Monday, November 27, 2006

How Do You Find What You Like?

Since I read The Long Tail, I've been reflecting slowly on some of the things that Chris Anderson discussed. This last trip home, I introduced my nephew to Settlers of Catan, one of my favorite board games. Liz and I were talking about something unrelated the other night (video games, probably), and somehow gaming habits come up - for example, examining twenty casual games in the course of GenCon rather than three very deep games. And that got me thinking about just how we are introduced to the games we like. How do we learn the games we like?

How many games did you learn by buying something based on the box's marketing copy, reading the rules, and sitting down to tear through a game without knowing anything else about it?

Then, think about how many games you've learned because someone said "hey, let me show you this cool game!"

Of course, that second option is kind of esoteric; it could be as simple as "hey, let me show you this cool game!" or as complex as you researching a game online that you think you might enjoy, or visiting an influencer (a blogger, for example) whose opinion you value. But no matter how you think of the second option, I'd be willing to be that most of the games you know and like - Monopoly, chess, checkers, Medieval 2: Total War, Dice Wars, or even Dungeons & Dragons - you learned because someone suggested them to you, or even showed you how to play. In fact, every example above, including probably a hundred others, I found based on suggestion.

Games, of course, are a little different than movies and music, but not much different. How much of your music do you listen to because someone suggested it, and how much did you simply pick up blind in the store? How many movies have you seen because someone said "hey, you really should see this movie, you'd love it."

The challenge for marketing people like myself is finding out how to tap this phenomenon without destroying it. This kind of word-of-mouth marketing, especially for games, is a self-cleaning organism, and I suspect that tampering with it too much would simply create a barrier through which we can never again pass.

It's something interesting to consider as I move forward in my career.


Roger Whitson said...

hey, have you played carcasonne? This girl I'm seeing LOVES that game.

Jason said...

I haven't played it, but it's on my list of games I need to try. Actually, I admit that I'm waiting for one of my friends to teach me - so maybe you can the next time we meet up?

It's a German board game too, so if she likes Carcasonne, she'll probably enjoy Settlers, or Alhambra, or other quality Deutsche-spielen out there.

I said spielen. Heheh.