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Writings > Dragavan's Den (closed) > 6: Saving The Gaming Industry
6: Saving The Gaming Industry
Published by Dragavan on 2007/8/23 (6759 reads)
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Where's Gaming At?

The State of the Industry Address

Because of recent articles and things I have been looking up I have been thinking about the state of the RPG industry and what its future holds. As years go by I watch the market get older and fewer and fewer new kids coming into the hobby. This is not a good way for something to stay alive, but what can be done to improve things?

The main problem seems to be the loss of potential and existing players to the computer and video game hobbies. How many gamers have we lost since the advent of MMORGs? Hell, how many have we lost just since World of Warcraft? The general thinking of a lot of industry people seems to be "How can we compete and get them back?" I think this is the wrong direction.

There are certain things that video games can just do better. Most likely always will, no matter what the RPG makers to do compete. This is the power gaming based hack and slash style of play. Collecting gold and experience points to amass higher levels and cooler stuff is the forte of MMORPGs. This used to be what early RPGs were all about, but those days are gone and should be left gone.

Let those players stay in the MMORPG world as long as it pleases them. Trying to create RPGs that will appeal to them will only manage to drive away players still in the hobby and fail to bring many (if any) of them back. The computer will still do it better and faster. In the old GNS Theory model this would be the G (Gamist) style. And steadily computer games are catching up on the S (Simulationist) style too. This leaves the core of the RPG industry being in the story area, or N (Narrativist) style.

The problem is that we are seeing the old reactionary effect happening right now. Many very vocal people are pushing for RPGs to become "Story Games" with very little RP or G left in them. This is just as harmful to the industry as trying to focus on trying to bring back the MMORPG players. This alienates all the players who want a mix or like the "crunch", but don't want hack and slash. The hobby is too broad to put all the focus into one area or solution.

But I did say the core of the industry was going to be the Story area. I didn't say that it should be the ONLY focus though. The one thing that the tabletop RPG hobby can do that the computer games can't is direct impact interaction with the story and events. Until our computers get to Star Trek level of intelligence and preempting acting we are still going to have human interaction being better able to handle a narrative change than anything else. So the story is still going to be central part of any RPG, but not the only part.

I don't believe that the games themselves have to change all that much, as there are already a very wide variety of styles on the market (especially since the massive growth of the Indy Gaming arena). We already have games with lots of rules to wrap around a story thread, games with highly realistic (at least internally) settings and reactions, games with very open and freeform styles that allow all players to directly affect the narrative, and even games mix these in various ways. What needs to change is the way they are marketed, used, and perceived by the public.

Most marketing done by the RPG companies these days are done to existing gamers, through RPG magazines and websites (like in Dragon or on Deals are done through local game stores. The very rare TV commercials are run during gamer heavy programs (like when ESPN was running Magic: The Gathering tournaments). This is not going to grow the market. They need to place these in places where potential NEW players will see them and possibly be attracted to the market.

The other problem with the advertisements I have seen (mostly from WotC for D&D) is that they continue to grind the bad stereotypes of RPGs into the mainstream market's mind. With slogans like "If you are going to sit in your basement pretending to be an Elf..." and promotions depicting a group of, dare I say, Geeks sitting around a table arguing over combat rules, it doesn't make the hobby look very appealing to outsiders. D&D 4th Edition even had a video to introduce it to the public depicting gaming over the years as being upgrades in how they kill a troll, with a slogan of "The Game Remains the Same."

Gaming is already often thought of as a bunch of social misfit boys sitting in their mom's basement wearing costume hoods and arguing over rules about how to kill monsters. Which is an improvement over the devil-worshipping image of the early 80s, but not by much. We don't need to have advertising that reinforces this image. We need to change this image in the public eye through advertising that pushes the different and positive aspects of what the hobby is like.

Make advertising that appeals to non-gamers, making them WANT to become on of us. One of the cool people having social fun... with cool friends... in person. Push the concept of shared stories of all genre and styles. The rush of overcoming obstacles as a group, using various methods, not just killing things and taking their stuff. Make it something you'd want to do

Plus, put in places you'd hit new gamers. Put it places where people who like good stories would look. Put it in places about social interaction and friend building. Start side businesses and web communities that allow for new gamers to find groups and players. Support the community in more ways than just putting out new books and games.

The biggest problem is the perception that the hobby is dying. It will never die. It will shrink, but it won't die. There are always going to be people out there who enjoy the style and social interaction of gaming. Just as miniature wargames haven't died out. Going to the movies has not been replaced by home theaters. Portable music (Tapes/CDs/MP3 Players) has not replaced the Radio. Historical reenactment groups still gather to remake Gettysburg.

RPGs will still be there, just the market share will shrink to the core members if we don't do something to spread the word and change the image of the hobby. The problem is the big guys aren't willing to do this. They are afraid of losing money, so they advertise only to the core of the hobby, who they know will buy in. It's a body feeding on itself, without bringing in enough new nourishment to sustain its size.

Some of the little guys are already trying to do these steps, but they don't have the power or money to pull it off alone, but most of them are doing the same thing as the big guys. They all need to change. WE all need to change.

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