Monday, 26 July 2010

growing the hobby: kill comic book guy

Another post for this month's RPG Blog Carnival by Mad Brew Labs.  The icon of the stereotypical gamer is a Comic Book Guy splendid in his neotenic isolation.  Yet this same image is dwelled upon and the words spilled before that icon lend it unearned power.  In the absence of relevant demographic data that isn't (a) US-centric, (b) after 2004, (c) available on the Internet for others to use, then stereotyping happens. Some are funny, those living the caricature may find Jess Hartley's One Geek To Another helpful while some bad examples may appreciate Geeky Clean for Christmas in July but there is a warning even in this simple approach. 
The mind is everything.  What we think about, we become.
                                                                                       -- Buddha.
When the only mirrors you have are funhouse ones, makeovers are trying - small wonder the community has an image problem!  Be it a 'hurt & rescue' sales strategy, face-saving exercise over past failures to connect or only satire, emphasising your own flaws erodes confidence and shows insecurity. For the silent majority blessed with normal hygeine such diatribes get old.  These iconoclasts have careers ranging from soldier to movie star, disposable income and some even have families and children.

So, let's accentuate the positive for a change.  The tabletop gamer is a social animal, task-oriented with a mile-wide creative streak and imagination to burn.  They are passionate fans, willing to travel far for a game and naturally congregate in small groups.  They are conversant with Internet technologies, some are avid collectors.  They are discerning innovators, vocal if they see something out of line and willing to brainstorm solutions.  Like any other customer group, treat them with respect to return intense brand loyalty.  If these sound like nightmarish clients, maybe it's time to rethink your business plan.  Be assured, someone wants them as they've helped seed enterprises and franchises worth millions.  Some of which you will have heard of.

Appendix A: Typical Gamers (roll 1d20, re-roll if you get a duplicated result).
  1. Biker
  2. Trainer in IT/social media
  3. Volunteer group CEO
  4. Lawyer
  5. Porn star
  6. Dating expert
  7. Firefighter
  8. Librarian
  9. College student
  10. Banker
  11. Mum
  12. Metalhead
  13. IT + A/V Technician
  14. Software Developer
  15. Jazz/Blues guitarist
  16. Research Assistant
  17. Copywriter
  18. Computer game designer 
  19. Teacher
  20. Marketer
Each and all of these people are more interesting to deal with than the CBG who, for us at least, is the worst. stereotype. ever.   So please, let's move on shall we?


    1. Nice article. Good to see something positive, made me feel good about everything!

      I got an 11 ;)

    2. It's odd because RPGers should be a dream market if you follow social marketing principles.

      That table makes you the normal average value. :)

    3. aw, only just realised that I AM no11, thank you!

      I agree there's too much self-loathing that goes on. Gamers tend to expect a negative reaction to their hobby but people outside the hobby are either curious or just don't understand it, they're not going to run anyone down or brand them a geek, we do that well enough ourselves.

      I shudder to think of the pounds spent over the years on RPG books and equipment but in general I think it is a really cheap hobby, I guess that is why the marketing men pass it by.

    4. Cheap? At £20 - £30 a book (so anything from £60 - £240 depending on inclination) for initial outlay unless you're one of those indie gamers we keep hearing about. The big strength for us is re-usability. How many movies do you know you can re-watch every two weeks for 2-3 years?

      I think we need a sea change in attitude to gain some measure of acceptance. What puzzles me is the attitude of industry partners who openly declared we're 'not worth the business' and yet still sell to us anyway.

    5. Yes initial outlay expensive but if you play regularly you get a lot of bang for you buck as the saying goes. I know my other half buys a lot of books just to read rather than actually use.

      As you say in your article, they need to rethink the business plan. Sounds like plain laziness to me, they haven't worked out what they're dealing with.

    6. Chicagowiz (oldguyrpg blog) would qualify as a biker and James Raggi (or myself) as a metalhead.

      Very interesting and poignant post.

    7. @ancientvaults - Thanks! Click on the names. Each one of them goes to a blog and Chgowiz & James are both in that list.

      @Dungeonmum - The buying books never to use thing is something I didn't understand for a while, I had this wonderful collection that wasn't getting used. So I'm now ditching them in lieu of books I will use.


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