No, not a game about bees (though I did do one of those). Just my mood this morning after a great gaming session last night. As I said on Facebook, I think everyone should try gaming. Why doesn’t everyone?

What is it that we (as gamers) aren’t doing to explain to the wider world that gaming is so enjoyable?

Is it really that 90% of the world isn’t wired to enjoy it? The studies I’ve seen on the value of play makes me doubt that.

Is it that people are too busy to meet up with real people face to face, and that “gaming” now means digital gaming and that’s it? I’d say there was a strong measure of this, though even these gamers are missing out on a lot of what I’d call gaming. As every study on communications will tell you, 90%+ of the information we communicate to each other is done by body language and tone of voice. It is simply not the same playing online (as much fun as MMOs, etc are).

Is it that people simply don’t know what’s there, and think that the world of games games is just Monopoly, chess and Ker-plunk? I think this is true too.


Working on the assumption that more players is a good thing, then what can we do about it, over and above what is done already?

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26 Responses to Buzzing

  1. cashwiley says:

    My fiancee and mother love word games, we play a lot of Scrabble together, and mom had dug out our old Boggle game from the 80s over the holidays. It was a tough sell when I pulled out Exploding Kittens, a game I specifically bought to show them there’s more than Milton Bradley stuff out there.

    They resisted learning the rules, claiming it was too complex. After a couple rounds they both agreed it was a lot of fun. Mission accomplished.

    But I still don’t have an answer to why they are so resistant to modern games. Going to try Pandemic with my fiancee (she has a plague fetish).

  2. Simon Rippin says:

    It is true that there is an ignorance that leads to fear that leads to…….I think that you are right that people either think its Monopoly or DnD. I have introduced friends through Fluxx, Tsuro, Takenoko, Dreadball, Exploding Kittens then onto Munchkin, Guillotine, Love Letters, Gloom and then Dungeon Saga. For previous 40k it tends to be Dreadball, Deadzone, Dropzone Commander, xwing and then Frostgrave and hopefully Kings of War. So it’s variety that’s the key. Even Mtg and Dice Masters Warmachine many routes in but keep it varied until you can organise a good gaming day. Start fun and simple and build it up. Yes I have just bought a Bees game….Waggle Dance!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I think you’re right. When you do get someone willing to sit down and try, then you need to tailor your efforts to suit them. I’d say that the “getting them to sit down” bit might be the harder part though.

  3. Danny says:

    In my opinion, the biggest obstacle to getting people into gaming is the lack of FAQ’s being made available for new games that, when released upon the gaming community, produce a small amount of reasonable questions that could very easily be cleared up with a FAQ…I wonder what we could do about this 😉

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Can’t imagine.

      Seriously though, I’m both well aware of the problem and very sorry about it, and am trying to work out a better long term solution. However, having been unable to find the time to deliver previous plans as I’d intended, I’m not going to discuss them in detail until they’re in place.

  4. Philip says:

    The reasons you mentioned are true, but I’ve also observed other reasons. I am an owner of a tabletop gaming club, and I noticed that certain people are too lazy to bother. Some prefer staying at home after a days work than travel for 15 minutes. Others prefer staying at home in peace. Also it does not help that tabletop games are considered too geeky (grown-ups pushing toy soldiers), even by today’s standards, whilst video games are nowadays seen as cool. And finally, we live in an over-loaded information age, being bombarded with a lot of stuff and the majority of people are not willing to invest time to learn new games, meet other people….let alone painting miniatures.

    What can we do? Somehow we need to show the people the value of tabletop gaming. And we need to show the advantages against video games, primarily as you said; by proper human interaction.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Tabletop games are a much harder “sell” than board games because there is that much more effort. Board games come out the box, onto the table, and you’re playing. Once someone has learned the rules there’s no more real effort than attending a party.

      Tabletop games, on the other hand, require a lot more investment of time and thought to really take part. My suggestion here is to treat them like board games when you’re trying to introduce people. Have a matched and balanced pair of painted armies they can borrow, plus someone on hand to guide them along (preferably without playing themselves) and teach them the rules. It’s more effort on your part, sure, but I think that lowering any potential hurdles for the newcomer is the only way.

      • cashwiley says:

        Another obstacle to tabletop is the experience curve. I’m not a tabletop gamer and would get wrecked by one; conversely I’d wreck my family because I’m familiar with gaming tropes. It’s simply not fun to play against someone so much more experienced or knowledgable in that kind of game.

        That’s why I prefer more co-op style board games, where it’s a more friendly environment and people can win or lose together. Also suits my personality better, I don’t like unnecessary competition. But even then, a lot of the themes of miniature games are off-putting to my family (oddly the fiancee with the thing for plague hates zombies passionately, I guess they conflict with her feeling everyone should die?).

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Your fiancee sounds like an interesting character 🙂

          I think this goes back to the thought on adapting your offer to your audience. If they are going to get flattened because of your experience, either play something where that won’t happen, or offer to umpire a match between two novices so you can offer impartial advice to both.

  5. heretic30k says:

    Effort is the barrier really. Computer/mobile gaming is a very quick brain candy fix and has internet discovery and immediacy as big advantages over table top gaming. You can find, download and play solo or multiplier dozens of computer games in the time it will take you to visit a physical game store to find players or make a purchase. There is also the hobby element of miniature gaming which is a plus for me as I find it a relaxing pass-time, but for some it is just a barrier to entry. The same can be said for games with complex background like 40k – for some this is a huge part of the hobby, but for others whom are new to it then where would you start – another barrier to entry. I suspect the only viable way to make table top gaming more mainstream is to go the xwing route – make use of an existing brand to improve discovery, use special dice to and mechanics to minimise the learning barrier and prepainted miniatures to reduce the hobby barrier. I guess that is partly what Mantic is aiming for with TWD.

  6. moonrally says:

    I recently managed to get a few people who never play tabletop to try out Dungeon Saga, some had played Hero Quest before so I used that as a selling point, one had never played anything involving any kind of miniatures. We were looking for an excuse to see each other a little more often so we used a gaming evening as an excuse (so I guess I already had people who were motivated enough to want to go out and meet each other, plus we’ve know each other a while). The idea was playing boardgames like the Game of Thrones one and doing the intro adventures for Dungeon Saga. We had to go really slowly to start off with as the one guy who had never played anything like it before was a little lost, but we got there and in the end we stuck with Dungeon Saga all night. After the session I was hoping maybe 2-3 would still be interested but instead all 6 who where there wanted to play again! (Which was great, but led to a problem of having too many to play DS) We’re playing again next week and I’ve convinced 3 of them to give Dreadball a go (I’ve likened it to Speedball so they had something to identify with), I’m going to demo the boxed teams with them to get them used to things, and hopefully one day I can get a league started (I have a couple of people I already play Dreadball with). Hopefully this will be a success too…

    I think the things that worked in my favour were: The group were looking for an excuse to meet up. I was able to liken the games with things they were familiar with years ago and I already have the minis painted up with both games so they don’t have to invest any money in it. Additionally, I’m a rules nerd so I’m more than happy to give demos. I think someone said it earlier, but having painted miniatures ready to go and not needing people to invest helps a lot.

    I’m going to limit it to Dungeon Saga and Dreadball for now so as to not overwhelm them and dilute their interested, but when the Deadzone redux is ready, I’ll likely trial that too (after I’ve had a few goes myself).

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Sounds like a real success story there. Having painted stuff is great eye-candy, and obviously not costing them anything to try lowers the entry hurdle enormously. best of luck with the DB 🙂

      • moonrally says:

        Thanks! 🙂 I’m hoping they’re just as excited when they’re done with a few games of DB as they were with DS. It actually only took me one game of DB when it came out for me to buy the full game and I’d say that’s the first full game I’ve bought in at least 15 years so I’m hoping for a similar result with this group!

  7. I know this isn’t the main issue, but its certainly one I face. I go out and buy a cool game I really want to play. I look at the number of players, then I go to call my friends and stop. If I invite any friends I need to invite that whole circle. And their partners. Suddenly the 2-6 player (And they’re all 2-6 player) game I just bought isn’t suitable for my group of friends, or anyone’s really. Plus there’s the dread of learning the rules well enough to teach others when I haven’t had the chance to play it yet myself, and the associated fear that 2 minutes in I’ll need to spend an hour re-reading the rules while everyone sits there bored. And the fear that it’ll turn out to be rubbish and I’ll have wasted everyone’s time. Mainly I think its that games evenings aren’t “in” at the moment so it seems odd to suggest one to my non gaming friends. When we do have a non wargaming games evening we normally just end up with CAH, Munchkin, Star Fluxx etc just because they are fast, fun, simple to explain, and can accommodate any number of players, even if they perhaps aren’t meant to.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      It’s an interesting challenge. You could try playing Fluxxx, et al (which will accommodate a lot of players, even if it’s not meant to), and then try suggesting an evening of slightly more involved games to the subset that seem most interested.

      Perhaps it’s the idea that it must be either/or? If you keep up the whole group get-togethers, then the smaller gaming groups might be tolerated fine.

      Obviously it depends on the character of the individuals in your group as to whether that would work. I’m sure something would be workable though. Especially if they already play a few things.

      Incidentally, I’ve played Kill Dr Lucky with quite a few people, and Guillotine might be worth exploring too. Both quite light and simple.

      • The recent Kill Dr Lucky Kickstarter looked really good. It just seemed a little pricey at the time, after postage etc. I really liked the video. I had forgotten about it since. I’ll have to check out both of those games when I get home.

  8. For my money, the three biggest issues in getting people to try gaming are the obsession with combat, the maths, and the need to learn them like a skill.

    Firstly, combat. For some reason most games haven’t yet fully escaped from the wargame-y origins of the genre. Rules systems tend to spend much more time on violence than they do on other fields of achievement, and even when there are rules for other areas we often see them as analogues to violence: “social combat”, for example. This limits the audience to those who are interested in combat and prevents us from achieving a truly mass audience. Remember that The Sims and Farmville sold vastly, vastly better than Call of Duty ever will, and that for every person who cares about the Battle of Kursk there’s a dozen who have opinions on who should be President.

    Secondly, maths. I’m good at maths and so it’s easy for me to forget that a lot of people panic when they see it, and I think a lot of gamer designers are the same. For a lot of people maths was the thing they hated at school, and this makes games based on it unfun: imagine a game whose resolution mechanic was based on how quickly you could conjugate Latin verbs. Games which circumvent maths (King of Tokyo) or which conceal it (Poker) have much wider appeal for this reason.

    Thirdly, the skill barrer. If you suck at something the first dozen times you do it, then you might not stick around for number thirteen, and you definitely won’t recommend to your friends that they try it just once. Not every game is as impenetrable as Advanced Squad Leader, but very few are as immediately intuitive as Scrabble. Things which require you to learn them as a new skill tend to attract people who see it as a hobby rather than as a fun diversion, and that limits the number of people who will enjoy it.

    In my opinion, the reason for the Eurogames boom isn’t because Germans are weird, but is because the best of them let you have fun without requiring you to care about warfare, do maths or learn a new skill. Settlers of Catan, Dominion and Ticket to Ride were designed by people who understood this. If we can do likewise, we’ll be able to reach many more people.

    • Josh says:

      I have to agree strongly that theme and “entry level” are super important.. and I do think there still is a lot of “fog of war” or at least bias towards anything Dungeons & Dragons or WH40K like for a lot of non-gamers.. even if they don’t know why… they just grew up hearing about “weird kids playing games in their basements”… and I also see the time committment required as a big issue.. I was running a very beer & pretzels D&D game a few years ago and my girlfriend (now wife!) was willing to play.. the other girlfriends of the other men in the group didn’t want to play, went shopping, and came back 2 1/2 hours later to find us still playing and were “astonished” that we could sit there and play for 3 or 4 hours… and despite our efforts, they didn’t understand that “the game doesn’t end” per se… so trying to convince someone to play some card games that might last 20-30 minutes is going to be easier than someone possibly committing to a lengthy game night or two.. but I also see this in the public in general.. a lot of people on social media will commit to an event, a movie, a gathering, etc.. and then not show up because something “else” came up… so I think that for all our information age has brought us, it has removed a lot of that “one on one” or small group social gathering events and conversation skills that were so important prior to cell phones and the web… and then finally, I know that this isn’t true of all people, but there are a descent enough # of gamers out there who really don’t have a good grasp on how to gently and slowly “introduce” a game or gaming… there are a lot of people that try to throw people into a complex game too quickly or have a hard time explaining what it is that they know about the game after having been playing it for weeks, months, or years… and so I think we rush a lot of possible game enthusiasts because we are SOOO excited to have another possible “one of us” that we end up chasing them away… that said, I do feel like I’m slowly running into more and more people who have heard about “board game nights” or Settlers of Catan or who are more curious than frightened when they see my shelves of painted miniatures and game books… there is hope =p.. lol…

      • Von says:

        That idea of ending and duration is a big one. One of my former housemates is a Eurogame fanatic but physically recoiled at the prospect of spending four hours trying D&D – not because it was D&D but because it was four hours and she was expected to remember what happened for the next session a week down the line. My fiancée is a wonderful roleplayer but doesn’t take well to extended campaign play – three or four sessions with a character and she’s done, sooner if the character imposes ‘homework’ in order to be played well. Recruiting people into RPGs often means reflecting on one’s own expectations and standards, and adjusting them to fit the preferences of one’s would-be recruit. Some people are born to one-off. I also think people are reluctant to commit every Sunday afternoon for an indefinite period – or at least to commit it to GAMES rather than a social obligation (visit parents, go for a walk, golf with the boss) or something that feels serious (go to the gym).

  9. Sean Boyce says:

    Why don’t people play games? I think there is a stigma attached to gaming at least of certain types. Tabletop miniature games carry such stigmas more than regular board games, and for many, I think, this stigma is first given in the pre teen/teen years and then many never move on from it. Our gaming group used to get a lot of flak for going against the norm and not playing football…games like warhammer are seen as geeky, “social suicide” and as such many are not willing to even contemplate changing their opinions on it never mind trying it.

    As for board games, This one I don’t know. From my experience, it is beginning to make headway. I was invited to play settlers of catan by a friend recently, (not my favourite game, but good friends) and on arrival I found a few people had turned up who I couldn’t imagine playing board games (I suppose that just shows my own prejudice in a way).

    I suppose it is the whole “societal norms” that keep people away from board games…And it works both ways, In my younger years I wouldn’t try and encourage games, be it tabletop or board games, to anyone I didn’t know personally very well for fear if being ridiculed. I would also build up prejudice’s in my head in the same way they did about me and my friends. Even now, I struggle to throw away such lines of thoughts, being educated and understanding that prejudging is something we should never be doing.

    So yeah, my point after this ramble…I personally feel it is still stigmatized somewhat in society. I am sure many readers on here will have varying stories of their own which are completely different to my own, but growing up in a poor part of scotland, in a council housing scheme, being geeky, going against the societal norms is one good way of being ostracised…at least until you are older. This is my own personal experience.

    P.s., I was perfectly happy with my close friends growing up. I do not claim to have had a tragic life trying to be “geeky”

  10. Von says:

    For me the board game night or one-off RPG slots into the same social niche as the dinner party. Most of my friends and colleagues know that I detest small talk and am uncomfortable in environments where I’m not doing something besides socialising, and so they’re not really surprised when they’re invited to play Fluxx or something as social lubricant.

    I’ve always tried to recruit people outside of gamerkultur for variety’s sake. The most enduring game groups I’ve had have had one or two lifestyle-choice gamers and one or two curious visitors from the other circles in which I move – it’s never seemed natural to curate them to any real extent. Teaching these people has never been a massive problem for me, but I suspect it comes naturally to someone who doesn’t like complex rules themself and happens to have ‘trained teacher’ on their CV. One of these days I’ll get around to writing that book about gaming and education theory (each illustrating the other)…

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