I watch Twitter, and lately there has been an initiative (and the predictable backlash to the initiative) to bring new people to the hobby.
If you want to see what the hubbub is (was) about, you can check out the hashtag #D12challenge at your leisure.
One of the backlash questions is: why?
In my humble opinion, it can’t hurt, although I can see why people would be hesitant to push the hobby, especially if their audience seems disinterested.
I think of it as similar to friends who try to sell goods. My wife and I have friends who are into a number of small businesses that all seem to operate on a general principle: leverage relationships you already have with people in order to introduce them to a product.
These people are fairly tasteful in informing us that they are selling Pampered Chef, or what have you. After all, they really are friends, and they don’t wish to jeopardize relationships over the issue.
This should be all the more the case if we are trying to promote gaming as a hobby. Most of us aren’t getting paid to do so (hence the “hobby” part, as opposed to “job”), so we don’t even have a financial incentive to put relationships on the line.
So: the why is mostly for the love of the hobby. Just to introduce others to something enjoyable.
For those who have signed up, a few of them have raised the lament that it is more difficult than it seemed at face value.
Here are my pointers for how I see this practically working out:
1. The tabletop litmus test
If you ask someone what their favorite tabletop game is and get a response in the Scrabble, Uno, Monopoly, and so on category of classic games, then you can imagine that it might be a bit of a longer process to move with that person from point A to point B.
You need to know your goal.
If you want this person to play Fluxx or maybe Ticket to Ride, then you probably don’t have far to go. If you want them to join you on your six-hour Euro-game marathon, then that’s a bit of an issue.
2. Peer Pressure
Now, I don’t mean everyone cornering a person and not letting them out of the room until they have sat down to a game of some sort. But, I do mean that, a group can influence someone.
Even if I’m not crazy about the activity, I’ll sometimes just go along with it if it doesn’t sound like absolute torture. After all, the point of most activities (such as a game) is to provide a means for people to interact. And who knows (as I didn’t under the circumstances in which I started gaming), I might actually like the activity.
3. Game Store or Con Demos
I’d imagine if you ran a couple of these in the course of a year, depending on the volume of people coming through the doors, you could be done relatively quickly with the challenge and move on to other things.
To wit: in my FLGS, there was a demo day for Sentinels of the Multiverse. The place was packed. I had a hard time walking around the store due to the number of players present. Good for the store, but great for you if you don’t mind introducing strangers to the hobby.
Guilty confession: I haven’t signed on for the challenge.
I think it’s great; many people will get a blast out of doing the challenge, and the people they get hooked on the hobby will have a blast too.
So, why haven’t I jumped at the chance? Well, in some ways, I have. If you’re reading this blog, you’re reading me promote my hobby; it’s just in a way that is difficult to quantify.
I don’t know if my readers are new to the hobby (I suspect most are not entirely), or how many people that are new will go out and play games because of something I’ve written (hopefully quite a few).
Similarly, with any videos I put up, there’s not a great way to quantify who’s new to the hobby, if anyone. Sure, I can see numbers of views, likes, and that sort of thing, but that is inconclusive about the experience level the viewer may have with games.
All that to say, I don’t have a compelling reason not to.
Joining the Rest of Entertainment
I’ve seen other people worry that the overall quality of games will tend downward as the hobby grows, but to that I can say: the hobby is large enough that there are already quite a few games of middling quality released every year. But, in this regard, the hobby has simply joined the rest of the world’s hobbies.
How many forgettable movies have I seen (Hint: I can’t remember. Badum ching.) versus ones so good I wanted to buy them? How many movies were actively horrible enough to remember the experience of watching them?
I could point to books, movies, magazines, and on and on in order to make the case that the consumer just has to be more discriminating. It isn’t as bad as all that. After reading a few reviews on most things, I can tell if I’ll like them or not.
Where to from Here?
I remember when gaming was this hip thing that only my group of friends was into; I had my Catan, my Carcassone, and I was one of the few on campus who did. Now, when I go back to my college homecomings, Catan is on sale in the college bookstore.
The times they are a-changing.
I’d still venture there are cool games on my shelf that not just everyone owns, but that isn’t really the point–at least not the whole point. As much as I pride myself on being cutting-edge, I probably am not compared with some insiders.
The thinker C.S. Lewis (of Narnia fame or infamy depending on your feelings, I guess) once mentioned how there will always be a group of people more “in” than me; were I to join that group, I’d find out quickly that there would be another group still more L33T than me.
Democratizing the hobby so more people get into it isn’t bad, as it keeps the hobby alive; there will always be that next level of “cool” for veterans of the hobby to enjoy.
For my part, I find that the ultimate test of my enthusiasm and understanding of something is whether I can explain it to a newcomer and watch them get what the buzz is all about. Who knows, maybe someone we teach will make the next big thing that we’ll be buzzing about down the road.
YouTube: Playthrough Boardgames