The other day I read an article from another site dedicated to RPGs, Cannibal Halfling Gaming. Some of what was in the article were very interesting and illuminating. Some of it was less engaging. (Link below) There was one part of it that stood out to me, the idea that what TTRPGs needed now, more than ever is marketing. I disagree. Gaming needs a librarian’s touch, especially now with people looking to occupy themselves with things that aren’t D&D.
(The article I’m referring to is here, Most Games Don’t Matter)
With the upheaval caused by WotC turning away from the OGL as it was known and loved, gamers have, in turn, begun turning away from D&D. After D&D the gaming marketplace is a completely disorganized entity. How does anyone tell one game from another? The hobby needs help, but not from advertising or marketing or anything like that. It needs the help of professionals who exist largely for the purpose of making information organized and accessible, those people are librarians.
That may sound like an odd premise, promoting librarians over marketing, but it’s true. Marketing is a way to promote particular products, services, or organizations. This is important, but this isn’t going to help cut through the wall of static that the world of tabletop gaming can be. This is why librarianship is needed. Librarians can cut through all the mess to find particular things for people. As professionals, librarians will joke and call themselves, “the first search engine(s).”
Marketing only adds to the noise. It’s just one more voice shouting “BUY THIS!” As gamers, or to use a business term, consumers, that shouting isn’t going to enhance life at the gaming table. It is a way to get people to purchase another product, although not necessarily the one that would be best for them if they want to replace their beloved standby game.
In the world of libraries, there is a term called “read-alikes”. Librarians use this concept to help people find other stuff to read. How it works is this, someone comes in and says, “I love this series (or book, author, or what have you) , but I’ve read them all and don’t know what to read.” A librarian will then start a dialogue with the person to try and pick out some ideas of what clicked between that reader and that resource to help the person find something that might be interesting for them.
There are a lot of ways to consider this. Does the person want a series? Something that won awards, or has had rave reviews? What about having a person of colour as the protagonist or author? And the list could go on and on. This is the kind of approach now needed for gaming.
Marketing benefits the publisher, not the gamer. What gamers need is a helping hand, someone that can help navigate the sea of possible entertainment options. There has never been a better time to play tabletop role-playing games. The variety available is amazing. Production values are high, there is a multitude of people creating fantastic products, and a lot of stuff is very affordable. Where do gamers even begin? THERE’S SO MUCH STUFF!
Do you like D&D, but want to try something different? Well, there quality alternatives. And this question is am example of hat’s needed. Marketing can’t be the goal in and of itself, but helping connect gamers with games should be the objective. Getting the word out is vital for small publishers, but there needs to be a sort of conversation possible to help people find the best fit between the gamer and the game.
Methods from librarianship could be the perfect tool to help. Games do matter, but not if they’re buried in a disorganized heap. A helping hand or two or more would go a long way towards circumventing the formless mass that the TTRPG hobby has become for gamers. Now, how do we help pay people for that service? Librarians for gamers could be an important service, even if it isn’t clear if people would want to pay for it. Would it be realistic to make gamer librarianship a reality? That’s the real question and the answer might help a lot of people.
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