The Myth of the MainstreamOctober 9, 2009
There’s a persistent illusion that flies about in the roleplaying hobby. It’s the idea that if roleplaying could clear “one hurdle” it would suddenly explode into a mainstream hobby.
That one hurdle usually changes depending on the person and the time (“Too much magic!”, “Too complex rules!”, “Too geek!”, etc.), but all of it depends on failing to see something fundamental about roleplaying.
Roleplaying is a hobby where you make up imaginary things for it’s own sake.*
Realize that most of the population finds their fun in ways -other- than the creative act. Even if roleplaying were to drop all the kludgy barriers to entry, from geek factor to complexity to clarity issues, at the end of the day, it’s still only going to appeal to a narrow band of people. The fixation on breaking into the mainstream needs to end- it’s a carryover of geek fallacy, of needing to prove legitimacy of the hobby to the world at large.
Instead, we should be looking at who roleplaying can really serve- people who like creating the imaginary- the fanfic writers, the freeform forum gamers, the ARG player/makers, the fictional character bloggers, and every other group out there who falls in that same category.
There’s already big circles of people who don’t need to be convinced that creating with the imagination is fun- what they need is to be shown how and why your game and system will make it easier and more fun than what they’re currently doing (or, at least, fun enough to use in conjunction).
Marketing begins with knowing who your market IS. And selling to those people and not pouring endless effort into the folks who -aren’t- your market.
* Shared Imaginary Space and Exploration are common to all tabletop roleplaying.