Can It Grow?

Jul 09 2010

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival over at Mad Brew Labs is on Growing the Hobby. I quote:

While I don’t think the hobby is disappearing, by any means, I don’t see it expanding by leaps & bounds either. I’d personally like to see it grow, and I would like to hear what the RPG Blogosphere has to say.

“Blogosphere.” :shudder: I so hate that word. Ah well;  not their fault.

Can It Grow?

"Sprout is now growing up" by BONGURI on Flickr

"Sprout is now growing up" by BONGURI on Flickr

Not to be negative, but I honestly suspect that there’s little room for growth in the RPG industry. And that’s okay.

I originally wrote half a dozen long paragraphs describing each demographic’s limited potential for RPG sales, then remembered that demographics are a terrible way of measuring anything these days.

So let’s put it this way: What itch does an RPG scratch?

Players get the ability to live the life of a more interesting person, in a way that is deeply interactive and long-form.  GMs are able to create worlds and tell complex stories.

Quick, walk into a sports bar, and find me somebody who wants to put a lot of thought into crafting a long-form story.  Find me somebody who wants to give up one night a week to sit around with a bunch of friends and actively use their imagination.

Most folks just don’t value that. Sure, they’ll watch a fantasy movie — because they’re watching it.

This is not a dig against “mundanes.” Most people just don’t value the same things that geeks value.

How To Grow It?

I can think of a couple of things.

One: The vast majority of RPGs focus on geek settings. I challenge you to find an RPG setting or product that doesn’t assume at least a fantastic or science fiction element.

(I always found it telling that the example shows in Primetime Adventures, which is about creating dramatic TV episodes, skews strongly towards SF/F shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

What if there was an RPG where you play a basketball star?  Or a private investigator?  Or a nurse in an ER?

Two: The systems have to be simpler and require fewer materials. There are only so many people in the world willing to go out and buy special dice for a game. (And since when was that considered an acceptable additional cost of playing a game? Board games don’t assume this; they come with the dice, board, etc.)

Three: The games have to provide a stronger initial punch. Most folks don’t want a multi-year commitment out of their game; they want Scattergories. Character creation (for most) is work with no obvious, direct reward.

Imagine an RPG that comes with two dozen vibrant, pre-generated characters and a dozen well-crafted, quick adventures. Want to play an adventure in an hour or two?  Grab a character and go.

I’m sure there are others. How would you grow the hobby beyond the folks who already play it?

5 responses so far

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