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Author Topic: The game that would sell to non-roleplayers  (Read 10126 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2002, 07:37:05 AM »

Hi Fang,

OK, "for now," then.

Best,
Ron
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2002, 08:54:24 AM »

Actually, I think both Ron and Fang are way off the mark.

Ron, one always to back his statements up, has left us with "feelings" in this case, something he often derides others for. Without backing your statements up, Ron, I see them for what they are: off-the-cuff assumptions with no critical thought behind them.

My reasoning: people already role-play. It's something common to most human cultures. People role-play when they go on a first date, have a job interview, play with dolls (or "action figures") when they are kids, or as exercises in office team-building. People already play games, too: while the move into RPGs does not exist as of yet, the only point I'll concede here, people do pick up, say, Monopoly or Scrabble or Balderdash without playing it before or having a friend that's into it. What is normally required is a friend that likes games at all.

If an RPG actually explained role-playing without all the assumptions embedded in typical role-playing games, was fun (which most aren't - the key to having RPGs become something Joe plays is to actually make them fun), and could be found in the same place as Monopoly, it would not need anything more than a few Fangs to pick it up and take it home before it became a mainstream fun pursuit.

Of course, anyone can feel free to actually disagree with a modicum of critical thought.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2002, 09:11:24 AM »

Jumping on Clinton's bandwagon here, this was what I was trying to say with the blue blurb I posted near the beginning of this thread.  Roleplaying is something that people do all the time.  They just don't realize (often) that they're doing it, and certainly haven't thought about comparing with "that D&D stuff" that they may have heard of.

When you tell someone "I'm into roleplaying games" and they ask what roleplaying is, what do you use as an example?

• If you start off saying "well, it's sorta like D&D..." you're already off on the wrong foot.

• If you start off saying "well, it's sorta like 'cops & robbers' or playing 'make believe'..." you've supported the stereotype of roleplaying being the hobby of adolescents and the socially immature.

• But if you start out saying "well, you know how, on a first date, you try to show off a certain side of yourself, the 'fun-interesting-sexy-caring' part, and shove everything else into the background?  Roleplaying is sorta like that..."  All of a sudden, the conversation has become much more interesting.

Personally, I think the claim that roleplaying is not this "weird alien hobby" but "something you do every day" is a valid way of appealing to muggles.  Not only is it a surprising realization, but it's an interesting one, saying just as much about daily life as it does about roleplaying.
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Valamir
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« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2002, 09:16:27 AM »

Maybe I'm just being overly cynical...but I can't for the life of me imagine Role Playing as having a broader than niche appeal.  

Roleplaying involves a level of sharing that most people aren't going to be comfortable doing with their friends.  Heck, if marriage counselers are to be believed most people don't even have this level of sharing with their spouse.  Putting your creative thoughts on the table in front of others is not an activity people normally associate with "fun".  The single most hated activity at corporate training are the "roleplaying" sessions.  

Interacting with friends for most people is a very stylized ritual of walls and affectations where time is occupied with very specific accepted activities...watching a movie, drinking beer, watching/discussing sports, complaining about work, shopping, etc, etc.  These are all ritual activities in which people can engage each other without really engageing with each other.

Roleplaying requires engaging on a completely different level, one where most people feel quite uncomfortable.  As such I can't see it ever appealing to a mainstream audience...things that make you feel uncomfortable are generally not sought after as a desireable liesure activity.

I don't see a day where pen and paper and dice roleplaying is ever anything more than a niche hobby for enthusiasts.  And I don't particularly see that as a bad thing.

Why are there more people logged on to MMORPGs right now at this very instant than have ever played a pen and paper RPG in all of RPG history?  Because MMORPGs allow people to maintain their walls and affectations behind the annonymity of the internet in a way that in person roleplaying doesn't.  That TO US is the big advantage of in person roleplaying.  To most of humanity that is the big disadvatage of in person roleplaying.

Mainstreaming RPGs seems to me to just be a very large windmill, the advantages of tilting at which I still can see.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2002, 09:28:47 AM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
Actually, I think both Ron and Fang are way off the mark.

Hey Clinton, I'm on your side!

The "for now" is purely a compromise position with Ron's absolute statements.  Personally, I believe that games can be written to be picked up by non-role-players.  (First of all, everyone has played "Let's Pretend" so no one is a 'non-role-player' to me.  Second, I always start the description with, "If you've ever wanted to be....")

I see no way that one side can 'prove' their point over the others.  Some will believe that initiation must occur with an agent.  Others will believe that the 'membrane' is very thin and easily penetrated.  Part of this conflict will be born out of different interpretations of what gaming 'really is.'  Unless we agree on that, this who thread will be wasted on creating hard feelings between the sides.

Am I the only one who recognizes this futility?

Fang Langford
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Bankuei
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« Reply #20 on: November 18, 2002, 10:06:03 AM »

Clinton, I think you have a good concept approach, but the reason folks like court dramas, political dramas, or ER medical dramas, is, drama.  Unfortunately very few folks understand or even have a clue as to what makes good drama, such as conflict, character or pacing.  

What you'd be proposing is either a almost boardgame like game, which may only hold interest for a short period of time, or a "hold my hand" version of narrativism.  While the first type is usually the games that gather dust somewhere, the second type would be very cool if you could make it happen.  

I'd say a greater deal of success with games like Balderdash, Scruples, etc, is about the social aspect of the game.  Almost all of these games are based on the interaction between players, and a good excuse for adults to laugh at each other, mildly embarass and compete, and the rules are easy enough to pick up and play even while slightly inebriated.  Gee, wait a minute, that's almost every card game in existence...

If we're talking about introducing the roleplaying concept raw, without the mentor, then we're talking about a lot of conceptual bridging that needs to be done.  Look at the current stock of popular games that folks start off on, and how poorly actual gameplay is described.  

For an example, I got a hand me down white box D&D set when I was 10.  Never figured it out.  Got the red box set when I was 12.  Figured out the "Choose your own adventure" example.  Poorly attempted to introduce others to the game.  Played with a dysfunctional group a couple of times in high school.  At some point, figured out what I was trying to do at some point around Feng Shui.  That's about 5 years of stumbling, and even now I don't see good player or GM advice in a game.

RPG's historically have failed to communicate several points; 1)What am I trying to do? 2) How do the rules work? 3) What kind of gameplay experience can I expect from this?

Most games have focused on emphasizing 2, without explaining 1 or 3.  When you play a boardgame, all 3 of these can usually be printed on the back of the box.  When you play a card game, you get all 3 in a little fold out booklet.  The hardest bit to communicate to new players is 3, since roleplaying is fundamentally different than getting all 4 of your pieces home.

I'd say answering those 3 questions is the first key to enabling non-gamers to get into the hobby.

Chris
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #21 on: November 18, 2002, 12:09:34 PM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
Thank you, Jonathan. The "we have to make a computer RPG that is like tabletop RPGs" argument is not only off-topic for this discussion, but full of fallacies. People play RPGs for many reasons, one of them being the social aspect.


I disagree. On all counts. It's not off-topic, Ralph is answering your question about whether or not your idea is on target for reaching the mainstream. Fallacies? People play RPGs because they like them, which he admitted. He just points out that the mainstream, those who don't play RPGs right now, will be attracted to a computerized version.

He's not saying "we have to make a computer RPG that is like tabletop RPGs" he's saying "we have to make a Tabletop RPG that incorporates computer technology." These are two entirely different concepts. And the idea that these sorts of activities can't be social is simply not true. I play Unreal Tournament to be social. Who said anythoing about solo play, or even play without all the players in the same room.

I believe strongly that Ralph is right in this regard. Even for "Gamers". But most certainly for "mainstream" people.

Mike
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #22 on: November 18, 2002, 12:53:12 PM »

While I agree with Mike that "computer-friendly RPGs" are not off-topic (and, as my original post stated, I agree with Ralph about the untapped potential in this regard), I disagree with you both in the claim that roleplaying needs to be in a electronic or electronic-friendly format in order to find a larger audience.  Sure, there are a ton of people who are involved in MMORGs and play video and computer game, and these people don't roleplay.  However, why do we have to target that particular part of the population and make games for them?

Personally, I never play computer games.  I'll play video games occasionally, but mainly for the story, enjoying narrative games like Zelda far more than stuff like Unreal or Warcraft.  Why should I write games for a portion of the population that has interests that don't appeal to me?  I'm totally planning on writing games specifically for PBeM eventually, but I don't think that's the solution either.  Sure, the computer game crowd dwarfs roleplaying, but the crowd who doesn't play computer games drawfs the crowd that does.  Roleplaying already shares a great deal in common with the computer game industry (escapism, sex & violence, male-centered, etc.) and, honestly, I wouldn't want all the baggage that comes with writing for such a crowd.  Robin Laws' Rune is a great game, but I can only take so much of it.

There are plenty of other crowds to write games for (40-something, mid-life-crisising housewives, for example), so why focus on a particular slice of the pie?
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talysman
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« Reply #23 on: November 18, 2002, 12:53:54 PM »

Quote from: Bankuei

RPG's historically have failed to communicate several points; 1)What am I trying to do? 2) How do the rules work? 3) What kind of gameplay experience can I expect from this?

Most games have focused on emphasizing 2, without explaining 1 or 3.  When you play a boardgame, all 3 of these can usually be printed on the back of the box.  When you play a card game, you get all 3 in a little fold out booklet.  The hardest bit to communicate to new players is 3, since roleplaying is fundamentally different than getting all 4 of your pieces home.

I'd say answering those 3 questions is the first key to enabling non-gamers to get into the hobby.


good points, Chris. and, since you mentioned the white-box D&D set and Monopoly, I'm going to talk about those two games, to everyone's horror... but to bring the topic back more squarely into "what kind of game would sell to non-roleplayers".

first, D&D. you mention getting the game but not really understanding what you were supposed to do with it -- which is understandable, given the writing style. but some people obviously did figure out what to do with it. that's not a criticism of you, just a fact that seems to get lost. there's no way that D&D could have become so wide-spread based purely on roleplayers introducing non-roleplayers to the hobby, because the only roleplayers at that point were a couple guys in one or two cities.

but even that is not my point. recently, I dug out the old brown D&D booklets to look up something on an unrelated topic; while leafing through them, I happened to notice something.

I can't find the phrase "roleplaying game" anywhere in the book.

of course, some people are going to say "that's because it was the first; naturally, the phrase hadn't been coined yet". but that's missing the point. a few thousand people around the world, without being shown what to do, used those rules to play a roleplaying game, but they didn't have to be told what a roleplaying game is or read a couple paragraphs of theory. this lends a lot of support to Clinton's theory that everyone knows how to roleplay.

and of course they do... not just because of social roles, but also because roleplaying games already existed. this is where I start talking about Monopoly. I've heard people dismiss the idea of Monopoly as a proto-roleplaying game because players aren't pretending to be a racecar or a shoe. but if you play Monopoly and listen to people playing the game, you realize that they are playing a role: the role of financier or real-estate tycoon. "HA HA! you owe me $700 rent!" just like any other roleplaying game, there's a story being played out, even if it lacks some of the description and freedom to improvise that you see in a full-fledged roleplaying game.

in fact, I think it's more valid to look at games on a continuum from abstract and highly restricted (chess, poker) to highly descriptive and modifiable (RPGs.) it would perhaps be better to describe a roleplaying game to a non-roleplayer as "it's just like games like Monopoly or Clue, where you pretend to be a tycoon or detective, but you get to add a lot more description and you aren't as limited by the rules."

you could also toss in descriptions of "what if?" games like the ones I hinted at earlier. "if you were stuck on a desert island, what three things would you want to take with you?" ... "if you could have dinner with any three famous people from any historical era, who would you pick?" they aren't roleplaying games, but everyone's played them, and they help to describe what's different about a roleplaying game compared to an ordinary game.
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John Laviolette
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #24 on: November 18, 2002, 01:41:44 PM »

Jonathan,

The question was what will appeal to the mainstream. Right now, they seem to want computer games as their favored format. Those who don't play computer games probably aren't looking to play games like this at all. Are we actually targeting the person who plays Scattegories, but does not like computers? That's mainstream? They're going to want to buy RPGs (of any sort)?

In any case, if computers aren't "mainstream" yet, they soon will be (hell, I've got even my mother reading her email regularly, something I thought might never happen). So if this is intended to look at all into the future, any idea of appealing to this group of people should seriously consider how it's going to be linked to computers.

John,

We've been over the idea of introductions to RPGs before. There are exceptions (and whenever we bring theis up, they come out of the woodwork), but as a person that was taught to play RPGs by his cousin in 1978, I can tell you from very early on the way that people learned to play RPGS was from people who already knew how. It's not impossible to learn to play RPGs from reading a book. But it's not easy either, and far more difficult than learning to program a VCR. And how many of the "manistream" learn to program their VCR?

Sure people know how to role-play. They just have no idea what sort of structure that RPGs provide and how to act within that structure. And it's not easy to state in a book (much easier to dislay for a player). When thinking about this, keep in mind that we are all waaay to close to this to objectively see just how difficult it is to figure out how to role-play.

Not that the mythical "average" person can't figure it out; I think they can. But the number of people willing to do anything is proportional to how easy you make it. If you want to attract as many of the "mainstream" as possible, ease of entry is definitely an issue. You're "Desert Island" game seems to head in the right direction, though possibly too far. That is, if I make a game that's got all of the role-playing off monopoly, how am I not just making another board-game (your game sounds no more complex than the original Civilization boardgame)? Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't get anyone doing what most of us  would consider Role-playing. Which is what's sought here, after all,  isn't it?

Mike
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Bankuei
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« Reply #25 on: November 18, 2002, 02:34:15 PM »

John, I agree with you and Clinton that people do know how to roleplay, its the part about putting it into structure that gives most folks the slip.  

As a 12 year old, I look at the cover of the red box D&D and I see a guy with a sword taking on a dragon by himself.  I go,"Cool! I wanna do that!", which is the part where D&D tells you what you're supposed to do and why you should do it(fight monsters, cause its cool).  The rest of the box is how the rules work.  

But very little in the rules gave instructions for changing,"I got a 12, um, 5 hit points of damage!" into "I duck under the flame and open a gash in its arm!" which is what I was thinking of when I saw the picture.

Going over to what Mike is saying, people do figure out how to operate VCRs, its just that a more effective communication creates a better percentage of folks who get it. Just look at the amount of folks who want Narrativism, but haven't figured out how to squeeze it from the Storyteller system.  

My issue isn't that its impossible, its just that the tools necessary aren't being provided.  It's as if an advanced programming language was the only one available for computers, sure its powerful, but who really knows how to use it?  How long will it take to figure out?  There's a reason Windows, and menus, and videogame consoles work for folks.  They're beginners and they don't need the deep tools to do what they want.

There's 3 big breaks that rpgs make from standard games that tends to throw people for a loop;

•Abstraction-
There are no pieces or board to manipulate that directly represent your character or set of cards to let you know how well you're doing.  Granted, folks can choose to use miniatures, but that's not the standard rpg play.  People have to be willing to buy into that their character does not have any physical representation.  Even as children when you play, let's pretend, either you yourself are your character or a toy is used as an avatar.

•No defined win/end conditions
Granted, beating a dungeon may be considered a "win" condition, there's no rule establishing when you should stop, if ever.  This open ended, undefined part of rpgs makes it hard for folks to swallow.

•Unlimited options
In other games, there is very limited options to strategize with, in rpgs, there is a wealth of options available.  Even taking the simple action of Attack, you could attack a foe, a (no longer) ally, yourself, a rope holding up the chandelier above your foes, a piece of furniture, etc.  Effectively getting folks to understand this can be very difficult.  Even look at GMs who railroad or say, "You can't do that!" because they cannot cope with the options available.

The question is not about introducing imaginary games to folks, but
structured games of imagination.  

Here's some generally useful traits common to other sucessful games;

•Simple rules, deep strategy- Chess, Dominoes, Backgammon, Go, Othello
•Social games-Uno, Charades, Balderdash, Scruples, etc.
•Physical tokens to occupy the hands/fiddle with-Barrel of Monkeys, Pick up Stix, Tiddlywinks, Mousetrap
•Clear goals/Winning Conditions/End conditions
•Clear time commitment, ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours.

So the questions to ask are;  
1)How do we create games that will interest non-roleplayers, and maintain their interest for repeat play?
2)How do we communicate the more abstract aspects of the game properly?/How do we make an easy entry to the game?
3)Is there any aspects of other games that might aid us in successful game design?

Chris
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