RPG growth and expansion

Monday, 12. July 2010

Madbrew labs has some interesting thoughts on growing the hobby in general. A lot of it is citing information on toxic personalities in the gaming hobby in general, but I don’t think this is especially problematic. All hobbies have it’s naysayers and those who are off putting by their behavior. It’s our task at hand as hosts or storytellers to nip such behavior in the bud immediately. As for online forums: lets just say filtering is a natural process for anyone who does anything via the web.

How would you like to see the hobby grow?
Greg at SynapseRPG I think puts it to words better than I can. The industry really needs to be pushing to develop storytellers as people who are able to function independently, and spread the good word of the game. While some developer dependence in inevitable in my opinion (and needs to be there to retain some profitability as the current structure exists,) the push towards keeping storytellers product dependent ultimately results in turnover with a changeover of product line.

How can the community or publishers help grow the hobby?
For publishers, making products that are available digitally and on other platforms as much as possible. In addition producing good “Semi RPG” related products to get peoples toe into the gaming pool is an excellent start. It gets people involved, excited and gaming in some sort of structured fashion without having to jump in all the way. More on this in a moment.

In terms of community, I think a little more active self policing of the obnoxious would go a long way. Realistically speaking this is just a comment on any group in life in general.

What are you doing to advance the hobby?
I believe getting exposure to a larger group of individuals through a large variety of interests is a good way to proceed. I’m currently working on building the core materials up of this website, but I’d like to expand it considerably in the number interesting but un or semi-related topics. The more mainstream and socially accepted that we can make any sort of gaming, the better.

Take a look at the firearms industry for example. Fun sport, but has a social stigma itself. America has a major case of hoplophobia that has been developed through social engineering for a number of years. Initially the push to get people back into firearms was hunting. It didn’t work out so well. Trying a different tact however, the core of people shooting now are recreational shooters (targets.) The logic was, that it was easier to get people to jump 1 hurdle (shooting scary guns) rather than jumping 2 (shooting scary guns and killing things.)

I believe we can take a similar tact with gaming, and just generating “related” interest is a very good way to do it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it wasn’t destroyed in a day either. Social stigma can be overturned, but its going to take some time to do it.

What is hindering the growth of the hobby?
Social stigma is an issue, although we have never been in a better position than now to correct that with all of the social networking availabilities. While I don’t believe RPG’s will ever be fully mainstream (Although I would love to eat crow regarding those words) the social acceptance can certainly be on the up if its something we keep hammering away at and making gaming more and more widespread.

I also think that lack of development and marketing in good, professional quality tabletop style gaming software by any of the large companies has been a problem.  It seems that the way to embrace the new technology has been to “Make video games” rather than make a good platform by which they can sell their core product line.  While video games are a definite money maker, they’re not the companies flagship product by any stretch of the imagination.

Is technology a key component of growing the hobby?
Absolutely. Projects that are being distributed digitally give newcomers an excellent chance of entering the market, as well as giving developers the opportunity to make and test products that they’re concerned about doing well in the mainstream market. In addition, the more accessible the media is on varying platforms (Online, phones, ipods, etc.) essentially the larger marketplace there is. We have a very good advantage here through social networking to spread the word in our own, positive manner rather than being simply depicted by whomever happens to see it.

Is the hobby fine the way it is?
I think in the regard that very little is actually required to role play other than some dice like minded people and desire, yes. That basic level is never going to go away and will always be there to some extent even if the for profit industry completely disintegrated. However, with additional avenues of entertainment available, RPG’s slice of the pie in terms of entertainment is going to be continuously shrinking unless the industry continues to adapt to new technology and continues to refine its image.

What are some pitfalls in trying to grow the hobby?
One pitfall that stands out is that in any particular spurt of market growth, you’re going to have a tremendous number of people trying to jump in on the bandwagon just to make a buck. With a lot of these, the product, support and whatnot is going to be rubbish because the people in question aren’t passionate about it. It’s going to be a natural push back to efforts to get newcomers into the hobby.
Another major pitfall is that market needs to be developed in order to place product or ideas. It’s obviously quite doable, but a smaller market and limited profitablity is going to keep major sources of investment away from it. Like any sort of buisness, a lot of work needs to be done, and it needs to be done at a grassroots level to continue to spread successfully.

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3 Responses to “RPG growth and expansion”

  1. Greg Christopher Says:

    I think there is potential to change the social stigma much faster than people believe is possible. Consider the stigma that used to be attached to video games. That has been almost completely overturned now.

    I think there are always going to be geeks in any hobby/entertainment venue. There are football geeks (look for body paint), video game geeks, etc. The problem with RPGs is cultivating more of those geeks. Those are the people doing the backbone work that makes the larger population supportable, which is the basis of my argument for cultivating GMs.

  2. Mad Brew Says:

    @Greg: I wouldn’t call the social stigma surrounding video games as completely overturned; I think that it’s just not making news headlines (the new scare of the month).

    Though I do agree with Grey in that we have a lot of tools at our disposal to turn the tide more quickly than available in the past. Using social networks effectively & responsibly is probably key in doing so.

    I also think you hit on a major pitfall with the growing the hobby (on a more industry slant) with recognizing that investment (and the return on investment) just isn’t going to be there with such a small market.

    Thanks for contributing to the Carnival!

    [P.S. Thanks for adding hoplophobia to my vocabulary — from a hoplophile]

  3. Grey Says:

    @Greg, We’re looking at a decade long project to pull that off semi-successfully if done at the same rate as say, video games have. It’s doable, but it’s going to take a major shift in selling tabletop gaming in general to pull off.

    @Mad Brew, The market is there for people who are willing to develop it and take it. It’s just not like say, video games or movies where you can spew something out and expect people to buy it and still be semi-profitable. You have to develop the market as you go along. It’s fruitful, its just more work and risky.

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