the group, she was kinda cooly laconic back (instead of gunning down the pilgrims she was supposed to be escorting--which is a good sign).

She's asked questions. She got the handle of the dice mechanic after being showed one (there's only one in the game we're playing).

The math for char-gen was done by her boyfriend so I've no idea how inclined she is.

During a battle where the characters were fighting things on a higher-up level (and tactical representations were shown by chess pieces) she took someone's dice box and put two on top of it (to depict elevation). That was when I knew she "got it." That was first session.

She took notes, drew diagrams of rooms, solved a color-wheel based logic puzzle, and asked quesitons about the back-story.

She has, so far, done relatively little "speaking in character"--however it's a pretty big group and I find that in larger groups there's less of that for some reason (my feel is that it has to do with combining action and intent during one's time-slice--but that may just be my perception).

How'd she score?

-Marco
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