Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Getting the word out

A couple weeks ago, a prominant 'OSR' publisher asked a question on G+ about how to get more young people to play his game.

I responded, and my suggestions were dismissed. Another, prominent 'OSR' writer responded later who said much the same thing as me, and was heralded!

Both of these guys are older than me. Keep in mind the question was about bringing younger people than them into the fold.

So, here are my thoughts on "How to get younger people to play role playing games."

1. Listen to them.
2. Market to them.

Expanding on these ideas
1. Listen to them: When you cry out, "WHY??? Why doesn't (insert demographic) play my game in greater numbers???"  And then IGNORE and DISMISS comments from that demographic, how do you think that makes you look to the people you are trying to attract?
Story time...
When I was a kid, I used to collect baseball cards. Up until I was 10 years old. I stopped when I went to the baseball card shop and the clerk paid no attention to me. I was standing at the cash register, money in hand, a pile of cards on the table... but he was much more interested in talking to an old guy in a suit who wasn't ready to buy anything. After what seemed like an eternity, I walked out with my money and without the cards I wanted. I never went back to the shop and stopped collecting baseball cards forever.
I now work as a salesman. I have been awarded by my company time after time over the past six years not just for sales figures, but because of customer feedback about myself. See, I treat everyone, young or old, rich or poor, with the same amount of respect and give them the same amount of attention. In fact, I give more attention to the people who are less inclined to make large purchases because I relate to them much more than I do some guy with a fat wallet.
How does that relate to selling games to young people?
Fat wallet guy is going to buy stuff no matter what. That's why he showed up. That's why he's been buying for years. He's a cash cow, and he's not going anywhere. He knows, and you know, he's going to buy everything you publish because he's a geek with disposable income. A collector. Eventually though, he's going to die and his money will be gone.
Young people don't have a lot of disposable income and have far more choices on hand to spend that small amount of money. Ignoring needs and non-entertainment goods, they could spend money on tabletop RPGs, Magic the Gathering cards, miniature wargames, Console or PC video games, or boardgames.

If you want them to choose your game over those other choices, you have to work.
  • Magic cards have a cheap buy-in and dominate every game store. You can keep a deck in your pocket and play during lunch at school.
  • Wargames are expensive to get into, but once a person is hooked, that's where their money is going. Not easily portable and not big with the kids, as it costs too much to start.
  • Video games are the big gorilla and might as well not even be considered competition.
  • Boardgames are having a resurgence right now and people pay a lot of money for them. But it is still mostly people over the age of 30.
So how are you going to get hip, edgy, cool, teenage whippersnappers (that's what you old people say, right?) to buy your product?

Which leads to #2: Market to them.

Identify the types of young people who play RPGs. That's easy; they're the same types who have always played RPGs.
  • Nerds - the base of geek culture. Obsessive about their hobbies and looking for acceptance from other people.
  • Druggies - They have blacklight posters of mushrooms and listen to music their parents hate and smoke lots of weed. This was my demographic (minus the blacklight posters). We had nothing to do and a lot of spare time to do it. Probably two thirds of the people I've gamed with have been pot heads.
  • Military - people who either obsess over the military or have served and got into RPGs while having nothing to do on base. Probably half the gamers I've met in my life got into the hobby while stationed somewhere and played because they had nothing else to do. 
  • Hipsters - people who latch onto trends. They typically let go of something once it is no longer trendy, though.
I hate to say it, but don't market to the nerds. They may seem like the easiest bunch to cater to, but that's exactly why you shouldn't. It's unnecessary.

The druggies and the military kids are the ones you should go for. 

Military sure, but pot heads? Why them?

Because pot heads have imagination. Pot heads have time to sit around with friends and eat munchies. They like to get weird. They wear clothing with stuff printed on it, they skate on boards plastered with artwork, they decorate their rooms with posters of weird shit they think is cool.  Throw the artwork from your product onto skateboards. Make t-shirts that look like they're for a metal band and leave off those three uncool letters, "RPG." 
DO NOT make shirts like those god-awful Dungeons and Dragons shirts from the 90s. No cool person ever wore those. In fact, they probably did more harm to the hobby than anything else.

Put this on a skateboard

Place ads in comic books and skate magazines. Organize street teams at college campus' who can staple posters to telephone poles like they do with concert announcements. Send free posters and merchandising to comic shops, game stores, record stores (yes, record stores not only still exist but are having their best decade in history). Hire graffiti artists to tag your stuff at skateparks or the sides of buildings or overpasses.

As for the military... go to the Palladium Books forums sometime and check out how many people there talk about their former or current military service. I use Palladium as an example because a LOT of Palladium players seem to have a military background. Why is that? Well, one reason could be that years ago, Palladium used to (I'm not sure if they still do) send free game books to deployed military personnel, as a way of saying "thank you for your service." Brilliant move. People who don't play Palladium games are often at a loss to explain why anyone still plays their games. It's because of shit like that.

Lastly, the big thing, that no small business person who thinks they know everything ever wants to hear;

hire someone who knows more than you do.