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Author Topic: Actual play in the stores  (Read 19312 times)
wyrdlyng
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« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2002, 08:33:02 AM »

Quote from: Ron
I am perceiving, frankly, that many game stores are serving the hobby quite badly, specifically because the policies I'm suggesting (or ones like them) literally cannot occur there.


Well, there's the real core of the problem. It's the same thing that's been discussed in several other current threads: many gaming stores often do more to harm than help gaming as an overall hobby. Only comic book stores have a presentation level as poor as most gaming stores (and the fact that many are hybrids of the two doesn't help).

Sadly, I've seen Adult "Bookstores" which were cleaner, better lit and more spacious than most of the gaming stores I've been in. Gaming stores are really the first point of influence for new gamers. Even if brought in by another gamer, casual or non-gamers are often put off by most gaming stores.

I really wish that those folks that open these stores would remember two simple things: 1) I am opening this store as a business, not a place for my gaming buddies to hang out; 2) my store will help bring people into the hobby or put them off of it.

Sorry if I came across as rant-ish.
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Alex Hunter
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2002, 08:50:12 AM »

Hi Alex,

Now we're getting somewhere! And now I want to bring up A Point that I think most people (and I'm basing this off of six years of intensive listening to what "industry folks" have to say) miss by a country mile.

This Point: the dichotomy between "run it as a business" and "run it as a hobby" is false.

As best as I can tell, quite a few game stores are run as neither.

1. If the store were run "as a business," then we'd see more profit involved, most especially since owners would not then deep-order the New Hot Thing like obedient pod-people based on distributor and publisher blandishments. Instead, they'd pay attention to what their customers played and had fun with, and learn to recognize when customers are doing the pod-people thing too.

2. If the store were run "as a hobby," then we'd see more actual play and programs to promote fun and enjoyment of the hobby, with less emphasis (again) on feverishly unloading the deep-ordered Oh-Shit-Not-as-Hot-as-They-Said game, which is being sold at a discount in Waldenbooks anyway.

In other words, I think some or many stores are run neither as a hobby nor a business, and I think that a few (the good ones) are run as both.

Now this thread is getting somewhere. Comments, anyone?

Best,
Ron
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Maurice Forrester
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« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2002, 09:58:14 AM »

Is there data to suggest that the problems with gaming stores are different from those of stores catering to other hobbies?  Or different from small businesses in general?  We know that a high percentages of new businesses fail in the first year, so I'm wondering if we aren't chasing a red herring here.
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Maurice Forrester
hyphz
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« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2002, 10:11:31 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi Alex,
1. If the store were run "as a business," then we'd see more profit involved, most especially since owners would not then deep-order the New Hot Thing like obedient pod-people based on distributor and publisher blandishments. Instead, they'd pay attention to what their customers played and had fun with, and learn to recognize when customers are doing the pod-people thing too.


Sadly I think this might be a tad optimistic...  I think it was best summed up by a quote from a Sony employee:  "It's always cheaper to make people want the stuff we have, than to give them what they want."
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xiombarg
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« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2002, 10:24:01 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
In other words, I think some or many stores are run neither as a hobby nor a business, and I think that a few (the good ones) are run as both.

Um, if these stores aren't being run as a hobby or as a business, what are they being run as?

Frankly, I think "bad" stores are run as a hobby. Ron, you tend to make the optimistic assumption that people who run a store as a hobby want to bring more people into the hobby and help the hobby in general. This ain't true. When someone says a store is run as a hobby, they mean the store is run selfishly to support the hobby as the owner wants it. That is, to support the owner's play style and preferences, which often coincides strongly with standard D&D fantasy.

Case in point: The owner of my local LGS does promote actual play -- of games he's interested in. Anything else gets little-to-no support at all, except for "Next Big Thing" titles which he's really selling to support the stuff he actually likes. This selfishly supports his hobbist play -- he's guaranteed a venue for him and his friends to play the games they want to play, and to hell with the rest.

In any pleasure activity, RPGs included, there are going to be selfish hobbists. And that's what people are referring to. The needs of the owner are being met; he has a reasonable circle of people who game with him and play the games he wants because he's "in charge", and that's all he cares about. This is treating the business as a hobby, just very selfishly so.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: November 18, 2002, 11:04:58 AM »

Hi Kirt,

That might be the interpretation of "run it as a hobby" that we'd have to fall back on, but in that sense "run it as a hobby" simply means "run it as a business, but badly." In which case, the term "hobby" is serving as an empty place-holder rather than as a descriptive term, and we're looking at an even more false dichotomy.

Also, a related issue crops up here: my puzzled observation that the vast majority of game store proprietors do not like role-playing at all, D&D or not D&D. Their loyalties tend toward old-school wargaming, and many of them don't play anything.

Best,
Ron
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xiombarg
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« Reply #21 on: November 18, 2002, 11:22:05 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
That might be the interpretation of "run it as a hobby" that we'd have to fall back on, but in that sense "run it as a hobby" simply means "run it as a business, but badly." In which case, the term "hobby" is serving as an empty place-holder rather than as a descriptive term, and we're looking at an even more false dichotomy.
Okay, so, if we're looking at an even more false dichotomy, what should we be looking at, then? Perhaps I'm missing the point of this thread.

Quote
Also, a related issue crops up here: my puzzled observation that the vast majority of game store proprietors do not like role-playing at all, D&D or not D&D. Their loyalties tend toward old-school wargaming, and many of them don't play anything.
Hmmm, this hasn't been my experience... I wish there was some way we could do a study on this. Most of the game store owners I knew (and know) play both wargames and RPGs, largely old-school D&D and GURPS.

I guess the question becomes: Dichotomy or no dichotomy, why does the RPG industry seem to attract bad small business owners? And what can be done about this?

I think we all intuitively recognize the problem, however we want to define it. But why does it happen? And how can we change that?

Personally, I think one of the reasons this happens is "bad" store owners aren't driven out of business is a sort of "local monopoly" problem, caused by the fact that RPGs are such a niche market. Excepting mail order, if I want RPGs, there's only one place locally I can get them. It's the only place for miles around -- we're talking a three-hour drive to find a different store... I know, I looked. So they stay in business despite the fact they're sub-optimal.

To me, it's almost a chicken-and-egg problem -- a better store would probably result if there were competition, broadening the market, but the market is unlikely to broaden unless the stores get better, which is what is needed to cause the competition required to improve that situation. (Does that make sense?)
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
ADGConscience
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« Reply #22 on: November 18, 2002, 12:02:18 PM »

I have to disagree here with Loki (here, rather than just getting up and walking a block to bang on his door and argue peacefully about the FLGS--which, true, is the OLGS [only local games store]--though that actually sounds like rather more effort, and really, hasn't this parenthetical note gone on long enough?) and say that Ron's excellent ideas earlier in the thread could work to introduce the folks hereabouts to things other than the RPGA Living Oligarchy of games.

Maybe one themed Games Day, run at Illusions, could broaden the horizons of the hobbyists and broaden the exposure of the hobby. We have two more "mainstream" audiences right in the mall.

A moment to tell the rest of the Forge how surreal we have it in Salisbury. The FLGS is in the "old mall", formerly known as "The Most Beautiful Mall in America", now almost completely deserted. It in fact looks like the mall from that Romero zombie movie.

Prominent among the four other residents of the mall are a martial arts school and a pro wrestling school. Repeat: a pro wrestling school.

Do some cross-promotion and cross-pollination, and we could do a micro-con with a wrasslin' theme. Kayfabe, anyone? And with the martial arts school, it'd be a no-brainer.
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wyrdlyng
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« Reply #23 on: November 18, 2002, 12:06:20 PM »

Quote from: xiombarg
I guess the question becomes: Dichotomy or no dichotomy, why does the RPG industry seem to attract bad small business owners? And what can be done about this?

I think we all intuitively recognize the problem, however we want to define it. But why does it happen? And how can we change that?


To paraphrase a comic whose name I can't recall (I think it was Larry Miller), "Guys, if we owned our own bar we could drink and hang out whenever we wanted to!"

Change it to apply to gaming and I think this tends to be the main reason many people try and get into the business of running a gaming store. These stores are the ones where it's always the same people just hanging out, talking to the person behind the counter, and which are never seen actually buying anything.


Quote from: xiombarg
Personally, I think one of the reasons this happens is "bad" store owners aren't driven out of business is a sort of "local monopoly" problem, caused by the fact that RPGs are such a niche market.


Sadly, this is exactly the reason these stores stay open. If there's no good competition then they become the sole source of product.


Quote from: xiombarg
To me, it's almost a chicken-and-egg problem -- a better store would probably result if there were competition, broadening the market, but the market is unlikely to broaden unless the stores get better, which is what is needed to cause the competition required to improve that situation. (Does that make sense?)


It makes perfect sense to me. What it needed in these areas is someone with the planning, resources and love of the hobby to "get it right." However, that said, it's hard to nail all three elements.
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Alex Hunter
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #24 on: November 18, 2002, 12:10:12 PM »

Quote from: xiombarg
I guess the question becomes: Dichotomy or no dichotomy, why does the RPG industry seem to attract bad small business owners? And what can be done about this?


I don't think it has to do with the RPG being bad business owners so much as:

    [*] most business owners are bad businessmen (or businesswomen, just to make sure the ladies don't feel left out) I don't have hard numbers, but isn't it that 80% of all businesses fail within the first year or something like that?
    [*] RPGs are very marninalized, mostly due to content, which is what the Mainstream and sister threads are all talking about. Therefore there are just fewer people interested in, and might see business opportunities in, roleplaying.
    [/list:u]

    These two are kind of self-perpetuating. Few people are going to sink their money into a fringe interest like roleplaying and so the 80% failure rate may actually be higher just because roleplaying does not attract people with good business sense. People with good business sense, even if they do like roleplaying, probably don't open game stores.

    Part of the reason why there is not much money in roleplaying is because of how fringe, which is the purpose of these mainstream and related threads. To try to make roleplaying more mainstream, really mainstream to the public at large (not making RPG mainstream so much as to put out RPG that would appeal to a more mainstream audience, I guess) which will hopefully attract more people to it and then maybe attract more people to it as a business on the retail end. People with the sense to run it in the black. TO do all the stuff ROn is talking about and not just order a whole mess of Pokemon cards because it's hot & kewl.
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    Ron Edwards
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    « Reply #25 on: November 18, 2002, 12:37:33 PM »

    Hi there,

    I think my take on the matter needs to be articulated a little more clearly, with the following points in mind.

    1) None of these five threads are oriented toward expanding the number of people in the hobby, in terms of absolute numbers. That may or may not happen, but it's not the point as such.

    2) Some stores do have policies and presentations which encourage the kind of enjoyable play and community that I'd like to promote. But most do not. I don't even think we have to ask "why," although it's interesting, as long as we can observationally agree that the typical store environment is not providing the primary service that game stores are (self-)cited as doing.

    So now for the point: what alternate venues exist (in addition to the Good Stores) for people (anyone) to encounter the facts that (a) role-playing might be nifty in their already-existing terms, (b) its accoutrements (i.e. games themselves) might be found "here," and (c) it goes on "here."

    Hint: a part of the answer is the technology you're utilizing right now. But just as game rules are a means for formalizing Social Contracts, the internet is only one means of formalizing Social Context.

    Best,
    Ron
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    UnSub
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    « Reply #26 on: November 18, 2002, 06:22:35 PM »

    Where can rpgs be shown to people as interesting?

    Rpgs need time. Any attempt to get people accustomed to rpging requires at least an hour of their time to show them what goes on.

    Thinking about how ideas disseminate through society, you really have to rely on social aspects. I remember a story about Sketchers shoes - they watched large groups of their target demographic and gave free pairs of shoes to the apparent "group leaders". The others in the social group picked up on this lead and went out and bought Sketchers.

    This is not suggesting that gaming companies should duplicate this, or hire demographically chosen spokepeople to push product (eg "Britney sez D&D iz kewl!"). But how do people get into rpg gaming? I did because some friends got into it. How could gaming companies angle off the most common introduction to playing rpgs? Offer free samples? Run demos?

    Book stores have started to carry gaming books, which does add some mainstream legitimacy to them, but it is arguable that the books they carry aren't neccessarily the best rpg materials.

    Maybe this is the problem - the rpg publisher makes only money by selling multiple products to to store owner, who then ends up with shelves clogged with product he hopes to sell to customers. Book stores aren't going to buy every White Wolf supplement but gaming stores are expected to and to have copies of everything available at all times.

    Perhaps rpgs would be more successful if they are simplified - How To Host A Murder games are / were popular enough and were really very simple. Instead of trying to get people to buy 4 x 300 page books to actually play the game, a single short and very adaptable book would be more successful if aimed at non-gamers.

    I've rambled enough!
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    James Holloway
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    « Reply #27 on: November 19, 2002, 04:33:59 AM »

    Quote from: Ron Edwards


    So now for the point: what alternate venues exist (in addition to the Good Stores) for people (anyone) to encounter the facts that (a) role-playing might be nifty in their already-existing terms, (b) its accoutrements (i.e. games themselves) might be found "here," and (c) it goes on "here."

    Hint: a part of the answer is the technology you're utilizing right now. But just as game rules are a means for formalizing Social Contracts, the internet is only one means of formalizing Social Context.

    Best,
    Ron


    Well, OK, there's online games. They don't particularly ring my bell.

    There are school and university gaming societies -- although my one seems strongly focused toward serving the needs of existing gamers, they usually have the resources at their disposal to run demos or attract non-gamers. We do get some people who are only into board/card/minis games, and they sometimes start into RPGs, but they're presumably already exposed to the concept. Now, in our case there is no "here" to get your RPG supplies closer than Newcastle... but that's neither here nor there.

    LARPs I've been in or run have picked up players just off the street (well, one anyway, and I'm sure there have been others) who saw what we were doing and "thought it looked like fun." That was an interesting case -- a player with very little exposure to traditional RPGs. Led to some odd assumptions about "what gaming is like." You could say, in fact, that LARPs, particularly good-looking ones, can be their own billboards. A clear explanation of what the game is like and why it is fun can be rattled off in a few minutes (though people always seem to want to say "we're an interactive theater group," which always seemed to me to be a shame reaction. I say "it's a game.")

    I'm sure there are others, but those are the two I can think of. Both seem to me to be well-suited in theory to expose people to gaming, but in my experience neither do a real bang-up job of it. This usually has something to do with the players/members seeming off-putting, which I attribute (natural jerks always excluded) to a fear of being mocked.

    Anyone else?

    - James
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